Stuff for Writers: Which Websites Do You Depend On for Inspired Work?

The other day my WiFi went down and I panicked. I needed my writing tools.

Some writers prefer to switch off from the web while they work, because it’s a distraction.

Not me. There are 8 websites that I use almost daily for inspiration, spelling, word generation, title creation and free graphics.

Here they are.

1. Thesaurus.com

Thesaurus.com is part of Dictionary.com. As the name suggests, it’s an online thesaurus, and more*. Even though there is a real thesaurus sitting on my bookshelf, online is easier. I use Thesaurus.com to power up dull sentences on days when everything sounds samey. It’s also handy for for finding material for word clouds (more about those below).
My only criticism? This is an American English dictionary, so when I type in ‘specialise’ or ‘neighbour’, the site will tell me those words don’t exist. It does prompt you with the alternative US spelling, though. I can live with that.

*There’s also a page for Quotes, a Reference Dictionary, plus the highly addictive Word Dynamo (procrastinators beware: the latter is a timeless vocabulary vortex that will suck you in for hours).

2. Pinterest.com

Pinterest is great for visualising ideas, in particular for advertising copy. When I need to write about a product or a service and give my text some soul, an attractive collection of images always helps me think up words that convey powerful emotions. Here’s a board I created for a product, another one for a fiction piece and finally, one for a baking blog.

3. Linguee.com

If you write in different languages, or translate, Linguee.com is better than a dictionary, in my opinion. Why? Because for every word or phrase you search, Linguee gives you various existing translation examples, in context, so that you can decide exactly which meaning or word nuance fits your own.

Linguee is not an automatic online translator. It uses thousands of bilingual texts to offer you examples of existing, official translations, which you can then pick from. Many of the texts used are from multilingual EU documents or patent specifications, so you can get translations for a wide variety of legal and technical vocab too.

4. Piktochart.com

If you need to jazz up an article, and like fiddling with easy DYI graphic design, consider infographics, made easy by Piktochart. Out of all the free infographic sites out there, I found this one the easiest to use, to have the best selection of icons and fonts, and the coolest layouts and colour palettes. Horses for courses, of course, but here’s one I made earlier (scroll down when the blog post opens).

6. Wordle.net or WordItOut.com

Need a custom made image for your article? Not good at photography or infographics? Maybe your tour topic is too abstract, or you just cannot find the perfect image to match your text? Word clouds work really well, when you’re stuck for pics.

There are various sites that generate word clouds, but Wordle.net and WordItOut.com are easy to use and the results look pretty good. You can save and download the pics easily or have them sent to your email. Plus they’re totally free.


7. Wordstream.com Long Tail Keyword Generator

OK, there’s much debate about this, but I personally favour long tail keywords in my content. LTK’s may mean fewer, more specific searches that lead to your article – and therefore less traffic. But by the same logic, you’re generating more finely targeted interest.

Check out the Wordstream.com Long Tail Keyword Generator – I find it great for dreaming up effective titles and article descriptions for content marketing pieces.

8. BBC.co.uk/news

love the Beeb News website. Apart from the wealth of information available, it’s one of the clearest and best laid out sites for readers.

It’s also great for finding inspired ideas for short story plots. I go directly to the “Most read” and “Most shared” tags or forrage around the “Also in the news” page to get ideas… because the funny thing about the BBC site is that even though it’s mostly serious mainstream news reporting (and supposedly brings current affairs to the more discerning reader), you’ll still get the occasional weird or scandalous headline coming up.

Unless you’re a very incurious person, “Angry Pundits Wreck TV Studio on Air” and “Stars Boycott Beverly Hills Hotel” are highly clickable headlines – and therefore provide excellent material for intriguing short stories, or starting points for longer fiction plots.

So, that’s me.

Which online writers’ tools can you not live without?

Found this useful? Follow me on LinkedIn.


Featured image credit: By Janaka Dharmasena at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Comic strips writers' inspiration, Uncategorized

Cool sites to inspire your writing: Make your own Marvel comic strip

Fancy making your own comic strip?

When a designer friend told me about Marvel’s create-your-own-comic page, I dropped everything and headed straight over.

At the Marvel.com site you can effectively build your own story board, ranging from 1 or 2-square mini strips to a full 22-page book.

When you’re done, just save it, download it, embed it…


…or print it. It’s all yours, for free, as long as you register.

The Marvel comic builder allows you a choice of characters, backgrounds, speech bubbles and cool sound effects (Fwoosh! Whump! Klang!) that are easy to drag, drop and size up.

Why am I blogging this?

Well, it’s no coincidence that many advertising creatives and film directors work with story boards to create early visual realities for their narratives. Comics also allow you to give a beginning/middle/end structure to your piece, plan dynamic action sequences, as well as help you to develop three-dimensional characters.

The downside? If you’re a comic loving work-procrastinator like me, this site could be potential hell.

Found this useful? Follow me on LinkedIn.


ZOMBIE POST: Top 10 Tools to Prevent Blog Plagiarism

My designer friend’s website was recently plagiarised.

After lawyers got involved and a bit of a battle ensued, the copycats were finally beaten and the site was taken down.

So I thought it would be a good time to resurrect this old blog post. How often do you check the web to see if your written content is being copied?

Check the below Top 10 List. It compiles ten of my favourite tools you can use to protect your blog or website from intellectual property thieves… now complete with a snazzy new infographic you can print and pin on your office board.



They’re out there, the thieves and the plagiarists.

If you live in fear having your content stolen and pasted somewhere else on the web, then here’s what to do.

1. Establish Google Authorship

For this, you’ll need a Google+ Account. If you don’t have one already, set one up here. Next, follow these instructions to claim authorship of any of your articles, pages or websites.

2. Use Copyscape.com

Copyscape is a site where you can type in your URL, or paste your text content, to check if anybody has published the same (or very similar) content to yours. They have a free service, which allows you a limited number of checks to see if anyone has lifted your writing onto their own site. Check out their intro video for more information:

3. Set up Google Alerts when you publish content

You can also use Google Alerts to keep an eye on your published content. If you don’t already have an account with Google, set one up here and then log into your account. (Then follow the GA instructions to create an alert.)

Ideally your alert should be the title of your article in quotation marks, for example “Top 10 Tips for Easier Travel Blogging”. But you should also set up a few other alerts that are variations on your title or combinations of your main keywords. Many copycats only rearrange your title names instead of thinking of a completely different title to yours. Entering a few different word combinations that mimic your original title will give you a wider net to catch any thieves.

4. Look for copied content on Google

You can also check for copies of your work manually on Google, by cutting and pasting a section of your content into a Google search box. If matching stuff comes up on other sites, then you’ll know it’s been stolen.

5. Photo attribution

If you post original photographs or graphics, then be sure to name yourself as the source. When you upload an image onto a site, many blog templates and website photo upload windows offer fields where you can enter the photo’s caption or title, description, location and sometimes, a licensing box. It is in the latter, where you should add your name or your company name as the image source. Alternatively, you can also mention your ownership in the photo caption, or in the blog post, article, web page where your photo is published. You can also use a photo watermark.

It goes without saying that if you are using someone else’s photograph or image, you also give them credit, even if the photo is from a free stock photo site. (When using royalty free stock photos, always read the Terms & Conditions carefully to understand the extent of the license – many ‘free’ stock photographs only allow non-commercial use).

6. Traffic analysis

Check your blog’s or website’s traffic analysis. If you see a sharp increase in traffic from one particular site, visit them. They might have been visiting you just to copy your content and paste it onto their own pages.

7. Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin

If you’re using a WordPress.org site, then you can install this plugin. Apart from many other invaluable features, WordPress SEO lets you add code to your RSS feed, resulting in a link being inserted in any of your content that is published elsewhere online. This link will then point back to your website. We all know the value of link backs to our sites. These links, however, are not of high value. But hey, at least they’re there.

8. Creative Commons

If you do want to let people share and republish your work, as long as they give you credit as the author and don’t profit from your intellectual property, free Creative Commons licenses are a good option. Creative Commons is a non-profit organisation. CC licenses and badges let you protect your authorship, yet share it at the same time. Check out their introductory page and video here to find out about their licenses and how they work.

9. Sign up with DMCA

DMCA is “the global leader in DMCA Copyright Infringement Takedowns”. Takedown meaning literally that: if someone has copied your stuff, they’ll take it down.

If you register with DMCA, you get their free service that includes a free DMCA badge to put on your web pages.


You can also add a badge to other content, like media. You’ll also get 1 free takedown per year, monitoring of your DMCA badges through their portal, plus a few other bits and bobs including a discount on their professional service.

If you need more than one takedown, you can do it using DMCA’s DIY method at about $10/month or pay them to do it professionally, starting at $199.

10. Help protect other writers

Keep an eye out for plagiarized content that looks or reads the same as a fellow creative’s work. Advise them, if you think their work has been plagiarized.

What to do if your content has been stolen?

Check out this excellent article on SEOSandwitch.com to find out how to deal with a content thief.

Have you ever had your writing copied? Tell me your story! Make sure you leave your comment below, telling me how you dealt with the thief.



View Johanna’s complete writer’s portfolio or ‘Like’ her Facebook Writer’s Page

Featured image credit: youthvoices.net



And the winners are…

As promised, here’s a little info about the two lucky peeps who won my June competition.

Both get 500 words of web content (or indeed any other text) totally FREE.

One of the winners is Rachid from the UK. He is a graphic designer, who also creates front end graphics for apps and websites. In his spare time he’s a multi-talented man who brews beer and tends to a very large vegetable plot at the bottom of his garden. The day I contacted him, he had apparently been busy propping up his perilously sagging raspberries…! Rachid is also fit as a fiddle and just ran his first mountain marathon last week in North Wales. Nice! You can find out more about Rachid’s fab work at The Upright One’s Facebook Fan Page.

Our other joint winner, Stephen, is a bit of a petrol head. Well, in my books anyway, because he rides motorbikes, plus he’s dead talented at fixing anything on wheels with a motor. Stephen hails from Gibraltar and was watching a Star Wars film when I contacted him to say that he’d won the competition. I hope you got to watch the end of the film, Stephen? Although he is not really quite sure what on earth he is going to do with these 500 words yet, I hope he’ll find a good purpose for them. Maybe he’ll let me create a wee website for him?

So there we are. Congratulations to both, and I’ll post more details about the projects each winner gives me at a later date.

Have a great summer week you all.


Keeping Google Happy

MC900434734The current trend in internet marketing is based almost entirely on good content. To rank high in Google searches, your web content has to be:

  • Rich in facts, figures, prices, concepts and/or ideas
  • Relevant
  • Well researched
  • Of an appropriate length

Try not to duplicate stuff within your own site. Google rejects content it considers redundant, so a SEO tactic based on fresh, creative material is what works best.

TOP TIP: Have you tried things alternative to textual content? Like podcasts, infographics or videos?


Tip – Back Links

The thing that takes most time with building traffic to a website, is building back links. These are incoming links to your website.

You need to do this, if you want to rank high in Google searches.

How do you get back links from high quality content?

The answer is, by creating a loyal online audience. How do you do this? By giving them something of value on your site, something for them to keep returning to. This could mean providing varied content in the form of blogs, forums, videos, etc.

When you have a large and loyal community hanging on your every word, then you can expect a wide range of back links that will bring traffic to your blog posts or to your site.

If you want to raise the numbers of back links to your blog or website, connect with your audience first via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Tell them the benefits of linking with your Home or About page and ask them to connect to your site. This will begin the link building process.



ID-10085359Thanks for coming by – I’m always happy to get a visit from long time clients and new friends.

These blog posts will always aim to be short and sweet.

Here you’ll find easy to understand articles to help you get to grips with blogging and web content terminology and concepts. Apart from practical tips, I will also be posting basic SEO and blogging lessons once or twice a week.

Look forward to seeing you around!


(Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net)