Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Online Writing Tools


I wrote my first novel-length work long-hand in a spiral bound notebook. I was thirteen, I think. I wrote my first “real” novel when I was fifteen on an old manual Royal typewriter (the kind with a cloth ribbon) and I think I was sixteen when my parents finally indulged and bought me an electric typewriter. I thought I’d died and gone to writer heaven!
Computers have made a writer’s life so much easier, if a little more complicated. I’ve tried out a lot of writer-tools. I’m a gadget whore, I admit, from kitchen gadgets to writing gadgets – I love gadgets! But alas, aside from my computer, my phone and my tablet, there aren’t a lot of “tools” for writers – unless you count all those nifty online things. I’ve tried a lot of those too, and there are a few I’ve found really invaluable in my process.
Every writer needs a good thesaurus and a good dictionary. These are standard – but incredibly useful. I know Stephen King says, “If you have to look it up in the thesaurus, it’s the wrong word…” and while I generally agree with his rules for writing, this one doesn’t work for me. Sometimes I know the word… but I get brain freeze. It’s right on the tip of my tongue (or the tip of my brain?) but it just.won’t.quite… ugh. So I need a thesaurus once in a while!
And for the erotic writer, this resource is incredibly helpful: erotic thesaurus. Because sometimes writing about inserting Tab A into Slot B can get repetitive!
And if I’m writing some “younger” characters, I often check out the Online Slang Dictionary for some cool, hip, happening phrases. (Those are already outdated aren’t they?)
For grammar rules (I can never remember lie or lay… or affect/effect… every writer has their grammar nemesis!) I check out BartlebyStrunk and White, my old standby, is available there for free! (although I do own print copies… but online makes it so easy!)
If a character’s name doesn’t come to me (they usually tell me their names!) I check out this site, that lists popular baby names by year. Just look up the year your character was born, and you have a list of names!
Surnames, too, can be generated. I like this Last Name Generator because it allows you to put in the first name and see/hear what they sound like together.
For collaborating, Google Docs is the way to go. You can both write and edit at the same time and talk to each other in the sidebar. It’s really cool!
The Internet rocks for research, of course, but what a tempting distraction it is! Once click, and I can lose an hour checking email, Facebook or Twitter. So if I really want to write without distractions, or I’ve got a little writer’s block, I check in at Write or Die. Dr. Wicked kicks my butt back into shape and forces me to write!
For brainstorming and outlining, I’ve recently discovered Free Mind. I am in love with this! I always had a problem outlining. I tried the standard outlining, I tried notecards, oh my goodness, I tried everything, but for some reason, my brain wouldn’t wrap itself around the concept. But Free Mind is so organic and, well, freeing! Try it, I think you’ll get hooked! It’s easy to use, but I looked up a few YouTube videos on the basics to get started. (There’s another invaluable site! You can find out how to do ANYTHING on YouTube!)
When I’m working on my iPad or iPhone (I usually keep notes on my iPhone notepad, if I’m out and get a story idea or need to write down a plot point while I’m at the dentist!) I use Dropbox to sync everything. I can access whatever I’ve written on my iPad or iPhone with Dropbox right from my PC. Awesome!
Another program I have started using is Dragon Naturally Speaking. I actually knew about this program years ago, because my father was severely dyslexic and used it on his computer. It recognized his voice and would type emails for him, allow him to interact on forums, etc. I never thought I’d use it myself, but another writer mentioned using (and loving!) it so I gave it a try. Wow, is it amazing! The more you use it, the more accurate it becomes. I thought I wouldn’t be able to transition to “writing” in that way – that somehow writing was attached to “typing” with my brain. But then I remembered—I wrote my first novel long-hand! Why couldn’t I dictate a novel? Besides, it’s great practice in case I lose the ability to type for some reason, which has always been, strangely, my worst nightmare.
So there you have it – some of the online tools I use when I write that I’ve found invaluable. What are your favorites?

Selena Kitt
Erotic Fiction You Won’t Forget
LATEST RELEASE: Girls Only: Pool Party

1 comment:

  1. Everything I've published so far has been born via a Google Doc. It's invaluable both as a way to access and back up my work everywhere I am, as well as being able to share with an editor or get feedback from a reader. I can write while things are quiet at work via my web browser, close it up, then go home, open my laptop, and keep on typing without any versioning issues.

    Then, when it's time to publish, I take the final, edited draft and export to Word, where I do the fine-tune formatting.