The start of the year is when I pay close attention to what is happening in our industry: what publishers and organizations are focusing on, the changes occurring on sales platforms, and what author advocates are suggesting writers pay attention to in order to succeed.
Across the board, writers need help to stay focused so their best work ends up on the page. So with this in mind, I have a roundup of resources that can help you be more productive and write stronger fiction, faster. Even better, they all have a free trial or version so you can test them out before investing, or they are a free resource altogether.
Brain FM: I purchased a lifetime license years ago and have never looked back, and why? Because it helps me focus on the task at hand. This app plays special neural phase-locking music that engages with your brain to put you in a state of focus, relaxation, or sleep, whichever your goal is. It starts to work in 15 minutes, shutting out distractions…which we can be prone to as writers. If you’d like to try it free, use my member’s code to get a free month.
Freedom: On Facebook a bit too much? Constantly dipping in and out of your email box? Do notification pings and banners break your train of thought? If so, you aren’t alone. This is another product I have used with Chrome because an unending stream of information via the internet is a blessing and a curse. So, if you want to claw back your keyboard, distraction-free, try this app and website blocker. (There’s a free trial).
Feed Your Creative Brain
Reverse Dictionary: Sometimes as I tappity-tap, the right word eludes me, driving me bonkers. It doesn’t matter how many throw pillows I move or cushions I upend on my mental couch, I can’t grasp the words that will convey the feeling or mood I want to build in a scene. The reverse dictionary has saved me so many times as you can type in something abstract like “fear” and it will pull up a cascade of words related to fear. This almost always triggers an idea and boom, I’m writing again. This is a free site, so bookmark it.
Descriptionari: If you get inspired by reading through the descriptions of others, you will love this site. Enter in a keyword like “Tree” and a host of user-written descriptions will pop up. Clearly I’m not suggesting you borrow or alter any descriptions (that’s plagiarism) but if reading a few helps to unlock your own imagination so you can write something fresh, check it out.
One Stop for Writers: I can’t discuss creativity and not bring up One Stop for Writers. Between having the largest fiction-centric Description Database ever created, a powerful Idea Generator, customizable Worldbuilding Surveys, and a Character Builder (which can produce a Character Arc Blueprint!), you will never be at a loss for what to write next. And that’s just some of the site’s tools.
Becca and I are writers and coaches, so we know what writers need most. That’s why we created One Stop. So if you want to create magnetic stories and become a stronger writer at the same time, put One Stop in your toolbox. If you like, give the free trial a go.
Clean Up Your Prose
Grammarly: This is a useful tool for all sorts of editing and usage fixes, whether you are writing emails, blog posts, social media updates or polishing your novel. It integrates with many programs, going where you go and will prompt you with fixes as you type (which I really like). The paid version has a lot of great features including a plagiarism checker, handy for us writers as we read a lot and would not want to unintentionally borrow something. The free option is helpful too, and easy to set up.
Natural Reader: This handy text-to-speech app is terrific for self-editing. Our eyes may skim over flaws in our writing, but the ear rarely lies. Find typos and disconnects in tone or cadence by listening as your story is read to you. The free version allows for 20 minutes of reading, so that’s a nice chunk of time to do some prose polishing.
ProWritingAid: This site is another favorite of mine. Like Grammarly, PWA takes good care of you on the editing side of things but it has analytical reports that will be of special interest to writers and boasts a stellar blog packed with articles on how to improve your storytelling. It also comes with lots of integrations, so you can use it in the program that you like to write in. Give the free trial a spin.
Never Stop Learning
To make a sustainable career out of writing, learning is key. One thing that divides professional writers from amateurs is the refusal to settle for writing that is “good enough.” Pros expect that their writing will evolve and they look forward to absorbing more knowledge.
The great thing about being a writer these days is that help is everywhere. Here are a few extra-special resources to take in.
K.M. Weiland’s Story Structure Database: Stick your hands into the gooey innards of famous books and movies and see how their story structure works! SO HELPFUL.
Become best friends with this page.
Story Mastery: I’m sure there’s someone that you fangirl or fanboy over, amirite?
Well, for me it’s Michael Hauge. If you want to delve into the deeper aspects of writing craft, check out Story Mastery. Start with the articles, but trust me, also pick up his Hero’s 2 Journeys and check out some of his other videos, including his book that shows you how to apply storytelling skills to marketing. It’s amazing what fiction writers can learn from screenwriters!
One Stop for Writers Tip Sheets: If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time you know Becca and I love to pass on small lessons that make a BIG difference. Especially when it comes to description we want you thinking carefully about every element and detail, and how to squeeze as much storytelling juice from every word in your story.
One Stop for Writers has a giant depository of tip sheets and checklists free to download and share. So start clicking that mouse and save these valuable tip sheets to your computer to reference later or print out.
What tools will you invest in this year? Let me know in the comments!