friday5 for May 27, 2016

What happens when you mix the Friday5 with The Writer's Arsenal? Why, an all writing-related edition of the Friday5, of course! And since this is primarily an author blog, I'm assuming you won't mind the diversion.

When people find out I'm a writer, not all, but many mention that they'd love to read something I've written. My usual response is, "well, hopefully one day you'll be able to!" But lately, I've been thinking a lot about ways I can share snippets of my writing with curious friends and family, without sending full manuscripts out all willy-nilly. And that brings me to today's special edition of the Friday5, which is about writing sites. Specifically, sites where writers can share their work. Now, obviously, writers can always share their stuff right on their own personal websites, but it won't have the same exposure or reach as it might on a platform specifically designed for sharing creative works. So today, I'm going to take a look at five such shared writing platforms, and maybe, whether you write as a hobby or in pursuit of publication, you'll find a good place to share a taste of your own work. 


Admittedly, I haven't researched the numbers, but Wattpad claims to be the biggest writing community out there, and as far as web presence goes, I'd have to agree. If you know any of the sites on this list, you probably know Wattpad. From fiction to fanfiction to just about anything else your imagination can conjure, Wattpad is ready and waiting for your creativity. I don't have any personal experience using Wattpad, but it's the go-to for a lot of collaborations with publishers when it comes to contests, and sometimes even book deals. I will probably give it more of a look one day, but for now, I have a few other sites I find myself more drawn too (see below).


Figment is the first website of this type I've ever personally used. It's targeted at YA, which is a natural match for my writing, and it also has a heavy emphasis on Fantasy and Sci-Fi (again, a good match). It's YA slant is obvious right from the homepage, with a fun, youthful design, and links to create, read, and participate in polls, quizzes, and contests. A contest is actually what first drew me to Figment, and the short sci-fi story I wrote for it, while not chosen for an anthology they were putting together, did earn me a personal email from the author judging the contest, noting that she loved my story, but it was too similar to another story in the anthology. So, Figment will always hold a special place in my heart because of that.  


If you're not one for flashy graphics and other distractions, FictionPress is probably the site for you. We're talking bare bones, with an emphasis on category fiction and poetry. Not a lot else to say about this one, but I did want to include a site that gets to the point, and is reminiscent of what fanfiction sites used to be back in the day before website design got all super fancy on us. 


What sets Scribophile apart from the other sites is its emphasis on reading and critiquing the works of other writers. In their own words, "Scribophile is a respectful online writing workshop and writer’s community. Writers of all skill levels join to improve each other’s work with thoughtful critiques and by sharing their writing experience."  In fact, you can't even post your own writing to Scribophile until you've earned "karma points" by reading others' works. If you're looking for a site where your writing won't just sit there unread, Scribophile might be a good option, but you do have to give a little to get a little, which, let's face it, should always be the case, right? 


Finally we arrive at what's probably my favourite shared writing site, Storybird. What sets Storybird apart from the others? Well, for one, it's just so damn pretty. And there's something about that little blue bird that just makes me want to create adorable stories. Storybird has a whole visual element to it that the other shared writing sites don't quite capture. It's where authors and illustrators can come together to create beautiful stories and share them with a young, vibrant community of readers and fellow artists. I heart it.

So, to bring this whole thing full circle, I'm going to go back to what I said above about people asking to read my work. Well, now you can sample a taste, both here on the website, and on Figment. To read samples of my works here on the website, please click on the BOOKS link at the top (or, if you're too lazy for that, I'll include links below too). There you'll find the same story synopses I've always had here on the site, but you'll also find new links to samples from each of my completed works. The selections featured here on the site have been taken from varying points in each book, but if you'd like to read the first chapter of each book, you'll also find a link to those on Figment. As always, I'm happy to hear feedback from anyone who takes a look. Happy reading, and if you plan on checking out any of the above sites, happy writing! I'd love to hear about any experiences, good or bad, in the comments, along with any links anyone would like to share to their work!

Read a selection from Shimmer and Shade
Shimmer and Shade, first chapter on Figment

Read a selection from Skin Deep
Skin Deep, first chapter on Figment

Read a selection from The Broken Season
The Broken Season, first chapter on Figment

Read a selection from This Hideous Heart
This Hideous Heart, first chapter on Figment


the writer's arsenal: bookmark these now, thank me later

I've talked a lot about the importance of getting yourself organized when you're setting out to write a book and today I want to give a shoutout to the top five tools I personally use and have come to rely on during my writing process (all of which I'm recommending of my own free will--no product placements here, folks!).


Oh, Trello. There are days when I still can't believe you're real. I've tried a lot--A LOT--of different outlining tools over the years. I don't think I could ever possibly list them all. But none have met my needs the way Trello has. It allows you to create these things called Trello boards, which are basically giant bulletin boards where you can pin cards under different columns. I used to only use it for laying out chapter breakdowns, but now I use it for everything. Cause why not? It's so much easier when you have everything you need in one place. I create a board for each book I'm working on, then within the board, I create character lists, chapter breakdowns, a place for snippets of text (cause sometimes you think of perfect dialogue before you've written a scene), and any other things I need to keep handy (locations, facts, timelines, continuity checks, etc). I also use it for new book ideas, marketing ideas, home renovation projects (yes, that is unrelated, but that's just how diverse this tool is! I can even share the home reno stuff with the husband so we can collab on it together!)

Here's a pared down sample of what my story boards look like:

So yeah, it's awesome. Plus, once you set up an account, you can use it via your web browser, your phone, or your tablet (it's even on Kindle!) and everything syncs seamlessly. Oh, and it's free! They do have a paid service called Trello Gold, which I'm sure is a really powerful tool for businesses that require lots of people to collaborate on massive projects, but for writers who want a space to map out their thoughts, the free version is all you need.


I'm not using Werdsmith as much these days now that I've migrated almost everything to Trello, but sometimes I still want a space where I can do some writing on the fly. For me, Werdsmith has risen above the rest when it comes to writing apps because it's clean, simple, and it works. I can write something on my iPhone while out shopping (cause sometimes you think of brilliant plot twists in the middle of the cereal aisle) and it's there on my iPad when I get home. A few extras that put this app above the rest include word count goals and an idea-to-project-based structure that makes Werdsmith a good place to brainstorm and then run with your brilliance when you're ready.


Don't even try to tell me you don't use more than one cloud service. I know you do. We all do. Sometimes because it's forced upon us (Google, Apple, etc) and sometimes because we want to stick to the free version of each and then run out of space. And that's not even to mention that some cloud services just plain old function differently than others, and meet certain needs better than others. If that sounds even remotely familiar than you should probably start using Multcloud, an online tool that lets you manage most of your cloud services in one place. Need to move files from one cloud to another? Multcloud makes that super easy. Want to backup your novel to more than once location? Save it to one of your cloud services and then easily drop copies anywhere you want to keep a backup.


There isn't much to say about this website beyond the fact that it provides really good creative white noise. Do you enjoy working to the dull roar of a busy coffee house? Are you inspired by the sound of rain and gentle thunder? Rainy Cafe provides either (or both at the same time!). If you, like me, concentrate better with a little something to block out your actual environment (and find music only helps when you're writing certain scenes), then Rainy Cafe is probably the answer to your concentration woes. Check it out.


Yes, I know I've already covered cloud storage with my shoutout to Multcloud, but I have to give an honourable mention to Tresorit, which I've mentioned before, because unlike the cloud services you can sync with Multcloud, Tresorit is super secure cloud storage done right. I like to keep anything I consider to be highly sensitive material in Tresorit, including an extra backup of each of my novels. It has fantastic encryption and is perfect for those files you really want to lock up tight. Just don't forget your password. Just kidding. I think there's way to deal with that... I think.

So there they are--my top five writing tools! Do you have any specific tools/resources you've come to depend on during your writing (or working) process? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!