When it comes to research for writing, authors often have different writing strategies. Some authors research first, others ferret out facts as they write, still others save research for the end of the novel. One thing I’ve learned: I do research early because I’ve found digging around in facts, concepts, theories, history, and opinions can present a chain of ideas. One fact can lead to an idea that can lead to more research that can lead to another fact that leads to another idea…well, you get the drift. But whether I’ve sold you on using research for inspiration, or if you just want to look things up as your writing progresses, you need to check out the list of 14 must-try writing resources listed below.
Get your facts first,
and then you can distort ’em as much as you please.
Writing resources to start you on your idea-mining adventure.
Get that right-side creative brain going and visit some of these sites to use as creative writing exercises for stories, characters, themes, whatever! See what looking at each of these brings to you and your writing.
You’ve heard of George Polti’s 36 Dramatic Situations? Gamedev.net has a complete list with offshoots to help fire up your imagination.
Speaking of lists, here’s a fun one. This writing resource lists out fears and phobias in either a random way or in alphabetical order! You get to choose just how to receive your fears.
The ultimate list site makes for the ultimate in writing resources! Listverse is a collection of hundreds of top 10 lists. Go to http://listverse.com/ to find the top 10 lists for: prophecies you don’t know, ghost ships, American industrial disasters, evil humans, amazing weather phenomena, prison gangs, even historical characters and their unusual pets. The lists are categorized for easy browsing.
Looking for writing resources to find a great historical moment to set or base your story around? The best of history websites is a wonderful jumping off point for you!
Need a random first line for inspiration?(Also check out my article on using first lines to jump-start your writing.)
Choose one of these clichés as a theme and write around this tried-and-true technique (cliché intended:o)
This is one of my personal favorite writing resources for inspiration. BrainyQuote has hundreds of quotes, both famous and obscure. Pick out a quote and begin writing about it. Let it inspire you to create a character, or write to a theme, or simply start writing with whatever scene pops into your head as you read through various quotes. This is a wonderful imagination-starter, not to mention plenty of inspiration too. And if you are ever looking for a quote, this is the place for you.
If you are really stuck and want to kick your creativity into thinking outside the obvious, you can find a logline generator here.
Crime Magazine is a great writing resource for mystery writers (and others). This “encyclopedia of crime” has articles on historical crimes, assassinations, celebrity crimes, serial killers, prisons, organized crime, and more. Warning: these stories aren’t for the faint of heart. Double warning: this site is a time-drain if you aren’t careful. You can spend many (disturbing) hours here.
Chaotic Shiny is a generator site for writing and gamers. Random generation for everything from magic, superstitions, religion, medieval cities, and apocalypse, you can spend hours on this site. Ideas run rampant from single random sentences.
Bugbog is a site for travel, and this link specifically will take you to a page of links to explore travel in exotic countries. Use this writing resource for ideas on your next locale and add to your bucket list all at one place!
The National Geographic website is wonderful for jump-starting your imagination, especially on their “How to Survive (almost) Anything” page, or try the “Best of Adventure” page, full of inspirational real stories.
Interested in writing a paranormal story or adding elements to a work already in progress? The Astral World has information and articles on dreams, mythical creatures, ghosts, psychic powers, ancient mysteries and more!
And one of my favorites… at this site you can find specific graveyards and look up names of the deceased online. You can even find names in graveyards and cemeteries in other countries.
One final word of warning: if you tend to get distracted and spend hours goofing around on the internet instead of writing, set a timer. Allow yourself a pre-decided amount of time and when the timer dings—log off and start writing!
Award-winning novelist Kathy Steffen teaches fiction writing and speaks at writing programs across the country. Additionally, Kathy is also published in short fiction and pens a monthly writing column, Between the Lines. Her books, FIRST THERE IS A RIVER, JASPER MOUNTAIN and THEATER OF ILLUSION are available online and at bookstores everywhere. Check out more at www.kathysteffen.com
Thanks for a great resource article, Kathy. Just what I need, since I’m pretty well done with my first manuscript and want to come up a better ‘next idea’ than I have so far. I’ll check these sites out and hopefully not get addicted to any of them. 🙂
You’re welcome Chris, and yes, they can be dangerous (time-wise) and fun as well as an inspiration :o)
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