Any creative writer should have three main aims: write, stay organized and get published. The following list of free websites and apps for writers aims to help you do just that.
Sometimes inspiration hits and you know exactly what your next story, poem, or dare I say it, novel, is going to be about. Other times, it’s not that simple. Using online idea generators is a good way to get the creative juices flowing, if only as a writing exercise. And who knows – that writing exercise could turn into your first published novel.
There’s no limit to the number of online idea generators out there, but to get you started, here are a few good ones:
The websiteoffers a variety of idea generators, depending on what you need help with. There’s a , a , and even a , if you’re stumped with coming up with an idea for conflict within your story.
The Big Huge Thesaurus, a resource for looking up synonyms, antonyms and rhymes, is another place where writers can get free prompts. They also go so far as giving prompts for bloggers – but all of the ideas are for personal blogs more than anything else.
A special mention also goes to McSweeney’s for their Thirteen Writing Prompts feature.
Once you’re on the right track, you need to keep yourself organized. Sometimes ideas will come to you when you don’t have a pen and paper handy, or aren’t at your computer. A good way to save these ideas is to use basic features on your cell phone – whether it’s using a voice recorder or saving it as a text message.
If you want a more elaborate method there’s UberNote, which allows you to save ideas in a variety of ways. You can save notes to your private UberNote account using email, IM, Twitter, accessing a mobile version of their website, and using browser tools such as add-ons and bookmarklets. At the moment, UberNote offers unlimited storage for your notes.
You could also use MakeUseOf’s popular Gmail tip. Choose a custom address to email yourself your ideas, for example email@example.com, create the appropriate filter, and all of your ideas can be saved under a specific label in your Gmail account.
Mind maps are another popular app for writers to stay organized and to keep track of ideas. Again, there’s no limit to mind-mapping software and services out there, but the free version of Mind Meister is a popular option. You can save up to 3 maps at a time and it has a free iPhone app, browser add-ons, a variety of widgets, as well as email and SMS support.
When writing something as extensive as a novel, you also need to keep your writing itself organized, which is where yWriter comes in. yWriter is a free windows app that gives writers an easy way to jump from chapter to chapter, to reorganize the order of chapters and gives an overview of the story as a whole. You can also keep notes on characters, locations, and outlines of various aspects of your story.
You can submit any kind of fiction, or non-fiction, to both websites and get feedback in the form of comments. On ABCTales you can get more extensive feedback by requesting it in the forums. Both sites have editors who go through the submitted works, and single out the particularly good writing, distinguishing it from the rest.
If you’re going to put excerpts of your writing in a public forum, there is the risk of being plagarised. In order to avoid that possibility, you can protect yourself against copyright infringement with the online app, MyOws.
MyOws allows users to upload their original works (hence the name MyOws) to a password protected account. Once the file is uploaded, MyOws provides users with the necessary evidence in proving ownership of these works.
Through MyOws, you are able to keep a record of all cases brought against copyright infringers who have used your work without permission by filling in the information using their easy step-by-step process.
The site will then provide you with a standard template for a Cease and Desist letter which can be sent to the infringer in order to have the copyrighted material removed from their website. The site will also send proof of your ownership to any third parties at your request.
While in beta testing, there is a 500MB limit on each user account, and your files will never be deleted, provided that the account remains active – meaning you have to access your account at least once every two months.
It’s worth mentioning that MyOws is also handy for artists, photographers, programmers, or anyone who needs to copyright their original works.
Submit Your Work
Once you’re done, you’ll want to start submitting your work to publishers, magazines and websites, so it’s very important to keep track of what’s been submitted where.
The Writer’s Database is a good option as it’s web-based, so anyone can use it regardless of platform, and it can be accessed from any place. At first, it takes a bit of effort on your part, feeding all the information into the database.
The information is divided into two main categories. First comes the information on each publisher or magazine you’re submitting to, including their contact details, submission guidelines, pay rate, and response time.
And second is the list of the titles that you will be submitting.
The two are brought together in your submissions panel, where you can list where each title has been submitted, and record the responses.
The app has a Dashboard widget for Mac users, as well as widgets for Google, Netvibes and Yahoo.
If you prefer to have that information safely stored on your own computer, there are a few options out there for Windows users. Sonar 3 is a good example of a program that allows you to store all of this information locally. It has a very similar set up to the Writer’s Database, and again, you have to feed the information into the program.
When adding your works, you can include the genre, number of words, and can also link to the document itself on your computer.
When adding markets, you can include their contact details and submission guidelines.
You can also generate a list of all works, markets or submissions, and print them out. Sonar 3 allows you to record and date responses, making note of payments, and whether or not the work has been published.
If all else fails, you can record all of this information in a simple Excel sheet.
Do you have any special tips or methods that you use to keep yourself inspired and organised? Let us know in the comments!
Image credit: Marzie