After so many people having commented on the posts I’ve mostly done for my Medium blog, I have decided to create a new page dedicated to this information. I have collated these posts into a single document (and added stuff) which you can scroll down through to find useful tips, resources and websites. I hope this is some help particularly to newbie writers. If this page gives you even one helpful hint, it’s been worth doing. I shall endeavour to add more information as I go. PS. I’ve managed to add links to make the things easier to find (I hope).
Please note this information is in no way sponsored and all formed from my own opinions.
Thank you for reading
Writing Tools for the Professional Writer.
This is a simple choice for an un-simple — can I say that? — application: Scrivener.
Scrivener is a do-all tool that can and do as little or as much as you wish it to. I use Scrivener for all long-form writing. I won’t go into details because it will bore you, but the main reasons I love it, are as follows.
1. Scrivener handles all aspects of compiling your manuscript so you don’t have to worry about it.
2. Scrivener is adjustable. I like to feel comfortable when I write. I like information available, index cards etcetera, but out of the way. I like a fullscreen mode, focus mode, dark backgrounds and the list goes on. I doubt there’s anything a writer could think of that Scrivener does not do.
3. Most of all, it’s reliable and multi-platform. Plus, now that there’s an iOS and companion, although I found the sync hard to set up, the whole ensemble is complete.
Note: I would like to add that I found diving straight into Scrivener and playing around, much easier than watching the screencast, (it boggled my weak mind). Others may laugh at this, but better to be truthful.
Prowritingaid. I finish all my compositions by putting them through Prowritingaid.com. You can paste up to 3000 words into it and have the site evaluate all possible mistakes. Take the results with a pinch of salt and learn from them. This is superb and I cannot recommend it enough. I have the full unlimited version but the free one will suffice most people.
Grammarly. When I have put my work through the above site, I then do so again through Grammarly. I find Grammarly better at picking up punctuation issues than Prowritingaid but the latter better at passive voice and adverb advice. Again, Grammarly has paid and free plans so there’s no excuse for not being able to use it.
Notebook.ai for writers. Notebook is a site that I don’t actually use but almost did. Free for all intents and purposes, they provide templates for characters and scenes etc to help collate and process the guts of your story. A very nice set up.
Airtable. This is available on multiple platforms. Airtable is basically an excel spreadsheet but with pre-built templates. There is an already formatted collection for novelists which is extremely helpful and easy to use. Like most resources on this page there is a free plan (more than adequate) as well as a paid upgrade.
Ah, here we go. As I said at the start, I am a fussy, fussy writer. I like to write on certain coloured backgrounds particularly on small devices. The same goes for fonts and general presentation. The following accommodate my foibles.
1. Ulysses: Available on Mac and iOS. Ulysses is the closest simple writing app to Scrivener. It uses Markdown, which I love and am using now, but allows for customisation and general simplicity of views.
2. Byword: As above but much simpler. You don’t have the choice of customisation with Byword as some apps; you don’t need to. The company’s choice of tools is perfect for plain, non-complicated writing in any genre or style.
3. iA Writer: As above but arguably even simpler as you get less choice with fonts. Another beautiful Markdown writer that makes the job of typing out a story a true pleasure. (This actual post is written and posted using iA Writer).
Author’s Note: All three of the writers above have free services to publish direct to various blogging platforms, (VERY USEFUL).
NB: I would like to give an honourable mention to the new Bear app (Mac and iOS). For general notes and a bit of all the above, the Bear application is stunningly beautiful. A true pleasure to use.
I would also like to mention Pixabay.com for sourcing great free images. They, too, also have an iOS app.
You! There are no tools to replace a writer’s imagination. Let your thoughts flow and fingers type. Always write the way you want, about what you want, and others will see your heart and talent shine through. Everyone has talent. Never take no for an answer when it comes to writing. Keep going. Make it a habit. Enjoy it.
Useful Sites for the Novice Writer
Writingcareer.com. The writingcareer site is a wonderful place to start hunting down destinations for your finished product. Maintained by the more than generous skills of Brian Scott, the website is a veritable cornucopia of freelance information from pay to display poetry sites to major publishers. For many folks, you’ll never need another site than this.
thereviewreview.net. The Review Review (that really should be lower case) is an online magazine with all kinds of useful information and a very handy newsletter option. They review other magazines, websites and even people, virtually anything to do with publishing. The site is well worth bookmarking and as mentioned I would personally sign up for the email too.
AuthorsPublish.com. Sign up to this email and you’ll get a great surprise. Almost every week and often sooner, Authors Publish send out an easy to read email of useful publishing sites and information that open out into a web browser. This was one of the best things I was ever introduced to and has proven an invaluable source for literary aids.
Submittable. Many websites require you to post to them via Submittable (argghhhh!) you scream. Don’t worry. Submittable is one of the easiest sites I’ve ever used and even manages your submissions. To anyone with a bad memory like me, it’s invaluable. So many sites use the Submittable database that its almost worth setting up an account (they’re free) before you even choose to submit work just so you’re prepared. Also, a latest development there is that they, too, post sites looking for submissions.
Two Bonuses and some Advice.
Only about three percent of submissions are ever accepted. This does not mean your work is poor or even anything less than superb. There are many reasons why a magazine won’t accept your work from personal preference (we’re all different) to just how it fits with other pieces. Having guest edited on an arts magazine, I know just how difficult it is to choose from multiple submissions. So, my advice is this: Think of submitting the same piece ninety-seven times before having it accepted. If the story, poem or article is good it will be taken on much sooner. However, thinking this way, you’re never disappointed by a rejection. Rejections are standard issue and to me it’s like water of a duck’s back. Send it elsewhere just try to go for places where the piece fits better.
To those two bonus items.
Storytracker. Storytracker is an app that works a bit like Microsoft Excel but is specifically designed for the collation and tracking of your stories. I’ve used it for a long time and am incredibly grateful to its developer for making my life easier. Currently, I think, it’s available for Mac and iOS.
OmPad. For those people who cannot afford a writing app for all occasions this may help. If you have a browser, OmPad will open in it, has a choice of backgrounds that you can change, and then write in. It does nothing else. Every time you open that same browser the last piece of writing you did will be there. Easy! And free.
I hope this simple list helps. It would be nice to think the next Hemingway appears because of it.
Alternate Writing Resources
There are many good dictionaries online as apps but Dictionary.com is a double-barrelled bonus. Available as both a website and dual app, inclusive of thesaurus.com, a dictionary is essential to a writers arsenal. I use the iOS app with the thesaurus because I’m paranoid and doubt myself, but I’m sure others would use it too. Such a useful fallback when I forget how to ~~spoll~~, ~~spall~~, spell, a writer should never be ashamed to check the spelling or correct usage of a word.
How many syllables, spelled as one word, is a sight with one simple purpose to count the syllables we might be unsure of or run out of fingers for. A very good aid for those who write poetry such as haiku, shadorma, tanka, etcetera (four syllables) and need to be sure of their syllable counts.
In previous posts, I have talked of my ,I’ve for Prowritingaid and Grammarly. However, there is another kid on the block which is more app-like in presentation. Available as a web app or download, Hemingway presenters the writer with a canvas to write on and then have checked for possible improvements. I would recommend giving this a go in the same way I would the latter two. If such devices/resources correct or help to correct even one mistake, they’re worth using.
Hemingboard is a Mac and iOS keyboard extension. This little app sits quietly out of the way until recalled with a button push to provide its user with definitions and alternative word choices. The best thing with this one is to click the link and go and peep as you probably won’t have seen anything quite like it. As I’ve said before, if it helps you once in a blue moon it’s worth it.
The Submission Process
A Guide For The New Writer
A friend recently asked me for advice on the submission process. It wasn’t until she cross-examined me with several pertinent questions regarding her work that I remembered just how frightening the whole business can be if you’ve never done it before.
For me, and many others, the writing itself is never an issue. I revel in the art of creation, but being your typical introverted writer absolutely dread others seeing it. On top of this, I hate being made a fool of which stems from doing things wrong and being reminded of it (you know who you are). This is my own personal nightmare. I can turn off to what people say in both pros and cons regarding my work, but not to my own incompetence. Hence, I made sure of several fail-safes when submitting work.
Here are a few tips I have gleaned over time. I genuinely hope they help. If even one makes life easier for you, then this has been worth the writing.
The Bio Business
Most authors hate talking about themselves and the ones that don’t never shut up. So, when a magazine or publisher asks for a simple bio to be attached with your submission, it can render a writer paralysed. There is no need for this to be the case. In most circumstances, all that is required are two or three sentences stating a little about yourself and your previously published work or highlights. If you have none, it doesn’t matter, the editors are reading what you’re sending them not what you’ve sent elsewhere. Here are two examples of what are acceptable. Always write them in third person.
John Smith is a British writer born and bred in Lancashire. His work has been published in such notable periodicals as Clarkesworld Magazine and The Guardian. John writes daily for his own self-titled website.
John Smith is a new British writer born and bred in Lancashire. A writer of speculative fiction, John loves all aspects of the written word and its distribution. John writes a daily blog with a substantial following.
Number one has many qualifications and number two has none. They both sound good though. Never be afraid to tell it as it is.
PS: As a Yorkshireman, I have no idea why I chose to use Lancashire for my example, but it pained me to type it.
Once you have a short bio you’re happy with SAVE IT. Copy the thing and keep it safe. My tip is to never retype your bio, but, instead, copy it into emails, websites, or whatever is required. This method guarantees it always being the same, always correct and requires less checking. You can update it as and when.
Standard Manuscript Format
THE WHAT! Yes, it does sound terrible, but it isn’t. A lot of sites and potential places to send work will quote the name William Shunn. The reason for this, is William was kind enough to create a submission ready template that anyone can download from his site. Get it HERE. By writing your stories in this template or transferring them to it, you are guaranteed a professional looking manuscript. The template is essentially for Microsoft Word but I have opened it in several other word processors notably Google Docs and Apple Pages and it has worked fine. Plus, once you know how it looks, you can always type your own.
One little addendum here is to always check what a site requires. Some editors hate one font and love another, like a certain spacing in documents etcetera, etcetera. That’s no problem just select all on your document and alter it to how they want. Easy.
A Few Basic Tips
- Don’t mail your work with a stupid email name. I would suggest using a separate email account (Gmail allows you lots) to look more professional. Example: JohnSmithauthor@gmail.com as against Johnthebigman@gmail.com
- As previously stated, always format your work as requested. At times, it can seem petty, very petty, but they ask for a reason and the writer should respect that reason.
- I have mentioned before about having a Submittable account. Many writing outlets use Submittable to manage their submission process. Get one HERE. Submittable is a wonderfully easy site to use and also acts as a submission manager/database for you the writer.
- Many sites you submit to offer email updates on when and what they require at any given time of the year. As a rule, you won’t get bombarded by emails so it’s well worth signing up to them. Plus, if they don’t help, you can always unsubscribe.
You will be one of possibly hundreds of people sending submissions to your sites of choice. No matter how good a story is a publisher can only print so many. NEVER be discouraged. If you keep at it, keep polishing your work and choose your destinations with appropriate care, you WILL be published. They say you always remember your first time although I’ve forgotten. Either way, it’s wonderful to see your brainchild enjoyed by others.
I hope this little list has helped unlock some of your submission process worries. Good luck. I hope you become the next J.K. Rowling.
PS: Remember me with kindness if you do.
DEALING WITH WRITER’S BLOCK
I’ve always been very fortunate in never having experienced the above, however, many do. Be it requiring a habit, preparation or inspiration, the following advice is well worth a read.
Advice on dealing with writer’s block and other useful insights by Best Selling Author Jerry Jenkins.
Click Here: JerryJenkins.com
15 FREE TOOLS FOR CASH-STRAPPED CREATIVES
Being creative doesn’t have to cost a thing.
I thought we might as well start with those platforms that have given so many people a voice on the internet. Blogging can offer community, pride to those who thought they’d never be heard, and perhaps most of all, place. Yet despite being the gateway to technology to those who have never experienced it, the big blogging platforms still remain free.
Medium (Multiple Platforms) For those who like a clean, quiet and thoughtful place to write.
WordPress.com (Multiple Platforms) The original noisy neighbour, WordPress powers most of the internet, and although harder to use than some, still remains accessible and highly customisable.
Blogger (Web) Google owns and administrates this platform. Easy to use and powered by internet royalty, Blogger is often the introduction to the world beyond our window.
Browsing the Internet
I think three browser recommendations is more than enough. All are free. All are very good, to lesser and greater degrees. And perhaps most of all these days, each can be made as safe as possible.
Google Chrome (Multiple Platforms)
Firefox (Multiple Platforms)
Opera (Multiple Platforms)
WorkFlowy (Multiple Platforms) WorkFlowy is a place to write your thoughts, prep, or organise a whole project. Exceptionally easy to use, although let down a little by its mobile apps, WorkFlowy can soon become the go to place for creatives. Highly Recommended.
The Outliner of Giants (Web) To those familiar with using templates, this outliner will be a dream. Again, easy to use and available in any browser.
Google Keep (Multiple Platforms) Google Keep is a notebook, place for reminders, and a generally bright and visual place to store notes. A highly underrated part of the Google portfolio, you’ll be surprised by this one.
Pocket (Multiple Platforms) If you’ve ever wanted to stash, store, or explore information you find whilst browsing the net or even other apps, Pocket provides that place. Available as an app, extension and any number of other ways, Pocket is superb.
Instapaper (Multiple Platforms) As above, but more text orientated. Instapaper provides a good place to read those things you might not have had time for initially. Highly recommended.
There is much beauty on the internet but it tends to be scattered around. Here are some wonderful sites that you might like to spend an hour or three perusing.
Pinterest (Multiple Platforms) Many peoples’ favourite image site. Pinterest has everything from photos to art and more. Beautiful in presentation and with the offer of community, a popular and easy to use wonder.
Deviant Art (Multiple Platforms) Deviant Art offers predominantly art of a fantasy nature although they would say far more. Some of the illustrations on there are breathtaking.
Pixabay (Multiple Platforms) Photography based, Pixabay offers free imagery to all and what staggering imagery it is.
There are many places to write without ever downloading a thing even though you could. Here are a few of the more reputable offerings.
Google Docs (Multiple Platforms) The premier online word processor that is now also available almost everywhere. Good for all types of writing it is hard to find any fault with Google Docs.
Celtx (Multiple Platforms) For the budding screenwriter. Celtx won’t be much good to anyone other than the next James Cameron, but if you are, knock yourself out.
LibreOffice (Multiple Platforms) For those who can’t afford Microsoft’s offerings, (which is a lot these days). Beloved of those who use it, LibreOffice is a great free option.
Hemingway (Web) A place to write and have that writing checked, this site offers something a little bit different. Well worth trying, and truly beneficial.
Often the only thing standing between us and our dreams is a little help. I hope some of the above websites and applications can offer just that.
Please note: As far as I am aware, all the above are either free or offer free structuring at the time of writing.
Thank you for reading
Richard M. Ankers / Author of The Eternals Series