Software for Writers

This is a collection of software that I use at least time-to-time (if not constantly) in my writing. Some programs are free, others aren’t…but even those that cost a little are well worth the investment, in my opinion. Remember, these are just tools. They are not the end-all-be-all of your writing process, and you should always experiment to find out what works best for you!

 

WRITING ORGANIZATION

I’m a big proponent of being as organized as possible in your writing. Even writers who don’t outline their stories (“pantsers”) still benefit from having even a bare-bones system in place to help them keep track of their document files, characters, plot points, and story submissions.There are numerous tools out there to help you become a productive, organized writer, and here are the ones I’ve found to be extremely effective.

Buy Scrivener 2.0 for Mac OS X (Regular Licence)

Scrivener is an increasingly popular program designed specifically for writers, and it offers a massive amount of potential to help you get organized. What does Scrivener do? Just about anything.

  • Writing Studio – Whether you’re writing a novel, screenplay, essay, or anything else, Scrivener helps you keep your outlines, notes, images, documents and more all in one place.
  • Corkboard – With virtual index cards, the Scrivener corkboard lets you easily arrange your documents and text however you want, whether by theme, labels, tags, etc.
  • Text editing – Write, format, and revise in a smooth and user-friendly interface that includes full-screen and outline modes.
  • And plenty more!

I cannot recommend Scrivener enough. While it was originally a Mac-only platform, it is now available in a Windows version!

Dropbox - This is a FREE program that makes it incredibly easy to sync your writing files between however many computers you might wish. Just sign up, download the program, and install it on each device you want to sync. It works for PCs, Macs, and Linux. Then add any documents (or other files) to your Dropbox folder on one computer, and they will then be automatically copied over to the rest when those other devices are powered up and online. Any time you work on a document and save it, that most recent version will be synced across the rest of the computers.

 

TIME MANAGEMENT

The unifying challenge of all writers is finding the time to write. Hectic schedules, family demands, your day job, and more all clamor for attention. How are you supposed to find those precious minutes and hours to sit down and write? Here are a some tools I’ve found invaluable in helping me manage my schedule and make the most of my writing sessions.

Focus Booster - Focus Booster is a nifty, FREE tool that helps put you in the writing “zone.” When you start the timer, you get a 25-minute countdown, during which you are supposed to do nothing but write. Then, once that time is up, you get a 5-minute break where you can do whatever you want. Grab a snack. Check your email. Feed the dog (or kids). Whatever. Then it’s back for another 25-minute round of writing productivity. Breaking up the workflow like this is a simple way of keeping you focused while not letting you burn out.

Freedom - Are you spending hours browsing forums, Twitter, checking out pictures on Facebook, or otherwise frittering away your time online? This for-purchase program, at the click of a button, cuts you off from all Internet access for a predetermined time. No emails. No browsing. Nothing but pure writing bliss. And they don’t make it easy to cheat either. To turn the Internet back on before your time is up means having to entirely reboot your computer! Not free, but $10 isn’t outrageous, especially for the chance to boost your writing productivity.

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Anti-Social – This app is similar to Freedom, but slightly less restrictive. Rather than cutting off your internet access entirely, you can specify the websites and networks you want to be barred from for a certain time period. So if you’re dithering on Facebook and Twitter too much, this can help you focus while still giving you the ability to check your email or other essentials. I use this for days when I’m working on freelance projects and need to be available to clients online but want to avoid getting sucked into various time-sinks.

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RescueTime – Track your daily online and general computer activity to see where you’re spending your time. Set alerts to remind yourself when you’ve spent too much time gaming or on social networks. Get reports that break down your productive efforts compared to time that was just frittered away. Now, this app doesn’t necessarily enforce a more work and writing-focused day, but is designed just to give you the info you need to act upon. The actual length to which you apply any positive change is up to you.

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HabitRPG – Ever wanted to turn your whole life into a game? This fun little app lets you do just that. Every task you perform can be turned into a “monster” you have to conquer. As you maintain good habits, get work done, and check off to-do lists, your character levels up, completes quests, and earns rewards. You can gear up, get mounts and pets, buy health potions, and everything else you’ve come to enjoy from a usual RPG. Of course, you have to set up the various tasks and rewards yourself, but this is a great way to motivate yourself in both the short- and long-term.

 

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WordWeb - A FREE program that acts as a dictionary, thesaurus, and vocabulary encyclopedia. Great for pinning down just the right word for a bit of dialogue, or when you need to swap out some synonyms so you don’t use the same word three times in the same sentence.