We live in a digital age on the cusp of the singularity but before we can download fully formed stories from our brains to our hard drives there are some fantastic software tools that make it very easy to keep on top of your writing.
I’d like to share with the you tools I use everyday to write this blog, my eBooks and many other writing projects. I use all of these tools from inspiration to execution. So, without further ado and in no particular order here are my top 5 best software tools for writers you should at least pay some attention to.
If you haven’t heard of this program before I cannot recommend it highly enough. If, like me, you’ve wrestled with the peculiarites of Microsoft Word to try and format an eBook, you’ll be amazed at the power of Scrivener. This is a word processing program that has been designed by writers for writers. There is much to recommend but I particularly love the way you can drag scenes around in any order you want. While Microsoft Word just gives you a single continuous scrolling page to work on, Scrivener allows you to chunk your writing into scenes. You can reorder the scenes as much as you like. There is even an index card ‘corkboard’ which allows you to drag and reorder your scenes to your heart’s content. Just try reordering your scenes in MS Word. You’ll have to cut and paste and create chaos and headaches galore on the way. Scrivener has been designed to follow a writers workflow, not a computer programmers. Once you have your scenes in order, you can drag and drop them into chapters and complile your book into PDF, ePUB, MOBI and many other formats. Scrivener comes loaded with templates for Novels, eBooks, Theatre and Movie Scripts as well as many non-fiction templates. You can get a free trial of Scrivener here.
2) Write Or Die
This is a fun way to cure writers block. The aim of the game is to write write write. You simply set your targets when you start (the default is 500 words in 20 minutes) though I set a target of 1000. Once you hit the ‘Start Writing’ button the panic is on! If you write too slow or stop, the screen quickly turns blood red. This an ominous sign that even worse is about to happen. If you don’t pick up the pace some very loud and discordant music will kick in until you start writing again. The entire idea is to just use it a motivational tool to free write. Get those associations out and flowing and worry about editing later. You can get a free trial of Write or Die here.
3) Pomodoro Timer
Without a doubt, the best productivity technique around is The Pomodoro Technique. No, It’s not what poor Alex was subjected to in a Clockwork Orange. This is a technique based on the humble tomato (Pomodoro) timer. The idea is you work in blocks of time and totally focus on the work at hand. The default is 20 minutes, but it’s easier to keep in the ‘zone’ using 40 minute time blocks. Each block is called a Pomodoro, so you can measure your productivity based on how many Pomodoros you complete each day. When you activate the timer, allow absolutely no distractions until the timer goes off. Focus completely on the task at hand. When the timer sounds, you get up from the keyboard, and take a 5 minute break where you stretch, scratch, do anything you like to have a 5 minute mental holiday from your project. When you go back your attention is renenergised and you can focus on your task with increased energy. It’s an incredibly effective way to get some order into your day and actually hit some measurable goals. One of the biggest barriers to effective writing is being unfocused and distracted. (oh look, a Facebook update!) – Pomodoro Timer will keep your focus, and help you deliver. You can download the MacOS version here. Here’s a link to some PC variations.
If you are not using Evernote yet, one word for you. DO. Evernote is a note taking app. It does much, much more then just take simple notes. Evernote allows you to organise notes on multiple projects on multiple devices and keeps them all in sync. This is incredibly powerful for a writer. With the free Evernote App on your smart phone, computer and iPad – and a free evernote account, you are able to take notes, write down ideas, bookmark websites and attach your research to a project on whatever device you are using. So if you’re sitting down the coffee shop and inspiration strikes, you can fire up Evernote, save or edit your note to your project folder and voila. When you get back to your workstation, Evernote is already synced and like magic your idea is ready for use. You’ll never lose an idea again. I use Evernote to write all my blog posts, from rough ideas, to research through to final editing. I’m able to do that anywhere I have my iPhone or iPad. Evernote will even let you capture voice notes, video, bookmarks and more. Best of all, Evernote syncs with Scrivener to create an awesome workflow. Evernote is also available for PC and Android. You can download Evernote here .
5) Google Calendar
I use this all the time to rough out a project time line on my various writing projects. Google will send an email each day to remind my if I’m running behind or on schedule with certain projects. This is a great organisational tool if, like me, you are juggling multiple projects. All you need to know about Google Calendar is right here.
Milanote is a tool for organizing your creative projects into beautiful visual boards. Created to replicate the feeling of working on a wall in a creative studio – visual, tactile and sometimes a bit messy – Milanote is a great fit for freelancers in both the marketing and design spaces. Milanote has heaps of built-in templates to help you get started with a variety of different projects, from creating a moodboard to set out the visual direction for a project, to writing that perfect creative brief. Its sharing features make it a great option for those who regularly provide work to clients for feedback.
Milanote’s basic plan is available for free with no time-limit.
So, there you have it. This is my personal A list. My 6 best software tools for writers. I’m not an affiliate for any of these products. I just like using them because they make writing a much easier and enjoyable task.