The Internet is full of advice on how to improve your writing, and I try my best to avoid all of it. If you immerse yourself too long in inspiration porn, you walk away dizzy from all the contradictory suggestions, unsure of which ones are actually helpful, and which ones just sound like neat ideas. Here’s a list of 10 sites that I use. Mostly they are free resources that help me concentrate or solve specific problems. If you have any favourites not on my list, feel free to share them back!
Ever wonder why writers gravitate towards coffee shops? Research suggests it’s hard to be creative in a quiet space. Coffitivity brings the sounds and vibe of a coffee shop to your desktop or mobile device, giving you the sense of being around other people while saving you from loud talkers and pushy baristas. I like combining their “Morning Murmur” mix with my “rawk on” playlist turned down low.
“Don’t think. Just write.” OneWord operates on a similar premise as my workshops: better to write something and perfect it later than aim for perfection (and its accompanying pressures) all the time. OneWord gives you a one word prompt and 60 seconds to write about it. If you ever feel that you don’t have time in a day to write, OneWord is a neat way to help you set and reach a word count.
A lot of writers struggle with how to name their characters. Not anymore. Behind The Name has a boatload of tools to help you understand the etymology and history of all types of names, translate them between languages, or generate random ones. If you’ve been wondering how to name a character in your novel who happens to be a Turkish wrestler named after a Biblical figure, consider your search for Othneil Volkan Teke over.
Grammarly is an automated proofreader and your personal grammar coach. Correct up to 10 times more mistakes than popular word processors. I just copied that summary from their site instead of creating a new one for fear of having it come back to haunt me.
When we’re building worlds, characters or scenes, we often think in pictures. Why not use some to help spark your imagination? Morgue File hosts a searchable archive of high resolution stock photos and they’re absolutely free. So if you stumble across something meaningful to your work, you can incorporate it into your research or project at no cost.
As someone who uses a lot of prompts, none impress me more than “write a novel in 30 days.” NaNoWriMo (November Novel Writing Month) is both the granddaddy of all writing challenges and a growing, endless source of ideas and tools for the would-be novelist.
I subscribe to few mailing lists, but Funds For Writers is one of them. C. Hope Clark has been sharing the goods for over 10 years, helping connect writers to contests, writing opportunities and practical advice. I always find something of value in her posts. Best of all, each week is accompanied by a photo of Hope. I especially like the ones that feature dogs.
The Nerdist Writers Panel podcast is a series of informal chats with professional writers about the process and business of writing. The podcasts cover a wide range of industries, but started primarily (and are most interesting, to me anyway) as a behind the scenes look at how content is created for television. Learning about the origin stories and technical jargon of tv writers and showrunners is endlessly fascinating to this outsider.
Wendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer, editor and PR consultant. I know her as the Query Queen, who tirelessly posts writing opportunities on her blog. The site used to have a side helping of interviews and response to reader FAQs that aren’t as frequent these days, but there’s plenty here to keep you busy if you’re curious about seeing your work in print & pixels.
Confession: this site is relatively new to me. But I find myself gravitating towards it on a daily basis over the last week or so. Extremely short version of Timothy’s story: a long time ago, Timothy started but never finished three novels. Then his house, and all his writing, burned down. He made notes on the story he remembered best, disappeared himself to Thailand for seven weeks, and wrote the damned thing. He’s learned a lot since then. I’m guessing cloud-based file storage is one of his discoveries. This is a generous and detailed look at the creative process by someone who has been writing and teaching novel writing for 20 years.