The Internet is amazing. A computer (or a phone), a wireless connection, and some time is all it takes to put the world at your fingertips. As most web-savvy users know too well, however, the world is a very vast place, and discovering that one little piece of information you need can be like hunting down a lost earring post in a shag carpet.
Over the years, I’ve gathered my own personal cache of helpful Internet resources, and in the spirit of saving writers everywhere a bit of that most valuable of all commodities, I’ve decided to share them with you.
AskOxford—Writing tips and other fun stuff straight from the experts.
Critters—Receive constructive critiques of your fiction manuscripts. (Speculative fiction only.)
Similepedia—Have fun browsing some of the best—and worst—similes in literature.
Quick & Dirty Grammar Tips—Take a peek at the Grammar Girl’s one-bite grammar tips and be sure to sign up for her weekly e-letter.
OneLook Reverse Dictionary—Know the definition but not the word? Look it up here.
Pain in the English—“Forum for the gray areas of the English language.”
AllExperts—Quick, easy access to a host of experts on every imaginable subject. Submit questions and receive prompt, comprehensive answers.
Bartleby—Searching for that perfect quote? Bartleby, “the preeminent publisher of literature, reference and verse,” is the place to go.
Answers.com—Search engine, online dictionary, encyclopedia, and generally handy reference tool.
Historical Maps of the World—Although you can purchase hardcopies of the maps, the online versions come in handy for quick references.
Google Help: Cheat Sheet—Streamline your Google searches to get the best results.
Historical Replicas—Need to know what your character would have worn during the Civil War? Check out this online catalog to browse costumes and props from throughout the 19th century.
HowStuffWorks—Discover the inner workings of everything from cars to cockroaches.
LibrarySpot—Use this engine to search through a horde of heavy-duty resources, including newspapers and online libraries.
Our Timelines—Create personal timelines for historical characters to discover what happened during their lifetime.
Wikipedia—Although written by the public and therefore far from infallible, Wikipedia remains one of the best and most comprehensive resources on the web.
Best of History Websites—Some nice person did a nice thing and compiled a wide range of historical websites all into one place.
Gutenberg Project—Makes available hundreds of classic books, in toto, at no charge.
Yahoo! Groups—Joining a special interest group on Yahoo can put the answers of experts right at your fingertips.
Yahoo! Answers—If you don’t want to take the time to join a group, Yahoo! Answers will publish your questions and allow other browsers to post their opinions. I’ve gathered quite a bit of good preliminary research through this site.
Information Please—Offers stats (including world events, economics, sports, and entertainment) for every year from 1900-2008.
Odin’s Castle of Dreams and Legends—A handy compilation of medieval websites.
Old West Dictionary—Fun reading on the slang of the Old West.
Old West Slang—More western terminology.
A 19th Century Slang Dictionary—More old-time slang, but not limited to cowboys this time.
The Code of the West—Learn about the chivalry of the west.
Elizabethan Online Dictionary—Get all your thee’s and thou’s straight.
Elizabethan Insults—Learn how to write insults with a Shakespearean flare.
Conjugater—Need to figure out how to conjugate a snippet of dialogue in another language? Here’s your exit.
The Costumer’s Guide to Movie Costumes—Although it focuses primarily on female costumes, this site is a treasure trove of inspiration. Watch out—it’s addicting!
Scholarpedia—Wikipedia for the brainy.
ManyBooks—Free e-books galore.
Popular Baby Names—Character names are tough. Use the Social Security Administration’s records of baby names to slap the right moniker on your next character.
Victorian Era Names, A Writer’s Guide—Names from the turn of the century.
Fantasy Name Generator—Set the specifications to your needs and generate dozens of names at a time.
The Elvish Name Generator—Discover your personal elvish (or hobbit) name.
Sean Puckett—Random Word Generator—According to the site: “...if you want to generate some new girl’s names, feed it a list of girl’s names, and it will take them apart and discover how to make girl’s names, then come up with a list of words that are very similar, but probably never before seen.”
Author Marketing Experts, Inc.—Author and publicist Penny Sansevieri offers a slew of helpful marketing tips. Be sure to subscribe to her weekly e-letter.
CAN—The Christian Authors Network (CAN) blog offers accessible and timely marketing tips.
Christian Writers—Hang out of with writers from all walks of life and levels of experience, submit work for critique, talk shop, and enjoy one of the most encouraging atmospheres on the web.
MySpace—The networking site, both for personal and professional needs (though Facebook and Twitter are catching up).
ShoutLife—A Christian alternative to MySpace. Includes special features for authors.
AuthorNation—An online community, powered by Infinity Publishing, where authors and readers can mingle.
AuthorsDen—Similar to AuthorNation. Claims to be “the largest most vibrant free online literary community of authors and readers! Visited by 1,400,000+ readers/mo.”
Flickr—Need a free pic for your blog? Flickr is probably the best photo-sharing site on the web.
MorgueFile—Although not as large as Flickr, MorgueFile presents a large database of license-free photos.
So now that you know all my secret resources, go out and conquer the world (or at least the web)! And feel free to share some of your own favorite writing-related sites.