I’ve already said I didn’t like 2017 and I haven’t changed my mind, but last night I realised despite all the bits I’d rather forget, I still learnt a lot. I joined online writing communities, wrote, edited and self-published my first book and started a blog (the one you’re reading right now, surprisingly enough.)
I couldn’t do all this completely alone, obviously. I had a lot of help, some of from real actual in-the-flesh people, but mostly from the internet and it’s various inhabitants and tools. Here’s a roundup of the most helpful sites and tools I started using in 2017 that I’ll definitely use again in the coming year.
- Write Or Die. For those of you unfamiliar with this excellent site it’s pretty much what it sounds like. Keep typing or there will be repercussions. These might come in the form of a red screen, blaring alarms, screaming or, once, a song about peanut butter jelly. There are also options to have it delete your words if you stop typing… if you’re brave enough. I prefer to use the 2nd version, but there is a 3rd version recently released. Both are perfect for NaNoWriMo, or any time of the year you’re struggling with writer’s block.
2. Smashwords. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since it was through this great (and free!) service that I published A Grey Valentine’s but even if you’re not self-publishing I would recommend having a look. There are loads of amazing books at affordable prices by indie authors in every genre you can think of (and several you can’t.)
I’d wholehearted recommend Mark Coker’s free books for authors. The Secrets to eBook Publishing Success is a must read for every aspiring author, but I’d also suggest The Smashword’s Marketing Guide for everyone with a book out, or out soon.
The Smashwords Style Guide is less relevant to everyone but if you ever have to format an eBook, even if it’s not for Smashwords you should definitely read it before shelling out for a professional. I managed to format my entire manuscript, including the interactive table of contents and all hyperlinks in about two hours because I read this book, and I know any future projects will be a lot quicker thanks to the tips I picked up.
3. Fantasy Name Generators. If you’ve never seen this site, you’re in for a treat. Over a thousand name generators for all manner of settings, countries, races, series and games. I use it to help think of character names, town names, monster names… anything really, it’s just so much fun.
I think the sections for various roleplaying games is also great as it not only includes possible character names but entire randomised descriptions of areas! This could also be useful for brainstorming settings for your novel.
There are loads of features I haven’t even explored yet in all the time I’ve been using this site. We even used the ‘Italian Name Generator’ for my drama exam piece which gave us the excellent name Cleo Bontempo, which was sadly unused in the end.
4. Last Name Generator. In a similar vein, this one is great for when you’ve got the perfect first name and need something to tie it up with. I used it for everyone’s surnames in A Grey Valentine’s and I really like how it lets you input the first name so you can see how they look together. There are also other generators on the site but I must admit I’ve never used them. Find it here.
5. Abe Books. While not directly related to writing, it’s certainly related to reading. Find cheap, second hand and rare books here. Particularly good for textbooks, providing they’re not too new. I got all my Christmas presents from here this year and I managed to find some pretty cool and unusual books at remarkably affordable prices. Favourite feature – automatically sorts price low-high, including shipping.
6. Terrible Minds. Surprising as it may be for someone attempting to run a blog, I don’t actually read many regularly. I tend to pick up whatever articles I need from a quick Google search, but Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds is somewhere I find myself frequently returning. Opinionated, vulgar and full of great advice, it was the blog that got me hooked on reading about writing. Somehow I’ve never found one of his books in a store so still haven’t read one, but I can’t remember a single post of his I didn’t take something useful away from.
These are all sites I’ve used often throughout the year and won’t be giving up anytime soon. However, just a few days ago I heard about a fairly new site – World Forge. Described to me as ‘Scrivener for worldbuilding,’ I was intrigued and as my Fantasy YA novel idea gestates I may try using and perhaps reviewing it if it seems anyone would be interested. Until then, I’ve included it so everyone else can have a look and see what they think.
I know I’ve used hundreds, if not thousands, more sites than these over the past year but these are the ones I felt would be most useful, not to mention my personal favourites. I hope I’ll be able to discover even more cool things in the future and share them with you all. What tools did you find most useful in the past year? Is there anything you’re planning to try this year? What would your ideal writing tool look like? Let me know in the comments!