Monday, February 20, 2012

Free (or Almost Free)Tech for Writers

While the issue of whether technology makes our writing lives easier is up for debate (when your motherboard departs this world and takes with it several months of work, you will understand), there is a lot of great free, or almost free, technology out there to help writers. I wanted to use this post as a chance to compile a list of helpful resources.

Editing and Writing

AutoCrit - The AutoCrit Editing Wizard is an instant book editor that helps identify problems (word echoes, grammar, etc.) in work you upload. There is a limited free version. The more functional versions require an annual fee.

 yWriter - Free writing software for writers made by writers (in the spirit of full disclosure, I am a Scrivener devotee, but my friend Karen loves yWriter - she says it is better than Girl Scout cookies - mighty high praise).

 Elements of Style - No, you didn't escape this when you left your formal education behind. It is available online so your high school English teacher doesn't cringe when she reads your masterpiece.

Motivation and Creativity

Dr. Wicked's Write or Die - Southern Magic goddesses Jennifer Echols and Naima Simone extol the virtues of this motivational tool that punishes its users with horrible noises, blood dripping from the screen and the munching of written words if you stop writing for too long. The online version is free, but there is a cheap download that you can use when you are sans internet. I LOVE Write or Die. This is a NaNoWriMo must.

Written? Kitten! - Yes, I am the crazy cat lady, so this works well for me. This tool gives you a blank page where you can type. Every time you cross a milestone (100, 200, 500 and 1000-word settings are available), you are rewarded with a warm fuzzy kitten picture. Awwwwww :)

XMind - This is a free brainstorming tool that is easy to install and use.

One Word - One word writing prompts.

The Emotion Thesaurus - I joke that my characters must be perpetually dizzy and have reflux issues based on the way I describe emotions. I have saved these poor souls from tortured futures by using this site to better describe their emotions.

Plotting - This is a digital version of 3X5 cards. Use it to layout your story and plot lines. It is great for collaborating on stories and planning write-ins.

Blake Snyder's Save the Cat Beat Sheet - Several Southern Magic members (even the pantsers) swear by the Save the Cat method and the beat sheet for plotting a story.


National Geographic's What's in a Surname - This is a fun tool to identify common surnames in the geographic area of the US where you story is set.

University of Wisconsin's Dictionary of Regional English - This helps ou keep your dialogue authentic. It places words and phrases in times and locations.

Google Earth - A must if you are setting your story in an area you don't live.

This list is just a start. Please post your favorite resources in the comments. I'll edit and modify this post in a few days so you can bookmark it and have it available for future writing needs.


Gwen Hernandez said...

I second the Emotion Thesaurus and Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet. I'm also a fan of Michael Hauge's Six Stage Plot Structure. He has some good articles and diagrams on his site:

Thanks for the list!

Suzanne Johnson said...

A great all-around website for inspirational blogs, inexpensive online workshops, and its own autocrit wizard is -- there's a free basic membership, and a premium membership for about $35 a year (workshops are cheaper and you have broader access). Also has a great yahoo email loop.

I also use the Emotion Thesaurus--discovered it after realizing other than grinding his teeth my male character had no emotional repertoire--LOL.

Big fan of autocrit here.

If you have characters whose first language is not English and they tend to lapse into their mother tongue, Google has a great translator at -- I use it a lot. C'est si bon!

I'm facing some killer deadlines this year, so I'm about to give Victoria Lynn Schmidt's Book in a Month system a workout. Too early for a report on it yet--ask me in a month.

Because I have some tight deadlines this year, I've started exploring the

Chris Bailey said...

Thank you, thank you! Very nice compilation of resources.

Long ago, you also recommended to me The Nonverbal Dictionary:

It's cool, too.

Lexi said...

This is awesome! I have shamelessly copied it for future use!

Carla Swafford said...

Google Earth that you mentioned: That is so helpful. Though I've been down the street and on the boardwalk that is in the opening of my book, CIRCLE OF DESIRE, I used Google Earth to make sure my mind wasn't playing tricks on me. I "drove" down the street again and describe some of it in my book. Too cool.

Sorry. I have nothing to offer that you haven't already mentioned.

Heather said...

These are great additions! I have also posted this on my personal web page. In a few days I am going to edit the post add the resources from both sets of comments. Check back to see if there is any more treasure to discovery :)

Christine said...

I want to get the Emotion Thesaurus. And I'm a Scrivener Devotee as well because it encompasses so many of the other ideas given. I think we need to add Margie Lawson to the list. Her workshops, online classes, and lecture packets have upped my writing and the execution of getting the thoughts on the page.

I retooled the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet to reflect my genre after dissecting dozens of books. And I have also retooled Michael Hauge's 6 stage plot structure to reflect my writing process and how I break down the story. An excellent resource!!

Here's Margie's website:

Gwen Hernandez said...

Christine: The best part about the Emotion Thesaurus is that it's a free online resource!

Katherine Bone said...

Wow! Thanks for this great list! I'm not very Tech Savvy but I have learned to wing it on occassion.

I'm going to copy Lexi and do the same so I know what's available to me.

Louisa Cornell said...

Great list! Thanks for compiling it. I have nothing to add as I am basically a techno idiot! BUT, I am getting better!

Louisa Cornell said...

Great list! Thanks for compiling it. I have nothing to add as I am basically a techno idiot! BUT, I am getting better!

Lisa Dunick said...

this is an awesome list!