I love free stuff. I’ll jump on a free book, no questions asked, even if it’s not a genre I normally read—you never know where a gem might be hiding just waiting to be unearthed. The same is true for writing resources.
There are tons of free resources to be found on the Internet, but here’s a short list of foundational ones that continue to help me in my writing journey.
The “Why” of Writing:
The Writer’s Manifesto by Jeff Goins is a “small eBook about getting back to the heart of writing…a call for writers to fall back in love with writing for the love of it.” If you’re ready to be inspired to write for the best of reasons, get a free copy of this short, read-in-one-sitting e-book by joining his newsletter list (or pay $.99 on Amazon or Barnes & Noble).
Make Reference.com your first stop on your road to research. Enter your topic in the search bar and watch how much information pops up.
You’ve probably already found Thesaurus.com and Dictionary.com but you may not have discovered WordHippo.com. This site provides definitions and synonyms/antonyms, as well as rhyming words, translations to other languages, word tenses, and pronunciation.
Etymonline.com is an online etymology dictionary. It’s a useful resource to add flavor and accuracy to your writing, to make sure words or phrases were indeed used in a certain place or during a specific time period. Take the noun “stuff.” I thought it was a fairly modern word, but etymonline.com tells me it was used in the 1570s to refer to “matter of an unspecified kind,” whereas usage in the context of “having a grasp on a subject” (to know stuff) isn’t recorded until 1927.
If you’re searching for names for your characters, you could check out a list for boys or girls or you could step out and use one of the many online generators. My favorite is Online Name Generator. Both the Random Name Generator and the Fake Name Generator produce realistic character names. Besides “normal” names, the site also generates ones for elves, pets, bands, clans, businesses, teams, fantasy characters, superheroes, vampires, pirates, as well as evil names and code names.
Redwood’s Medical Edge is a blog by author and RN Jordyn Redwood designed to help both historical and contemporary authors learn methods to write medically accurate fiction. She fields medical questions, analyzes medical scenes, and posts on topics that can increase the tension and conflict in any story. Check out her blog archives for topics.
At Videojug learn lots of things your modern characters might need to know to survive in their world or should know in their particular line of work. Find out about digital photography or dance moves under Creative & Culture, or how to repair fireplaces or stack wood under DIY & Home. For survivalists, go to Sports & Outdoors/Camping/Wilderness Survival to learn How to Make Fishing Nets, How to Hack a Flashlight for Emergency Power, and the all-important How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse.
Go to Written Sound for “how to write the sound of things: onomatopoeia and words of imitative origin” (like weapons fire or a person choking).
Here’s another one of my favorites – a list of British words not widely used in the United States (okay, I haven’t used this in my own writing, but it’s good to have in case I need it someday, and to help when watching those great British tv shows). Along the same lines is a list of words having different meanings in American and British English.
From The Nighttime Novelist by Joseph Bates. Use this link to download 23 different worksheets to help with things like avoiding clichés and keeping track of description and supporting characters.
From Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. Go here to download more free and helpful worksheets, such as At-A-Glance Outline, Character Sketch, and Character Revealing Scenes.
I limited myself in this post to what I think are the basic resource needs of a writer. I didn’t include any of the awesome websites for writing advice, which I do consider a resource, but I’ll deal with those at a later date.
There are so many free resources on the web to help us with the basics of research and setting up our stories, please comment to share some of your favorites.