QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Free Internet Tools for Writers

I recently attended a conference where we discussed online tools for teachers, and that got me thinking about online tools for writers. So today we’re going to look at a few of my favorites, and I hope you all will share your own favorites in the Comments!

1. JoliPrint

I’m a little old-fashioned in that I enjoy reading things on paper rather than online. And if I find something I want to read again, I need to do more than Bookmark it – I can’t find anything in all the bookmarks I have. But it’s kind of a pain to copy and paste an article and then reformat it into a Word document, especially if there are ads built into the page.

Enter JoliPrint, a free website that clears out all but the article you want and formats it into a lovely PDF for download.

For example, I need to write a synopsis, something that I can’t say is a strength. So I pulled up Jane Lebak’s QTB piece, Taming the Dreaded Synopsis. I pasted the address for the article into JoliPrint, and voila! I have a beautifully formatted PDF to print!

You can also add JoliPrint to your blog or website (I just added it to the QTB, you should see a JoliPrint button at the end of this post) or install it in your browser toolbar. You can even have a “magazine” of your reading list delivered to your iPad, mobile, or computer.

2. PhraseExpress

We writers sometimes have to type the same thing over and over again, whether because an unwieldy phrase or name appears often in our manuscripts, or because we’re working hard on those letters to agents.

PhraseExpress is a free text expansion program that resides in your System tray. In addition to learning and correcting spelling errors in any application you use (including email programs, which I find incredibly useful), the program will expand abbreviations as you type. For example, when I use my work email program, I can’t use italics (who knows why *grumble*), so I have to use CAPS to emphasize. I always worry that my students will misread this as nastiness on my part, so I set PhraseExpress to change #notyell into “I’m not yelling, I just can’t use italics in this email program.”

You can set PhraseExpress to quickly insert your author bio (you can even have several set up), your high-concept hook, your website or blog, your contact information, your signature, and other frequently-used phrases into your email queries.

One final use: I once wrote a novel in which the first 3 letters of any character’s name would expand to the full name – it sped up my typing when I was really in the zone and writing quickly.

3. Doodle

Need to plan a time for your writing group to meet, but you can’t find a time everyone can meet? Try Doodle, a website that lets you pick potential meeting times and lets everyone weigh in on what would work for them.

4. Pinterest

I’ll say upfront that I’m a Pinterest newbie, but writers can do a lot with the site. You can save favorite quotes; create story planning and character boards filled with images of people, places, and things related to your story; and share your writing space and favorite tools. How do you use it? Feel free to share your Pinterest writing boards in the Comments!

Your Turn

What other free online tools do you use to make writing easier, more collaborative, more creative, and more fun? Let us know in the Comments!

Carolyn Kaufman, PsyD's book, THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment, and Human Behavior helps writers avoid common misconceptions and inaccuracies and "get the psych right" in their stories. You can learn more about The Writer's Guide to Psychology, check out Dr. K's blog on Psychology Today, or follow her on Facebook or Google+


Lisa Amowitz said...

That Phrase xpress sounds great, CK! Love Pinterest and just used Doodle, which is awesome. Other great programs that are not free, but super cheap are of course, Scrivner and Mac Freedom (which shuts off your Internet for specified intervals). Then there is Write or Die, which I have but freaks me out. :)

Red Tash said...

Pinterest is fabulous. I've got boards for each of my books, boards that are just jokes (Nightmare Images), inspirational quotes, and there's a board or two for group projects, with multiple people pinning to them. Love that site, but have to save it for AFTER work. Otherwise it will suck me dry. Write first, pin later.


Rebecca said...

Wow, what a great list! I'm definitely going to check out Joliprint!

I love Pinterest! One of the great things about pinterest is that I can pin books I want to read some day. I write them down but I'm disorganized and always end up losing my lists. I also use it to share books that I LOVE, organize writing helps and quotes, and of course for recipes and other inspirational stuff that I find.

creatingcuriouskids said...

I just loaded JoliPrint. Thank you! I am constantly making PDFs from things I find on the Web because I too can't find anything in my bookmarks.

Chihuahua Zero said...

It's more of a site than a tool, but I use 750words.com to make sure I do at least three pages a day--even if I waste them by talking to myself.

Rebecca Ryals Russell said...

I use some of these already. I also like instapaper.com as a highly organizable bookmarker. Join my Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/yellowhatwriter/

Martha Ramirez said...

Oh wow!! Thank you for this! I just tried to add Joliprint but am doing something wrong when adding the code. I am doing everything the same.

Can you email me? Or I'll try sending you a Facebook message if that is more convenient.
I'll show you my code and maybe you can see why it is not posting correctly?

AWESOME Post! Thank you for sharing!!!!

You asked about free online tools. Not sure if it is a tool per se but I think it can be a brainstorming tool sending a voice message via email. I did a post on it on my blog.

Thank you so much!!!

Carolyn Kaufman | @CMKaufman said...

Hi everyone,

Thanks for the tips, the Pinterest sites, and everything else! I'm always pleased to know a post was helpful.

Hi Martha,

Are you adding JoliPrint to your website or blog? If it's a website, I can probably look at the code and tell you what's wrong.

If it's a blog, that might be trickier. A lot of blog templates turn off the parts of the code that you need to get a particular thing to work. And to be honest, I actually didn't add the code exactly the way they told me to. However, I'm really familiar with the back end of the QTB since I tailored it quite a bit from the original template code.

My suggestion is that if you can't get the JoliPrint button to add at the bottom of your posts (I find that a lot of templates turn that area off, and they all do it differently, unfortunately), try adding it to the sidebar. That's simpler code, and easier to tweak.

Hope that's helpful!

my-current-wip-is-a-crazy-quilt said...

Pinterest is great to use if you're visual (like I am - NOT an outliner!). I also have a board for each of my stories. It helps me stay focused.

Thanks for the other links. The more in your arsenal, the better.