Who doesn’t love free? Here’s the first of a few round-ups of best free resources for writers on the web.
Check out Duotrope’s Digest, an incredibly complete online directory of markets for short stories, poetry, and nonfiction. You can sort by genre, word count, and many other useful fields. A great place to start to learn the markets, although it’s generally a good idea to read a sample before you send. They’ll send you a weekly email too, if that’s your preference.
Funds for Writers has a great weekly free email with mainly nonfiction markets and contests. Occasionally they’ll have links to freelance jobs and story markets as well. Hope does a great job at giving great resources, though be warned you’ll need to scroll down pretty far in the email to get to the good stuff.
Winning Writers also has a pretty extensive list of competitions writers can enter, with the majority of the contests and emphasis being on poetry.
For getting started quickly, nothing beats setting up your own submissions tracker in Excel on your own computer or online in a spreadsheet at Google Docs. The two formats will talk nicely to each other, and you can share your spreadsheet with another person if you want to have a joint tracker. Putting it online also means you can access your tracker from anywhere, always a nice thing for responses on vacations.
When you set up your homemade tracker, make sure to include fields for your story name, the name of publication, editor name, website of publication (so you can find it later), how you contacted, when you expect to hear a response, and finally whether or not it was accepted and how. Sounds like a lot, but it’s always nice to be able to go back through and see what your success rate is.
For those who want something more formal, Duotrope also offers a nice submission tracker via a free account.
Space Jock, programmer extraordinaire, has a submission tracking tool as well. I’ve heard great things about him and his software in general and this one in specific.
My personal favorite submissions tracker is StoryTracker in the Apple Apps Store (you can access through the Store tab on iTunes). There’s a free version and a paid version and the user interface is easy to understand. I’ve been using this one for several months now and LOVE the expected response time feature.
Word Processors, Spreadsheets, Etc.
For those who love free and have a new computer, Open Office gives you all the productivity of Microsoft with none of the cost of Word/Excel/Powerpoint. Plus, all their documents are compatible with Word, etc. so your friends can still open your files. Rumor has it that Java has a free suite like this but I haven’t found anyone who’s actually used it yet.
I’ve mentioned Google Docs before but will do so here again. While I’m not always a fan of web-hosted documents, for writers there can be a great reason to be able to access your story from anywhere. You can also work directly from their software by choosing “Documents” from the top menu in your Gmail account if you have one. It also works as a good solution for collaborating with someone who doesn’t live in your city.
Be a good citizen
While we all love free, a lot of these resources took a great deal of time and effort to build. If you love a program and use it a lot, be a good global citizen and donate to the developer. Even $5 or $10 goes a long way to helping them have the time to create the next big thing we all want to see. Wouldn’t you want someone to help support you?