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Writers Write
As the digital effects in this summer's movies make our eyes bulge, it's easy for us to forget about the core element of any story: the plot! Whether in film, books, or TV, the writers often get the shaft when it comes to appreciation. Fortunately, the Web does appreciate this great craft, and authors of all levels will appreciate Writers Write.

The site tries to be a "one-stop shop" for anyone interested in writing, and it succeeds better than any other writing resource I've seen online. It's an excellent combination of classroom, research aid, magazine, bookstore, and writers' workshop.

Many of Writers Write's sections can stand as quality Web pages on their own. The star of the site is the Internet Writing Journal, a monthly online magazine with interviews and articles. You can learn about and get writing tips from professionals like crime author Alex Keegan, fantasy/horror writer Neil Gaiman, and mystery novelists Janet Evanovich and Lynda Robinson. The articles provide useful advice on how to breaking into the markets and improve your writing skills. Here are some current and archived topics: "Breaking Through Rejection," "Jump Start Your Online Research," and "Creating the Perfect Setting." To make things even easier, the articles and the interviews from the Journal are collected on their own pages off the index.

The Journal also features new book reviews, which are categorized by genre. They cover fiction and non-fiction, as well as books about computing and the Internet. (Writing how-to guides about the Web and PCs is a booming business for savvy freelancers.)

If you're looking for more regimented ways to hone your skills, you can register for a class at Writers Write University. Now, now, before you scream, "No! Not school!" you should know that professional authors conduct these online courses, which are held in live chat "classrooms." There's also a downloadable seminar on screenwriting from the prolific Stephen J. Cannell, novelist and creator of such TV shows as The Rockford Files, Wiseguy, and The A-Team. (I pity the fool who disses this man!) Registration is handled with a credit card via the site's secure server. Even if you're not participating in a course at the moment, you can still chat 24 hours a day with other students. If you can chat for 24 hours a day, see a psychiatrist.

Elsewhere on the site, the Write News offers the right stuff in the form of news items about the publishing industry, and the Write Jobs board is an actively maintained list of "current employment opportunities for those with writing skills." Look through listings from all over the country.

The Books section contains a list of new releases and the U.S.'s most requested books, plus Writers Write's online book promotion services, Amazon.com's "Daily Scoop," and the almighty New York Times bestseller list. The site's Bookstore is separated into categories such as general how-to books, genre-specific writing guides, and reference material, and each entry includes a direct link to an online retailer like Amazon.com or Books.com.

One of Writers Write's newest features is an author directory, providing lists to the Web sites (official or otherwise) of many of the world's best-known writers. (Face it, you've been dying to visit the official Arianna Huffington site, haven't you?) Mystery and science-fiction authors seem to be the best represented on the Web -- not surprising since those genres tend to attract the most devoted fan followings. You can also browse the site's classified ads and jump into discussion boards for categories such as screenwriting, journalism, greeting card writing, and freelancing.

Besides the wealth of information on its own site, Writers Write boasts over 500 links to related sites and other resources like writing organizations and e-mail newsletters. In trying to cover all the bases, the site tends to venture a little too far into "portal" territory, offering links to Reel.com, Outpost.com, and other online merchants. Still, there's no harm done, and the most visible e-commerce links (e.g., Amazon.com) are the ones that are of most interest to writers.

Whether you're trying to flesh out the villain in your mystery or you're looking for the best outlet for your freelance work, Writers Write is an excellent resource. It'll become your best friend on the computer -- next to the spell checker, of course.

-- Ken Hart, who is writing a screenplay about Darth Maul's first haircut.

WildWebWeb Television, CBS/Eyemark Entertainment.

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