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June 23, 2011

How to Find Writer Resources – Guest: Elizabeth Spann Craig

Elizabeth S. Craig photo

If you’re a writer and on Twitter, you should know about the incomparable Elizabeth S. Craig.  She shares fantastic resources for writers that she finds all over the web, like a one-woman news source.

More importantly, if you’re a writer—whether you’re on Twitter or not—you should know about her Writer’s Knowledge Base, which pulls all those resources together into one searchable database.  Think Google for writers.

In short, she’s pretty amazing.  And she still manages to write new books too.

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Finding Resources for Writers—by Elizabeth Spann Craig

When I first tried to connect with other writers online, it was in the mid to late 90s.

The writing scene online was practically nonexistent.  Keep in mind that this was before Facebook, before blogging got popular.  There were a few writing forums but not for my genre.  I did end up connecting with a critique group of some kind online, but it fell apart in short order.

I kept wondering, “Where are the writers?”

Over ten years later, it was a very different online scene for writers.

Now there was a lot of information online and lots of writers online.   There were thousands of writing blogs.  There were scores of posts on the writing craft, authored by qualified, working writers, editors, and other industry insiders.

Again, though, it seemed to me that the information was difficult to locate.  When I searched Google for writing tips, I really had to dig.  I dredged up lots of useless information or information that wasn’t intended for professional writers.  My fruitless Google searches seemed crazy to me, because the information was definitely out there.  But it was scattered.  I might come across a fantastic blog post on integrating backstory into a manuscript, but it was posted by a random blog that didn’t have a high ranking on Google.  Unless you dug through 30 pages on Google, you wouldn’t have come across that article.

Even on the random blog, the information was frequently not accessible for very long. Many blogs don’t catalog their most popular posts or their most useful ones in their sidebar so the helpful post would end up getting buried in the archives by the end of a busy week of blogging.

At the same time, I was trying to build a platform online.  I had a new release and was just getting word of a different series for another publisher.  I wanted to have a solid identity online.

So these two things—my recognition of the lack of accessible resources for writers (articles by writers, for writers) and my need to promote coincided at about the same time.

I started amassing a large number of blogs in my Google Reader.  I was already reading a ton of writing blogs.  I found that I could go to any sidebar of any writing blog and find at least half a dozen new writing blogs referenced that I could subscribe to.

So that’s what I did.  I started collecting writing blogs like some people collect stamps, recipes, or baseball cards.  I’d subscribe to the RSS feeds in my Google Reader and read writing blogs daily, soaking up the information that they published.

The quality of the articles was as excellent as I’d imagined.  When I came across a particularly helpful post, I’d tweet it on Twitter, knowing that others would also find the information useful.  My followers grew.

Eventually, I realized I’d run into a new problem—there was too much information.  My Twitter followers would message me, reporting that they’d bookmarked nearly everything I tweeted.

That was great, but writers need different information at different times.  When they’re writing a first draft, they need plotting help.  When writers hit a wall, they want inspirational posts. When they revise, they’d like editing tips.  When they’re querying…well, you get the idea.

These writing links needed to be searchable.  It was crazy for writers to have a thousand bookmarked sites—and bookmarks for information that they don’t currently even need.

I simply couldn’t figure out a good method to make my links searchable.  I tried putting the links up each week on my blog…but Blogger’s search function is spotty, at best. The ability to search links was still limited.

One day, in frustration, I mused on my blog that I knew there had to be a better way, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.

That was when programmer Mike Fleming contacted me.  He knew the better way—to create a search engine for the links.  Completely independently of me, he’d planned on building an engine for writers.  As Mike put it, “The problem was she had content and no technology and I had technology and no content. Isn’t that how Reese’s peanut butter cups were born?”

With my links and Mike’s programming, the Writer’s Knowledge Base was created—a free resource for writers to find the information they need for their particular stage of the writing journey…with 9000 links to search (and more added every day.)

We’re always looking for ways to improve the search engine, and new blogs to add to my Reader.  Do you have any suggestions for the WKB or writing blogs to recommend?

*****

Elizabeth’s latest book, Finger Lickin’ Dead , released June 7th. Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin/Berkley (as Riley Adams), the Southern Quilting mysteries (2012) for Penguin/NAL, and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink.  She blogs daily at Mystery Writing is Murder, which was named by Writer’s Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers for 2010 and 2011.

Visit the Writer’s Knowledge Base–the Search Engine for Writers

Follow Elizabeth on Twitter

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Now do you see why Elizabeth is so awesome?  And she’s another learning addict like I am.  *smile*

Have you used WKB?  Do you have any suggestions on how to improve it?  Do you have suggestions on writing resources or writing blogs to add to the WKB?  What’s your favorite way to find information about writing?

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Jan

Hi Jami – yep Elizabeth is pretty special and she’s been one of the biggest – no I take it back – the biggest help to writers on line that I’ve ever encountered. I love the Writer’s Knowledge Base – sometimes I don’t come out of there for days….

Elizabeth Craig

Thanks so much, Jan! I really appreciate the kind words! 🙂

L. Diane Wolfe

The Writers Knowledge Base was such an excellent idea! And even when I began blogging six years ago, there still weren’t many writers online. Now they are everywhere!

Elizabeth Craig

It’s funny–it’s like there weren’t *any* writers online (except on forums like Absolute Write and Purple Crayon), then there were just tons of us!

Elizabeth Craig

Thanks so much for hosting me today, Jami!

Margot Kinberg

Jami – Thanks for hosting Elizabeth; it’s nice to “meet” you :-).

Elizabeth – Thanks so much for sharing the story of how WKB came to be :-). Folks, if you’re not familiar with it, WKB really is a treasure trove of links. Please, please, please check it out. In no time, I’ll bet you’ll have it Bookmarked; it’s such a valuable resource.

Elizabeth Craig

Thanks so much for coming by Margot! So glad you find the WKB a good resource. 🙂

Alex J. Cavanaugh

I’m sure you’ve discovered all the sites I follow!

Elizabeth Craig

Alex, it’s funny–whenever you mention new sites to visit, I pop over and add their feeds to my Reader. Those types of posts are really the #1 way that I find new blogs to read and follow. So–thanks!

Tamara LeBlanc
Tamara LeBlanc

I totally see why Elizabeth is SOOO awesome!
I’m glad you guest blogged today. So many links and info, I can’t wait to dive in:)
Jami, thank you for making fantastic people like Elizabeth accesible to the writers of the owrld…if it weren’t for you I would have never known about Elizabeth and her invaluable advice!
Ladies, have a great weekend to come!
Tamara

Elizabeth Craig

I’m so glad you came by today! Hope you’ll find the WKB a useful resource. Hope you have a great weekend!

Charissa Weaks

Oh Jami. Between you and Elizabeth and Kristen Lamb, I have learned more in the last year than I could have ever imagined had I tried locating info on my own. You three ARE my resource. Thanks for what you do. It is valued. 🙂

Elizabeth Craig

Jami and Kristen provide a huge service to writers…I love tweeting all their helpful posts! And, of course, all my tweets end up in the WKB where they can be searched. Thanks so much for your comment!

Murphy

This is awesome! Thanks Elizabeth. *waves* Jami.

Elizabeth, although I loved Mike’s reference:

“The problem was she had content and no technology and I had technology and no content. Isn’t that how Reese’s peanut butter cups were born?”

The fact that you guys both followed up on this to create such a phenomenal site – free even? Well that’s just…it’s just great!

Thanks again.
Murphy

Elizabeth Craig

Hi Murphy! It’s funny how it worked out–because I was really trying hard, with my limited tech knowledge, to figure out a way to make them searchable…at the same time Mike was trying to figure out the best way to find good content to have in the search engine he’d dreamed up! So… total serendipity! Thanks so much for your comment. 🙂

Nicole Basaraba

I was thinking about this predicament in the last few weeks. I’m accumulating so many great blogs on my Google Reader, including this one and now Elizabeth’s. 🙂

How to manage reading and keeping track of everyone is still proving difficult, but its a great community.

Elizabeth Craig

Yes, the Google Reader is definitely an organizational challenge! What I do for mine is to organize blogs I *visit* (ones I leave comments on) by days of the week. So I have different folders (M-W-F), (T-Th) for that purpose. Then I have folders to divide up blog content that I read and tweet…blogs that regularly have great content (like Jami’s) go into a priority folder, etc. Good luck with it!

Nicole Basaraba

Wow that is very organized. I will have to give that a go once I get more familiar with the blogs I following.

Marji Laine

I had no idea this was out there! Thanks so much for pointing me in the right direction!

Elizabeth Craig

Marji–Hope you’ll find it useful! 🙂

Helen Ginger

Elizabeth is indeed amazing. And I love WKB. It’s a fabulous resource. Elizabeth…you are probably the most organized person I know.

Elizabeth Craig

Helen–You’re too sweet! And I’m so glad you like the search engine.

Catherine Johnson

Hi Jami, I find Elizabeth to be the most useful resource on the web. I’ve only just discovered the search engine, great idea. Thank you Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Craig

Catherine–Thanks so much! Hope you’ll enjoy the WKB.

Jemi Fraser

Elizabeth is awesome! I love the database she and Mike have set up – it’s great! 🙂

Elizabeth Craig

Thanks for coming by, Jemi! 🙂

Teresa

Sorry I’m late getting here, Elizabeth. I love organizational ideas. Your article is great. If we don’t organize all that info, how in the world can we find it? -T

Elizabeth Craig

Thanks, Teresa! That was my thought–it’s great to have the info, but what good is it if it’s buried in Google?

Cinette

As a learning addict (a.k.a. info whore) I’m thrilled to have recently found theWKB. It’s a Godsend. I praise all that conceived such an awesome database!

Elizabeth Craig

Thanks so much, Cinette! It was really Mike Fleming who knew how to put it together in a searchable format. I was glad to get connected with him!

Gene Lempp

Elizabeth is one of my favorites, both for informative posts and excellent links on Twitter. I found (and subscribed to) her site and the Writers Knowledge Database the day after I found this (Jami’s) blog.

For those that are new to Elizabeth, she does a weekly post called Twitterific, which is a master mashup of all the links (hundreds) that she has tweeted throughout the week. Highly recommend her.

Thanks for having her on Jami and thanks to Elizabeth for all the incredible work she does for the writing community.

Elizabeth Craig

Thanks so much for this, Gene! And thanks for all your support and the RTs that you do on Twitter. They are much appreciated!

Kerry Meacham
Kerry Meacham

Thanks for this post. As a newbie writer, I have been frustrated when trying to find resources. Now I have a first place to look. Jami is thinking, “now he’ll stop worrying the $#|+ out of me with newbie questions.” I do appreciate all of your help Jami. And thank goodness you are a learning addict and post about it.

Elizabeth Craig

I’m not sure where we’d be without all the learning addicts out there! Thanks for giving the WKB a try, Kerry. 🙂

Laura Marcella

Excellent! I don’t know how you do all you do, Elizabeth. You must be Wonder Woman in disguise! Ooops, I leaked your secret identity…

Elizabeth Craig

Laura–If only! I always liked the Wonder Woman bracelets (and that invisible jet!)

Patricia Yager Delagrange

Just adding my name to the list of THANK YOU SO MUCH for this terrific resource. WOW!
Patti

Elizabeth Craig

Thanks to Jami for connecting you with it! 🙂 Hope you’ll find it useful.

Lynn Kelley

Jami, thanks for letting us know about Elizabeth. What an amazing lady. I’m looking forward to checking out her sites!

Rachael Harrie

Great post Jami 🙂

I love the WKB, and have it bookmarked on my toolbar – I use it all the time! It’s so awesome of Elizabeth to set it up!!!

I think I might do a post linking back to this post here, in case any of my followers haven’t heard about the WKB 🙂

Hugs,

Rach

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[…] to author Jami Gold and a post she included in her blog last year on How To Find Writer Resources, we discovered a goldmine of information at the Writer’s Knowledge Base […]

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