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? 

A Glimpse Into My Writingish World

I had a story idea tumbling around in my head for most of the last year. It would pop up at random times, beg me to give it attention, and then fade to the background when I shushed it with words of “Not now, not yet.”

All along though, I knew that someday the timing would be correct, and I’d be able to embrace the tantalizing new idea and give it my full writerly attention.

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Thankfully, that day came yesterday. I’d decided for various reasons that I needed to put my current WIP on hold. After that I had several options I could go with: Re-write Echoes, work on a story concept I’d been developing for a while, or finally delve into the world I’d been imagining for the last while. Obviously, I chose the shiny new project.

I was rather amazed by how much I actually knew about the setting since I’d never really sat down and thought about it. All the ideas, first lines, plot twists, and stories that had randomly fallen into my mind as I went about daily work were now falling into place.

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One of my biggest flaws of a writer is having a plot that really doesn’t flow well. My timing is incredibly off and the character arches always need a ton of help. Everything seems to happen in a random few chapters and then the rest of the book is filled with loveliness, but loveliness that not many people will really care about.

So, this time around I’ve decided to do it right. Have a solid plot. Know exactly what’s going to happen when and why and probably even where. It’s a daunting task, really, but I’m sure it will be good for me.

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My desk is now full of resource books, lined cards, colorful pens, corkboards, and every other item that a writer could possibly need. (Aka, washi tape, because that pretty much makes everything better.)

My computer is now full of taps like “Go Teen Writers” and “Pinterest Plot Diagrams” and Google searches to figure out how to spell various words.

My brain is now full of how I’m going to make it work, and goodness, doesn’t that character have the cutest name? And why would so-and-so ever do that? And what’s the lie such-and-such a character believes?

And that, my friends, is a little glimpse into my writingish world.

Currently:
Setting: My desk

Listening to: Whimsy hop around in his cage behind me
To-Do Today: Go to work at the coffee shop 
Random Fact: I’m taking rice and broccoli stir-fry to work for lunch today