Indie Writer Starter Kit - Tools for the Frugal Author

One of the underlying themes of this blog has been finding cost-effective (i.e., free) tools available to writers. Below is a list of my favorite free tools that I use and find very helpful and effective. Together, these resources provide an excellent starting kit for any aspiring writer:

WRITING
For writing your novel, yWriter5 is a free word processing software (for Windows PCs) that has a ton of features to help you plan, plot, organize, rearrange and analyze your work in progress, all from within the program. It is the best free writing software I've ever encountered. If you're interested in Scrivener, but want to try a similar program at no cost, give yWriter5 a shot. You can find my full review of yWriter5 here.

EDITING
Pro Writing Aid (PWA). Cut and paste up to 3,000 words into the PWA online editor and receive 19 writing reports for free. The full feature package costs $35 a year. Use PWA to polish your work and identify weaknesses in your writing. I've tried a lot of online editing programs over the years, and PWA is still my favorite.

LEARNING VIA BLOGS
Indies Unlimited is a blog with more resources than I can cover here. If you're looking for a comprehensive website about writing, this is as close to one-stop-shopping as I have found. As a brief overview, Indies Unlimited posts articles on all segments of the indie publishing industry; provides a platform for authors to receive advice from industry veterans; lists writing contests and magazines which accept submissions; offers opportunities for authors to showcase their works; and contains a Knowledge Base and Resource Pages for an innumerable amount of topics related to writing.

Jami Gold, Paranormal Author has an excellent blog which features posts specifically on the craft of writing. In addition, Jami blogs about other writing-related topics like e-book pricing studies and where to find beta readers. Jami's website also has an excellent collection of workshops and 'worksheets for writers'. Jami posts frequently and has a treasure trove of information for writers on her website. Jami's archives back to 2010 and is searchable, so finding relevant content is easy.

LEARNING VIA E-BOOKS
The e-books below can be downloaded for free online. I've found reading each of them to be worthwhile:

Smashwords Book Marketing Guide By Mark Coker. An easy-to-implement guide on how to market e-books.

The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success By Mark Coker. The 30 best practices of bestselling self-published e-book authors.

Put the Cat In the Oven Before You Describe the Kitchen By Jake Vander Ark. Twenty writing tips for novice (and intermediate) writers.

The New Author by R.A. Barnes is no longer free, but a still-bargain at $1.06.

SPREADSHEET
I'm kind of a spreadsheet junkie, and I use them a lot for my writing. Windows Excel is generally the default spreadsheet, but if you don't have Excel, Google Sheets is an excellent free alternative. I personally use Excel because I own it, but I have experimented with Sheets enough on my tablet to recommend it. If you want to learn more, GCF LearnFree.org has some fantastic learning tools for Google Sheets, and a whole lot more.

FILE BACKUP
If you don't already use The Cloud to back up your files, Google Drive and Dropbox are two proven websites that allow you a large amount of online storage for free.

ORGANIZING YOUR RESEARCH
Evernote is a web application (the Basic version is free) that lets you clip content from anywhere on the web and save it to your Evernote account, where you can organize it, label it, add tags, and more. Evernote syncs across your phone, computer, and mobile devices, so anything you find on the Internet can be cataloged and saved for future reference.

MIND MAPPING (CAPTURING IDEAS)
Mind mapping (aka concept or mental mapping) is a process designed to organize ideas into a visual outline format where you capture your concepts on a chart that can be expanded, modified, prioritized, and rearranged as you need.  I use a free program called VUE, but I've also used MindMup, which lets you save directly to Google Drive.

So there you have it--free tools to write, edit, organize, learn, brainstorm, and back up your files. This is really the tip of the iceberg as far as free resources go. If you search my blog, you can find posts about free resources for video making, royalty-free music and images, book promotion, and more. I also have a page on my website (Links for Indie Writers) with a plethora of hyperlinks to all kinds of great websites for writers. Feel free to check it out when you get a chance.

Author Update:  I'm  writing the first draft of Warlock & Wyrm, Book III of The Oxbow Kingdom Trilogy and recently passed the 53,000 word mark. If you'd like to try the trilogy, you can get a free copy of Crimson & Cream at Smashwords with this code: JH88U.