Freelance Writing Tips:Tools of the Writing Trade
As writers, it is so very important to utilize the many resources available, as each works to increase productivity, ensures submission of polished content free of senseless grammatical errors and provides for invaluable information aimed at helping writers stay abreast of trends in the markets. Today I have laid out a few useful tools, most of which I currently use myself. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but can instead be viewed as a few essential "nuts n' bolts" of the writing trade.
Dictionary & Thesarus
I keep a Webster's Dictionary and Roget's Thesaurus handy on my desk right next to me as I work. I know that this is the age of computers and the internet, but I still opt for use of a hard-copy dictionary and thesaurus. Online dictionaries and thesauruses are simply a pain because using them requires me to click away from my writing. I'd rather keep my word processor open and work, but you'll have to find what works best for you. There will always be those times when you'll need to check the meaning of words or substitute words to prevent constant repetition. These resources are also helpful for correcting problems with duplicate content.
Grammar handbooks are an important resource for all writers. As most of these books typically include sections on proper use of punctuation, sentence structure and parts of speech, the more comprehensive resources such as A Writer's Reference, have essential information on planning, brainstorming and revision, as well as instructions for writing in MLA, APA and CMS formats. I purchased A Writer's Reference in my early years in college and still do use it today. If you do get one of these handbooks, be sure to get the most recent version because there are a few changes made with each subsequent edition.
Probably the most important tool you'll need, Copyscape is an online software used by people concerned with preventing the publishing of plagiarized submissions. As a writer this is quite significant because submitting duplicate content can lead to you getting fired or being relinquished as a contributor for a client who very likely also makes frequent use of the software. For a few cents each, you can run a completed article through and correct any issues before handing it over to the editor, or selling it on your website.
You'll need to have a way to check for those pesky little errors resulting in misspelled words, omitted words, words that sound the same but spelled different and so on. Using some kind of grammar-checker will reduce errors significantly in submitted work, which makes editors very happy because you've made their job easier. For what it's worth, clients despise getting work that is poorly proofread, full of grammatical and punctuation errors. Word processors typically catch errors as you work, but you should still use something more extensive such as Paperrater (which is free) or Grammarly, which is probably the most comprehensive of the two.
One of the mainstays of the writing business, Writer's Market can prove to be an indispensable product, beneficial for freelance writers, particularly those just starting out. Writer's Market is updated each year with pertinent information for writers, namely all the information about magazines, writer's guidelines, what publishers need and what they pay. It also lists periodicals according to subject area and also has information about publishing companies such as types of writing they publish, manuscript guidelines and who to contact. A wealth of facts are extended to educate writers new to the business about the process of getting their first assignment, markets most open to new writers and how to get a book published.
Writer's Market is a little on the expensive side though, but luckily, most public libraries do carry a copy or two and there's also a website offering monthly subscriptions pretty cheaply ($5/mo. as of 2012) which you can discontinue anytime. The advantage of the online subscription is that the information is frequently updated and tends to be more current than the published print edition. Writer's Market online also provides industry news. Online subscriptions are included in a purchase of 2014 Writer's Market Deluxe Edition.
Submission trackers allow writers to monitor manuscripts and queries. The reason this is important, is that it prevents you from sending out double submissions to the same place. Even more essentially, it provides a tracking mechanism for purposes of following up so so you don't miss out on writing opportunities. Some writers simply create their own with a spreadsheet program, but there are also various tools available online for free and paid subscription.
Mendeley: The Free Reference Manager
Mendeley is an extremely useful tool that I find absolutely necessary for researchers and scientific writers. This manager allows you to find and store numerous PDF's and documents, as well as create in-text citations and bibliographies in any format. Remember when you had to make those dreadful reference pages at the end of your work? This can become quite time-consuming, especially for long term papers, a thesis, book or dissertation. With Mendeley, you just enter the information in the software and it creates the page for you. However, you will need to do some reviewing, tweaking and correcting, but it sure beats doing it all from scratch. What's more is you can share and collaborate with others on a project. It can be accessed across all devices.