Today I am pleased to bring you a guest post by writer James A. Rose. In his article James sets out 22 great online resources for writers, many of them free. Over to James, then…
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The muse of the past was something slightly indescribable. It could be a person, a place or a state of mind. Its influence was unpredictable and arbitrary. Capturing your muse was like corralling a unicorn. In other words, it was pretty much an impossible task.
This is no longer the case thanks to our current informational and technological age. You can summon your muse at will with the same tool that most likely serves to distract you from your writing efforts. The modern gamut of technology contains more information and inspirations than we can possibly imagine, and some very clever people have found a way to make tools that organize this information in ways that are most advantageous to writers.
I’ve assembled a list of some of the most useful tools I have either used or read about. The list is divided into five sections, being Suites, Word Processing, Organization, Brainstorming, and Reference. Each item listed in each section is referenced as Desktop, Website, or Mobile App. Some of the tools listed as Desktop or Website also have a mobile app, which is noted.
Scrivener – (Desktop)
Scrivener is a complete suite of writing tools with the purpose of easing the burden of organizing the complex information sets required for long documents. Some key features include index cards, outlining, research archival and access, style templates, progress tracking and much more. This is my personal favorite writing tool. After using it for a while, I don’t know how I got along without it.
Writer’s Blocks – (Desktop)
Writer’s Blocks gives the author total control over their long form document with a wide variety of tools for organization, formatting and research. This software uses blocks with drag and drop ability as the basis for research and document structuring. This program is a little over priced and Scrivener is better in my opinion.
Snowflake Pro – (Desktop)
Snowflake Pro is a program based on the Snowflake writing method created by Randy Ingermanson. This software puts you through a series of paces with clearly defined steps to help the author visualize story progression. This process could be very helpful to some writers but the interface and features of the program are quite basic. Perhaps used in conjunction with another more robust tool, Snowflake Pro could be quite useful, but still overpriced.
MasterWriter – (Desktop)
MasterWriter is perhaps more suited to songwriters and poets due to its heavy focus on vocabulary tools. Features include rhymes, phrases, synonyms, culture references (mostly drawn from Wikipedia), basic organization, and more. The pricing is monthly, yearly or bi-yearly. I suppose this is due to the regular updating of the reference tools. Master Writer could be a convenient tool but unnecessary for most of us. Several browser tabs open to some excellent websites could perform the same service for free.
yWriter – (Desktop)
YWriter is a fairly basic and free novel deconstruction tool in the vein of Scrivener and Writer’s Blocks. Organize scenes, chapters, characters, and storyboards with some drag and drop functionality and progress tracking. YWriter is a great tool for authors that may be considering organization software but are unsure of the level of benefit in regards to productivity. If the author deems this program useful then maybe upgrade to one of the other paid options.
WriteRoom – (Desktop)
Reasonably priced and exclusively for Mac, WriteRoom touts its ability to provide a distraction free writing platform with a very basic user interface. It basically attempts to recreate the experience of using a typewriter or a computer in the early eighties. I’ve never been distracted by the tool bar at the top of Word but if you are, this may be exactly what you need.
Write Monkey – (Desktop)
Though not affiliated with each other, WriteMonkey is basically a free Windows version of WriteRoom.
iA Writer Pro – (Mobile App)
IA Writer Pro is an app that attempts to recreate desktop word processing functionality on a mobile device and it does a pretty good job. Also a desktop application for Mac, this app is one of the most efficient mobile word processing programs I have used. This program includes a very clean interface for those that get distracted by a lot of buttons and options, and it is compatible with MS Word.
Dragon Dictation – (Mobile App)
You’ve probably heard of Dragon desktop software by now but may not be aware that they have an app. Well, of course they do. It works great and allows for easy copy and pasting into almost any popular word processing application. Carrying a notepad everywhere can be cumbersome and it is not always convenient to take out the phone and start texting. This app is the perfect solution.
Android: Yes, but only allows you to use your phone to dictate to your PC.
Text Block Writer – (Desktop)
Text Block Writer is a free tool for organizing virtual index cards. It’s pretty basic but gets the job done. Be careful when downloading this program. Some locations have been reported to include malware or adware with the file. I cannot provide a link but CNET is usually reputable.
Index Card – (Mobile App)
Index Card is a corkboard IOS app that obviously allows you to organize ideas with virtual index cards. Color coding, versatile labeling and sharing capabilities make this a fabulous app for writers on the go.
Mindmeister – (Website)
Mindmeister.com is a high quality mind mapping tool. Mind mapping can be a great way to break down a complicated task such as writing a novel. Free accounts are available and the paid accounts are very affordable. There are plenty of mind mapping tools online, some of which are free with the cost equating quality, but MindMeister is one of the best.
Mind Node – (Mobile App)
Mind Node is a beautiful mind mapping app for IOS. It is a very versatile program with an interface well suited for mobile use.
WorkFlowy – (Website)
WorkFlowy.com is an outline and list creation tool. It has a clean and simple interface, and is free for personal use.
Story Tracker – (Mobile App)
Story Tracker is an IOS app that will allow you to track every place, either online or off, to where you have submitted your work. This can be a submission to a marketplace, journal, magazine, blog or a publishing house for example. You can keep detailed notes on all your work and where it’s been distributed.
Story Starters – (Website)
TheStoryStarters.com is a neat website with a simple premise. Just click the button and it generates a story idea. That’s all there is to it. Whether this will really be useful to you a writer is questionable. The ideas are randomly generated by a computer and some of the ideas can be pretty wacky, but it’s fun and free so go check it out.
The Imagination Prompt Generator – (Website)
At Creativity-Portal.com you will find the Imagination Prompt Generator. Click the button and receive randomly generated prompts and questions to provoke your writer’s imagination. This may not be a great source for a novel premise but is fun nonetheless. This tool is really better for writing project ideas to improve skills but it could spark an idea for a great story.
The Brainstormer – (Mobile App)
The Brainstormer is a fun IOS app created by Andrew Bosley that randomly combines a noun, a setting, and a concept. Click the button and wheel spins to generate potential story ideas. Sometimes this idea will be pretty farfetched but sometimes the wheel presents a compelling premise. The app also features a character builder, a world builder and a creature builder. It’s great fun.
Lists for Writers – (Mobile App)
Lists for Writers is an app on multiple platforms that compiles lists of names, personalities, plots, settings, action verbs, occupations and much more. This is a very useful tool for overcoming writer’s block.
Storyometer – (Mobile App)
Storyometer is another IOS app that aids in overcoming writer’s block. It can randomly present names and ideas or present prompts in question form to induce brainstorming. This app is cheap, fun and quite useful if you’re stuck.
VisuWords – (Website)
I love this site. VisuWords.com uses a graphical chart to show relationships between words through definitions, synonyms and grammar. The chart is color coded and can be manipulated with your mouse. This is just a great website for learning or writing.
WordBook – (Mobile App)
Wordbook is a dictionary and thesaurus app that features recorded pronunciation, etymologies, a spell checker, and much more. This is one of the best vocabulary reference apps I have seen to date and would recommend it as an indispensable tool for writers.
I hope you found this list useful and are able to use it to advance your writing skills and career. Whether you need assistance with organization, vocabulary, editing, or ideas; a tool exists. Or should I say there’s an app for that? The advent of self-publishing technology and tools such as those listed above means this is a great time to be a writer. Until the day when you can purchase a little flying robot that hovers over your shoulder while providing inspiration and guidance, these tools can be your muse on demand.
James A. Rose is a writer for InstantPublisher.com, a full-service self-publishing company with 100% of all work performed in-house. We have been helping authors realize their dreams for the past 14 years. Whether you’re printing a novel, how-to book, manual, brochure or any type of book you can imagine, our step-by-step instructions make publishing your own book simple and easy.
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Many thanks to James for an interesting and valuable post. If you are anything like me, some of these resources will be familiar to you, while others may be new. Do take a few moments to check them out.
And, of course, if you have any comments or questions – for James or myself – please do post them below.
Wordcloud courtesy of Word It Out.