Every couple of days or so on tumblr, a post will show up on my dashboard that ends up being an invaluable writing resource, so I’m going to share a couple of my favorite FREE online writing resources with you all here.
I hope all you writers out there have written at least one character who’s not like you in some way, shape, or form—be it age or gender or race or religion. When the venn diagram of you and your character is essentially a circle, writing outside yourself doesn’t require too much thought or effort. For example, if I, as an upper-middle class white woman, wrote about an upper-middle class white man, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch. I wouldn’t have to do much research beyond looking at the men I’ve known in my life and I wouldn’t be likely to get much wrong. But maybe you want your fictional worlds to reflect the actual world (not just the small pocket of it which you happen to inhabit) and you want to write about a character who’s completely unlike you—a character that has some sort of disability, or is a different race, or a different religion, or a different sexual orientation or gender identity—and because you’re not an awful person, you want to do this thoughtfully and respectfully. Which means doing research and talking to people who have lived these experiences…only you live in a tiny pocket of the world where you don’t have a lot of access to these people.
Which is where Diversity Cross Check comes in. Diversity Cross Check is a tumblr that seeks to connect writers with the marginalized people they wish to feature in their books. People from minority groups post profiles on the tumblr and writers can scroll through the tag directory to find the profiles of various minority and marginalized group. From there, you can contact the person in the profile to ask questions or solicit feedback on whatever project you’re working on. This isn’t a cure-all to problems with diverse representation, but it’s certainly a good place to start.
I only discovered pacemaker in the last month, but I have fallen in love with it. Pacemaker is a way to set writing goals. You in put the sort of project you’re working on (fiction, thesis, screenplay, etc), the time frame you have to work on that project, and your goal word count and the website generates daily word count goals for you. What I love most about Pacemaker is that it’s soooo customizable. You get to choose how you want to approach your writing—whether it’s by writing the same amount every day or starting out with small word count goals and working your way to bigger ones or having randomized word count goals (which is the option that works best for me). You can choose the intensity of your goals and you can choose whether or not you want to write on weekends—you can even set it so you don’t have a word count goal on a certain day if you know you’re going to be super busy that day anyway. I’d been having trouble writing every day, which is my personal writing goal, but once I started setting goals with Pacemaker, it’s been infinitely easier! I know I sound like a cheesy informercial testimonial, but I seriously love this program.
Some people need to write in absolute silence…but I am not one of them. At the same time, when I’m listening to music with catchy lyrics while I’m writing, I usually get distracted by singing along with said catchy songs. A tumblr-associate of mine was the one who introduced Soundrown to me, and it’s a delight for people who want nice ambient writing noise without the distraction of catchy song lyrics. With Soundrown, you can pick ambient noises—coffee shops, rain, beach, birds, etc—to play in the background while you do your thing. You can even have two or more different ambient soundtracks playing at the same time. Want to go for an ultra nature soundtrack? Play rain and birds. Want something more cozy and urban? Fire and coffee shops. It’s not a perfect program—sometimes the tracks don’t autorepeat and I have to interrupt my writing to go refresh the page, but other time it autoplays for hours—but I find it invaluable when I really need to buckle down.
If you’re a genre writer and you haven’t tuned into writing excuses yet, well, you’ve probably hiding under a rock for the last several years. Writing Excuses is a professional podcast produced and hosted by big shot writers (Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Dan Wells). Each episode, posted weekly, is between fifteen and twenty minutes long, so it’s something short and simple to help motivate you to write each week. They’ve been at this for years, so they’ve got a massive back list of episodes and chances are, if you’re stuck on a particular aspect of your current writing project, they’ve got an episode to help you deal with it. The current season of episodes is being treated as a master class on writing, so the hosts are delving in depth to every stage of the writing process. While their focus is on genre fiction—particularly sci fi and fantasy—most of their advice is applicable to any writing project.
WriteWorld is another tumblr account (can you tell I spend too much time on tumblr instead of writing?) and they are an endless pit of resources for writers. On top of reblogging prompt-like posts (pictures, music, bits of dialogue, etc), they also archive posts on various useful writing information. Just yesterday, they had a super interesting post about the sort of combat training noble heirs would have received prior to the 18th century—including the age combat training would begin to what sort of weapons they’d likely be using. Their archive is well organized so you can find posts on whatever you need help on and they also answer questions posed to them. They are an endless wealth of knowledge.
So there you have it, folks. My top five FREE online writing resources—may they help you as often as they’ve helped me!