Of course you have your carefully cultivated Spotify playlist, your personalized Pinterest boards inspiring characters, scenery and a ton of other things that you may or may not actually need (but we convince ourselves we need them anyway), and your other random resources that are all your own for whatever you need.
But let’s face it: we can always use more resources and in general things that inspire us. It’s part of what keeps that writerly fire lit!
With that being said, I give you what will probably end up being a ridiculously long list – or separated subpages if it gets that long – of all the various resources that I’ve found helpful when I’m not too busy obsessing over all the things.
Keep checking back for more resources as I add on to this page.
I’ve found quite a few reference books that have helped me with either character development, or plot development, general writing, and even character naming. Here are a few of those…
- The Baby Name Wizard by Laura Wattenberg
I’ve tried a couple of different character naming resources over the years, but this is by far my favorite. This book is fairly thick and is organized beautifully, so however your method of naming characters, you’ll likely be able to find something in this book. It has everything from international names for a more exotic or fantasy-type feeling (for instance, I went with an Irish name for a character in a fantasy WIP), and even a handy list of name connotations for if you want to make sure the reader gets the feeling you want them to have when coming across a specific character.
There’s also a website for convenience.
- 100,000 Plus Baby Names by Bruce Lansky
This was the first names book I got back in high school and it is also an excellent resource. If I’m having a hard time finding the right name for a character, I’ll sometimes refer to this book as it’s organized slightly differently. But what I really love about this one is it’s a little more elaborate with name meanings, so if you want only the truly nerdy to know what your character’s name means and what that means for your story, you could lean on hidden name meanings for an added touch to your story.
- Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne & King
Fairly self explanatory, this is a handy reference for perhaps self-editing that first draft that you don’t want anyone else to ever read. Hiring a professional editor with a fresh pair of eyes is very important in the later stages of writing, but for a first draft, this is a pretty good place to start.
- Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Writer’s Digest
This is probably in my top 5 favorite resources of all time. It’s an extremely helpful book for digging deep into the minds of your characters. And has quite a healthy dose of applicable psychology which helps to make writing that much more believable. And if you have a character with a tragic past or backstory, this is definitely a helpful guide on a bunch of different things that may have affected your character.
- The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglish
You know the classic saying “show don’t tell”, and this is an excellent resource for the nonverbal part of writing. It has quite the list of emotions all in alphabetical order and each emotion is broken down into several sub categories even down to outward and inward showings of that emotion. It’s a very nice way to show how different or varied someone might appear on the outside versus what’s going on inside their head. And the updated edition has even more emotions listed, 70 more if I remember correctly. And there’s even a free “amplifiers” list you can get on kindle that acts as a companion to the main emotion thesaurus.
- The Emotional Wound Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglish
Another in the series, this one is much thicker than the original Emotion Thesaurus. It’s a great one for writers who lean on emotion like myself. Or if you have a character with a tragic backstory as I mentioned before. There’s all sorts of characters who experience things that we have not, so resources like this one are great for getting a really good idea of what that must be like.
- The Write Type by Karen E. Peterson
Really good for a beginning writer in the first few years, but can be used at any point in a writer’s life. This one is great for figuring out what works for you as a writer. Are you a morning person or a night person? Do you work better under pressure or are you more of a “go with the flow” type of person? This book is great at breaking down the various aspects of a writer’s routine and help you to figure out what works best for you, and not what someone else said works. This, along with a lot of trial and error was how I figured out that I work best with my peak writing hours (literally anywhere between 9pm and 3am), and a little bit more of a “go with the flow” mindset with a pinch of under pressure writing in the form of writing sprints (also highly recommend the Pomodoro technique, but that’s what works for me).
- No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty
On the subject of writing under pressure and writing sprints, there’s NaNoWriMo mentioned a little bit later on this page. And the founder of NaNoWriMo took the fundamentals of that and put it into this book. So if you’re new to NaNoWriMo, this would be a pretty good place to start for learning what it is and how exactly to tackle a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I can promise you it sounds much more daunting than it actually is. There have been so many bestselling novels that were written during NaNoWriMo which I personally think is pretty cool. In the first half of the book, Chris Baty goes over the prep work, so if you want, you can even follow along during NaNoPrep. And in the second half, the chapters are broken down into each week and you’re not meant to read ahead. He specifies that pretty early in the book. Each week of NaNoWriMo has it’s own highs and lows and you don’t need your groove thrown off *insert Kuzco reference here*
I believe there’s even a small bit for post-NaNoWriMo at the back of the book to help you process what’s just happened. Hopefully by that point you will have finished a novel. And that’s kind of a big deal.
- Creating Characters by Writer’s Digest
Almost everything you could ever need to know about your characters.
- 90 Days to Your Novel by Sarah Domet
Similar to the NaNoWriMo book, but a little bit more relaxed in case 50k in 30 days sounds a bit too much.
- What Every Body is Saying by Joe Navarro
A really good resource written by a retired FBI agent about how to read body language basically like Sherlock would. It’s not exactly a pointed writing resource, but could be handy if you’re writing a spy book and your character needs to know how to read a person, well…like Sherlock would.
Writers Helping Writers (formerly The Bookshelf Muse) has a treasure trove of various thesauri for basically everything. Most are available on their website, but they are gradually releasing books with expanded information (referenced above), and those lists are being shortened on their website.
Promptuarium is a great place for a ton of writing prompts, whether it’s dialogue prompts, setting prompts, and even a character bank. I’ve been following their blog for years, but they also have a Pinterest which can be found here.
Abbie Emmons is a fairly newer writer I found only last year and she gives great writing advice every Wednesday on her YouTube channel. But she also has a ton of her own resources on her website as well as her Pinterest. She likes to talk about the Enneagram personality tests and how they can help with character writing since it can be more detailed than the MBTI (I’ve used both with character profiles before). She also likes to incorporate psychology into writing advice because as she says most writing advice is subjective, so she uses psychology to give writing advice that actually works.
Reedsy is one I found in the past couple of years with a whole archive of writing prompts organized into neat categories, as well as a weekly writing contest where there’s a chance to win a cash prize. I’ve saved a few of the ones in the archive to use for writing exercises since the deadline has passed, but they also have a bunch of virtual writing courses you can have sent right to your email. There’s even a handy title generator if you’re having trouble titling your WIP. Or perhaps you need help coming up with a short story idea. Reedsy kind of has it all…
C.G. Drews aka Paperfury has a really good blog post on how to create an aesthetic book board if you’re like me and have struggled with it. She also has a blog post on how to tell if you’re a plotter or a pantser when writing, and even how to outline.
I don’t know much about script writing, but I received an email with a link to a rather interesting blog post on writing for movies or theater and there was some writing advice that’s applicable to fiction writing as well.
On that note, when I first started writing I was briefly interested in script writing so I did get one book on script writing that was helpful and that’s Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field.
NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month)
NaNoWriMo is an annual writing frenzy event that happens in November, with two camp sessions in April and July. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. If the sound of that is giving you a mild panic attack, allow me to break it down for you because it’s really not as bad as it sounds at first. 50,000 words over 30 days breaks down to 1,667 words a day, or roughly a few pages, depending on your font choice (I go with a traditional 12pt New Times Roman myself). And if you practice your typing skills enough, you could easily get that done in under an hour…provided you can turn off your inner editor for a bit, which is part of the whole point of NaNoWriMo – purely writing, no editing. You save the editing for after the event is over and ideally wait a little bit longer so you can come back to your WIP with fresh eyes. And there are plenty of writing sprints you can participate in with the writing community there. The most common one is the Pomodoro technique where you write for 10-15 minutes, take a short break, write again, then take a little bit longer of a break. Or if you’re really crazy, the 1k30min sprints where you write at your top speed for 30 minutes nonstop in hopes of getting 1,000 words done. I’ve only managed to do this once or twice and it was exhausting, but effective because I was able to get a lot of words in. So practice turning off your inner editor until you can just write with no judgement from yourself, and then you’ll be really ready for NaNoWriMo.
It’s also a really good way to find a local writing group since states are broken down into regions. Who knows? You might just be able to find your next writer friend at a write-in or on one of the forums.
NaNoPrep Everything from brainstorming to what to do after you’ve finished your first draft. There’s also a few resources on character building, discipline and writer’s block, strategies, plot and conflict, setting and worldbuilding, and more! There’s usually stuff to do in the weeks leading up to a NaNoWriMo event, which helps to have an idea of where your story is going before actually writing it.
These are a few of the accounts and boards that have helped me the most, or am just obsessed over.
A Character Stuck in the Story posts everything from humorous relatable posts to things like the inner workings of a castle. They even have this highly useful graphic on how to title a book. If you’re anything like me, this post is a treasure trove!
All of the Prompts is exactly what it sounds like: a whole lot of prompts. They even have handy quick links so you can jump to whatever kind of prompt you’re looking for.
All the Prompts posts more picture prompts than the above blog.
All Write With You as stated on their blog: “posts two prompts daily”
Amanda on Writing (or Writers Write) posts a lot of great things, one of which includes a monthly list of writing prompts to be downloaded in a handy image that could be saved as your lock screen (something I’ve done a lot this year).
Author Beth Reekles I’ve followed her for several years now, since I discovered her on Wattpad shortly before she got her book deal. She shares a lot of helpful information via her blog on Tumblr. (Side note, I think she was one of the very first, if not the actual first author to get picked up through Wattpad and it’s happened a bunch since then. It’s really exciting to see so many writers be able to post their writing somewhere and actually have a real chance at getting picked up by a publishing house.)
A Writer’s Inspirations as stated on her blog: “This blog is meant to help you break through that dreaded writers block or point you towards a good book to read.”
A Writer’s Nook has a lot of first sentence and dialogue prompts.
A Writing Prompt a Day seems pretty self explanatory.
Writer of the Prompts has some fantastic prompts called “kill the cliché” where they twist a common cliché around and make it new again.
A Writer’s Nook has this amazing masterpost on character ideas, design ideas, naming help, creating background/backstory, and character interactions and putting your character into your world/story.
A Writer’s Nook also has this masterpost of elemental abilities.
All Write With You shares 60 awesome search engines for serious writers
30 days of world building My go to for when I’m starting a new world. It’s set up slightly more for Sci-Fi than Fantasy, but easily adaptable.
Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions Literally every question you would ever want or need in this. It’s got it all-and neatly split up into categories, and subcategories, which makes me even happier.
Inkarnate is a newer source I’ve discovered for creating maps that I’m super excited to begin playing with as I develop my current fantasy project.