blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, writing process

Free resources to power your writing

express yourself for less

person holding coins
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

 

Don’t let lack of funds hold you back from your dreams of being a writer.

Ideas may be free, but the tools to express them can be pricey. Fortunately there are numerous free materials to help you write without breaking the bank. These are some of my favourite free writing resources.

What follows assumes you have a least a smartphone, if not a laptop. That’s a great deal of resource already. Try this for free laptops for people on low incomes in US and for those on low incomes in the UK try here. Schemes can have differing eligibility and be withdrawn at any time, so make sure you always use the most up to date information.

Burning Books in the House of Books

Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in 1953 on a rented UCLA library typewriter. He paid ten cents per half hour and completed the first draft in nine days for $9.80. That’s approximately $88 today.

In the age of smartphones and Google, the modern library and its librarians are often forgotten as resources. But the library provides a quiet space and is one of the very few public spaces left where you can spend time without spending money.

Libraries offer free or subsidised internet access and computer help, which are invaluable to people with extremely limited funds and/or knowledge. A library card allows you to borrow not just any book available, but also other media such as magazines, DVDs and music.

You might need to research something arcane or historical. We’ve all experienced the frustration of getting a million hits on a search but not finding the facts we need. In times of data overload, having a guide can be the best option. A good librarian knows how to find information.

Catching Butterflies

Chasing new ideas can feel a lot like chasing butterflies. They catch your eye but flutter out of reach before you can grasp them. Or, they don’t arrive at all.

Try sparking your ideas by using randomly generated prompts. Need a name for a character or a first line? Need a plot idea or a first line? Look at some of these sites for a jump start.

https://www.fantasynamegenerators.com/

This site generates names for different character types such as elves or warriors, as well as place names.

http://writingexercises.co.uk/

Multiple random generators covering first lines, story plots, images, three noun combinations, dialogue, and many more.

https://web.njit.edu/~ronkowit/poetsonline/generator.html

Generates a random line of poetry to start or inspire your next poem.

An image can launch a thousand words. If you’re visually inclined or need a royalty-free picture, you can search millions of free-to-use images at Pixabay or Unsplash.

The images are licensed under the Creative Commons, meaning you can use them any way you wish without attribution. I encourage you to link to the original though, because every artist deserves credit for their work.

Lost in Translation

Does one of your characters lapse into their native language when angry? Do you want to leave an Easter egg for your readers to find? Then you need accurate translation. While Google Translate is a great start, sometimes the machine translation can be clunky or plain wrong. To test this, translate the result back to English and see what you get.

You might be lucky enough to have access to a native speaker who can help.

I use Reverso.net. It covers English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew, and Japanese.

What sets it apart from Google is the use of context. It will give several translated examples so you can choose the right one for the sense you’re trying to convey.

Getting It Right

Writing is simply a matter of the right words in the right order. Correct grammar and spelling ensure that the words make sense to readers. Searching for the right word is easier with sites such as thesaurus.com which give more options than your word processor’s built in option.

Hemingway and Grammarly both offer free and paid versions. These text editors check grammar, passive voice, readability, adverbs, and more.

Grammar Girl is brilliant for learning all the rules of English grammar you forgot or never knew. If you don’t know where the apostrophe goes, or whether to use lie or lay, this is the place to find out.

A Place Of One’s Own

All writers should consider having a blog. This website is a place to start showing your work, practising in public, and building a following. You can blog on a personal site, or place your work with others where traffic is guaranteed to be higher.

WordPress is easy to set up and use. You can start your own website without paying a penny. WordPress offers paid options with more features, but it’s an excellent place to begin. Help to run your blog is a click away.

Medium is relatively new, but is set up so that anyone can post their work. The interface is clean and easy to read. You can post under your own name, or under the umbrella of a large publication with thousands of followers and potential readers of your work.

Quora is a site where anyone can ask a question, and anyone can answer. You can see what types of questions are most popular at any time, and you can build a following by answering questions in your area of knowledge. This can help you find hot topics to write about.

Finding Your Community

Medium is a wonderful place to read, write and connect in almost any area of interest. There’s also the chance to earn money from your writing.

Facebook offers another way to find groups who share your interests.

Twitter is not just a timewaster. You will find every kind of writer, including famous names, plus publishers, agents, and publications have a presence here. Careful sifting will yield opportunities to connect, plus promote your writing and brand to the right people.

Every genre has its own sites which offer targeted advice and information, plus forums to meet other writers and share your work. Search for your chosen genre and try some out.

In It To Win It

Writing competitions can boost your visibility and give much needed legitimacy to your career. There are lots of free options. Use Google, but I highly recommend Free Writing Events. Here you’ll find a monthly calendar of all kinds of free to enter contests.

Hang With The Cool Kids

Most published authors have their own website, with information and links to their work. Consider following your favourites. In the same vein, search sites like Medium and WordPress for blogs worth your time. Use keywords to focus on what matters to you.

Lists of 100 best websites for writers are collated by various people and updated annually. They’re an excellent source of great writers. Try The Write Life or Feedspot or Writers Digest.  

Watch And Learn

YouTube has much more than cute animal videos. It’s an underrated source of knowledge, whether you need to know how to write a query letter or how to do stretches for carpal tunnel syndrome. You can watch famous speeches by authors like JK Rowling or Neil Gaiman for inspiration.

Research is easy with YouTube. I recently wrote a ghost story involving a battle from the English Civil War. History was never my strong point, but watching videos of re-enactments gave me enough information to add authentic details about uniforms and muskets.

If you’re a visual learner, YouTube is for you. Someone has already uploaded a video showing exactly what you need.

All You Can Eat

He that loves reading has everything within his reach. - William Godwin
BrainyQuote

 

To write well, you must read widely. If your reading appetite exceeds your pocket, then look at ways of getting free books. I already mentioned libraries.

Sign up with Prolific Works, previously known as Instafreebie. For the price of your email address, you can download free full length e-books in many genres.

BookBub offers free and discounted new releases, as promotions for the authors. You can return the favour by leaving a good review.

Wattpad is beloved by young adult (YA) fiction writers and readers. If your young relative is an aspiring author, this is the place to post their early efforts. Quality varies wildly, but it’s a great place for younger and young at heart readers to indulge in YA and fanfiction.

Increasingly, the most popular titles on free platforms are moving to trad publishing or even television. Some of the biggest titles in recent history (for example The Martian by Andy Weir) started out on free-to-read sites.

The Daddy Of Them All

Google is the king of free resources.

Search for anything and get millions of results. Use Wikipedia as the starting point for subjects you know little about. At the bottom of each page you’ll find a list of reference articles. Explore those for more depth and accuracy.

Use Google Docs to write, collaborate, dictate, and edit your words. Search within your documents and add links and images with ease.  Import articles into your WordPress blog with a click. And all your work is saved automatically in Google Drive.

Not Quite Free

These are not quite free, but low in cost. If you’re really strapped for cash, they make good gift ideas that are more practical use than another journal.

Magazine subscriptions are a gift that keeps giving. Each month you’ll get information on writers, writing, contests and conferences. Often new subscribers can pick up goodies such as pens, mugs, books and bags, as well as reduced cost for the first year.

Try Writer’s Digest Writing Magazine Poets & Writers or Writers’ Forum. All these offer print, online, and international subscriptions.

The Visual Thesaurus is a treat for the eyes as well as a logophile’s delight. Search for a word, and it displays a beautiful animated tree of related words and definitions, all of which are fully searchable. It supports Dutch, English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. It’s also possible to search in more than one language at the same time. There is a free trial, after which it costs $14.95 a year.

The writer in a coffee shop is a cliché but for good reason. Being around people can break up a monotonous week, and offers opportunities to people watch. Listening to dialogue or making up stories about the people you see hones your writing skills, all for the price of a hot drink. Wifi is free and you’re forced to get dressed and leave the house, which every writer should do at least occasionally.

Information roaming free

When so much data is freely available the problem is not how to gain information, but where to find the information we need and turn that into useful knowledge.

We can access centuries of thought and progress without a second thought. Add that to minimal cost of entry, and there really is no better time to be a writer than now.

BrainyQuote

 


Reclaim Your Creativity

Get your creative spark back now. Claim your free copy of my ebook Unleash Your Creativity here.

blog, creative writing, Pat Aitcheson writes

The Blue Box

a ten minute tale*

blue box ribbon_Schwarzenarzisse
Schwarzenarzisse via pixabay

 

She tried to forget about the box. Really she kept herself so very busy, that she almost truly forgot about it. But it was always there, catching her step when she walked past, whispering into her ears when she wasn’t listening.

A box could contain everything and nothing. But she didn’t look because she didn’t care to find out.

She found it one warm summer afternoon, long after the funeral. She had been stiff and dignified, accepting the mourners’ murmured words of condolence. But she felt nothing. Those words rang hollow after all the sniping and criticism. Her mother had ground her down for years until there was nothing left. Or so she thought.

It was so unfair that there was nobody else to help. Her beloved father had gone years before. She imagined him apologising to the paramedic.

“Sorry to cause all this fuss,” he would have said as they bundled him off to the hospital. There, he had held her hand as she wept real tears.

“Really, Theresa, you’re making an exhibition of yourself.” Her mother’s scold bit deep.

She tried not to cry at his funeral. At her mother’s funeral, she didn’t. They all said how well she was doing.

Clearing out the house alone, she found the little dusty blue box, tied with navy ribbon. Eventually she gave in. It rattled.

Inside it she found the baby shoe she had once worn. Finally she cried, that her mother had remembered a softer, better time.


*written longhand in ten minutes, from a random word prompt: box

creative writing

A near death experience

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I shift in my seat and feel the seat belt press against my shoulder. My meal sits uneasily in my stomach as the countryside flashes by outside and the car leans into the corners. I lean with it and press my hands together in my lap.

“I love the handling on this car, much better than the old one isn’t it?” He turns to look at me, a smile on his face.

“Yes, it’s much tighter through the bends.”

He turns his attention back to the road and my stomach muscles contract in anticipation. It’s like riding a rollercoaster but I can’t scream. The road twists and rises and drops away, and my gut does the same. I hate rollercoasters. My heart is thudding against my ribs, I want to cry, but I don’t cry. He’s enjoying this drive, and I focus on our destination. He’s talking about cars and engines and acceleration figures. It’s as much a blur as the scenery, meanwhile I am here in this metal box travelling at speed. I concentrate on the road ahead, senses straining, alert to any movement outside, any change in the roar of the engine or the crunch of the tyres on the road. I nod and smile when he turns to look at me, checking my response. Please just get me home.

I swallow hard against a wave of nausea, then there is the blessed sign for the city limits and a speed restriction. He slows down but the road ahead is still clear. I sneak a look at the speedo. If he’s angry he’ll go even faster, but right now he’s happy and he doesn’t notice. Now there are more cars around and up ahead the lights are green. We’re bowling along, then the lights change to red and the cars ahead stop. There’s plenty of time to stop. But he speeds up. I dare not look at him but I can hear the sound of the engine accelerating. My mouth is dry and my heart hammers, my pulse roars in my ears and I can’t help my reflex as I press against a brake pedal that isn’t there. He hates that, a little voice says in my head, but I’m wide eyed, staring at the end of my life, hurtling towards me at forty miles an hour. Another voice says this is it. This is how it ends, and nothing flashes in front of me except the cars coming the other way, and the car that is waiting to crush me. The passenger turns and I can see her shaking her head and talking to the driver as we approach, and I think not of injury and pain, but how many things I will not live to see and do. After his third drink I should have insisted, should have taken the keys, but he loves this new sports car more than anything. No one tells him what to do.

“The lights are red, you need to stop.” I try to make my tone light but my voice is tight and squeaky, barely escaping the closed prison of my throat. I shake all over with fear and disbelief and anger.

“Yeah, you’re probably right.”

He stamps on the brake and the tyres scream as the car jolts back. I visualise the black rubber tracks behind us, how the police will measure them to work out our speed. Now I can see the woman ahead turned in her seat, mouth open in horror. I close my eyes and wait, thrown forward against my seat belt and my whole body clenched and braced against impact. The car veers and sways as it shudders to a halt, just in time. All around us people are staring in disbelief and the woman ahead might be crying.

“What were you doing?”

“Just testing the brakes, don’t worry. Pretty good huh?” He smiles again, gripping the steering wheel firmly as he turns away and shifts gear. The lights turn green and we’re moving again. My legs and hands tremble and I can’t get out.

creative writing

The android

android

This story was inspired by a prompt from Max Kirin which made me wonder about emotion vs logic.

The android

He loved to hear her sing to her son, lullabies and nursery rhymes from the old days, or even humming out of tune as she prepared a meal. Outside the sun struggled to break through the customary haze that lent the sky a greyish tint, but inside the house it was a comfortable twenty-one degrees Celsius and sixty-five per cent humidity, the way Petra liked it, every day.

Continue reading “The android”