What's a tool or course or book or post we should check out — including yours?

This is our weekly “Marketplace” thread.

Promote yourself or someone else’s work! What’s a tool or course you’re eyeing? What’s a book or website we should visit?


On Friday I listened to a talk by H. Claire Taylor titled “Supercharge your stories”, organised by Bryan Cohen.

Claire writes comedy novels under her own name; Paranormal detective as Brock Bloodworth; and paranormal cozy mysteries as [Nova Nelson] https://www.amazon.com/Nova-Nelson/e/B077Y8NSY5). I believe she writes them all herself, she does NOT use ghostwriters or a team. She worked as an editor on over 200 manuscripts. She’s about to publish her 30th book.

The first 80 mins or so of the talk delivered lots of content and while parts of it aligned very much with things I already knew and believed (the importance of character, the value of writing the books you would enjoy reading, that the reader engages with the characters and needs to care about what they’re doing), she came at it from an angle that felt quite new to me.

Her marketing strategy feels very natural and honest to me: the key element is to write books so good that readers place you in their ‘automatically buy’ set of authors, and even better, a key element of her approach means you can’t really avoid being excited and eager to write your books.

The last 45 mins was a sales pitch for her courses, and although I’m considering signing up for them, I’m undecided.

Her approach takes as given the usual advice about inciting incidents, seeing the characters doing stuff and making progress and developing, but then digs a little deeper. It feels like it would be somewhat complementary to your approach.

People’s actions express their beliefs, so a strong story that you will love writing is one with characters whose personalities you as the writer either love, or love to hate, taking actions that express and challenge their (large) beliefs. Taking this approach means the characters’ motivations will be clear, your readers will be the type of people who care about such characters and/or the big themes of your stories. As well, a firm grasp of those aspects will even help you write book descriptions and advertising copy that will appeal to the right readers. The key psychological tool she likes for this is the Enneagram, which is a somewhat structured way of examining personality types; she’s applied it to crafting strong stories.

The replay of her talk will be available for four days at https://clicks.aweber.com/y/ct/?l=HaVwm&m=3dGOPY8A6LU9_SZ&b=Pbt7hkU4qBXDUrTzK39hNA and a PDF of the slides of her talk are available there too, if you’d rather look through that then watch a long video. (Bryan said it’s fine to share that link.) The website for the courses she is selling is https://www.ffs.media/nov2020, discounted for four days.


A couple of months ago, I finished a Specialization in Creative Writing on Coursera. It was a complete and accurate one, and is divided into five courses: The Craft of Plotting, of Character, of Setting and Description, of Style, and finally there’s a Capstone where you develop your short story. Every course has a set of activities and the instructors are superb and they are traditionally published authors from the Wesleyan University, such as Brando Skyhorse, Salvatore Scibona, Amy bloom, Amity Gaige, and others.
The only thing I didn’t like was when you submit your work, you have to wait for peers review. If the peers work honestly and dedicates a good review to your work, then, it can be very helpful. If they only submit a couple of sentences without details to where you can improve, it’s frustrating. At least, I got some thoughtful advice and I got to know about Scribophile where you can also meet critique partners.
You can go to www.coursera.org and find several courses and specializations on writing and editing.


Jerry Jenkins’ writing resources have helped me tremendously over the year and a half I’ve been using them. His self-editing list is invaluable:


I took some of Robert McKee’s live online seminars this spring and summer. They were great. He’s now offering them on demand at a reduced cost.

My writing guild is accepting new members through Friday of this week: https://jerrysguild.com/

The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable is a good reference book. Not sure of the publisher, there’s a couple of versions. But if you enjoy research or writing fable and fantasy stories it’s a very nice help.