13 websites that will make you a better writer

Ernest Hemingway quote


Aspiring writers often look to Hemingway for inspiration, and he’s given us plenty of good advice. But let’s face it — his advice above, while a beautiful notion, is not exactly practical. Most of us can use a little extra help with getting creative and staying focused.

Creative writers can find tons of writing advice on the internet — read more, write more, drink more — we’ve heard it all before. Happily, we can also find resources that are designed to help both amateur and professionals writers alike. Whether you need a random generator to develop your characters, an app that helps you stay on task, or a few creative exercises to pass the time with, there’s something out there that can help you get creative, overcome writer’s block, and hone your skills. Here’s our list of 13 online tools, applications, and websites that will make you a better writer.

For an extra boost of inspiration before you get started on your next masterpiece, take a look at a few words of wisdom about writing from some of our favorite American authors.

1. National Novel Writing Month

If you’ve ever dreamed about writing a novel, you should check out NaNoWriMo. Not only will it help you focus on getting that novel written, but it will help you get it done in a single month. The program begins every November 1st with the goal of participants finishing a 50,000 word novel by the end of the month, using community interaction and gamification to stay on task. Why not give it a try?

2. Protagonize

Protagonize is a fantastic place for collaborative fiction, with an online community that welcomes amateur writers. Users can take part in a variety of different creative writing collaborations, but the site was originally created with a focus on addventures, online fiction with elements of Round Robin or Choose Your Own Adventure.

3. FreeMind

FreeMind is a free downloadable tool for mind mapping that can help you to organize your thoughts. Many writers will say that pen and paper work just as well, but a good mind mapping tool just might be exactly what a more technically-inclined person needs. Mind maps can be fun to play around with while keeping your thoughts neat and readable, and are great for storing large amounts of information or ideas.

4. Seventh Sanctum

Seventh Sanctum is a website that offers tons of random generators to help get your creative juices flowing. Whether you need a compelling protagonist, an intriguing monster, or even a simple tavern name, Seventh Sanctum likely has a generator for you. The generators lean towards fantasy writing, but there are plenty of options for non-fantasy writing as well.

5. I Need a Prompt

Practice makes perfect when it comes to writing, and prompts are a fantastic way to get inspired. I Need a Prompt is a simple website that does exactly what it says by generating a quick and dirty prompt for you to write about. For example, with one click you could be writing about “An outgoing opera singer lathering up a mailman.” Who wouldn’t want to explore that creative possibility?

6. Pinterest

Despite what you may have heard, Pinterest isn’t only for planning quirky Bohemian weddings. It’s also a great place to help you visualize the people, places, and emotions that you’d like to capture in your writing. You can create albums of images for specific characters or even entire chapters — it just might help you to figure out what you’re aiming for in your next novel.

7. The Story Starter

Looking to write a short story, but don’t know where to start? Let The Story Starter get you going. This online tool randomly generates the first line of a creative writing project, which you can use as a jumping-off point. There’s also a version for children.

8. Character Questionnaire from Gotham Writers

Before you begin writing, you might want to get to know your characters a bit better. Gotham Writers lets you do just that with a series of questions to ponder from your character’s perspective. The page offers two separate questionnaires: the Gotham Character Questionnaire and the Marcel Proust Character Questionnaire, designed by Proust himself. Both questionnaires are filled with insightful questions such as “What is your greatest fear?” that can help you delve a little deeper into the dark recesses of your character’s mind.

9. Take Three Nouns

Short creative exercises are a fun way to keep your mental muscle toned. Take Three Nouns randomly generates 3 unrelated nouns, prompting you to weave them together in a quick piece of freewriting. Try weaving together 6 nouns for an even bigger challenge.

10. Creative Writing Exercises from Language is a Virus

There are tons of creative exercises floating around online. Language is a Virus has a nice collection that’s sure to keep you busy for hours. Some of its exercises include getting creative with Google Translate, using Twitter as a prompt, or pasting together a pastiche poem using found materials.

11. Creative Writing Exercises from Be a Better Writer

Another collection of writing exercises that can give your creative mind just enough direction to get you writing. These exercises are intended for classroom or workshop use, but they’re equally useful to do on your own.

12. Write or Die

Some writers need more than a gentle push to stay focused — we need a hard shove. Write or Die is that shove. This app works on the premise of negative reinforcement, with several different modes to keep you in check. For example, Normal Mode plays an unpleasant sound when you stop writing. Take it a step further with Kamikaze Mode, which will begin deleting your hard-written work if you stop writing. If this sounds like the shove you need, give it a try.

13. TED Talks about Writing

TED Talks are one of the best places to learn new things and get inspired in a variety of topics, and their Writing section is no exception. With hours of fascinating video presentations from well-known authors and creatives, you’ll probably find a video that sparks your interest.

Which of these websites will you be using? Let us know in the comments below, or tell us about your own favorite online tools for creative writing.

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11 replies

  1. Great list! A couple I know. (Write and Die, for example, which is a very tough cookie.) But most I don’t. I especially love FreeMind.

  2. Love it! I would also add Written? Kitten! It doesn’t have the punishment aspect like Write or Die. Instead, it rewards you with a new photo of a kitten every hundred words. You can change the parameters to have different animals, or more or less words. I regularly use some of these sites, but I’m certainly going to look up the rest of them!

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