Fiction writing ain’t what it used to be.
We live in a new world, where dozens of online tools are available to make the process easier and faster, helping you organize and work your way through the process with ease. Let’s take a look at the usual steps to writing a novel, and how various online tools can simplify them.
Traditionally, the first step in writing your novel is Brainstorming. And the Internet offers plenty of options for brainstormers in the form of “mind-mapping” software. There’s MindMeister, a visual tool for mapping ideas that’s accessible via your web browser or a downloadable smartphone app. Other similar options include bubbl.us, Mind42 and Mindomo.
Depending on the complexity of your story, you may need help organizing its various elements — its ideas, characters, locations, etc. With some outside-the-box thinking, you can easily use online database apps like Zoho or Grubba to create your own free database to collect and keep track of all that information in one easy-to-access and sort location. For example, you might use Zoho’s “Contact Organizer” function as a place to store details about your characters, including their names, ages, locations, likes, dislikes, personalities, etc.
Researching is fun for some novelists and the bane of others’ existence. Either way, your best resources are going to be Wikipedia and Google Books. Another resource, if you’re feeling particularly brave, is your standard search engine. The Internet is a wild, untamed animal, but there’s a ton of great content out there that can be extremely useful. The trick is getting to it, and even the biggest search engines — Google and Bing — can make it a chore to track down the details you need. I find that any search engine returns better results the more detailed and specific the search terms you use. Put phrases in quotation marks, or go to the “Advanced Search” options page, and narrow down your search to specific words you do and don’t want it to find, timeframes, and more.
If and when you’re ready to create your outline (some writers don’t bother, but I find outlines essential), I recommend trying Loosestitch, Checkvist, or Todoist. Each of these comes with additional features that can tie into your brainstorming and cataloging of ideas.
Looking for feedback before you publish? Try a collaborative writing site like Protagonize, Book Oven, or Portrayl. These websites will allow you to write in a social environment where like-minded peers can critique and offer advice on your work — or even co-write alongside you, if you’re looking to team up.
Don’t limit your creativity to just your story — look at the tools available on the Internet and dream up ways of using them that they weren’t necessarily intended for. You may be surprised at what you can find to help you finally get that novel done.