I must admit. I’m a speedy writer. Not to say I don’t work hard to get stories in by their deadline, research new markets and craft queries. I just don’t like wasting time. I want to get it done and move onto the part I love, the actual writing.
Here are some ways I get to the fun part.
Reference at Your Fingertips
Everyone knows that you need a good dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia, and, of course, The Writer’s Market. But thumbing through these can waste huge masses of time. Besides, why buy these reference books when you can easily access them on the web? This saves time and money! Wordsmyth has a dictionary and thesaurus that are quick and easy to use. All you have to do is type your word into the box on the left-hand side of the screen. The site will give you the correct spelling, synonyms, definition, and a list of related words.
Merriam and Webster Online not only has a dictionary and thesaurus, but also Encyclopedia Britannica for a small monthly fee. This site also helps you with research related to the words you look up by providing helpful links.
Another great reference site is Writer’s Market.com. The digital version of this long time writer’s staple offers instant access to thousands of editors and agents just for $29.99 for a six month subscription. This is a great time saver because it is constantly being updated. No more getting returned query letters because of address changes or business mergers.
Doing research is one of the biggest time eaters there is for writers. Going to the library can take up a whole day. And typing random terms into search engines can be just as time consuming. Finding several sure fire research sites is the best way to maximize writing time. The key is to stay focused on your topic. Say you are looking for information on the best places to go salmon fishing. You find several great articles on salmon fishing, but a few pop up about salmon recipes. Even if you are tempted, don’t stray over to other topics that may pique you interest. Stay focused! It saves precious time that you need to write your story.
Need really detailed information like statistics or government documents for your story? Don’t shlep to your local government agency. Turn to sites like Fedstats.gov or Firstgov.gov. Fedstats.gov has statistical data, statistical profiles of states, counties, cities, congressional districts, and federal judicial districts, while Firstgov.gov has just about any other kind of information you could want related to government agencies and policies.
Do you want to have just one website bookmarked where you can find all the research help you could ever need? ProfNet is the ultimate online guide to Internet research. The site includes links to expert advice, reference facilities, and news, as well as help and advice columns.
Speedy Inspiration Spawners
Expending too much time and energy trying to think of ideas for the stories themselves? The Story Generator, at Freelance Writing.com, can give you the inspiration you need with the click of a mouse. Weekly it provides new ideas in the form of the latest surveys and facts. These bits of intriguing information may inspire you to give your character a new pastime or occupation, or may give you the perfect idea for an article. A recent survey about mothers getting information from the Internet gave me the idea to write an article called “Moms on the Web.”
Another terrific place to find ideas is the covers of magazines. Standing in front of a magazine stand is a great way to jog an idea loose if you are a nonfiction writer.
Try this: Go down the rack of publications and randomly pick one. What subject does the publication specialize in? Think about that subject. Say you picked the magazine Cat Fancy and you want to write a children’s book. Do the characters in your book have pets? Could the character be a pet? A cat? You get the idea.
Better yet, for instant inspiration, go to Creative Writing Prompts and choose a number at random for quick inspiration.
For most of us, going to seminars and workshops is a wistful fantasy that we put off until “we get more time.” Well, the time is now, thanks to online courses that are just as easy to attend as reading an email. Many courses simply come to your email, letting you complete each lesson at your ease. Best of all, many of them are free!
Make Time Your Own
Just remember to actually write. The worst problem with using the internet for research is getting so distracted with email, games, and forums that no real writing gets done. Remember to focus, and to turn your web connection completely off when you are done. Leaving it on is a temptation to procrastinate. And procrastination is the worst time waster of all.