Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Best Free Stuff for Writers

free stuff for Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers
Since we started this new blog for our local Catholic Writers Group, I thought it would be a good place to post information that may be of use to group members, and others who may be trying to get started as writers. I don't know about you, but I love great free stuff (not the crummy free stuff that seems to proliferate on the internet). So I thought I would share with you, from time to time, some of the great free resources I've found that are particularly helpful or valuable to writers (I've actually used each of these). And I invite you to let me know if you can recommend others!

Writing productivity

  • Scrivener (free 30-day demo, $40 to buy.) – Okay, only the demo is free, but it's great! Try it and you'll get hooked. Scrivener is a writing program that helps you organize your writing and keep track of your research. It has lots of useful features that make it super-useful for large, complex writing projects (I wish I'd had it when I was writing my dissertation!). Some features are: 
  • cork board view (with virtual index cards) that makes it easy to reorganize sections of your document,
  • outline mode allows you to plan before writing, or to get a sense of the structure of what you have already written; 
  • an area to gather your research for easy access; and lots more!
The trial is good for 30 days of use, not 30 calendar days, which gives you plenty of time to get to know this program and fall in love with it. Available for PC or Mac.
  • yWriter – This is completely free software for developing, writing, and keeping track of a novel, with lots of features to help the novelist keep track of chapters, scenes, characters, etc. yWriter is similar to Scrivener, but optimized specifically for fiction writers (although it would also work well for other kinds of writing project). It was developed by Simon Haynes, a computer programmer who is also a novelist, to help him with his own writing process. Completely free, and really helpful, yWriter is availabler in Windows version only (the author recommends Scrivener for Mac users).
  • yEdit  – This is a simple text editor with countdown word counter. A distraction-free window in which to write. Set your word count goal per session, and yEdit keeps track of your progress toward your goal. yEdit is great helper for anyone who wants to establish a writing routine of writing X words per day/week/whatever.

Writing Advice

  • Randy Ingerman’s Snowflake Method of developing a novel.  This is genius -- a brilliantly simple method of creating a well-developed novel from scratch. The method takes you from original concept, through outlining, character development, and writing, all the way to submission to a publisher.
  • Free critique groups online (Critique.org). This web site offers great, fee-free online critique groups for all kinds of writing and other creative output. Workshops are available for a variety of fiction genres, as well as non-fiction. I haven't actually taken part in this one yet, but it looks like a great way to gain experience and get lots of intelligent reader feedback. The founder and moderator stresses, and enforces, civility and kindness in the way critiques are offered. Well-established, published writers are among the regular contributors. Here's what they say:
“Critique.org is for serious authors, artists, and creators in any field who wish to improve their craft — those who seek to gain professional stature within their field or increase it. Critique.org workshops focus on in-depth critiques of your works, a process which helps both the recipient and the reviewer to grow. In addition to depth of analysis, much of critique.org's secret is our emphasis on respectful and diplomatic critiques.”

Funding and Markets for Your Writing

  • FundsforWriters website and free newsletter. Among other things, Funds for Writers lets you know about writing competitions with cash prizes, and occasionally lists grant opportunities for writers. I'll let the site founder describe this herself: 
"FundsforWriters is an online resource for writers. You can be a thirty-year veteran or a part-time wannabe, but here at FundsforWriters (FFW), we consider you a writer none-the-less. We emphasize finding money to make writing a realistic career. Of course, you’d write anyway. That’s the way of a writer.
"Other websites provide guidance on how to write, how to query, how to format manuscripts, and so on. We give you direction on the funding streams. We focus on markets, competitions, awards, grants, publishers, agents, and jobs for your writing abilities, with motivation chucked in."
I hope you find some of these helpful. Use the comment box to let us know if you've tried any of these, or can recommend other great free stuff for writers.