by Avi Vince
You hear it all the time: the internet is a great tool. This is true. However, it can also be a black hole where you spend all your time searching only to come back to life three hours later.
There are many online tools that can help you as a writer. You can manage your business, promote yourself and store files to access no matter where in the world you are. To help you avoid the black hole, here are, in my opinion, the top ten writing tools.
Portfolio – Cuttings.me
The first thing you need to do as a writer is showcase your work. While you can do this on a blog, or on a self-hosted website if you are fancy, there is also the far simpler, just-a-few-clicks way. And that is cuttings.me.
On cuttings.me you create a portfolio of your work. You can add a biography, style your page to suit your tone, upload your work and add your social media. All you need to know is how to use the internet and follow the easy instructions to get a webpage that you can promote in your e-mail signature.
Data Storage - Dropbox
One of my biggest fears as a writer is that my computer dies. Not because I am secretly emotionally attached to my laptop. I know if my laptop decides life is no longer worth living, all of my work will jump off the cliff with it. And I hate having to back things up and double handling. I mean, what if my laptop and external storage decide to jump together?
Welcome to Dropbox. This is an online storage space where you can upload and store anything you want. All you do is download it to your computer and then it becomes a folder. You can get up to 18GB worth of space for free or you can upgrade and pay a monthly fee.
Then, no matter where you are in the world, you jump on the internet and sign into your account and boom, all your writing documents are there, ready to be worked on.
Information Collection – Google Alerts
Being online means anyone can take your writing and post it wherever they like. I am sure there are rules and laws around this, but let’s keep this simple.
So that you don’t have to jump on Google every day and Google yourself – although who doesn’t, right? – you can create a Google alert. To create one, you put your topic of interest (like your name) in quotations, for example “Avi Vince”. And then whenever something new is on the internet, you will get an email notifying you to check it out.
Finding interviewees – Sourcebottle
As a writer, there are only so many times that you can go through your contact list to figure out which one of your friends has experienced what you are about to write. But how else do you find your sources?
Enter stage left: Sourcebottle. Sourcebottle is an online free service for journalists, writers and bloggers to connect them with sources. As a journalist, you enter the details of what you are looking for and send this off to Sourcebottle. They send out an email to subscribed sources and by tweeting your needs to their followers. And then potential sources email you with their details and you get to pick who you use.
Remember to be as specific as possible to get the sources you want.
Developing blogging partnerships – Social Callout
Everyone wants to make money off their blogs and posts. However, the hard task of getting paid advertisers to want to appear on your blog seems overwhelming. Thankfully, Social Callout is here to lend a hand.
Social Callout puts bloggers in touch with brands and businesses with similar interests. Once you have signed up, you pick your interests, like food to match your food blog. Then brands and businesses will post callouts and you find the one (or many) that appeal to you.
You get to deal directly with that business or brand for that callout.
Developing a promotional platform – Twitter
The writing profession is no longer just about quality writing. You also need to have your groupies or fan base. Editors want to know who will go to their site to read your article and they don’t count your mum, sister and bestie.
To build a fan base, you need to promote yourself as a writer. The best way to build a fan base is to set up a twitter account. While the world of twitter is a daunting place, once you have figured it out, it becomes more addictive than cocaine. In a positive way.
On twitter, not only do you get to promote your work and let your fans know what makes you tick, you also get to be in touch with a whole network of people (and if you choose other writers). This is a great way to share information on all things writing and be up to date with the topics that are swirling around social media forums.
Visual Aid – Pinterest
If you are a creative writer, welcome to Pinterest. While the majority of its users set up accounts to pin images of how they want their hair, what décor will go in their next bedroom make over or what food they wish they could cook or eat, Pinterest has an entirely different use to creative writing types.
Remember the good old days when you would flick through magazines to decide what you wanted your characters to look like? Then pinned all those torn pages to a cork board?
This is what Pinterest is. Except it is online. And can go wherever you go.
So, as you scroll through webpages, or take photos using your phone, you can pin them to a storyboard. Whenever the creative urge strikes, you have your board right there with you reminding you that your lead characters eyes are blue.
And because your board is visible to everyone, you can start to build a fan base before your book is even published. They will get to see the behind-the-scenes of your book.
Finances – Xero
There is nothing more important to a writer than getting paid. However, while being creative might be your thing, you may at the same time shudder at the word: accounting. Xero is an online accounting tool which you can access from anywhere in the world. You can generate and pay invoices to track your business cash flow. You can even code your banking transactions. There are add-ons to help making your business growing easier through this online accounting tool.
Online notebook – Evernote
Ever want to write something down but realise you have no pen or paper? Evernote is an online notebook that helps store all your ideas on all your devices – your phone, laptop, tablet and the internet. Not only does it allow you to keep notes, you can also audio-record your thoughts and keep those photos in one place. As you are scrolling the web, you can save entire webpages and collect all your research into your online notebook. You can even store your itineraries, confirmations, travel documents and maps (for those travel writers out there).
Connection and Interaction – Blogs
Finally, the last online writing tool I would recommend is blogging platforms. Unless you are a whizz with the internet and setting up your own webpage, save the tears and use a blog platform like WordPress. They do all the hard background work, while you pick the templates, customise them and just start writing.
Blogs are a great place to continue to connect with your fans, but also a great place to write those stories that no editor wants, but your readers will love. You can also show case your printed work, or link it back to your cuttings.me portfolio.
And there you have it, the best, according to me, online writing tools out there. Oh, and one more thing. The best thing about the internet is being able to connect with other writers. Take a look at their blogs or portfolios, connect with them on twitter and learn from them.
Avi Vince is an emerging freelance writer. At the start of the year she vowed to stop thinking about writing and actually write. She has appeared on Mamamia, Coping with Jane and just been announced as the beauty contributor for Shop Me Chic. In print, she writes for her local newspaper, has a few travel articles published and some articles coming up in The Age and Cosmo Bride. Connect with Avi on Twitter or check out her website.
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Image: Thomas R. Stegelmann