Tuesday, December 28, 2010

11 A Writer's Toolbox: Prepping for 2011

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started."
-Agatha Christie

With the holidays coming to a close, it’s time to snap out of that food coma and gear up for another productive year, right? Maybe you have plans to work on a new writing project. Or revise the NaNo novel that almost made your eyes bleed a few weeks ago. Or maybe you just want to get a little more organized. 

No matter what your New Year’s Writing Resolution is, here’s a list of resources to help you ring in 2011:

Behind the Name – Need a name for your character?
Scholar Google – Search for specific scholarly literature
Crime Spider –search for crime, police, fire, and prosecution info
CIA World Factbook – current facts about the history, government, population, economy, and more, of almost 300 countries/entities
How Stuff Works – Want to know how animated tattoos work? Or how to change the oil? What about lock-picking? This site puts all the research in one place.
Encyclopedia Mythica – Encyclopedia for mythology, folklore, and religion

Rory’s Story Cubes -- Like throwing dice. Except with images. ($)
The Story Starter -- "first sentence" writing prompts
The Imagination Prompt Generator -- More writing prompts than you'll know what to do with!
Seventh Sanctum -- Need help with a name for a supervillain?
DeviantArt -- An artist-based community offering everything from anime to photography; great for visual inspiration
Flickr -- Browse through thousands of photos shared by users from around the world

Scrivener – Many Mac writers swear by this content organizer. Windows version coming soon. ($)
Ywriter – Free word processor to help you organize your novel into chapters and scenes.
OneNote – Compile all your notes and research links in this application ($)
Evernote – Free note-taking application; iPhone app available
MindMeister – Online brainstorming tool used for creating visual outlines; basic version is free
Bubbl – Free, easy-to-use mind-mapping application to help you brainstorm and collaborate with others
DropBox – Great for backing up your work and syncing between multiple computers; iPhone app also available
Remember the Milk – Online to-do list helps you manage writing tasks and deadlines; compatible with Google calendar, gmail, Outlook, iPhone, Blackberry, Twitter, and more

Write or Die – Use the online version for free or download it to your desktop ($) for those times when you really need to crank out the words
Dragon NaturallySpeaking – Speech-recognition software ($)
Freedom (for Mac) – Turn off the internet or use Anti-Social for just the social networking sites
Writechain App – an iPhone app that stores and tracks your  word count with the intention of training you to write daily; If you miss a day, you break your "write chain" (free for a limited time)
Q10 or WriteMonkey – Free text editors with no bells or whistles to distract you; can also be set up to sound like a typewriter when you type
Pandora Radio – personalized radio stations
Playlist.com – Listen to free music online and create playlists for your WIPs

Wordle -- A visual way to see what words you like to use in your manuscript.
Wacom Bamboo Pen Tablet -- I just got this little gadget, but I can already tell it'll be great for editing 'on the page.'
EditMinion -- From Dr. Wicked, the mastermind behind Write or Die, is the editing application (still in beta) to help you spot common editing mistakes.
Grammar Girl -- Daily grammar tips and podcasts
Lulu/FedEx Office (formerly Kinkos)/Office Depot/Staples -- Get your manuscript printed and bound to catch editing mistakes you might otherwise miss by reading on the screen.

So obviously this is just an abbreviated list to help you get 2011 off to a great start. But there are tons of great resources for writers these days. What tools have you stumbled on? Is there anything you wouldn't be able to write without? For me, it's DropBox, Pandora, and DeviantArt. I think I'd go crazy if I couldn't sync my work between computers, and whenever I'm stuck, the right music or image will usually guide me back on track.

 Beautiful Snow 3 by Saphitri

For this week's writing prompt, use the photo above as inspiration to write a short story based on the theme: Beginnings (a new start). If you’d like to share it with us, enter it in the comments below (up to 250 words) or provide a link to where we can find it on the web. (And please don't forget to credit and link back to the photographer if you choose to post the picture on your blog or website.) We also welcome comments on the stories or the craft tip.    

And the winner of last week's giveaway of Nothing Like You by Lauren Strasnick is:

Lee Mandel

Congrats Lee! I'll be mailing out your copy this week. 

Today's giveaway is a signed copy of Forget You by Jennifer Echols. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post and fill out the entry form. The contest is open to US residents and will run until Jan. 3 at 8pm EST. The winner will be announced next Tuesday. Good luck!

Happy New Year!



  1. Great resources, and a great opening quote!

  2. Oh whoa! I have to bookmark this post. Tons of great information for writers! Thanks, I know this was a lot of work to put this together.

  3. Wow, Cam! Fantastic list. I already use some of them and I can't wait to investigate the rest. Just last week I stumbled upon DeviantArt. Love it! I've heard of DropBox so I'll check that one out today.

    I use a tool that, though it doesn't sync or inspire or edit, gives me tremendous peace of mind: Mozy.com online data backup. I've set it to automatically back up my manuscripts and files six times a day (yeah, I'm just a tiny bit paranoid). Best part? It's free for up to 2GB and then a small charge for anything over that.

  4. Great resources. I don't take advantage of these tools enough. Thanks.

  5. This is a great list. I've been toying with the idea of getting Scrivener, so I'm glad to see it's on your Must List.

  6. I've sworn by behindthename before. I'll have to check out some of those other research sites. Thanks for the information.

  7. Wow, super stuff! I've copied this list into a Word doc. Thanks!

  8. I have so many of your pages bookmarked. Looks like I need to add one more. Thanks so much for all the helpful articles and links.

  9. Wonderful list - can't wait to check the links out. Thanks :)


  10. This is awesome, Ladies.

    I love FORGET YOU. Jennifer is one of my fav YA writers.

  11. I so totally need to start using Freedom! Thanks for this great list!


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