When I look back, I’m not at all tempted to blush, crisscross my legs or profusely apologize to that green self. I didn’t know, and I learned.
To quote the fortune cookie message that I got from the fortune cookie generator:
‘Generosity and perfection are your everlasting goals.’
I’m still striving for perfection, but I can try the generous avenue by helping new freelance writers out with some time-saving, highly educational and entertaining free writing tools.
I’ve included some of my favorites. I’ve tried to include every possible newbie writer’s need- but please don’t be shy in sharing yours with me.
A Writer’s Essentials for Your Tool Belt
You can be passionate, have the most exquisite enjoyment in writing your piece- but it won’t mean a thing if it’s full of typos, spelling mistakes and bad word choice. It will keep you unread and unshared.
The Elements of Style A must-have reference book for any writer, it’s the go to place for grammar and punctuation. The fact that it was written in 1918 and is still a goldmine is testament to its value.
‘Make definite assertions. Avoid tame, colorless, hesitating, non-committal language.’—Rule 12 –William Strunk, Jr.
Fairly new to the grammar checking scene, Slickwrite (thanks Traci) is a canny tool that goes above and beyond. Excessive use of prepositional phrases or text flow are examined. How cool. A ‘classic,’ Spell Check Plus, is a dependable cleaner-upper for up to 500 word docs, without explanations. Another useful editor is Ginger Software, which does the basics and includes context in its evaluations.
Your writing is also only as good as your word choice and combinations. It makes a difference what you’re writing, of course. A novel can be dialect-focused; a blog can be a showcase for your personal lexicon; and the rule of thumb for SEO is roughly an 8th-grade level. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t constantly build or extend your wordsmith abilities. Enhance My Vocabulary gives you a few tips on how to do it.
A few favorites:
- Wordnik: An addicting and unbelievable little tool for words. I did a test, using the word ‘writer.’ It provides an all-in-one for words with example sentences, contributor lists and context associations.
- Reverse Dictionary: How can you not love a tool that takes ‘good feeling inside’ and gives you such spicy options as: radiate, subjectivism, window-shop and brain? It might not be super-accurate for such general ideas, but it’s also an unexpected source for inspiration.
- Coolest Words: Includes 1940s slang, Latin and unusual dictionary words (reminders of those oft-used intellectual terms, like ‘antediluvian’).
- Rhymezone: Is precisely what the name implies. You can find rhymes for your poetry or catchy article titles.
Creative Writer’s Tools
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to a writer conquering a book, a poem, a short story is: the lack of functional writing advice you can find. Uncle Google is too general, with way too many million (not-so-near) misses. Try the Writer’s Knowledge Base.
It’s a search engine for articles on specialty topics for writers: POV, concrete writing methods, pacing- virtually anything industry related. The search base is created for writers. I tried an example here, for ‘plotlines,’ to give you an idea. You can get daily updates on Twitter@elizabethscraig.
Textroom: A room of your own, distraction-free and specially designed with writers in mind. It gives you space and a place to focus on your words.
Evernote: For notetaking, by using mobile apps to jot down ideas on the go. It’s also super handy because you can do a notes search with keywords.
Storybook: A perfect tool for keeping track of your overview, complex and multiple plotlines and organizing your characters. No more ‘Where did I put that…?’
Seventh Sanctum: A glut of good generators: settings, story, names, different genres, you name it they have it. The next time you’re stuck for a specific for a story or character, this is the place to be.
Springhole’s Plot Generator List: For brainstorming plotlines or helping you with ideas on which direction to take your story.
eBook Publisher: It formats your eBook for, erm, publishing. Of course.
SEO and Content Writing Tools
I know many professional marketers, copywriters and SEO specialists that swear by Matt Cutts Blog for Google updates. He’s made over 500 videos to answer FAQs, provide tips and insight into the latest at Google. If you have a specific question, try: the Short Cutts.
Pro Writing Aid: It takes care of the fundamentals, with an added emphasis on the stylistic portion of your post/prose. A detailed corrector, it checks readability and grammar, redundancies, complicated language and repetition. One of the best I’ve found.
One of the biggest concerns for SEO writers: duplicate content. Here are a few freebies: Duplichecker, Dustball Plagiarism Checker and Small SEO Tools Plagiarism Checker (which also has many other marketing tools to explore).
Word Counter: Checks keyword density, overuse of words, keyword distribution and makes sure you’re not repeating yourself needlessly.
Keyword List Generator: Find a multitude of keyword combinations with this tool. Particularly useful when your brain goes ‘freeze’ on creativity.
Specific Writing Styles
You’re bound to run into them at some time or other as a freelancer: the pedantic (human) editor. Maybe they’ll ask for citations you’re unfamiliar with, or they’ll require a specific style you’ll need to beef up on. One tip: familiarize with the format before you start writing.
The difference in the two main styles (from a forum post): APA vs. Chicago Style
Perrla MLA/APA: A great tool for creating proper citations.
A formatting site (MLA/APA/Chicago): Son of Citation Machine.
To translate US to UK spelling, there’s an odd little tool called The Britishiser.
Something I’m always on the lookout for: different research sites. Wiki’s fine for creating a general skeleton, sure, but when you need serious documentation/sources it’s much more difficult.
Bartleby: A stellar resource for referencing materials, finding direct verses or literature, and getting details on history, science or medicine from accredited institutions and papers.
List of Academic Search Engines: Databases and search engines useful for academics. You can access writings from academic journals, or in repositories and archives. There are also collections of science, medicine and law articles for specific needs.
Whew! I hope you find this list of freebie tools for newbies helpful. Any tools you’d like to add? M.
Note: Part 1: Basic tools for the main writing genres; Part 2 will be free image/photo sites; Part 3 will be about tools for breaking writer’s block and other fun-filled stuff.