October 13, 2015

Writing Tools: Killer Resources for Drafting Our Story — Guest: Angela Ackerman

Library bookshelves with text: Resources & Tools for Writers

I’m beyond excited for today’s guest post. I started visiting the original The Bookshelf Muse website by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi soon after they started it, and it’s been fantastic to see their vision grow.

It’s no secret that I love their The Emotion Thesaurus book. I’ve talked about how the final piece I needed to push my writing to the level needed to win contests was creating an emotional connection in my stories—and it was due to what I learned from the ET that I reached that level.

Heck, I’ve written a post about all the ways the ET can help our writing. I’ve also had Becca here to share tips on how to use their followup books, The Negative Trait Thesaurus and The Positive Trait Thesaurus. Yeah, love their work…

So I’m thrilled to welcome Angela here today, as she’s going to share more writing-related goodies with us. *smile* Please welcome Angela Ackerman!


What’s In Your Toolbox? Killer Resources For Writers

by Angela Ackerman

Nanowrimo is coming, and writers everywhere are turning their minds to what they should write about come November 1st. And as they plot and strategize how to get those 50,000 words, tools often come into play. Tools can be an effective way to keep ourselves organized, on task, and fueled with inspiration.

Most of us know about the biggies like Scrivener (Windows and Mac), Auto Crit and EverNote (all terrific resources, and ones you should check out!) but what about lesser known tools that really deserve a spin? Read on and maybe discover a new tool or two to add to your collection.


If you are looking for a distraction-free setting with a clean layout for organizing your ideas and characters to access while writing the story, Yarny fits the bill.  It doesn’t take long to figure out like some writing software out there, it’s easy to use, and the fact that it is cloud-based means you can write from anywhere, which we all know is helpful during NaNoWriMo season.


There’s a free version, or upgrade for access to paid features and increased functionality.  You can export your work easily, backing it up on your desktop.

The OneLook Reverse Dictionary

I have been using this tool for almost as long as I’ve been a writer. This simple-looking dictionary is actually powerfully helpful when it comes to description…especially when you aren’t quite sure what it is you are trying to describe!

For example, maybe you wish to weave in a mood like unease or even fear into your story. Pop your idea into the reverse dictionary and a wealth of options comes back—things to incorporate into your scene, elements to set the mood, etc.

Reverse Dictionary screenshot

You can narrow the results by parts of speech, giving you ideas for strong verbs which will reinforce the message or feeling, descriptive adjectives to show rather than tell, and a host of other things. Type in a word or a phrase and see what comes out!

Jami Gold’s Worksheets for Writers

Not all powerful writing tools are their own website, and such is the case with Jami’s wonderful collection of writing worksheets. Regardless if you are an intensive planner or a semi-pantser, her worksheets are NaNoWriMo gold (sorry for the name pun, Jami, but I had to go there because your stuff is so helpful!). (Ha! And thanks! ~ Jami)

The Basic Beat Sheet set to 85K words

Doing some pre-planning might mean the difference between a finished NaNo novel, and one that runs out of gas at the halfway mark.


I don’t know about you, but often I like to visualize the story as I plan, and MindMeister makes a great visual mapping tool to organize the different pieces of a novel.

Screenshot of hero's journey mind map

There are many ways you can use this resource to plot, show the relationship between characters, build a timeline, brainstorm conflict that occurs both within the character and through outside forces…the list is endless. You can upload images and video and embed them right in the map, which is pretty neat.

The free version allows for 3 mind maps, and the paid plans offer a lot of value. Here’s a public map that incorporates video to get an idea of what that looks like.


This one I’ve just started using, so we will see how it goes. Freedom will block social media sites and email as you request, ensuring you can write without the constant pinging and pop-ups notifying you that someone wishes to interact online.

Social Media is a wonderful way to connect with people all over the world, but sometimes disconnecting can be a challenge. I’m hopeful Freedom will make that easier.

Freedom welcome page

Freedom has a free and paid plan, and will block two sites for free for the time period you set. If your flavor of procrastination is online surfing and it’s keeping you from writing, I’m thinking a subscription will pay for itself many times over.

Additional Focusing Tools

Pomodoro Timer is something I found a few years ago, and wow does this little ticking timer keep me focused. It runs on a pattern: 25 minutes of work, followed by a 5 minute break. This is perfect to remind writers to get out of the chair, stretch, grab a snack or coffee, and then get back to it.

Pomodoro Timer

Another one I enjoy is the site, Rainy Mood. For me, the sound of rain makes some great background “white noise” that allows me to block out distractions and work.

Rainy Mood website

If rain isn’t your thing, try Noisli. You can customize which nature sounds you’d like to listen to, creating a background audio blend that is uniquely you. Or, try their coffeehouse sounds to recreate a busy Starbucks-like setting.

Noisli website

One Stop For Writers

Lastly, I’d like to introduce you to One Stop For Writers, which is a collaboration between myself, my writing partner Becca Puglisi, and Lee Powell, the creator of Scrivener for Windows.  Together we’ve created an online library filled with tools to supply writers with inspiration, education and powerful description resources which will elevate their writing.

One Stop for Writers

Crafting a story is hard work, and we want to help people research and find what they need faster so more of their time is spent getting words on the page.

If you’re familiar with the Thesaurus Collections at Writers Helping Writers and the bestselling resource, The Emotion Thesaurus, you have a good idea of the type of description help you’ll find at One Stop.

And if these are new to you, why not swing by and check us out? Registration is always free.


Angela AckermanAngela Ackerman is a writing coach, international speaker and co-author of several bestselling writing books, including The Emotion Thesaurus.

She loves building communities and her newest project, One Stop For Writers, is a brainstorming library tailored to help writers elevate their storytelling while saving time.

You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook and at her website, Writers Helping Writers.


Thank you, Angela! I wasn’t familiar with all of these resources, so I appreciate getting the inside scoop.

I’m so excited for Angela and Becca’s new One Stop for Writers site—I can’t even tell you. My review/testimonial of the site was…erm, giddy.

“I’ve been a huge fan of the Emotion Thesaurus for years, but One Stop is the ultimate drafting assistant. Like a superhero origin story, One Stop takes the awesomeness of the Emotion Thesaurus, grafts in the other Bookshelf Muse thesaurus entries, and sprouts magic online features to create the writing equivalent of a mythical creature you can’t believe really exists. Like a rainbow-glowing unicorn…with wings.

~ Jami Gold, Author of the Mythos Legacy series”

For the last couple of years, whenever I’ve drafted, I’ve had the PDF version of the Emotion Thesaurus open on my computer. But that’s going to switch over to keeping a tab open to One Stop for Writers from now on because it’s so much more complete.

Even the Idea Generator (in The Stacks section) is addictive. Going far beyond the typical “random whatever generator,” this feature comes up with ideas for Wounds, Complications, Fears, Internal Growth, Likeable Qualities and Behaviors, Quirks, Secrets, and Story Prompts.

“For ideas on possible formative wounds, consider the possibility that your character…

  • learned that the company he worked for betrayed the public’s trust.
  • learned in high school that her coach received money to play certain teammates more often than others.
  • discovered a sibling being abused by a beloved family member or friend.”

As Angela said, registration (and many of the features) are free, so definitely go and check it out! *smile*

What are your favorite writing tools? Were any of Angela’s suggested resources new to you? What tool do you wish existed but you haven’t been able to find yet? (Maybe another commenter will have a suggestion for you!) Do you have any questions for Angela or about One Stop for Writers?


Pin It

Comments — What do you think?

Click to grab Stone-Cold Heart now!
  Subscribe to emails for Comments/Replies on this post  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Lara Gallin
Lara Gallin

This couldn’t come at a better time, I’m half terrified of doing NaNo this year in case last year was just a fluke! There are some great resources here and I’ve immediately signed up to One Stop, I have a feeling it’s going to be well used!

I can fully attest to the benefits of the sounds of nature. I’ve got some amazing ones which I used throughout last year’s NaNo and they’re great for creating a chilled out atmosphere (even more so if you burn some incense sticks) for those moments when you want to throw your laptop out of the window!

Crystal Thieringer

This is great. Like you, Jami, I’m a fan–of Becca and Angela, and you (of course. I doubt I’ll be doing NaNo this year (I’m not a fan of that) but I love this list of tools. I’m also becoming a superfan of the new One Stop. Thanks so much for this. I’m going to share the post. It’s all great stuff. Ladies, you make it all so much easier!

Angela Ackerman

Crystal, you are so very sweet. And very glad to hear you’re a fan of One Stop. We’re excited because this is just the beginning…it will be fun to see what we add next. 🙂

Davonne Burns

These are all great! I too am completely head-over-heels in love with the One Stop website. I adore your description of it Jami!!! It does feel like finally finding that rarest of the rare mythological creature and discovering it’s even better than you imagined.

When it comes to music and noise cancelling I enjoy as it has some fantastic sound generators and atmospheres that can really immerse you in a scene.

I’m looking forward to NaNo this year and expect it to be better than last year, especially with all these great tools!

Angela Ackerman

Davonne, I am so lucky to have all you guys in my corner, and Jami is just the ABSOLUTE BEST, isn’t she? Ahh, I just want to give everyone in this post a big hug.

Thanks for this link–i did not know about this particular site, so I am off to check it out!

Rosalind MGH
Rosalind MGH

I’ve been fiddling around with a pinboard app for iPad and iPhone called Pinnic to help keep track of all of my backstory. I work well when my information is in colorful chunks that can be easily manipulated, and this seems like it will fit the bill.

As a previous poster mentioned, I’m also a bit frightened of NaNoWriMo this year. I finished last year, but there were many desperate moments and I’m STILL having trouble smoothing the completed chapters into something that follows my usual writing rhythm. I have pages (quantity), and far more storyline than I ever managed before in such a short time, but the quality (use of setting and emotional content) I usually have in my early drafts is missing– and my critique group members have gently noticed this.

Rosalind MGH
Rosalind MGH

Oh– and thanks so much, Angela and Co., for putting One Stop For Writers together. I’ve been so excited to have this resource together in one easy-to-access reference and registered as soon as the doors were open!

Angela Ackerman

I hope it is just what you need. We are so happy to see all our descriptive entries FINALLY organized in a way that makes them super easy to search and use. So glad we hooked up with Lee from Scrivener. He’s a great guy & a developing genius. 🙂

Angela Ackerman

Ohhh, another tool! *geeks out* See, this is what I was hoping…a few people would post some new tools for me to check out. For me, Tools are “my strange addiction” LOL.

And you will rock Nano, Rosalind! Good luck!


Thank you Jami and Angela for providing information about these resources. If I use just 1 of these, it will have been more than worth the time spent reading the post (& I will probably use more than 1).

Angela Ackerman

Enjoy browsing through them Chris! 🙂


Thanks for this post, it’s really great. Jami and Angela, you really inspired me! I even decide to try myself at NaNo this year. Besides, there are some other great resources as BlankPage and Unplag. The first one I use for a real distraction writing, I like the reminders and statistics. The second is nice for checking texts for possible duplications against my already written works and for checking across the Internet, of course

Angela Ackerman

Nancy, I haven’t heard of Plag–I will have to check that out! Good luck with Nano! 🙂 *much cheering*


[…] Jami Gold’s Writing Tools: Killer Resources for Drafting Our Story […]

Kait Nolan

The StayFocused extension for Chrome does the same thing as Freedom but allows you to customize what to block or allow (like ambient noise generating sites). For free.

As for ambient noise sites:

Angela Ackerman

Whaaaaaat? I did not know Chrome had that functionality! Ah, that’s terrific! Thanks Kait–can’t wait to take advantage of that. 🙂

Prudence MacLeod

Hey folks, here’s my bit for staying focused. Before starting to write I go to Youtube, search for a few hours of Epic Music, start it up then get busy on the WIP. Works great.

Angela Ackerman

I will occasionally d this as well 🙂

Sue Coletta

Wow. What a fantastic resource this post is. Thank you, Angela and Jami!

Angela Ackerman

Thanks for the visit, Sue! 🙂


[…] A. J. Humpage – Why Character Actions/Reactions Are Important Angela Ackerman – Killer Resources for Drafting Our Story Jonathon Sturgeon – An Introduction to Cosmic Horror (Wait – Lovecraft again?) Oh, yes. […]


This is a Christmas stocking full of goodies for writers! Thanks for posting.

Angela Ackerman

Very glad these are helpful, Mike!

Hans Maerker

Great article and great list of tools. Yet when it comes to ‘mind mapping’, the list is not complete in my opinion. For both kind of writers, those who use Scrivener and those who don’t, is a tool on Scrivener’s website (
The mind mapping tool is called ‘Scapple’ and works as a stand alone software. Those writers who use Scrivener have the advantage, that it seamlessly works together with Scrivener.
Well worth to have a look at it and see its feature screenshots, or watch the short video (
BTW, the video shows the Apple version, but the program is available for both, Windows and Mac .
– hm


[…] Since then, we’ve helped each other out many times over the years. In 2012, we celebrated the release of Emotion Thesaurus with a Random Acts of Kindness Blitz. In 2013, I gave writers advice in their Amazing Race event, helped them launch their then-new Writers Helping Writers site, and shared four common writing problems that their Emotion Thesaurus can help us fix. In 2014, I shared my tips for easy image editing on their site. And just one year ago, I cheered them on for the launch of their One Stop for Writers site. […]

Click to grab Ironclad Devotion now!