60 Awesome Search Engines for Serious Writers
Finding the information you need as a writer shouldn’t be a chore. Luckily, there are plenty of search engines out there that are designed to help you at any stage of the process, from coming up with great ideas to finding a publisher to get your work into print. Both writers still in college and those on their way to professional success will appreciate this list of useful search applications that are great from making writing a little easier and more efficient.
Find other writers, publishers and ways to market your work through these searchable databases and search engines.
- Litscene: Use this search engine to search through thousands of writers and literary projects, and add your own as well.
- Thinkers.net: Get a boost in your creativity with some assistance from this site.
- PoeWar: Whether you need help with your career or your writing, this site is full of great searchable articles.
- Publisher’s Catalogues: Try out this site to search through the catalogs and names of thousands of publishers.
- Edit Red: Through this site you can showcase your own work and search through work by others, as well as find helpful FAQ’s on writing.
- Writersdock: Search through this site for help with your writing, find jobs and join other writers in discussions.
- PoetrySoup: If you want to find some inspirational poetry, this site is a great resource.
- Booksie.com: Here, you can search through a wide range of self-published books.
- One Stop Write Shop: Use this tool to search through the writings of hundreds of other amateur writers.
- Writer’s Cafe: Check out this online writer’s forum to find and share creative works.
- Literary Marketplace: Need to know something about the publishing industry? Use this search tool to find the information you need now.
These helpful tools will help you along in the writing process.
- WriteSearch: This search engine focuses exclusively on sites devoted to reading and writing to deliver its results.
- The Burry Man Writers Center: Find a wealth of writing resources on this searchable site.
- Writing.com: This fully-featured site makes it possible to find information both fun and serious about the craft of writing.
- Purdue OWL: Need a little instruction on your writing? This tool from Purdue University in Lafayette, IN can help.
- Writing Forums: Search through these writing forums to find answers to your writing issues.
Try out these tools to get your writing research done in a snap.
- Google Scholar: With this specialized search engine from Google, you’ll only get reliable, academic results for your searches.
- WorldCat: If you need a book from the library, try out this tool. It’ll search and find the closest location.
- Scirus: Find great scientific articles and publications through this search engine.
- OpenLibrary: If you don’t have time to run to a brick-and-mortar library, this online tool can still help you find books you can use.
- Online Journals Search Engine: Try out this search engine to find free online journal articles.
- All Academic: This search engine focuses on returning highly academic, reliable resources.
- LOC Ask a Librarian: Search through the questions on this site to find helpful answers about the holdings at the Library of Congress.
- Encylcopedia.com: This search engine can help you find basic encyclopedia articles.
- Clusty: If you’re searching for a topic to write on, this search engine with clustered results can help get your creative juices flowing.
- Intute: Here you’ll find a British search engine that delivers carefully chosen results from academia.
- AllExperts: Have a question? Ask the experts on this site or search through the existing answers.
Need to look up a quote or a fact? These search tools make it simple.
- Writer’s Web Search Engine: This search engine is a great place to find reference information on how to write well.
- Bloomsbury Magazine Research Centre: You’ll find numerous resources on publications, authors and more through this search engine.
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus: Make sure you’re using words correctly and can come up with alternatives with the help of this tool.
- References.net: Find all the reference material you could ever need through this search engine.
- Quotes.net: If you need a quote, try searching for one by topic or by author on this site.
- Literary Encyclopedia: Look up any famous book or author in this search tool.
- Acronym Finder: Not sure what a particular acronym means? Look it up here.
- Bartleby: Through Bartleby, you can find a wide range of quotes from famous thinkers, writers and celebrities.
- Wikipedia.com: Just about anything and everything you could want to look up is found on this site.
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Find all the great philosophers you could want to reference in this online tool.
If you’re focusing on writing in a particular niche, these tools can be a big help.
- PubGene: Those working in sci-fi or medical writing will appreciate this database of genes, biological terms and organisms.
- GoPubMd: You’ll find all kinds of science and medical search results here.
- Jayde: Looking for a business? Try out this search tool.
- Zibb: No matter what kind of business you need to find out more about, this tool will find the information.
- TechWeb: Do a little tech research using this news site and search engine.
- Google Trends: Try out this tool to find out what people are talking about.
- Godchecker: Doing a little work on ancient gods and goddesses? This tool can help you make sure you have your information straight.
- Healia: Find a wide range of health topics and information by using this site.
- Sci-Fi Search: Those working on sci-fi can search through relevant sites to make sure their ideas are original.
Find your own work and inspirational tomes from others by using these search engines.
- Literature Classics: This search tool makes it easy to find the free and famous books you want to look through.
- InLibris: This search engine provides one of the largest directories of literary resources on the web.
- SHARP Web: Using this tool, you can search through the information on the history of reading and publishing.
- AllReaders: See what kind of reviews books you admire got with this search engine.
- BookFinder: No matter what book you’re looking for you’re bound to find it here.
- ReadPrint: Search through this site for access to thousands of free books.
- Google Book Search: Search through the content of thousands upon thousands of books here, some of which is free to use.
- Indie Store Finder: If you want to support the little guy, this tool makes it simple to find an independent bookseller in your neck of the woods.
For web writing, these tools can be a big help.
- Technorati: This site makes it possible to search through millions of blogs for both larger topics and individual posts.
- Google Blog Search: Using this specialized Google search engine, you can search through the content of blogs all over the web.
- Domain Search: Looking for a place to start your own blog? This search tool will let you know what’s out there.
- OpinMind: Try out this blog search tool to find opinion focused blogs.
- IceRocket: Here you’ll find a real-time blog search engine so you’ll get the latest news and posts out there.
- PubSub: This search tool scours sites like Twitter and Friendfeed to find the topics people are talking about most every day.
Organize Your Plot: Part 1
Writers are never short on ideas, but oftentimes we have trouble sorting them out and getting them down on the page. It can be daunting, especially when you have a complex concept or world that has to be built, but it’s useful to know that you’re not the only one facing this issue. As such, there have been many methods devised to help you better organize your story ideas and punch that first road block right in the face. One such is the outline.
First, if you don’t already know the structure of a story, I’d check this article out: Plotting Methods for Meticulous Plotters
There are a TON of ways to handle an outline, and everyone has their own methods. I don’t usually link the Daily Mail, but here’s an article they did showing some outlines belonging to famous authors to give you an idea of the variations. I’m going to be covering a more standard format in this section.
Outlines are useful for organizing the time line of events in your story as well as keeping track of multiple character arcs. You can be as detailed, or as brief, as you need to be with your outline, since you’re going to be using it as the skeleton for your story. Nothing you write for your outline is set in stone. Expect it to change because stories evolve as you build them. I recommend typing outlines for easy editing at a later point.
I normally set up outlines like this:
Character (Since I have more than one POV.)
Idea for how the chapter opens, what the focus character is doing.
Details, which will include a description of what happens next, how my character feels about the situation, maybe a line of dialogue I thought of, a piece of imagery I want to use, a question if this particular item is appropriate for the scene or better served elsewhere, a concept idea, a note about how this plot line may or may not work later, etc. It is always easier to move a story element in an outline than it is in the actual draft.
Continue listing what happens
Next, taking up as much space and as many bullet points as you need. Use a new bullet point when you have a new idea, or a new action or event. My outlines for chapters tend to be a page or more, as I’m very specific.
If you only have a general idea of what’s going in a section, or you’ve dug yourself into a plot hole that you can’t fix right now, make a note and come back to it later. You may find as you progress in your outline that you will come up with an acceptable answer to your stuck point working on a later chapter.
How the chapter ends. It should lead into the next chapter.
If you want to track character arcs, you can highlight or color-code your text for specific characters throughout the outline so you can see their progression through the overall narrative. I also tend to make note of how I want this character to change by the end of the book if necessary.
My outlines, when I actually do them, tend to go on for a while. The last time I did one the document was around 20 pages or so. This, of course, may be way too much detail for some of you, so feel free to slim down.
Bare Bones Outline:
Chapter 1 (Title, if applicable)
Main character bites into sandwich. The act of doing so transports him into a different realm.
He falls out of the sky and onto a funeral precession.
Disoriented, he is attacked by the precession’s guards while being shouted at by the mourners.
Our hero runs away, still having no clue what’s going on. He flees into the woods.
He ends up stumbling around, nearly crashing into trees, and eventually runs into what looks like a rock. However, the rock moves and turns to reveal it’s some sort of creature.
End chapter on main character staring at the angry, dripping maw of the beast.
This example shows you the main points of the chapter, the focus character, his possible conflict, and an end point that leads you right into the next chapter.
Bulleted lists work the best for me as far as formatting goes, but feel free to use standard numbers, arrows, or Roman numerals if that suits you best.
Some people like to use specific programs for outlining. I use OpenOffice (or Microsoft Office, but I’m cheap), though others exist:
- Microsoft One Note (usually comes with new Windows PCs).
- Omni Outliner (Mac OS).
- Free Mind (not a traditional outline and is instead a visual mapping tool).
- Redhaven Outline.
- Excel or Google Docs (for spreadsheets).
Zeemaps - Free google maps
Website to make free google maps.
Fake newspaper snippet machine.
Another site that is similar but allows for a photo to be uploaded is this.
There are others of course found in this list but the aforementioned are recommended!
Cheat Sheet - Translating emotions into written body language
Something I’ve found… it’s a cheat sheet to help people translate emotions into body language…
When ‘Show Don’t Tell’ is Bad Advice, Again
I’ve seen more of those “stop telling when you should be showing” articles floating around in my Tumblr feed, and they got me thinking.
I had responded to an article regarding the whole ‘Show Don’t Tell’ mantra before this year rolled around, and my opinion of it still stands. I think that there’s a place for showing and a place for telling in writing. I also think that professing the whole “only do one and not the other” thing is probably sending the wrong message to young writers.
I understand why the advice is given so readily. I know that a lot of novice writers tend to tell way more than they should, and it’s an easy trap to fall into. Showing is much more difficult and much more time-consuming to do. While I agree that it’s important, and that it can vastly improve your writing, I believe that it’s not something you should strive to do all the time. There are instances where telling is more effective than showing. Aside from pacing, which I explained in the first article, here are a couple of other instances I came up with.
When You Have Something to Hide
Showing is unpacking. Showing is using vivid description (including simile and metaphor), sensory details, and actions to allow the reader to experience the story instead of being told via author exposition. When you do this, you make your writing more interesting, but you also draw attention to whatever it is you’re describing.
This stands out: “Wrapped around his body and held together by hundreds of messy cross-stitches, was a trench coat that smelled like moth balls soaked in cheap beer. The stench was so strong that I found myself plunging my nose into the collar of my own coat before I even reached him.”
A line like this does not: “He wore a tattered trench coat.”
As a reader, you remember the lines of good description where the author takes the time to unpack rather than the lines where you’re just told something.
However, telling can be effective when you’re not trying to draw attention to an aspect of your story. For example, say you have a minor character in the beginning of your story that will end up being a major player later on, but you don’t want the readers to know. You’re going to have to briefly introduce that character in some manner, and then have him slip into the background for a while. You can accomplish this by not giving him a lot of focus, and by proxy, not giving him a shown, memorable description.
This applies to not only characters, but to scenes as well. Sometimes there are incredibly boring things that happen in a story that you as an author is going to want to summarize by telling instead of showing.
As author James Scott Bell puts it, “Sometimes a writer tells as a shortcut, to move quickly to the meaty part of the story or scene. Showing is essentially about making scenes vivid. If you try to do it constantly, the parts that are supposed to stand out won’t, and your readers will get exhausted.”
In essence, showing is about choosing what stands out in a story and what doesn’t. Remember when you’re deciding what you should focus on, always ask yourself why. Why is it important that this character, object, or scene stands out?
Tone of Voice
I’m going to say it here, even if some people don’t agree. I think it’s okay to tell tone, and for that matter, pitch of a character’s voice when appropriate.
When we speak, we have “ups and downs”, and even if we don’t understand the language, we can generally tell if someone is asking a question vs. making a joke vs. giving a command vs. being serious based on them. These “ups and downs”, called inflection, are expressed in text through punctuation and by inferring via the subject matter of a conversation.
However, even with these tools, it’s sometimes hard to gauge how a character sounds without being told, especially if the author has something specific in mind or if what a character is saying doesn’t correlate to how they sound.
For example if you have a character who is talking about killing someone, but is overly cheery about it, it may be prudent to mention the tone since it’s not one commonly associated with the topic of murder.
You can also include a word about tone and/or pitch if there’s a specific way the character sounds, like:
Keep in mind that you also have great opportunities to show some of these sounds (depending on what you pick) with great descriptions, again keeping in mind how much focus you want to be put on this character’s voice.
Example: “When he spoke it was like he had swallowed a pail of beach sand.”
From author Francine Prose, “Needless to say, many great novelists combine “dramatic” showing with long sections of the flat-out authorial narration that is, I guess, what is meant by telling. And the warning against telling leads to a confusion that causes novice writers to think that everything should be acted out … when in fact the responsibility of showing should be assumed by the energetic and specific use of language.”
Showing vs. telling is all about the choice of what’s going to work better for your story. Don’t be afraid to show. Don’t be afraid to tell. Just know there’s a place for each.
When ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ is Really Bad Advice
By Jenny Martin:
If you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard “Show, Don’t Tell’ a million times. It’s one of those maxims you can’t escape. But I’m going to stick my neck out and declare…
I think that advice has led to a lot of really terrible writing.
Before you come at me with your sharpest pitchfork, let me explain my […]
I have to agree with this article. Most of the writing blogs, including this one, have given people the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ advice, and while it’s certainly valid, there’s a time and a place to use it. The article states that the use of generic emotion phrases and reactions don’t really tell us a lot about the specific character in question and by solely showing, you lose opportunities for development. The author uses an example from The Hunger Games to illustrate her point and I feel it’s done really well.
I also want to take this opportunity to address an article that’s been floating around Tumblr. It’s entitled Unpacking by Chuck Palahniuk. Boiled down the article tells people to write without using phrases like ‘I thought’, ‘he thought’, ‘she thought’ or anything similar like ‘I remembered’, ‘I supposed’, ‘I forgot’, ‘I realized, ‘I imagined’, ‘I believed’, or ‘I wanted’, and instead unpack those phrases to show the reader what a character is thinking (and let them infer) instead of telling them.
So instead of writing: “Adam knew Gwen liked him.”
You instead write: “Between classes, Gwen had always leaned on his locker when he’d go to open it. She’d roll her eyes and shove off with one foot, leaving a black-heel mark on the painted metal, but she also left the smell of her perfume. The combination lock would still be warm from her butt. And the next break, Gwen would be leaned there, again.”
We all know that showing is harder than telling because showing requires you to write more. I don’t think it’s feasible to replace every thought verb with this kind of unpacking, especially when you consider what this does to pacing.
Pacing in writing is essentially how fast or how slow you move through a scene. Fight scenes, for example, tend to be more fast-paced while dramatic scenes to build tension will be much slower.
Say your character was in a hurry to get to a doctor’s appointment and she thinks quickly that she doesn’t want to be late. Would you spend a paragraph or more trying to describe the entirety of her thought process instead just using ‘she thought’ in that instance? Probably not. You also probably wouldn’t spend any significant length of time describing every crack and stain on the sidewalk she’s running on either because it’s going to slow your scene down to a crawl.
Unpacking is fine. Showing is fine. But there’s a place for it. The best advice I can give is to read more books and look for instances where showing and telling are used separately, and together. Make note of what works well, and what doesn’t. Then try to practice that in your own writing.
[You. You are my favorite person, because in my exhausted state today, randomly seeing ‘arms spaghetti’ in the box of asks made me laugh hysterically for a solid five minutes in the middle of public. I don’t even care that they probably think I’m crazy now. That’s how great this is. Thanks, Anon. This seriously made my day.]
In writing, if you want to say ‘I talk with my hands’, you don’t want to tell the reader what’s going on. Instead, you want to show them, by saying [for my example] how my head bobs and nods for emphasis when I talk. My hands fly everywhere like they’re birds trying to escape from my arms at all times. I look like someone took a natural human being and pressed the fast-forward repeatedly until the remote broke — even saying the area around me was dubbed the Ranting Splash Zone. Things like this allow you to let the reader feel and imagine the actions, rather than just blandly read a sentence. It shapes future interactions and their perception of me in their minds’ eyes.
So, basically what you’re asking me is how to write a character who is afraid while facing down their biggest skeleton. You’re asking me how to write true fear. Well, that I can help with. In this, I’m going to walk through some of the science behind what makes you physically react when afraid, what those reactions are, and then touch on some of the mental/emotional points.
More under the cut!
I like to use past perfect for about a paragraph and then take it out when it feels “right.” I’m going to use your example as a jumping off point. Excuse my spontaneous writing:
"Ella remembered that Halloween night. She had seen a ghost, and there hadn’t been a single thought of candy bars or costumes after that. She’d been trick-or-treating with her friends when she’d seen a dark shape from behind a bush.
It had dark eyes, and there was a strange mist around it that made Ella wonder if it was some trick of the light, or possibly a trick of a crafty neighbor. She moved closer out of curiosity, shaking a little with each step.”
Notice the absence of past perfect in the 2nd paragraph. You’ve set up the scene using past perfect and then launched into the flashback at the right moment. When the flashback has concluded, begin using past perfect again to fade out of it.
"….Ella ran from the ghost, screaming her head off. It wasn’t until she got home that she realized her bag of candy was still on the porch of one of the neighbor’s.
She’d had nightmares for weeks after that. Her parents had let her sleep in their bed for a while, but eventually her mom had put her foot down.”
Notice the reintroduction of past perfect.
For those not in the know, past perfect is a verb tense indicating something happened before something else in the past. Most fiction is written in simple past tense, so any time you need to refer even further in the past, you turn to past perfect.