Reading brought me immense joy as a child, but I truly fell in love with crafting stories. With an overactive imagination and inflated ego from complimentary school teachers, I thought I was going to be a bestselling author in no time. If my (then) lord and savior J.K. Rowling could do it, I was definitely capable. I just had to write the novel. A piece of cake, right?
Nope. Big ol’ nope. As it turns out, you need more than a pockmarked plot, a large cast littered with expended tropes and the matching lineup of A-list actors to succeed as a novelist. Contrary to what it seems, that first novel is a behemoth of a roadblock on the winding path toward achieving “author” status. You see victories whenever you pass a bookstore or open up Amazon, but those pages don’t describe the tale of tenacity and recurring failure it took to reach the final destination.
The worlds of writing, editing, and publishing are an enigma — but I’m learning from others without having to leave my desk. YouTube is a great resource for knowledge and this is especially true for writing that first novel. The platform contains a multitude of other writers and authors keen to take you along on their journey from project to published. In particular, these six channels are home to a wealth of tips in every aspect of the process. If you take their advice and wield it mercilessly, your debut novel might be the next success story.
1. Camera Panda (Brandon Sanderson Lectures)
In my opinion, you have to learn from the best if you want to become the best. As a result, Camera Panda’s channel is a fantastic first stop on search for writing know-how. While the creator of the channel isn’t a writer themselves, they were generous enough to upload an entire lecture series of Brandon Sanderson, a New York Times bestselling author. Most known for his “Mistborn” series, Sanderson has penned over 20 works of fiction in his writing career. In addition, he moonlights as an adjunct creative writing lecturer at Brigham Young University.
These videos cover a range of topics from your role as a writer to world-building. Sanderson is a true expert of the craft and any novel would benefit heavily from his guidance — particularly those in the fantasy genre. Even if you don’t need the niche information, who could turn down a free semester of college courses? That said, be prepared to strap in for at least an hour of material in every session. For complete immersion in the university experience, maybe pull out a notebook or a new document. You’ll probably need it to absorb everything for a later date as Sanderson’s lectures are far from shallow.
If you cruise through the entire series and are craving more of Sanderson’s content, head over to Write About Dragons for another channel filled to the brim with lectures from prior semesters.
Add to your watch-list: “Brandon Sanderson – 318R – #4 (World Building)”
2. Chris Fox
Much like Sanderson, YouTube frequenter Chris Fox is no debut author. With numerous thriller, fantasy and science fiction books under his belt, Fox knows the ins-and-outs of carrying a novel through every step of the process. He runs in the indie publishing circuit, which allows him to give unique insights to writers seeking an outlet aside from the traditional path.
Every Friday, Fox gifts his viewers a short video discussion about various writing tips or finding motivation. I enjoy the former, but the latter is the true standout of Fox’s channel. All writers, regardless of experience, struggle with writer’s block and anxiety. Understanding the conflict first-hand, Fox’s advice radiates empathy while also pushing his audience to strive for better habits. At a maximum of 15 minutes, every motivation video is a helpful watch before commencing any writing session.
When perusing Fox’s channel, you’ll notice every thumbnail is color-coded to match its subject and every subject is arranged into a playlist with other videos of its kind. This creates a user-friendly environment for viewers and allows you to tailor your involvement with the content. You can watch everything or stick to a certain topic without having to comb through nearly 50 videos to find something similar.
Add to your watch-list: “You Don’t Go from A to C”
Given that she launched her channel in high school, it’s easy to be apprehensive about the quality of counsel Shaelin Bishop delivers. I definitely was. Surely a student of the same age as me had to be drowning in the abyss of novel creation, too. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
At age 21, Bishop has completed eight novels of varying genres and published a short story in a magazine. Now, stepping into her final year as a creative writing student, she continues to evolve her platform to accommodate her personal skill growth. With each project and course Bishop completes, she consistently returns to YouTube to relay her findings to her audience.
Besides giving you a swift kick in the rear with the level of productivity described, Bishop’s channel is also great at detailing the multitude of editing methods at your disposal after the first draft is done. After all, it’s important to be a good writer, but compulsory to be a great editor. From filtering prose to plotting developmental edits on a revision map, Bishop has a video for precise techniques and opts to skip generic “how to edit” content. Furthermore, her student status has definitely translated to her style of instruction. She provides examples and visual aids at every opportunity to ensure you can emulate each step with your own writing.
If you appreciate videos with professional dialogue that cut straight to the point, this channel is an ideal fit for you. However, it is important to note that Bishop is currently treating herself to a much-deserved YouTube hiatus. Until she returns (and she promised to), you only have 100 public uploads to choose from. How unfortunate.
Add to your watch-list: “How to Instantly Improve Your Writing | Filtering 101
2. Ellen Brock
Unlike a majority of creators in the YouTube writing community, Ellen Brock isn’t an author, but rather a freelance editor with over five years of experience in the industry. She’s helped sculpt the triumphs of many other writers and her videos could do the same for you.
Taking the form of a collection comprised by fast quips and bursts of information, Brock’s commentary doesn’t pull any punches. You’ll likely reach the end and feel personally attacked by her comments. It’s okay. She means well, I promise. No manuscript is flawless and industry professionals won’t sugarcoat their critiques, so why should she?
The upside to being called out now is that you have a chance to fix it before it physically winds up in the hands of an editor. However, Brock doesn’t reserve all of her knowledge for criticism, electing to equalize her content by balancing the “not-to” with a sizable amount of “how-to.”
Disappointingly, her channel hasn’t seen an update in around nine months. Even still, the existing Q&As and chats are still relevant to the current tastes of publishers and readers, so don’t hesitate to dive in.
Add to your watch-list: “25 Mistakes that Peg You as an Amateur Writer”
1. Jenna Moreci
Known as the “Cyborg Queen” by fans, Jenna Moreci is certainly royalty within the YouTube writing scene. Her channel began as a video journal charting progress and thoughts as she pushed through her debut novel. Now, it has developed into an empire of sorts – resulting in heaps of sales for her two self-published works.
Self-publishing is a challenging route to traverse, but Moreci has pulled it off with panache, touting her popular author platform as the cause. With the prominence of social media sinking its teeth into the publishing business, every aspiring author can learn a thing or two from Moreci’s success.
As you would expect from an individual earning the “cyborg” title, Moreci doesn’t attempt to make you feel warm and cheerful about your own writing. Her videos thrive on sarcasm and extremely dry wit to elicit laughter while your writing conventions are simultaneously ripped to shreds. Although this tone adds an informal vibe to the content, it doesn’t diminish the quality of the advice.
Where Moreci’s channel shines, however, is its honest account of spearheading your own marketing and costs when releasing a novel. It’s raw and entertaining, while acknowledging the benefits and drawbacks of both publishing pathways — a rarity in the writing community as a whole.
Remaining faithful to her own suggestions, Moreci upholds a stable upload schedule to deliver multiple videos a week. Moreover, she takes topic suggestions from her audience, so you can have direct involvement in what she debates on the channel. Should you desire something deeper than a ten minute video, Moreci offers a marketing course on Skillshare.com to delve into greater detail.
Add to your watch-list: “Self Publishing a Book: What are the Pros and Cons?”
2. Kim Chance
In nearly perfect contrast to Jenna Moreci, former English teacher Kim Chance sets herself apart from other creators by acting as a constant source of encouragement and positivity for new writers. When she still worked in education, Chance endeavored to complete her debut novel, “Keeper,” as proof to her students that reading was still enjoyable. About a year ago, she got her wish in the form of a traditional publishing deal. With a book on store shelves and more to come, Chance is an admirable example of hardship and achievement for writers wanting to take the “normal” path to publication.
On screen, Chance is the human equivalent of bottled sunshine. She never criticizes bad habits, instead preferring to recount her own writing faults and relate to the viewer. Watching her overwhelmed with disappointment in one video, only to skip ahead to witness her excitement over getting a book deal is nothing less than inspiring. With her vision realized, Chance is giving back to her online support system with videos on countless aspects of publishing, from financial requirements to securing a good literary agent.
If you are battling anxiety as a writer and want to nurture your confidence, this channel is a wonderful destination. Fortunately, it still receives frequent uploads with the potential for more publishing-centric videos. You’ll be in good, loving hands for quite some time to come.
Add to your watch-list: “How to Find Literary Agents to Query | Collab with Caitlin Lambert”