Confession time: I am an entirely self-taught writer. Aside from two required composition courses, I didn't study writing in college at all. I've never been to a writers conference and never paid for any classes or workshops. (How DO my fellow starving artist types afford them, I always wonder?) But I have spent a lot of time hunting down every morsel of free advice and instruction one can find on the Interwebs. Here are my favorites.
Holly Lisle's articles, formerly known as Forward Motion: This was my writing school. I can't even begin to list the skills I honed by reading through every piece of advice Holly put on her site, since so much of it has just become my own writing habit. The layout of her site has changed, and I don't think it's as easy to navigate as it once was, unfortunately. But click through those links down the right side and I promise you'll find some useful stuff.
Vision for Writers: I believe this started as a another project of Holly's, but the vast majority of the content is from other contributors. Click on the tab for "Back Issues," follow the links from there, and find hundreds of quality articles pertaining to everything Writing 101 (and 201, and 301...). You're welcome. ;)
Muse Online Writers Conference: My timing's pretty lousy here, since the 2011 conference just ended. But you can still register for next year!
Anyway... for those of you who are (rightfully) wary about any ZOMG FREE stuff for writers online, let me assure you, Muse is totally legitimate. It really is free, you really do get access to all kinds of cool workshops, and you really do get to connect with industry professionals. Last year I had a pitch session with an agent from Andrea Brown Literary Agency (!) and she requested a partial (!!). Turns out my book wasn't for her but, you know, it was exciting there for a while.
Muse is also the reason I have a blog (which I never update) and a twitter (...ditto), because it was there I learned the importance of social networking for writers. Okay, so, the information hasn't fully sunk in yet. Blame me, not the conference. Check it out!
Absolute Write, specifically the Share Your Work forum, specifically Query Letter Hell: I can't link you directly to the latter two because they're password protected for members only, but if you're not a member of AW, JOIN IT if only so you have access to the fantabulousness that is SYW. You know how I was saying before about not having the money to spare on pricey conferences and workshops where I could, say, get my query letter worked on? AW's subforum dedicated to query critiquing, Query Letter Hell, is all I needed. As the word "Hell" suggests, it can be pretty brutal. But if you want to transform your query from textbook to standout, I suggest you suck it up and go anyway. Less intense are the other parts of Share Your Work, where you can post a few pages (your opening pages, perhaps?) or a chapter for critique.
Now, big disclaimer: they kinda don't want you joining AW just so you can get your query fixed up and then be on your way. You need at least 50 posts under your belt before you can post in SYW. So check out the rest of the forum, too! They have an area for just about every writing issue you can think of, as well as genre-specific forums and threads for hundreds of agencies and publishing houses. In fact, the reason I initially joined was so I could go to a certain agency thread and cry WHY HASN'T THIS AGENT GIVEN ME A RESPONSE ON MY FULL YET? (I didn't get a response for several more months, and it was a no. But it sure was nice to have moral support before and after.)
Oh, and another shout-out: AW is where I first saw the announcement looking for contributors for a blog about YA writing. Perhaps you've heard of it...?
Am I missing any of your favorite sites for writers? (Besides Paper Hangover, of course. Ba-dum-bum.) Leave a comment telling us about it!