Never did I think I would become such a lover of plotting websites, as I have always been and will always be a notebook fanatic. I use pen and paper for every part of a story, and they always boost my creativity more than using something on the computer.
But the advantages of using certain websites and online software cannot be ignored.
You can use digital tools only if that’s your preference, or you can scribble out your wild thoughts in your notebook, and then transfer them to a more streamlined and organized software.
Not only can you use digital tools to make your thoughts neater and more easily accessible, but you can also use them as inspiration. Multiple websites, blogs, and digital tools were created with authors in mind. They have tips and tricks you can use to further your plot along and intensify it.
Don’t have many plot points figured out yet? Some of these have prompts that can get your gears moving.
Many of these sites I knew about before writing this post, but through researching for this, I’ve discovered and fallen in love with even more.
These can both be used the same way. I have a whole other post about the many incredible uses of Pinterest for writers here, so I won’t go into detail. Tumblr can be used the same way in that instead of users having boards, they have blogs. And these can be filled with prompts and advice on developing your plot.
This site is run by Faye, a psychology graduate, and focuses mainly on creating your best characters and thus, your best stories. I love her Inspiration Station, which is a page consisting only of resources and advice posts.
Well-Storied is a blog and advice treasure trove run by author Kristen Kieffer. It’s a blog I can spend hours on and not regret it. From building a plot to anything else you could ever possibly need to write your story, you can find it here.
Another blog run by another author, Bryn Donovan uses her experiences and knowledge to teach other aspiring writers what she’s learned. Filled with advice all the way from writing prompts to your final edits, it’s a one-stop shop for writers.
Most writers are aware of National Novel Writing Month in November when writers around the globe band together to write their own 50,000-word novels in 30 days. But what you may not be aware of is their Nano prep page, which has tips and blog posts posted all year long to help writers prepare to achieve their goals in November.
The primary function of this site is an online course that writers can use to finish their novel. But their less hyped blog page is what I’m going to recommend to you. Filled to the brim with well thought out posts about anything writing-related, it can help you every step of the way.
This site is a God-send. Run by blogger Sara Ridley, you can find advice, incredible blog posts, and downloadable worksheets (most of which are free). I’m a part of her Writer’s Tribe and am so glad I am.
If you’re ever feeling really strapped for ideas, whether it be for your main plot or any other tiny ideas, generators can be a great tool. This is my favorite site for them. At this one site, you can generate random story ideas, choose a specific genre and have it create a random blurb, or even generate character names or song lyrics. Simply put, it’s hella useful.
Similar to the last site I mentioned, this site has multiple generators to urge your story forward. There’s one for plot ideas, for plot twists, and even first lines. They say their ideas may not make much sense but can get your creative gears working. And isn’t that all you want?
As the name suggests, this is a site filled with-wait for it-writing prompts. While not a generator for the above two, this blog has a specific category filled with posts that’ll prompt your writing. Some posts will give you specific dialogue to incorporate or simply a plot idea. Not only that, but the other writing categories on this site are just as useful.
This Tumblr page is incredible for super random ideas that could be applied to any sort of writing idea. With posts telling you to incorporate three certain things into a scene, or a certain type of character, this page is super entertaining to scroll through.
Using worksheets for your writing may seem a bit middle-school, but trust me, they work. I won’t go into detail on each three of these websites because they each accomplish the same thing in their own genius way. But know they all have (FREE!) worksheets that can help you build your story’s plot and anything after that as well.
If I were to truly express my love for this website, we’d be here all day. So I will simply leave it at this and also link you to a further in-depth post about it here. This website is the entrance gate to all things MBTI, which basically breaks down everyone’s personality into–wait for it–one of sixteen personalities. It’s the best way to create characters and, for those slightly narcissistic like me, learn more about yourself.
Stuck in a rut when trying to name your characters? The best free ways to help are with name generators. Here are two that I really like. Hiveword and Random-Name-Generator.
If you’re writing a novel located in a real-life city, it needs to be accurate. You never know who’ll be reading it and if they’re from that city or not. My favorite way to do this is using Google Maps.
You can add favorites to the locations you’ll use more than once, use the directions feature to get your character correctly from Point A to Point B, and even get inspiration for places in that city you could use in a scene.
Like the characters name generator I mentioned above, this site also features a setting name generator. If you choose to go the fictional setting route, this will be SO useful for naming all your story’s locations.
I have yet to write a post solely on my love for this software, but trust me when I say it’s coming. While not free, this software by Literature and Latte is something I splurged on a year or so ago and have never regretted (even when I was begging my mom for groceries).
It keeps everything for your story, including location notes & research, plot outlines, (literally EVERYTHING) in one easily accessible location.
Want to try a free trial? You can use my affiliate links if you’d like (or simply click the link above if you’d prefer). Here they are:
Like Scrivener, this software isn’t free. Instead, it’s a monthly subscription service that allows you to safely write your novel both online and offline. It’s also filled with features such as distraction-free mode, chapter & scene breakdowns, as well as automatic backups to Google Drive and Dropbox.
Trello is something I’ve always heard of but never tried for myself until researching for this blog post. It’s simple but also incredibly useful and versatile, and I’ve already created a board for the novel I’m working on. The software consists of one main board that trickles into multiple sub-boards, all of which you can use for parts of your novel such as plot points, random ideas, and even character inspo.
Lucidchart is geared more toward visual people, those who’d rather lay all of their plot points in a diagram or flowchart. While they have paid accounts, you can also use the most basic account for free. I’m not a huge flowchart type of person, but I did test it out for this post and it was definitely easy to get the hang of.
And there they all are. My fingers are exhausted after typing all of this, but I know how useful this list could be to some of you writers out there. Simply researching for this post introduced me to new tools that I’m excited to learn more about.
Let me know in the comments some of your favorite online plotting tools. I’d love to check them out and maybe include them in another post like this down the line.
Disclaimer #1: I am NOT an essential oil guru. I know nothing about using oils to cure cancer or to put my kids asleep at night (especially because I don’t have kids). I love essential oils, I do, but that doesn’t make me an expert.
Disclaimer #2: Some oils are not good for children or expecting mothers. The ones I know of are peppermint, rosemary, and clary sage. Basically half the list below (sorry!) So if you have any hesitancies toward using them for any reason, you may want to look deeper into it.
So. Here we are. Essential Oils.
They’re something you’ve most likely seen all over your Pinterest feed or tried to have been sold on from a girl you graduated high school with. Nowadays, they’re everywhere.
And I’m not mad at it.
Whether or not you believe in their super-magical claims, essential oils do serve a variety of good. Creativity and inspiration for writing (other tips on that here) are just a couple of those. And I’m here to explain the singular oils that help along, and then after give you some of my favorite blend examples.
Obviously, any essential oil could be said to help someone’s writing, as everyone has different needs for when they write. To keep this post from going into detail about every single oil possible, I’m only going to mention the ones that I’ve tried and think help me out.
Most of the links in this article are that of the affiliate variety, but please don’t let that lessen what you may take away from this. It charges you nothing extra. I’ve been using these oils/blends for longgg before starting this blog. Now, I’m just trying to make an extra penny with spreading the word about them since, you know, authors don’t make shit.
So yeah 🙂
I will rave about this oil ’til the day I die. I always buy the big bottle of this stuff, and make sure to keep it stocked. I’ve gotten everyone I know hooked on it, including my dad. It’s energizing, clarifying, and stimulates your mind in a way that makes you want to be productive with your writing.
As with any essential oil, there are multiple ways to use it. My favorite ways are sprinkling a few drops in my shower in the morning, as well as putting it in my diffuser with some of the other oils I’ll mention below.
This oil definitely isn’t as in your face as peppermint is. But while it’s more low-key, it’s still incredibly invigorating and helps boost mental energy and focus. It’s also capable of reducing tension, so if you’re feeling too stressed or under pressure to be your most creative, rosemary is an oil to consider.
Some people on Pinterest swear that the three of these have completely different side-effects. For me, though, they’re interchangeable. I usually choose one of the three based on what smell I’m craving (that sounds kinda weird, doesn’t it?).
Even so, these three fruity scents help uplift your mood and, mixed with other types of oils, can majorly aid in energy. Too much of a sweet scent can negatively impact your focus, though, so use them lightly.
Aside from being good at everything else, hence why this is dubbed as the king of all oils, frankincense has many mental benefits. It can calm your mind and your nerves, giving you plenty of free space in your head for creativity. There are also claims that it helps improve your memory and concentration, as well as giving you the clear mindset you need to write that bestseller of yours.
Clary Sage & Bergamot
The last of the oils I’ll mention are these two which, while completely different, do have the same sort of effect on the mind. These, like frankincense, have incredible mood benefits. They’re known to boost mental strength and confidence, as well as get all that mood-lowering gunk out of your head. Clary Sage is more of a hormone balancer, while Bergamot has more of a calm & uplifting sort of smell. But they’re both awesome.
The Best Blends
These are my favorites from the hundreds I’ve found and tested from Pinterest. You can use them in equal parts or one oil more than the other, whether that be through a diffuser or with a carrier oil in a roller ball. It’s all up to you and your preferences. So just know that these recipes are mere guidelines, and you can customize them however you like.
Smells are personal, you guys.
Peppermint + Orange or Lemon (my all-time fave)
Peppermint + Lemon + Rosemary
Frankincense + Orange + Lemon + Peppermint
Grapefruit + Rosemary + Peppermint
Lemon + Rosemary + Frankincense
Bergamot + Lemon + Orange
Basically, as you can probably tell, just throw together some of the ones I initially listed and see if it smells good and works for you. That’s the fun part of essential oils. You can feel like a scientist. They have premade blends you can always buy, but to me that’s not nearly as fun.
I truly believe they help me focus and boost my creativity, and even if they don’t, they still smell awesome.
So let me know in the comments if you’ve tried any of these or if you have any others you think I should’ve included! I’ve only recently gotten into essential oils this past year, so I still find it interesting to research.
As a writer, the world is constantly exposing you to writing tools. You can get story ideas from the most random things, like the scent of a candle or a woman’s necklace. It’s one of the most magical things about being a writer.
And when one thinks “magical”, they’re first thought probably won’t be of the internet.
But, as a writer, I’ve come across many different sites, software, and apps that are pretty damn magical. These are things that help me become inspired, fight procrastination, make my life easier, and, honestly, just help me out. So hopefully somewhere amongst these, you’ll find some you may want to try out for yourself!
If you’ve been using an internet browser other than Google Chrome, if you get anything from this post, I hope that it’s you need to make a switch. Aside from this one app, there are thousands of others that can do anything your heart desires.
My favorite, obviously, is Grammarly. It’s basically a writer’s guardian angel, there any time you’re typing something to make you sound grammatically correct. Anywhere you type on your computer, whether it be on a random website, an email, or even a blog post like this, Grammarly runs as you type to let you know when you make any spelling or grammar error.
It shows up as a little circle in the bottom of your typing screen, so it’s not overbearing. It’s green when everything sounds good, and flashes red when you’ve made an error. It’ll highlight your error so when you hover your mouse over it, a pop up with a suggestion to correct it appears. Clicking it, it fixes it for you.
It’s the greatest invention for writer’s who need to have perfect writing on social media and onward.
I have a whole other blog post about the many uses of Pinterest for writers here, so I won’t go into major detail here. But for pre writing, during writing, and post, Pinterest is a magical place full of inspiration, tips, and ways to make your writing as stand-out as possible.
Just be careful, because it’s incredibly simple to fall into a Pinterest black hole and not emerge for hours.
I’ve tried more note taking apps than I’d care to admit to, but I always fall back to Google Keep. Writing plot notes and ideas with pen and paper is my preferred method. But sometimes when I’m at work or at a doctor’s appointment, I need a better way. Inspiration and ideas are fleeting, so it’s so important to jot them down when they come along.
Keep is simple and user-friendly. It’s the perfect app to pull up on your phone or tablet when you have a moment, type in your idea, and then be done. It doesn’t require you to navigate through a bunch of notebooks (the reason Evernote didn’t work out for me), so it’s also just as easy to find your note once you have the time to flesh it out.
(Please ignore my shopping lists shown in the pic, but I literally use this App to help run my life)
Sometimes I forget about this little gem and use the basic Scrivener thesaurus, but then I remember it, use it, then hate myself for not using it before. Using either the website or the app, all you do is type in a word to see as many different options for it as possible. What makes it different from another thesaurus’ is that it’s simple and user-friendly. It’s perfect for writers too because the results are listed by “likes”, meaning that a word people found more helpful than another will be listed before.
It’s an amazing tool to keep yourself from using words like “amazing” and “definitely” too often in your writing, so if you find that you have that issue, you should definitely check out Power Thesaurus.
I’m not going to go too in depth on this one because a whole separate post would be needed and I already have that planned out for a future one. All I’ll say here is that this software is totally worth the price, and that’s coming from a girl who has to steal toilet paper from her mom’s house.
It makes writing fun, easy, and organized. Using it over Google Docs or Microsoft Word, which I’ve used both in the past, makes me enjoy writing more. All of my research and notes are right on one screen, so I don’t have to waste time searching through digital files.
So if you’ve heard about Scrivener and are wondering if it’s worth it, this girl right here is telling you that it is.
Also, you can sync whatever you’re working on to your Google Drive account, so you can sneak in some writing at work without your home computer.
So I know there’s a ton more writing tools out there online, but these are the five that, hands down, are my favorites. I use them constantly, and I think that they all improve my writing and my life as an author.
What about you? What are some of your favorite online tools for writing? Leave them down in the comments so I can check them out and maybe find a new love of my own!
So, what exactly is a writing process? Isn’t it just the process of sitting your butt down and writing?
But, for those writers who look at it as more than that, it’s not entirely that simple.
For many writers, including myself, writing can be the most difficult part of their day. I know it shouldn’t be that way since, you know, they’re writers, but reality is a funky, cruel type of thing.
The trick is, for these people, to find the best type of reality for their writing. What kick starts their creativity? What calms them down? What keeps them from focusing on everything but putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard?
It’s different for every person, I know that. I’ve read enough blog posts trying to stimulate my own writing process to know that for some writers, things that help them are those exact things that hinder me.
Or, maybe, you want to draw on an inkling you have that you could be a writer. Maybe you want to start, but you don’t know how? Maybe you need to develop a writing process from scratch? If that’s you, then maybe you should skip down to step 3.
So you have to look into yourself. And how do you that, exactly? Well, I have steps below that will hopefully help!
You have to think back to those times or days where writing was effortless, where the words came out of you with nothing holding them back. If you consider yourself a writer, more likely than not you can remember one of these times. If not, if writing was never that way for you, then you’re a lot stronger than I am. If writing was always a struggle for me, I’d probably hate it and never want to do it again.
But anyway, once you have your memory, use the following steps to dissect it.
2.Remember Small Details
It could be the tiniest, most insignificant part of your memory. That’s the should-be-funny-but-actually-cruel part of all of this. The writers I’ve come across, the writer I know myself to be, are a little bit loony in the head. And all it takes is one thing to be off to ruin the entire writing session.
Did you have music playing, or did you need complete silence?
Did you have a notebook near by? Or do you much prefer sticking only to the computer?
Did you have a candle burning, a specific essential oil blend in your diffuser?
Did you have coffee by your side? Or a glass of wine?
What time of day was it? Early morning, midday, or late at night?
All these small things could have the largest impact. So get to thinking. What helped, and what hindered?
3.Trial & Error
Are you starting to have any ideas from remembering past experiences? Or are you starting out this writing thing fresh and pure? If so, this is the most frustrating part. So have fun.
Either using parts of your memory you’ve pinpointed or random inklings of what may help you, start trying. It’s gruesome and it’s frustrating, but it’s something you have to do.
Try writing several different ways. Try writing in your bedroom, at a desk, on the sofa, at the kitchen table. Try writing with a cup of coffee, or tea, or a large class of wine. Try writing in silence, try listening to a Hans Zimmer Pandora Station (a random trick I saw on Pinterest). Try writing early in the morning, or when the sun’s at its highest point, or when it’s late at night and everyone else is asleep.
There are millions of things that could cause your writing to be harder than it needs to be, and it’s up to you to figure it out.
Me? My best writing has always been super early in the morning, with a large mug of coffee by my side, and a peppermint/orange essential oil mix running through my diffuser (you can find my favorites here). It’s also always when I have something else I should be doing, which is why it’s a damn miracle I didn’t flunk through my senior year of college since that’s when I was writing “Back to You“.
Like I mentioned before, your mind is a fickle, mean thing. Most likely, you’re not going to like its ideal environment for your best writing.
4.Give All Your Power to Your Process
What the hell does this mean?
It means you need to relinquish any stubbornness, any hesitations you have, to your writing. As weird as that may sound, you have to give your writing process your priority. At least when it’s writing time. My biggest hurdle to get over is tempting myself with thoughts like, “Oh, but if your kitchen’s clean then you won’t have that hanging over your head”. Then I’ll clean the kitchen, and be too exhausted afterward to get anything else done.
YOU CANNOT DO THAT.
It doesn’t take every creative fiber of your mind to clean the kitchen, or walk the dog, or meal prep for the upcoming week. But it does take all of that to get any writing done. You can do all of those things at any time (for the most part), but writing is not like that.
It’s stubborn and irritating, but getting it right is the best feeling in the world.
You have to indulge in it.
5.Just Freaking Write, Already
Just do it. Sit your ass down, get your environment right, and write. There’s nothing more to it. You can’t utilize your best process if you don’t make yourself do so, so your willpower does have to factor in. Stop making excuses, stop making funny faces at your dog, and get to work.
The best way to be a writer is to write.
It’s that simple.
There’s no hidden trick, no exact formula, that makes your writing easy. Writing is difficult and it’s painful and it can be the hardest part of your day, but if you’re a writer then there’s no better struggle to have.
These steps are to make the most of your writing process, but you can’t do that if there’s no writing process to make the most of.
I hope these steps can help some people out! I know it’s far more difficult than 5 steps, and I struggle with forcing myself to write every single day. But the outcome, getting those perfect 100 or 1000 words, makes everything worth it.
So what’s your writing process? What’s your environment have to be like? I told you mine, but I’d love to know yours! Leave it in the comments down below.
Alright, so I’m a published romance author (as I’m sure I’ve mentioned a few, *cough* 1000 times). That’s all I’ve wanted to and tried to be, so I know my instructions may not apply to all genres or types of writing. Still, what I hope is that you all will see how I went about getting published, and then apply/modify it to what you’d need. So I hope this list helps!
1. Be Proud of Your Work
This goes without saying, but attempt to publish something you’re actually proud of. I’ve been posting free stories online since before I went through puberty, and have finished about 5-6 “books”. Did I attempt to send any of those to publishers, though? No. I knew they were good, but I also knew they weren’t “someone investing their money in me” good. And, you know, it’ll be a lot easier to sell your product to possible publishers if it’s something you’re proud of.
2. Edit Your Freaking Heart Out
As I mentioned before, I’d been posting online for a while (post on that here). I’d gotten comfortable with the Wattpad/Booksie world. But I also knew that the publishing world was far different. So I researched “romance book publishing” and a million other different variations of the same thing. I found the normal word count, formatting conditions, all that stuff. Things that I could apply to my work to make it as sellable as possible. Editing it myself, “Back to You” went from around 130k words to 110k words, which was still pushing it for a standalone romance book. By the time it went through actual editors, it was down to around 102k, I think.
3. Research Until Your Fingers Bleed
Maybe not that dramatic, but still. Research, okay? As confident in yourself as you may be (which you should be!), you still don’t know everything that needs to be known about being published. Hell, I’ve been under contract with my publisher since October ’16, and I’m still clueless about some things.
So, research. Google publishers in your genre, research the types of summaries and blurbs that have the best outcomes. Learn what the hell a blurb actually is. Learn how to sell your soul. Most writers are about as introverted as they come, but this is where you have to break out of your shell. If this is your dream like it was mine, nothing should keep you back. The more knowledgeable you are, the better.
4. Make a List
After you’ve researched publishers of your genre, write them down. Write and bookmark the sites for at least ten of them. You can have some big names in there, but if you’ve researched enough, you should also have quite a few “indie” publishers as options. These will be your best bet. As I’m sure you’ve heard before, J.K. Rowling got rejected by numerous big name publishers. It only takes one novel for a publisher to make it big.
Why can’t it be yours?
5. More Research
Every publisher has different submission guidelines. Look them up on their website, they’ll be there. Usually, all of them need a blurb, a summary, and an author bio. Some even require the full manuscript.
What I did (since I’m a huge notebook hoarder), was make a complete separate notebook just for submission requirements. I wrote each publisher down on a page and listed all of their requirements. After that, I made separate folders on my computer for each of them and got to work.
6. Get to Work
As horrible as writing summaries and blurbs is, you have to do it. So just do it. Most publishers require the same type of summary/blurb, so you can reuse and recycle. Some don’t, though. Some require a longer summary but no blurb. Others require neither, but then expect an email that completely sells them on the book. So copy/paste sentences and paragraphs, those that you’re most proud of. And use them as often as you can.
You can’t slack off for just one publisher, either. Each submission needs to be gold. The acceptance rate is dismal, so you have to stand out. Commit to their standards, yes, but make sure you exceed that.
Press that send button, honey. It’s absolutely terrifying, but also thrilling. You’ve worked your ass off to get here, I know you have, so at least feel proud of yourself for getting this far. If you can write a book, you can get published. If I could, anyone could. Trust me.
As you could expect, this is the worst part. Waiting for your dream to come true sucks.
But even though it sucks, it’s also best to keep track of the suck-age. That sounds wrong. Sorry. But still. Make a chart (I made one in Excel) with a list of all the publishers you submitted to. Put down their “get back time”, which is usually a couple of months, and write when you sent them your submission. This will give you a nice timeline/tracker of everything you sent out. And if you don’t hear back from them in that time frame, then chances are you didn’t make the cut. Even if they say they’ll get back to you, they may not. But as brutal as that sounds, it’s also kind of reassuring. Okay, yeah, you didn’t fit their needs. BUT NEITHER DID HARRY POTTER, okay?
So just mark them off the chart, and replace their row or column with someone new. It’s a game of chance and it sucks, but, in my opinion, just getting to the point to try and publish is novel-worthy itself. You accomplished something great. Be proud of that.
AND. If you’re like how I was a year ago and looking to publish a romance book, check out Hot Tree Publishing. They have both self-publishing and traditional routes and, even though I’m incredibly biased, they’re awesome!
Some of you may be wondering what the hell mind mapping is. I learned the technique from this article here. I saw it on Pinterest as a useful way to declutter my mind and immediately thought how much I could use something like that. Both in real life and for writing stories.
Basically, in the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write down the base of what you’re wanting to think of. This could be overall story ideas, what a specific scene needs, or it could be things you’ll need from the grocery store. Whatever’s stuck in your mind that you need to get out.
From there, you just scribble down words and ideas, connecting them all with lines and arrows to other words and ideas that are related.
AND IT WORKS.
Well, it did for me. And I’m sure it will for you.
The first time I used it was when I was creating a character profile. I knew some of what I wanted, but I found myself focusing too hard on one aspect and then forgetting the other little fluttering ideas I had.
The most important thing is to not focus too hard. If you do that, then you’ll be stuck on one idea and the mind mapping will be for nothing. Instead just run briefly through everything stuck in your head and scribble the most basic parts down. Reading back through them, you’ll remember what they’re about.
It IS your head after all.
So I hope this helps you all! Whether or not it’s for writing, it can definitely come in handy when you’re feeling overwhelmed.