While a writer can get by with only a pen and paper — or a manual typewriter and a ream of heavy bond — why would we want to? One of the fun things about writing is all the gadgets and software and resources available to writers these days. (Not that I procrastinate with software or gadgets … ahem.)
The hard truth is that it is all too easy to go down a rabbit hole of “resources” that can help you write. But at the same time, there are some legitimate tools that can not only be fun and fascinating, but can also (yay!) help you be more productive.
Here are just a few, culled together from my own computer and office, not to mention asking a few other author friends what they utilize and like – and I am totally going to dive in and check out their recommendations.
So dig in, explore the list, and feel free to drop your favorites in the comments because I am only scratching the surface here!
NOTE: For the most part, these are links related to getting your story written. I’ll do another post with resources for marketing and promoting your story later, including cover design, keywords, and all that jazz!
For Story and Character Ideas
The truth is that pretty much anything can spark a story idea or give you insight into your characters. For the last year, hanging out in coffee houses and watching people hasn’t been much of an option, but one of my favorite things to do is to watch obscure documentaries. And, of course, watch television shows, movies, and read books (no, it’s not cheating! it’s filling your well!)
Another fun place to find ideas is Atlas Obscura. I subscribe to their mailing list and always find buzzy ideas! Same goes with other interesting mailing lists and websites!
If you like to plan out your world (especially useful if you write Fantasy), check out these awesome sites suggested by author Marlayna James!
World Anvil – (I haven’t played here much yet, but Marlayna says: “incredible, versatile platform with tons of added features, stories, manuscripts, images, videos and sounds. You can choose to share your work for free or add a paywall to make yourself some extra cash!”
Other recommendations from Marlayna:
Inkarnate – map, dungeon, and world-building software.
Eldritch Foundry (JK note: I think I NEED to do this for Damien Stark and Devlin Saint! And maybe for some of the demons in the Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom series!)
Flowscape – create 3D landscapes for your worlds!
For visualizing your characters
Folks in one of the rooms where I hangout in Clubhouse are having a fabulous time building characters with FaceApp – AI Face Editor.
And Artbreeder does something similar in that it creates character images by blending two characters together! (This is not a tool I use personally, but it sounds like oodles of fun!)
Scrivener – I write in Scrivener and love it so much. I probably only use about 2% of this very versatile writing software, but I like it because each chapter can be it’s own file (for that matter, each scene can be its own file) and yet you can read it all in one document (and search as one document). You can set target word counts, color code files, and do soooooo much more. (I often keep an entire series in one file). I’ve been using it as a WordProcessor+ for years, but others get even more out of it. It will even format your eBooks, though I don’t know how to do that (I use Vellum, which I’ll talk about in our follo.
If you already use Scrivener and want to dig deeper – or if you’re thinking about it but are nervous – Author Gwen Hernandez has some terrific classes about onboarding and best-utilizing Scrivener. Check them out here!
Plottr – I’ve just started using this, and I think it’s going to be great. Best part for me — it integrates with Scrivener! (Warning, the beta of newest addition of Act Structure keeps cashing on me, but if you don’t turn that beta on, it is working great. YMMV)
Aeon Timeline – lots of folks swear by this software that can help you keep track of your timelines and your plotlines. I am not one of those people because it totally overwhelms me. But check it out and decide for yourself!
Campfire Blaze – another super-fun site that I had a great time playing with (though I haven’t yet made it part of my process).
For tracking progress and staying on track with writing, I use Pacemaker.press, which lets you put in your estimated word count and how many days you have to hit it, and it creates a daily schedule with a word count goal based on how you want to parce out the words (i.e., every day the same or starting slow and building…). I’ve also heard good things about Writetrack which is a similar program.
Aside: I’ve been told about a word count app that has you killing monsters with the words you write. I think that is AWESOME but I can’t find it! If anyone knows, please share!
For Craft and Wordsmithing
Of course, you’ll also want to make sure your words are spelled right, you’re using interesting words, and your grammar is correct.
Check out Prowritingaid.com for so much info (it will tell you about grammar, overused words, spelling, etc. etc. etc.). It also integrates with Scrivener. I’ve only recently discovered this tool and it is truly fabulous. It’s in the same ilk as Grammarly, but I prefer ProwritingAid. Check them both out and see what works best with your process!
For that perfect word, check out onelook.com!
For Getting Started and Honing Your Story
Of course, the above tools are only useful when you have a story! That’s too much to go into in one post, but be sure to follow my Writes-and-Wrongs Wednesday posts where we go deep into the craft of story.
In the meantime, though, here are some great starting points for helping you dive in and learn about story structure:
The Save The Cat series is a terrific place to start for plotting and structure help. Originally written for film/TV the same storytelling principles apply to books, too.
If you write romance, Romancing The Beat by Gwen Hayes is a great place to start, and a fast and fun read!
Michael Hauge has so many terrific articles at his story mastery site! Check them out!
For Formatting (for print and/or eBooks)
My go-to for formatting is Vellum, which just gets better with each update. It, however, is currently only available on Mac.
Scrivener does do formatting, though I can’t speak to how easy it is.
It is possible to format in Word, but I would suggest doing a search for sites to learn how. (If you can afford it, I recommend getting Vellum!)
I have heard of Atticus, which I believe recently launched, but haven’t yet spoken with anyone who has used it yet, though I’ve seen some really solid reviews! Especially if you don’t have a Mac, it’s worth check out!
Formatting wraps up this blog post … we’ll check in on promo & marketing (and getting that cover!) in another post soon!
A final note: Check out my Author Resources http://jkenner.com/linkson my Links page to see updates and more! (scroll to the bottom of the links page for writing resources!
What do you have to add? Drop a comment below!