2003, 2004, 2005 & 2006: Named one
of the 101 best Web sites for writers by Writers Digest Magazine.
10 Useful Web Sites For
Writing from home is very different from working in an office. There are more demands on your time, from household chores to children. You finally get things under control and the minute you go online, a telemarketer calls and knocks you off. You need to find information, and fast! You also need to figure out what’s for dinner and help the kids with their homework. You need a list of some of the best sites for finding what you need in a hurry and without losing your mind. Here are the sites that will help you do what you need to do. Best of all, they’re all free!
Journalist Express - I have this as my home page and it’s a great portal to almost anything you need to find. The page is broken down into five sections – Personal, where you can add links to sites you write for or favorite market lists; The Top Stories, links to wire services, networks and newspapers and package tracking; Research & Resources, which has links to reference sites, statistics, search engines and databases; People & Characters, containing links to Congress, embassies and other people finders; and Slow News Day, which is full of links for creatively goofing off. There’s so much information here and it’s easy to spend lots of time poking around.
Power Reporting - This site is similar to Journalist Express but has even more links, many arranged by beat. The drawback is that there’s no way to customize it with your own pages. That’s a small disadvantage, easily outweighed by the vast amount of information that’s available there. If you need ideas for an article, look around the site for a bit and you’ll find something to spark your imagination.
Google - No matter what you’re looking for, Google will find it for you and give you more returns than you’ll know what to do with. There are lots of other search engines out there, but none gives you as much as Google. For fun, I typed in “left handed Lithuanians” and I actually found something. If Google can’t find it, nobody else will either.
RefDesk - Back in the Dark Ages (before the Internet), writers were advised to have a dictionary, a thesaurus, an encyclopedia and a few market books on their desks at all times. Thanks to Refdesk, you can have all these (except the market books) on one page! There’s also worldwide census information, currency converters, Nielsen ratings and so much more. If you need statistics, this is a great place to look.
ProfNet - You need an expert in early childhood education and your kids are too small to go to school. Where are you going to find one? Prof Net! They have experts in almost every field you can think of, and a few you haven’t. Look around in your field of interest and you’ll find story leads too! Now if they could only load the dishwasher…
Nick Jr - You need a few minutes to finish a column, the kids are sick and you don’t want to resort to a video. Nick Jr. is the companion Web site to Nickelodeons children’s programming and has free printables and crafts for kids based on popular characters like Blue and Dora the Explorer. Print up a few, dig out the crayons and make the most of those precious quiet moments.
Betty Crocker – What’s On Hand - Ok, this won’t help you finish that 1,500 word article on compost. What it will do is give you ideas for dinner. Check the boxes next to whatever staples you have in the house and Betty will give you lots of fast, delicious recipes. While you’re researching online, open another browser, go to this page and check the appropriate boxes. Find your statistics and learn what you can do with chicken at the same time – multitasking was never so easy!
Wake Up Writing - It happens to all of us – we finally get a few quiet moments and we can’t think of a single thing to write. We need writing prompts and Wake Up Writing has them. Pour a cup of coffee, log on and get going.
Learning Meditation - This happens to all of us too – the phone rings off the hook, the kids demand something every two seconds, someone wants dinner, the dogs are barking and you’re on deadline. Your nerves are shot and a vacation to Antarctica sounds nice. Go to Learning Meditation’s Web site and click on a free guided meditation. The work break and stress reduction ones are quite relaxing. I had to use them twice during the writing of this article.
My Homework Helper - It never fails – you’re on deadline (again) and one of the kids appears at your elbow, needing homework help. Even worse, it’s the one subject you never liked. Homework Helper has links to the answers you need, arranged by grade and subject. You’ll find this section if you fully explore the Refdesk site, but it’s not always possible to casually visit every link.
While some say the Internet has only made life more complicated, it’s a boon to home based writers, especially those with children. An expert contacted through a Web site will never know that you posted your question with three children drag racing Power Wheels through the kitchen. An e-mail interview can take place even while breast feeding. Your family won’t care if a recipe comes from a book or a Web site. With a few key Web sites in your Favorites folder, you can keep up with things. Alas, I’ve yet to find a Web site that will clean the house but I wouldn’t be surprised to see one someday.
Sharon Wren is a freelance writer who has been writing online for over five years. She is the Contributing Editor for Wildlife News & Humor Column at Suite 101, is the Managing Editor for Humor and Satire there and writes humor columns for Laughter Loaf and Absolute Write. She also writes about gardening and parenting. She wrote two books last year, "Overworked & Underpaid" for Albooktross.com and "Dr. Spock Never Said It'd Be Like This" for Self Help Guides.com.
She lives on an island on the Mississippi River with her husband, two small
sons, 5 dachshunds, 2 cats and assorted ducks, geese and other critters. Her web
address is http://i.am/overworkedandunderpaid.com.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.