Yep, I'm sticking the disclaimer right there in the title - just so's we can all be clear. It's all too easy to get distracted and procrastinate-y about the serious business of Getting The Writing Done; there are emails, social media sites, blogs, etc. Not to mention that all-important, pseudo-writing 'activity' we like to call 'research.' *Looks shifty, closes a couple of internet windows YOU DID NOT SEE, 'cause they WEREN'T THERE...*
And these five sites are, if you're in the mood for some good old-fashioned work-avoidance, potential time-thieves. Sure, they're fun. They might help you think creatively. They might even give your ego a wee boost. But, if you're spending large chunks of time on them you're doing that instead of writing. That's me trying to be like your mum just before I morph into the irresponsible auntie, by the way. So I suggest you use them with caution; as a reward for getting your stuff done, perhaps - or a way of jump-starting your creative... spark plug... thingies when you're feeling blocked. (Note to self: maybe don't use complicated car metaphors when you don't even drive.)
So - like those celebratory cake moments you have every once in a while on your diet programme (what? Doesn't everyone have them?) here they are - in no particular order...
1 - freerice.com
There are two reasons this site is awesome (and a potential time-thief.) Reason one: you get to test your knowledge in eight different academic subjects - which is pretty useful (and of course fun) for any writer. But reason two: for every correct answer you get, the site donates ten grains of rice to the World Food Programme. Which sounds like a piddling little amount... but you can rack up a bowlful of rice in mere minutes. You win a free meal for a hungry child, simply by having fun on a website. What's not to love about that?
2 - Pulp-o-mizer
If you write sci-fi novels - or even if you'd like to see a sci-fi version of one of your novels - this site is huge fun. It basically allows you to create a book cover in the style of a 'fifties pulp sci-fi magazine. With a wealth of drop-down menu options to select everything from background and foreground pictures to titles and font styles, you can use it to create a gloriously camp version of your current work-in-progress - just for the giggles - or to brainstorm a potential future idea for a story. You can save your creations, and there are even options to get them printed onto merchandise, like mugs, posters, cards and notebooks. You know you want to give it a go...
(the site also includes a random sci-fi title generator, the Pulp Sci-Fi-Title-O-Tron, if you're looking for some wacky writing prompts/creative exercises.)
3 - I Write Like...
Looking for a boost to your battered writer's ego? Or perhaps a disturbing revelation, depending on who you 'get,' I suppose... this site performs a 'statistical analysis' on your prose and compares it (and, by association, you) to whichever famous author you 'write like' (hence the title.) You just copy and paste a decent-sized chunk of your text (at least 400 words) into the window and hit the 'Analyze' button, and your results appear instantly - with a link to the books of said famous author if you should happen to find yourself thinking "Who the heck is he/she?"
Of course this is an analysis done by a computer - that little box that's great at maths but has hopeless people skills - so the results shouldn't be taken too seriously. (Marching into your nearest literary agency screaming "Step aside peasants, for it is now official - I AM the New Ernest Hemingway!" is not recommended, for example.) But it's a fun little exercise - and you might even get a surprise out of it.
4 - Languageisavirus
This site has a load of creative writing games, exercises and prompts for the blocked and/or bored writer. Some of them are a bit pointless (while mildly entertaining, I can't honestly see how some of the text manipulation games - like the WTF-O-Vision, for instance - contribute anything useful to the creative process. But that's just me.) However, their online version of the Poetry Magnet kits - using the styles of famous writers as themes - are a lot of fun, and along with the exercises and prompts there are quotes about writing techniques from famous authors too.
5 - CafePress - Gifts for Writers
This is a site that, once you've had good gander at it, you'll probably want to point out to your nearest and dearest, and get them to bookmark. Because it could come in very handy indeed around - oooh, y'know, Christmas and birthday times? Who knew such a plethora of lovely, writer-themed stuff was out there, just begging to be acquired for the Writer In Your Loved Ones' Life (i.e. you?) Although you might not want to wait long enough for them to get the hint - seriously, there's some awesome stuff there.
Are there any more you could recommend? Sure, I know sites like these are Bad For Productivity and I'm probably corrupting the heck out of all you serious and dedicated writers by even mentioning these sites... but everyone needs to be a little naughty now and then. It can be our little secret. the non-writing Muggles don't need to know what we get up to when they're not looking...