Written by: Nicole Catarino
Do you ever get to a point in your writing process where you need a very specific word for the point you’re trying to make, but you can’t remember it for the life of you—even though you swear it’s right on the tip of your tongue? Do you find character creation to be the most difficult part of writing a story? Does the art of worldbuilding continuously give you a world of trouble (no pun intended)? Or maybe you’ve just always wanted to learn how to use a semicolon correctly? Then you’ve come to the right place!
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and as a result, I’ve spent years collecting writing tools and resources for writers of all levels of experience. However, instead of squirreling them away in my Bookmarks like a dragon and its carefully guarded hoard, I’ve decided to try to organize them into a cohesive list with the hope that they’ll help other writers the same way they already help me.
So, without further ado, here are some websites that have proved to be lifesavers for my own writing process—and will hopefully bring you some inspiration and guidance as well!
CHARACTERS AND WORLDBUILDING
This is the world we live in, and these are the tragic flaws we’re given…
For me, I find that the hardest part of writing fiction is coming up with the plot. But the second hardest part, by far, is the task of fleshing out the world the story takes place in and the characters the plot revolves around. Though these websites cannot guaranteea Eureka! moment or the secret formula to perfect characterization, they can at least give you somewhere to start.
Are you crafting your story entirely from scratch, having decided to build your setting and the world itself from your own kind of dark materials? Well, no fear. If you need inspiration as to what your world may look like, try Uncharted Atlas on Twitter! Uncharted Atlas is a bot account created by digital artist Martin O’Leary that generates original maps with city names and unique continent designs, and it may be able to give you the spark you need to begin designing the layout of your land.
Are you less worried about what your world looks like and far more concerned with the complexities of building a functioning, realistic society? Try this worldbuilding checklist! Though it was intended to be used for D&D or TTRPG games, this checklist is an incredibly useful tool to help ground a fantasy, sci-fi, or dystopian novel. It can help you think through the intricacies of your government structures, how the economy of your world functions, and how all these mechanisms will work together and influence your characters.
Speaking of characters! Writing characters can be tricky, especially when it comes to creating dynamic, flawed figures who have unique voices and feel like true individuals. If you ever feel lost while brainstorming your character’s personality, try browsing this list of positive, negative, and neutral traits! When you’re stuck, pull up a random number generator on your computer (or calculator if you’re really old-fashioned), generate a number for each category, and try to create a character around the three traits you land on!
Or, once you have your characters figured out, try expanding your body language vocabulary to make their individual behaviors and reactions as natural and distinct as possible. This is a great tool for when you’re running out of ways to describe a character feeling a certain emotion, if you want to give your character a particular quirk or “calling-card” in their actions, or to generate some character inspiration!
If anyone tells you they’ve never had to look up how to punctuate dialogue broken by an action, they’re lying.
Grammar: the bane of most writers’ existence. Some writers may revel in the technical tempest that deciding between an em-dash and a comma stirs in even the most patient person’s mind, but I’m sure most would rather leave the grammar rules and semicolons to the copyeditors. If you find yourself frequently struggling to remember how to punctuate dialogue tags, use this helpful website by The Editor’s Blog, which details all the different ways to write dialogue and the proper comma, period, or em-dash placement.
For a refresher on general punctuation, you can use this website from the University of Bristol! Not only does it contain a wide database for all your grammar and punctuation questions, but some sections even contain mini-quizzes along the way so you can test yourself to see if you’re learning how to use said punctuation correctly. You’ll never struggle with semicolons again!
NOT alternatives to “said.”
Ever start writing a sentence knowing exactly what you want to say, but then you get to a point in the middle where you’ve completely forgotten the turn-of-phrase that you’re looking for? Are you slowly running out of synonyms in your wordbank to convey “anger,” “sadness,” or “bursting with excitement” without sounding ridiculous? Thankfully, you’re not the only writer who’s ever struggled to find the perfect word, and there are several sites that can help!
OneLook is a resource that calls itself a “reverse dictionary,” but it functions like a general thesaurus. The biggest plus about this website, however, is that in addition to letting you look up synonyms for words, you can look up synonyms for phrases as well—which means you can search to see if there’s a specific word to describe “the urge to scream” or “a really bad smell.”
WordHippo is a dictionary that works very similarly to OneLook, but that’s not all! This website also lets you search for rhymes to certain words; for words that start, end, or contain a certain set of letters; and even lets you look up how to pronounce words in nearly every language!
Finally, there’s the Tip of My Tongue project created by web developer Chirag Mehta. This website allows you to look up the word that’s…well…on the tip of your tongue. Whether you only remember a few letters, the general meaning, or what it sounds like, this website can help you locate the exact word you’ve been looking for all day so you can finally climb down from the wall it’s driven you up—and continue writing.
PLACES TO PUBLISH
All that hard work should result in something!
So you’ve done it! You finished writing that poem/short story/piece of flash fiction and you’ve decided you’d like to get it published. As you should! Here are a couple of places where you can start looking for journals, magazines, and other websites where you can send your piece out for publication.
Poets & Writers has a thorough and hefty list of nearly every literary magazine in the United States. They even have the option to filter your search by genre and reading period so you can find publications that are best suited for your niche and currently accepting new work. That said, even though the reading period is typically posted on the P&W website, always double-check the website of the journal you’re looking into as well since submission deadlines tend to change all the time!
The Submission Grinder, though not as well-known as Poets & Writers, is also a great website to look for places to submit your work. The best feature about this website is that they have a list of where other people have submitted their work recently and how many of those submissions have been accepted, that way you can get an idea of the competition and how picky certain publications might be about what they accept.
And last but not least, there’s the Lumiere Review! The Lumiere Review is a literary magazine list that accepts submissions to their own journal year-round, but they also curate lists of other literary magazines to submit to for curious readers who may want to branch out where they send their work. In their collection, you can browse the theme of each listed journal, the genres they accept, and whether or not accepted writers are paid for their work. Though they haven’t created a new list since October of 2021, the ones on their website are still immensely useful as starting points.
Of course, we would always love to see your work in the next issue of Long River Review, so keep your eyes peeled for our next call for submissions. Best of luck with your future writing endeavors!