In my travels, I occasionally stumble across invaluable resources for writing both fiction and nonfiction. I usually stumble across these invaluable resources while wading through a sea of crap.
TL;DR: There’s a lot of bad writing advice on the internet.
Below is a list of things I find particularly useful or inspiring.
i. Writing Prompts
- WriteWorld: A tumblr-based writing blog specializing in sentence, music, and image prompts (called “blocks”) with resources and reblogged and contributed writing advice of variable quality. I almost never look at or take their advice, to be perfectly honest, but the image prompts are top notch.
- Scrivener: I write more about it below, but in addition to its primary purpose as a fancy word processor, you can use the notecard/pinboard feature to drag and drop your scenes and chapters. There are also additional notecard boards for characters and settings. Alternately, you can use a thesis template to organize your research projects. Scrivener can also save links and snapshot/download web pages, as well as importing PDFs.
- I really want to include mind mapping software/apps here, but for the life of me, I cannot find one I am completely satisfied with. If you know of one, please send it to me!
iii. Writing Tools
- Scrivener: You have to buy it, but it’s the holy grail of word processing software. The note card feature changed my life. My only problem with this program is that it is not cloud-friendly. While you can sync to Dropbox, you can’t access or edit your files anywhere but your home computer or laptop. Someday, I’m hoping they’ll release some kind of Scrivener-lite browser app that paid users can access from mobiles or tablets. Until then, I will lug my laptop to the ends of the earth.
- Yarny: A “distraction-free” cloud-based writing app. It’s free and works in your browser. I only tried this when it was in beta, so it may have changed since then. I liked it, for the most part (it is kind of like browser-based Scrivener Lite) but since all my stuff was already in Scrivener anyway, I abandoned ship pretty quickly.
- ZenWriter: I haven’t used this, but it’s a downloadable “distraction-free” writing app. Free to try, paid to use. Based on what I’ve seen/read, I believe you can change the background image and also load a writing playlist into your project, if that’s your kind of thing.
- PaperRater: Meant primarily for academic writing, this is an ideal tool for blogs, articles and essays. It checks grammar, style, and plagiarism, and offers advice on how to fix mistakes. Take its advice with a grain of salt. (It recently accused me of writing too many short sentences, when I had in fact done so on purpose as a stylistic/audience conscious choice.) The plagiarism checker, so far as I am aware, can only check writing, not ideas, so don’t use this as your only draft-check. It’s REALLY useful for that final check, though, to catch all those little things you might have missed.
- Purdue OWL: The most obvious possible resource I could include. For anyone who freelances, I’m sure you visit this site at least once a week. For the uninitiated (if you exist), it’s the most popular and most reliable resource for grammar and conventions of various style books including MLA, APA and AP.