Six Internet Tools for a Writer

The internet today is a wealth of information that makes an author’s life so much better. There are so many tools available and most of the time they’re readily available, free, and exactly what’s needed to help craft a winning story.

Here’s a list of Six Internet Tools for a Writer that I’ve found to be immeasurably helpful:

Pinterest

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If you have a hard time keeping physical settings to stay the same, or randomly have your character be blonde-haired and blue-eyed one day and dark-skinned with curly black hair the next… Well, then creating a board that reminds you exactly what everyone and everything looks like can be extremely helpful.

I personally skim over far too many details when I read, and therefore I don’t generally add enough setting and people-y details to my stories. Therefore, I’ve been working at figuring out exactly what everyone and everything looks like, and then sticking to it with pictures to keep me on track.

Note: Be careful what you search for especially when trying to find characters, to ensure you don’t come up with inappropriate pictures.

Grammarly

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My mom told me for months I should get Grammarly before I finally did the smart thing, paid attention to what she was saying, and downloaded the free version of Grammarly. The free version of Grammarly checks everything I write online, and among other things showed me how many typos and mistakes were slipping through my proofreading and into my blog posts. Y’all put up with a lot from me.

I have yet to check a whole book with Grammarly, and will probably buy the pro version before I do that, but I do check scenes, blog posts, emails, and many other little day-to-day writing-ish things. It’s fairly mindblowing to me how much Grammarly provides for free.

Go Teen Writers

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Yes. I’m really talking about this site again because I can’t hype it enough. It doesn’t matter what age you are if you want a website that’s clean, encouraging, helpful, and honest? Well, you don’t have to look any further.

An added plus for if you are a teen: They have a fantastic Facebook group for writers. I joined it when I was a teen and am really not sure where I’d be on my writing journey today if it wasn’t for the connections, encouragement, and feedback I received there. Also, they have contests and that’s pretty epic.

Book Reviews

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I’m not sure how many hundreds of hours I’ve spent over the years reading book reviews of books I know I’m never going to read, but the count is probably high. Amazon, Goodreads, and I are great friends. Often times when I’m sick, tired, or just need a breather, instead of pulling up a book to read I hop onto Amazon or Goodreads and browse book reviews. (Review blogs are also a great place to do this.)

Why?

There’s nothing like reading someone’s feedback on a book to help me figure out what’s popular in today’s society. This is especially helpful when it comes to popular books I know I’ll never read because of content they contain. (Although, there are a lot of books that I don’t even read reviews for if the content is bad enough.)

I also enjoy knowing what people do and don’t like in stories and then pondering what they said and figuring out if I should apply it to my books somehow. For instance, one day years ago I read in a review how the reader really enjoyed the food references the author made because, ya know, food is helpful for staying alive. This made me realize that I didn’t hardly ever mention food in my stories and I should remedy that.

This is also a great way to see what people are tired of reading. It doesn’t help to read a few reviews, but when you read dozens and then hundreds of them, you begin to see a pattern about what’s trending.

Sample Chapters

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There are far more books out there then any of us will ever be able to read. Therefore, sometimes instead of reading a book, I’ll go on a kick where I read sample chapters on Amazon.

This is something I generally do when I’m either really tired, sick, or in need of a good book. I’ll get on Amazon and start browsing. Amazon has this nifty little feature where it recommends similar books to you, so find one good story and a dozen others will pop up.

Sample chapters are incredibly interesting for a multitude of reasons, the main ones being:
1) You can learn what to do and not do to grip the reader from the first page
2) You invest ten minutes to get to know a new author and decide if they’re worth pursuing by requesting their book at the library or buying a copy
3) You’ll read new ideas that you never even thought of, but since you don’t know how it plays out you don’t have to worry about plagiarizing
4) You’ll get a broader idea of what’s on the market today
5) You’ll learn how to write better and more interesting characters
6) You begin to see what types of books and genres are intriguing to you

Google

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And of course, Google. Where’s a better place to find all the answers to writers dilemmas like How do you spell sesquipedalian? What are the signs of Scarlet Fever? When were the five greatest floods in the history of Montana? And all that type of jazz.

So there you have it, folks, Six Internet Tools for a Writer.

One more pro tip that I’ve been realizing is ever so true when it comes to writing and the internet: Have Internet Times and Non-Internet Times. This is essential for staying focused, orderly, and productive. If you sprinkle Googling, Pintersting, and the like throughout your dedicated work time then you’ll lose precious time and efficiency. Instead, what you can do is separate your writing times, editing times, and plotting times.  It really does make a difference.

Currently
Setting: Walking on the treadmill (I walked almost two and a half miles while writing this)
Listening to: Spotify on shuffle 
Random Fact: As a kid, I had to write a book report every week – it was good practice to becoming a book reviewer
Question of the Day: Do you ever read book reviews for books you don’t want to read? 

7 Things To NOT Do When Blogging

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Y’all. I generally don’t post about things that you shouldn’t do, but I wish I would have had a list like this when I started out, so here it is! May it be as helpful to you as it would have been for me.

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When I started my blog I had no clue what I was doing, and I didn’t realize I should study blogging. So, I probably lost several years of audience-building by just winging it and having a lot of trial and error. If I could go back, I’d probably still dive into blogging without doing a ton of research (that’s my personality), but then I’d have spent the next few months reading about and learning what works and what doesn’t. (Pinterest has a lot of graphs that can help you with this.)

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This means pay attention. If you want to use an image that’s floating around on the internet, you need to first discover if it’s copyrighted, and if it is, then don’t repost it without getting permission. One great place I’ve found for using uncopyrighted stock photos is Pixabay. They have a huge selection and are graciously free. If you see a picture on someone’s blog that you’d really like to use on your blog, go ahead and ask them – they might say no, but that’s okay.

One contingent to this graphs, etc…that are meant to be shared.

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Bloggers are human – even the successful ones. They make mistakes, they learn through trial and error, they were once the newbie. Being intimidated or being too freaked out to comment/contact another blogger is not the vibe they’re going for. Sure, some bloggers might not be quick at replying, but that probably has nothing to do with who you are, and a lot more to do with them being too busy, having health issues, etc…

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This doesn’t mean you should be sloppy, but you don’t have to wait for the whole world to feel correct before pressing the publish button. With that being said, I do recommend proofreading each of your posts and also using the preview button to make sure your formatting is correct.

My mom told me I should try Grammarly, and I’m so thankful I did. I had no clue how many “little” things I missed on my blog before the little green circle became a part of my everyday blogging life. You can add it to Safari for free, which is what I did. I highly recommend it.

But for the most part, as long as your grammar is correct, your spelling is on point, and your thoughts make sense, people aren’t going to be critiquing your every word choice and expression. (Like they do when beta reading a book…)

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Sure, if you actually do something “wrong”, like post a joke that you later realized was off-color, then you can say you’re sorry. But! There are bloggers out there who start out half of their posts by apologizing that their post is late. That gets really redundant and has made me stop reading certain blogs. If you’re late with a post, then you were late, and it’s not the end of the world. Most people probably didn’t even notice. Just do your best and no one expects (or even wants) you to be perfect.

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From everything I’ve seen the blogging community is very welcoming, kind, and caring. Let’s keep it that way. If another blogger is rude to you? I am sincerely sorry about that, but let’s not turn it into a public thing.

On the flip side though, when a blogger is nice to you, go ahead and talk about it all you want. I often post links to the blogs of people who have helped me with my blogging journey. Like Kate who helped me with my WordPress design, Esther who has written encouraging notes for me to keep going, Bekah from whom I won my first giveaway (and blogging friendship), and Stephanie who started the best blog for young writers. (Like, ever.)

Why bash bloggers when you can bless them instead?

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Personally, I enjoy hosting giveaways. It’s a way for me to interact with more people and bless them, but it does get expensive. So far blogging hasn’t been a money-making source for me, but I have poured a lot of money into it.

I didn’t do any giveaways for the first several years in my blogging journey because I simply couldn’t afford it. And that’s okay. You don’t owe it to anyone to do a giveaway. And, although they do help grow your audience, if that’s your only purpose for hosting one, you’ll be disappointed.

If you do host a giveaway, it can be small. A $5 Amazon gift card might not generate a huge amount of interest, but it does give your readers the feeling that you care about them, and that’s what you want, right?

And speaking of giveaways, Y’all should totally enter the one I have going on right now to celebrate my 6th year blogging anniversary. 😉