By Joni Di Placido
Sometimes the biggest challenge in writing is finding the time and the focus to just sit down and do it. Between the incessant ping of your cellphone, the abundance of binge-worthy shows on television and the ever-present siren call of just one more coffee, it’s ridiculously easy to put your writing goals aside until tomorrow. After all, what’s one more day?
We’ve put together a list of apps and tools that will help you hit those daily word counts and get writing. Check out our favourites:
#1 A Pomodoro Timer App
The Pomodoro Technique is based on short bursts of productivity (usually 25 minutes) interspersed with breaks. After four 25-minute periods, you take a longer break and then get back to work. The frequent breaks are motivating and help boost creativity. There are several apps you can use as timers; I like the free version of Focus Keeper for iOS, but there are lots of options out there.
#2 A Dictation Tool
Our phones are getting better than ever at voice regonition and can now transcribe speech to text with an error rate of just 5%. Since we speak roughly three times faster than we can type, voice recognition software can drastically save time and increase productivity, especially if you’re a particularly prolific writer. Test the waters with the free mobile app Dictation – Talk to Text or, if you have the budget, you can invest in the desktop program Dragon.
Scrivener is one of our most-loved author tools. Primarily intended as a draft tool, it offers a clean, distraction-free interface that writers can use when compiling research notes, sketches and ideas into a larger document. It’s a little pricier at CAD $27.99 for the mobile app; but you can download a free 30-day trial before you commit.
#4 The Brainstormer
The Brainstormer (available on iOS for CAD $2.79) is a great antidote to writer’s block and can spark creativity when you’re feeling stuck. You can use a “wheel” or “slot machine” mode to create endless combinations of plot, character and setting. You can also use it for creating characters and world-building. Similar apps include Genesis, another world-building app, and Cartographer for creating maps of your fantasy worlds.
ProWritingAid is a desktop editing tool that scans your manuscripts for grammar and style errors. It doesn’t replace a professional editor, but is an invaluable tool for cleaning up and refining your work. The basic version is free, but KWL authors can take advantage of a discounted rate on the premium version.
If you find too much quiet distracting, you might want to drown out the silence with ambient noise, allowing you to bed down and really concentrate on writing. There are several options here. Noisli is available for both iOS and Android and allows you to mix different sounds and create the perfect atmosphere to work in. White Noise is a similar concept that also offers a free version for iOS and Android.
Stress is the ultimate creativity-killer. Taking 10 minutes to slow down, relax and just breathe can do wonders for your writing. There are myriad meditation tools available, but I like Insight Timer (free for iOS and Android), which provides a library of guided meditations to help you find your zen amid the chaos.
#8 Internet Blockers
With all the willpower in the world, it’s virtually impossible to resist the occasional Google hole. You opened your browser to check the spelling of Coyoacán, and four hours later you’ve clicked through nineteen links, read seven articles and finished a Buzzfeed quiz to find out which Hogwarts house you’d be in.
Enter the internet blocker app. SelfControl is a free Mac app that lets you set a time period to block your own access to distracting websites, email and anything else you choose. StayFocusd is an option for both Mac and PC; a Google chrome extension that does the opposite, allowing you to view websites for a restricted time only.
What did we miss? How do you focus on writing and minimize distraction? Share your favourite tech tools for writing in the comments!