These are a few of our favorite things

Today, we bring you a list of our favorite resources for writers… beside the Quill Pen blog, of course! We’ve found these helpful, and we hope you will too. Also, since we know that writing can be an expensive habit that doesn’t always pay extravagantly, we’ve also made a point of listing resources that are readily available at local libraries or for free online. There is one exception on this list (Scrivener), but we promise that we’re not profiting off of our recommendation, and we only highlight resources that we ourselves use.

1. Painless Grammar by Rebecca Elliott

Perhaps it’s the cat on the cover. Maybe it’s because it’s geared at ADHD middle school students and doesn’t lose our interest the way that most grammar books do. No matter the reason, this book truly is painless and is a great tool to use to catch up on all that information that you missed while passing notes during 7th grade English class. It’s also a really handy resource to have next to you when you’re deliberating the proper use of “who” and “whom.”

2. Scrivener

This software is a gem. It costs $45, but there’s a substantial free trial available that can help you determine whether or not it’s worth the investment. It has a wide variety of genre templates and organizational options to work with and allows you to put your book together scene by scene in a really intuitive way. You can even include extra material—research, backstory that isn’t going to make it into the novel, character development—adjacent to your story so that it’s easily accessible when you’re writing but doesn’t clutter the narrative.

3. New Pages

Wanting to avoid shelling out $20 for a book that explains the literary journal market but goes out of date every year? We suggest this website. They have listings for hundreds of literary journals that accept unsolicited submissions. With each listing, they include the magazine’s reading period, genre interests, website, and other relevant information for writers. It’s a gold mine. And best of all, it’s free—you don’t even have to create an account!

4. NaNoWriMo

If you have time to invest in your novel during the month of November, there’s nothing to boost motivation like a lofty goal pursued alongside hundreds of thousands of people. In short, NaNoWriMo is a challenge to write a 50,000-word novel (or to add 50,000 words to your current novel) during the month of November. They have forums and in-person events for encouragement and accountability, and our writers really recommend it as a way to jump-start your creativity. Also, Quill Pen offers a special deal every December for evaluations on your NaNoWriMo project!

5. Grammar Girl

Need a quick consult when your copy of <em “mso-bidi-font-style:=”” normal”=””>Painless Grammar isn’t handy? For writers and editors alike, Grammar Girl is a lifesaver. Even if you can normally recall every rule regarding semi-colons, there will be days when you stare at a computer screen, a finer point of punctuation eludes you, and you think, “I cannot remember this to save my life.” In those moments, this article on i.e. vs. e.g. or this one on lay vs. lie can help you avoid embarrassing mistakes. She’s accurate, thorough, memorable, and easy to access. Thanks        Grammar Girl!

6. The Chicago Manual of Style

If you’re interested in a career in editing, familiarize yourself with this resource—it will almost certainly be your fallback style guide when your client doesn’t specify one. If you’re a writer, using a style guide will help you to be consistent in your usage of language across even very long documents. Your editor will thank you, and the agent to whom you submit your manuscript will have a better first impression of your work when she’s not distracted by your use of the Oxford comma on page 5 and abandonment of it on page 42.

7. Purdue OWL

Attention students! If you have no yet made friends with the Purdue OWL, I highly recommend that you do so immediately. He doesn’t bite and dispenses his wisdom for free. The Purdue Online Writer’s Lab (OWL) is my go-to resource for questions about MLA and APA style, citations, and bibliography. They explain the proper formatting for citations of nearly every conceivable resource, and its accuracy has never let me down.

8. Coffee. Chocolate. Tea. Music. White Noise.

I suppose these aren’t usually free resources either, but there’s nothing like a dose of caffeine or the inspirational swelling of a soundtrack theme song to encourage productivity and help you on your way to finishing the book. Sometimes writing seems impossible because we have the wrong environment. We’re going to go into writing environments more in a later post, but for now, think about factors that might make it more difficult to write. Does the noise level (or lack thereof) distract you? Are you too cold? Hungry? In need of a latte? My biggest environmental distraction is noise. For me, the buzz of a coffee shop or the drone of brown noise makes the difference between writing ten pages in a single stretch and ricocheting around my apartment like an ADHD squirrel. Jot down one distraction that decreases your writing output, and see if you can mitigate it this week.

Do you use any of these resources? Do you have any others that you can’t live without? Did you pick up a new tool from this post? Tell us on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below, and be sure to share this post with your writer friends!

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