Desiree Vallena’s Online Writing Tools

By Desiree Vallena

Desiree is new to Writers Notes but is a welcome addition. I’ve been writing for many years but all of these tools are new and very exciting! I’m sure no matter how long you’ve been at the keyboard, you’ll find something interesting. ~~ Thonie

Whether you’re looking for educational content or a community, there’s never been a better time to be a writer — all thanks to the good ol’ World Wide Web. From the most granular details of craft (we’re talking word choice and comma placement) to the big picture of how to become a professional writer, there’s help out there for every step of the writing process.

With that in mind, today I want to introduce you to some tried-and-tested online resources that have helped me over the course of my writing career — from technical tools, to creative stimuli, to my productivity essentials.

1. OneLook’s reverse dictionary

If you’re anything like me, you sometimes find yourself completely unable to conjure a particular word you’re thinking of. The perfect word can be right on the tip of your tongue — or should I say fingers, since it usually happens while writing — but will somehow still evade you.

If this affliction troubles you too, I recommend trying out OneLook’s reverse dictionary. Just type in what you can recall (whether that’s a definition, a related word, or the vague idea) and OneLook will provide you with a group of suggested words, organized by relevance. A great quick fix for when you’re struggling to come up with the perfect… oh, what’s that word again?

2. Story Planner

There’s a lot of debate among writers over the best practice for how to plan a novel. From “pantsers” to “Snowflake Method” devotees, you’ve probably had enough of other writers trying to sell you on their way of doing things.

Luckily, Story Planner helps you wade through the sea of planning methods by letting you try them all on for size. Their different planning routes (which all come with a handy indication of how much time they’ll take) provide you with a framework to guide your process. It’s a straightforward, no-nonsense approach that will help you figure out what works best for you.

3. Grammar Girl

You’ve almost certainly heard of Mignon Fogarty’s powerhouse of a blog, Grammar Girl — and for good reason. If you’ve ever stumbled over a piece of grammar, or wondered what the rules actually are for using a question mark with parentheses (seriously, inside or outside?), Grammar Girl will lead you through it in an easily digestible format. Be sure to check out her podcast while you’re there!

4. Plot Generator

For the more fortunate among us, story inspiration can strike spontaneously, and in the most unexpected places. But what if an idea doesn’t just magically fall into your lap? Even the most creative writers can go through dry spells inspiration-wise, and that’s where the Reedsy Plot Generator comes in.

This page will automatically generate tons of unique story ideas for you. A word of warning: the ideas can be pretty random, so while you may not always find an oven-ready plot among its suggestions, this plot generator is a super-entertaining tool to get your creative juices flowing. You never know what might spark off your next big idea!

5. Critique Circle

One of the best parts of being online as a writer is the opportunity to access huge communities of like-minded folks. Critique Circle is one of the corners of the internet that provides just that. This online critiquing platform connects writers with fellow writers (and readers) who give constructive feedback, free of charge.

You have to provide three reviews to be eligible to post your own work for criticism, meaning the community consistently pulls its weight — and while the level of detail you receive from your critique does vary somewhat, Critique Circle is still a great place to get eyes on your work if you don’t have writing pals in real life. If you’d like to join this type of platform, be sure to check out Mary Feliz’s tips on how to be an asset to your critiquing circle here.

6. SelfControl

As Susan McCormick points out in her excellent guest post, there are ample sources of  distraction for the work-from-home writer: “the view outside the window, the dog angling for a tummy rub, the children clamoring for a snack or a game” and so on. And since we’re all stuck at home for the foreseeable future, how can we overcome these little daily disturbances? While it’s difficult to control external distractions, one thing we can do to maintain focus is limiting our online distractions. And there’s a tool for that: SelfControl.

No, I’m not just being passive-aggressive. SelfControl is the actual name of a browser extension and app, which lets you block certain sites for the set periods of time you choose. If you’re a chronic procrastinator like me, you can block out your main time-suck sites, whether that’s Facebook, YouTube, or cute puppy Pinterest boards. Fewer distractions equals more focus, so eliminating online noise should help you write faster and get more done!

I sincerely hope you’ve found these recommendations helpful, and that they’ve inspired you to explore new ways of using the internet to help you on your writing journey. Good luck!


Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories. She tries her best to take her own advice when it comes to writing, but couldn’t get by without her secret seventh tool: a strong cup of coffee.