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Archive for the category “Resources”

Writing Prompts and Inspiration

Here are some great writing prompt sites to help you bust through any moments of writer’s block (or just keep you in an internet spiral all day long):

 Writing Prompts on Tumblr

Creative Writing Prompts

 Awesome Writing Prompts

Daily prompts sent to your inbox

 200 Fantasy Writing Prompts

 Spec Fic writing prompts  (don’t forget to come to our Members Monthly on Spec Fic this week).

Random Lists of Things

1000 Awesome Things

List of Fictional Things

Pinterest board of pictures to inspire writing

Share yours below!


Useful Things on the Internet for Writers

By Vanessa Jones


Scrivener is handy software for writers that is like a word processor, virtual pin up board and filing system all in one. Once you’ve completed your writing project, it will even compile your project into a file suitable for epublishing. It backs up automatically everytime you close the project, which is terrifically handy for someone so “unhandy” at backing up like myself. It’s helpful because I can see how many chapters/sections I’m working on in the display sidebar in each project.

Cost: $US45


This is an online project management tool. I was finding that I was accumulating a plethora of incomplete writing projects on my laptop (no surprises there) and I couldn’t remember the status of each project and where I’d saved it on my computer. Trello lets me coordinate the documents in sections, for example – short stories, then I can further subcategorise it by incomplete, needs editing, first draft etc. It’s also great for collaborative projects and works across smart phones, tablets and desktop computers.

Cost: starts at $US5 per month.


This is probably the sweetest invention to mankind. Have you ever noticed how much writing you get done when there’s no internet? This program is a temporary net blocker – simply type in the amount of time you want to have “freedom” from the internet for (forty five minutes is the default) and it won’t let you access the internet until the time is up. But don’t stress you can access the internet by restarting your computer if there’s a cyber emergency.

Cost: this was the best ten bucks I’ve ever spent.

Write or Die

This is a terrifying slash amazing program. As the name suggests, you have to keep writing otherwise consequences will be forced upon you. If you cease writing, alarming mechanisms may happen, for example digital spiders infest your screen, or sirens whir and colours flash. Such fun. If you ignore these first few gauntlet tests and choose kamikaze mode it will unashamedly delete everything you’ve just written, never to be retrieved. The pressure to write something or lose it forever is magnificent. And also quite damaging. The latest version has incorporated some experimental positive reinforcement options as well.

Cost: $US20 (free trial available)


SourceBottle is an online “call out” service where journalists, media professionals, bloggers and publicists post a short ad requesting sources to help with their stories. Whilst it is generally targeted more at the general public, if you keep your eye on it enough there just may be some very valuable PR or writing opportunities that are worth following up.

Cost: free to signup

Automatic Random Generators

Can’t come up with a character name? Here:

Need your next creative idea? Here:

Stuck on a book title? No stress:

Cost: free (how great is the internet?)


I’ve used seven adverbs ending in “ly” during this post. I certainly didn’t bother to tally that up because I used an automatic critiquing program. Autocrit is a nifty analysing wizard that will tell you how many clichés, redundancies, overused words you have incorporated into your text, plus many more handy editing nuances.

$US47 (minimum)

free trial


Share your tips below.


Vanessa Jones is the Marketing Manager for SA Writers Centre. This post was not sponsored and only represents her unbiased opinion as an avid internet user. Information is correct to the best of her knowledge at time of posting.

What’s in a Name? (part one)

Shakespeare asks, ‘What’s in a name?’ and answers by telling us roses smell sweet whatever they are called. But Tim Winton’s character Rose Pickles out of Cloudstreet is anything but sweet: her character comes fully armed with thorns for most of the story – even though she softens towards the end of the story. The name Rose comes with the complete do-it-yourself kit of connotations, both personal and public: Tokyo Rose has an entirely different ring to Laurie Lee’s Cider With Rosie, and then there was that girl called Rose I sat next to in high school, who picked her nose and used the underside of the desk as … well, let’s not go there.

And what of the Winton’s Lambs, the godfearing family next door in Cloudstreet, with their two sons Fish and Quick? What magical names. But then Winton’s novel is often given the genre tag ‘magic realism’. Probably one of the best known magic realist texts is One Hundred Years of Solitude with the infamous Colonel Aureliano Buendia, whom Garcia Marquez has begin his fictional journey with the words, ‘Many years later, as he faced the firing squad…’ An interesting first line given Colonel Beundia’s unsavoury predicament and that the literal translation of Beundia from Spanish to English is ‘good day’. Winton uses ‘g’day’ a lot in Cloudstreet but I’ve yet to come across a character in an Australian novel named Gidday, although somewhere out there there’s surely room for one. I guess some things simply don’t translate. So how exactly do we as writers go about choosing names and how difficult can it be?

As a writer, if you’re anything like me, finding fictional names can be a little like Oscar Wilde’s attitude to blood-sports – well, my definition of it anyway – the unpronounceable in pursuit of the untenable, because as another author, whose name I forget, once said of the writing process, ‘Just slap your belly up against the desk … and wait for beads of blood to form on your forehead.’ Finding names that are suitable can be a little like that. I tend to dive in and regret my choices later.

But names matter, even in high-end literary fiction: how appropriate to their respective narrative  journeys are the names of Stephen Dedalus from Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man or Scout Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird? And while Humbert Humbert hasn’t passed into the lexicon, Lolita certainly has. A good name may outlast its original context: Orwell’s 1984 and the omniscient character Big Brother is my favourite to date, while the name of Winston Smith, the hero of the novel, may well be forgotten in time.

If you’re writing literary fiction or realism then perhaps names aren’t quite so important. Maybe you can get by with something common-or-garden, something prosaic. But while the reader may be more accepting, the author still has the problem of finding a name that gels with wherever they are taking that character. The average novel requires a couple of days to read; to write one may take years and the author has to live with that character and their name for the entire journey. It should have the ring of truth about it.

The area where naming a character comes into its own is probably genre fiction. If you’re writing parody or satire or humour then pushing the boundaries for the readership with some out-there quirky names is reasonable. There’s the wonderful Captain Major Major in Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, who’s doing okay until he’s promoted. A fictional character with the handle Major Major Major is really making a statement in itself. Snowball and Napoleon in Animal Farm are a little less obvious, but only marginally. Then there’s Cold Comfort Farm – sorry, but I appear to be on a bit of an agricultural bender here – a comic novel by Stella Gibbons which parodies D H Lawrence and which has the unforgettable characters of Ada Doom, the matriarch who saw ‘something nasty in the woodshed’, and the handsome Seth Starkadder, who despite his bucolic roots is destined for Hollywood. Add to that location – the village of Howling – and the reader knows exactly what to expect. With humorous and satirical writing the reader allows a certain amount of latitude. Other genres may require a lighter touch and a more subtle approach.

I’ve found the White Pages quite useful for surnames, especially when I’m looking for something unusual that might match a particular character or personality trait. Truth is stranger than fiction and a quick troll through the telephone directory can show just how many unusual names are out there. Having just performed this exercise, I came up with the following without too much difficulty – Dohnt, Hext, Wix, Crizzle, Leach and Renard – all of which are suggestive, either though onomatopoeia, spelling or association, of various human foibles or characteristics. I find this – dare I say it – reference work useful for checking to see if an unusual surname I’ve come up with actually exists. I’m often taken aback as to how close a match I find.

But the danger here might be in making the name too unusual and drawing the reader’s attention to it. It depends on whether you want to foreground the name. Unlike surnames, given names drop in and out of favour and carry historical or generational overtones, so if you’re writing historical fiction or faction it’s important to do a little research. A postwar character by the name of Duane or Dakota lacks authenticity. With children’s and young adult works, fantasy, science-fiction and crime or romance writing names can matter, but it then becomes a trade-off between the startlingly obvious and drawing too much attention away from the narrative flow, unless that is your purpose. A sure–fire way to put a reader off your prose is to use names inappropriately.

To be continued… 

Writers Resources – an ongoing discussion

By Malcolm Walker

Believe it or not one of the books I find most useful is the Macquarie Dictionary. When looking for a spelling I’ll often come across a word I’ve never encountered before and that can begin the process of interrogating ideas and relationships I hadn’t thought about before. I usually just jot the word down immediately, go back to my writing or editing and come back to my newfound gem later.

Because I’m often writing about places outside Australia Google Earth’s street views can be very useful, especially when I’m doing urban descriptions. However, this only works for contemporary fiction.

I’ve found Professor Norman Davies’ two books, Europe: A History and The Isles: A History, a rich vein to be mined, particularly as both come with comprehensive indices.

Here’s my in-the-zone tips:

  • I don’t always write in the same place. I try to get out and write in libraries, cafes, etc as this takes me away from the washing up and has a tendency to break any stale patterns.
  • At certain points in my writing I’ll listen to music – instrumental – nothing with lyrics in English. When I wrote The Stone Crown I listened to The Celts until I was sick of it. Now, working on some historical fantasy, it’s baroque chamber music.
  • I normally have a couple of projects on the go in case I get stuck and then I can switch between them in the hope that down time on one will result in inspiration when I return to that particular manuscript.

Malcolm Walker is the Communications Officer at SAWC and the author of The Stone Crown, his first young adult novel, which is a partial reworking of the Arthurian legend and was published by Walker Books Australia in 2008 and was released in the UK November 2009. He is also the editor of our magazine, Southern Write.


Seven Musts for Online Promotion

Hi peeps,
Cassandra Dean here, with a few hints and tips for online promotion and marketing as a writer!

1. Have a website. Make the design of it simple and easy to use. Update it regularly.
2. Blog. Blog regularly. Blog often. Blog about random shizz you’re convinced no one wants to read about – funnily enough, they probably do!
3. Develop a social media presence. Facebook, twitter, pin, instagram, tumble away…but remember no one likes a spammer.
4. Engage your readers with bits and pieces, sneak peaks and updates. Tell them how you’re researching the first instance of a Frog Cake in South Australia or how you are constantly stunned that Wikipedia is a glorious amalgamation of tids and bitstm_lg. These interactions will build a rapport with your readers.
5. Make friends with your fellow authors and then pick their brains. There are a lot of very savvy people out there, and why do the work when you don’t have to?
6. Your publisher will be only too happy to help. Run ideas past them, see what they say. Remember, they’re just as interested in selling millions of copies of your book as you are.
7. Finally, the very best promo – write your next book!

Cassandra Dean will be holding a workshop on navigating the often scary world of the internet for writers at the Centre on 8th June. Click here for more details. Cassandra is a multi-published author in both ebook and print. She has previously presented at South Australian Romance Writers Conference.

Cassandra and Lucy ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads ~ Tumblr ~ Pintrest ~

Writers Resources – an Ongoing Discussion

By Stephen Lord

Our regular volunteer, Stephen Lord, discusses his most valuable resources for writing.

The most important resource I have is my writing group. Writing is a wretched, solitary and miserable business even on good days, and I couldn’t be without a support network of like-minded souls. They are beta testers, fact checkers, idea bouncer-offers and good mates all at the same time. If you’re not in a group, join one. If you can’t find one that’s into your sort of writing, start your own. It worked for me.

The following are more survival tips than resources per se, but still worth a mention:

Music. I find Pink Floyd helps my concentration immensely, but tastes may vary depending on whether or not you’re a frustrated hippie. Play something, usually but not necessarily instrumental, that helps you find your way to the zone and stay there as long as possible.

Trust your instincts. Plot in detail with the logical left hemisphere of your brain, then use the intuitive right hemisphere to write the first thing that comes into your head based on what you’ve planned. NB: This hemisphere thing works the other way round if you’re left-handed. I learned that the hard way.

Most important of all, RELAX! You’re making stuff up and writing it down, not curing cancer. Treat your writing as sport, then you’ll have fun with it and that will show in the work. If you think of it as make or break or break/life or death, you will choke, freeze, panic and do nothing just so you can avoid making mistakes. I’ve been there, done that, bought the T-shirt and done time on a therapist’s couch because of it. Trust me.

What resources for writing can you simply not live without? Are you part of a writing group? If yes, how has it helped? 

Stephen Lord was born in Adelaide and has spent much of the ensuing time- after he learned he couldn’t play the guitar to save his life- reading, writing, daydreaming and making a nuisance of himself lurking around university English departments. He is hard at work on the first in a series of murder mysteries with supernatural undertones.

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