I realize I've been very 'down with the internet' recently when it comes to books, reading and writing. So today I'd like to take a moment and address somethings I love about the internet when it comes to these categories. For as much as I might rant and rail about the perils of too much technology, there exist some pretty damn awesome sites and resources online that would otherwise never be available to us. (Also, I'm going to leave off The Twitter on this post. It has its own advantages and pitfalls that deserve their own recognition at a different time)
Here are just a few that I love. If you have others, please feel free to comment!
What it's for - Keeping an online catalog, or bookshelf, of books which can vary from books you have read or want to read to very specific, user-designed shelves for whatever you wish.
What else is cool - Goodreads now has authors involved with the site to follow and connect with, as well as other members across the world. There are various quizzes and polls to partake in and create. There are also book swaps and giveaways, and even meet-ups organized for some cities.
The downsides - Like any social networking site if you choose to be searchable by anyone, you can be found by anyone. However, you can lock your account down as well. Though in the reading/writing community I'm more apt to add someone who shares similar interests than on most sites. Some aspects of the site are difficult to navigate, but overall it is pretty intuitive.
What it's for - The mecca of online shopping. Amazon is responsible for fueling and destroying the publishing industry.
What is cool - The wishlist will always be my go-to place for tracking items I want. It's also very user-friendly in terms of navigation and typically has the most detailed descriptions and reviews of any other site.
The downsides - see above re: destruction of publishing industry. It also can be a little too overwhelming with all the information. And if that homepage tries to shove a Kindle down my throat one more time I may vomit.
What it's for - The official site for the main writers' magazine in the US. Designed to help writers learn, explore, craft, network and get work.
What else is cool - Their email newsletters are incredibly helpful and cram a lot of great information and links into a digestible space. I have yet to be able to afford one of their webinars, but many of them look very helpful
The downsides - As a subscription-based magazine there is some 'members only' content unavailable to us poor folk. Also, it is a MASSIVE resource site and thus navigating and finding what you want can be a little difficult This is why I love the emails, because those break great sections down into smaller bits that are linked to for easier resource-finding.
National Novel Writing Month:
What it's for - As the title states... writing a novel in the span of only one month. November, every year, to be exact. The site focuses on uniting participants in this crazy undertaking to assist them in writing and connect them so they can help each other.
What else is cool - Municipal liaisons for many major cities/areas who organize meet-ups and write-ups during the month. Word sprints on Twitter. Encouraging pep talks by the staff AND famous (often participating) authors. Areas on the site specifically designed to help break writer's block and/or give a little distraction when it hits. The terrifying concept of writing a novel in 30 days and the exhilaration of finishing it.
The downsides - The site isn't always reliable and can crash at peak times (i.e. at the very beginning and very end of the month). The terrifying concept of writing a novel in 30 days.
As a side note, I've participated in NaNoWriMo three years, and 'won' two of those years ('winning' means you wrote 50,000+ words in 30 days. It does not mean you have a finished, publishable work, but it does mean you cranked out the equivalent of a novel in only one month). Whether I participate this year or use the month to perform serious edits on the two books I've previously scribed I have not yet decided, but my advice to anyone contemplating participation is this: whatever excuse or reason you think you have to NOT participate is not viable. NOTHING, save the inability to type, is an excuse to not try. You are the only blocker to not trying and only you can tell yourself to get over whatever obstacles you think exist and just do it. Whatever happens, whether you 'win' or not, you will have written something that otherwise may never have been written. You have nothing to lose, at all (except perhaps some sleep and a social life, both of which are overrated), and everything to gain.