21 June 2012

online finds 6/21: 5 fun tools for writers

5 Fun (and FREE!) Writing Tools
Two weeks ago I shared five great organizational tools for writers. These week, I want to step back into my favorite realm of writerly life ... that corner of the writer's toolbox that I like to call the "writer's playground."

Work now, play later has it's place in the writing life, make no mistake. But one of the great things about writing, whether part- or full--time, is that a lot of the time our work can pass as play, and vice versa! These five tools highlight some of the fun we writers can have while practicing our craft.
1/ write or die
Those who know me are already well--aware of the fact that this is one of my all--time favorite writing tools. Write or Die is an application available both online (free) and for your desktop (fee) that challenges you to word sprints. The rewards for meeting your writing goal---say, 750 words in an hour---are all the typical writerly joys we get to experience when we accomplish our writing goals. But the punishments for failure ... Well, they can be downright brutal. Want to see what I mean by brutal? Visit the Write or Die web app and set it for "Kamikaze" mode; start typing, and then stop, and see what happens!

As horrifying as it can be, I find Write or Die to be a fun way to jump-start my brainstorming brain. Just the other day I decided to brainstorm for 15 minutes on revisions to my NaNoWriMo novel; I set the timer for 1,000 words in 15 minutes, and wound up at almost the last minute coming up with some great new game plans for a few chapters and characters.

2/ title-o-matic
If you are anything like me, you might have no problem with writing a piece of poetry, fiction, or nonfiction ... but struggle when it comes to titling that piece. Thanks to Language is a Virus, you don't have to worry any more.

"Title-o-Matic" is a free online title generator. Just press the "Generate Random Title" button and you'll be presented with a computer-generated title for your next great novel, poem, or memoir. The titles are usually a little weird---I just pushed the button three times and got "Frostbite Candlelight," "Flows Attic," and "Gold Daze Ice"---but it could be just the spark you need to come up with a title of your own. Or, if you reverse the process and start with the title generator, it might push you to write something you might not have thought to write before!

3/ the gender genie
Before I even tell you what this does, a dare: I dare you to try to fool the Gender Genie.

The Gender Genie is a tool from Bookblog.net that predicts the gender of an author (that's you) by applying an algorithm to a sample of text. It's simple enough if you're, say, a woman writing a nonfiction piece as yourself. But let's say you're a woman writing a novel in the voice of a man. Don't ask me why, but my main characters are almost always men; I always wonder if they sound "masculine" enough. Thanks to the Gender Genie, I can now find out. So go ahead: give it a shot. Try to fool the Gender Genie. Bonus points if you can fool it more than once!

4/ written? kitten!
Maybe a tool like "Write or Die" is just too horrific for you. Maybe you're a writer who requires a softer touch to get you going. Maybe you're a writer who needs a soft and cuddly motivator. If that's you ... I give you "Written? Kitten!"

Written? Kitten is a tool that presents you with a "fresh kitten" for every set number of words. They tell you right in their "About" section that the tool was created as something of a "positive reinforcement" version of Write or Die. Set it to 100, 200, 500, or 1000 words and start typing. Keep your eyes plastered on the right side of your screen, and be prepared to "Aw!" more than you can handle. (Make sure you have any ad blockers turned off on this page; they might block the kitten adorableness.)

5/ random name generator
Behind the Name is a website "for learning about all aspects of given names" from all cultures and periods, including mythology and fiction. I have often used it to name a character when I want that character to represent something. But recently I have also given up control in naming my characters (somewhat, and only sometimes) to Behind the Name's "Random Name Generator."

With the Random Name Generator, you can specify if you want a first name only, or a first name with one (or multiple) middle name(s); if you want a masculine, feminine, or gender ambiguous name; and either provide or allow it to randomly assign a surname. Let's say I want a male character with an Armenian name and two middle names. I plug in what I want, allow it to choose a last name for me, and get: Vosgi Garen Khazhak Davidyan. At first I'm none too fond of it, but as I sit and look at it I think, "I bet he goes by Garen. Maybe 'Garen Davidson' if he's embarrassed of his lineage or parentage. Why would he be, though? Maybe he's in America illegally because something terrible happened back home ..." And boom, I have the start of a potential novel. (I'm not kidding---I'm thinking of fleshing that idea out as we speak.)

Your Turn: Which writing tool that you use do you consider the most fun? Give some of these a shot and write about your experience with them. That might mean using the titling tool and writing a poem using the first title you get, or writing a letter to the Gender Genie telling it how smug you think it is, or drafting the adoption papers for your newly written kitten.  You might conduct an interview with the randomly generated person you created. You might come back here and simply say, "I hate you for ever bringing Write or Die into my life." It's okay ... I can take it.


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