The Internet–bane and boon of the writer. I am someone know someone who is old enough to remember the days of card catalogues, periodical indexes, and microfiche, so I can speak with complete authority when I say that search engines rock. What used to take days now takes seconds. Nano seconds, even!
Patience used to be the necessary virtue when researching. Now, it’s discernment. Somehow we have to filter the 9.6 million results that took half a second to retrieve.
So Much More Than Google
Google is so yesterday! I’m kidding of course, but don’t think for the moment that Google is the be-all for writers on the Net. Today I’m sharing a few non-search engine web tools I use regularly. I’d love to know yours too!
Nitty Gritty Grammar Tools
Whether you’re a grammar guru or a grammar goof, helpful tools are out there.
- Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips is my go-to source for prickly grammar questions. Secret nerdy confession: I enjoy listening to the accompanying podcast by the Grammar Girl herself, Mignon Fogarty. 5/5 Stars
- Daily Writing Tips is another great source of grammar info. It’s a good one to bookmark in case you ever need to know the difference between butt-naked and buck-naked. 4/5 Stars
- When I can’t find the answer I seek, I Ask a Grammarian, and they get back to me! I kid you not. Type in your question, add your email, hit send, and within a few hours you have your answer. I did this once when I saw a stupid sentence on Upworthy. It sounded so wrong, but because I didn’t know the technical grammatical terminology, I couldn’t look it up myself. Turns out I was right. Upworthy was WRONG! 5/5 Stars
- Need a prompt? Got writers’ block? The What-if-inator might help. Even if it doesn’t you’ve had a little break. Seventh Sanctum’s What-if-inator is a random generator that spouts questions to get you thinking. A knowledge of world events is a must, but if history isn’t your strong suit, Seventh Sanctum’s other random generator options may meet your needs. They have generators for ideas for: anime/manga, characters, settings, humour, magic, technology, and lots more. Go on–go have a play. 3.5/5
- In a similar vein, Chaotic Shiny is another producer of random generators. Why not take their Inspiration Finder for a whirl? Chaotic Shiny offer gazillions of other options too — even a prophecy generator! 4/5
I think I’ve blogged about the ordeal I go through while naming characters. I hate to even think about it! My internal name generator goes into auto-pilot, and my brain.just.won’t.stop. Don’t get me wrong–naming characters is one of my favourite parts of writing. It’s just that it consumes me.
So I don’t lose a night of sleep or a day of writing, I sometimes use a random name generator like this one. Everything–and I mean *every.thing*–is there, from names for boys, Medieval squires, fantasy pubs and elves. 4/5 Stars for sheer fun.
The Best for Last – Tropes!
TV Tropes is both impressive and fun. Its creators describe their wiki as “a catalogue of the tricks of the trade for writing fiction.” They define tropes as “devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations.” Unpacking the tropes can help you figure out where your story might sit in a bookstore.
One of TV Tropes’s best features is the list of examples from literature, TV, and more. If you look under Steampunk for example, you can read about Steampunk’s history, elements, stock characters, costumes, and more. But you can also find links to literature, movies, games, and comics. I’ve found some spot-on inspiration on this site. 5/5 Stars
Over to You
What writerly web tool can’t you live without. Please leave a comment so I can try it out!
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