Writing Tools I Couldn’t Live Without (April 2020)

Recently on Instagram, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about my favorite writing tools. They’re not necessarily anything new to my process, but I’m not sure I’ve ever really shared them all before. With each book, I refine my writing process further. I cast aside habits and programs that no longer serve me and bring in others that do.

Since this is such a highly requested topic, I wanted to give it to my patrons. This is the type of content you signed up for, and I’m happy to provide. The programs listed in this blog post all have free versions (which I personally use) as well as paid, but I am not an affiliate of anything listed. Anything I endorse here, I do so from my own experience and enjoyment.

So, without further ado, here are several writing tools I couldn’t live without:

  • Google Drive and Docs. It may surprise some of you to hear this, but I don’t use Scrivener. I have a Mac and a PC, and Scrivener on those devices doesn’t play well together. It’s almost impossible for me to sync projects from my Mac to my PC, so I stopped trying altogether. Also, I have an Android phone, and there’s still no Scrivener app for Android. I prefer Google Docs because it’s easily accessible across all my devices, syncs to the cloud (so no forgetting to save), and can be shared with beta readers and editors for collaboration. Best of all, it’s free. My life runs on Google Drive.

  • Write or Die. At the time of writing this blog post, Write or Die is the only free product to kick my ass into finishing a novel. I would not have been able to finish a single first draft without it. My monkey brain refuses to focus when I’m working on a first draft, so I get it to play nice with the help of Write or Die. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, you access the site here, put in a time limit and a word count goal, and start writing. I like to set mine to 500 words and 30 minutes most of the time, with a consequence involving noise, because it’s so jarring. If you prefer positive reinforcement, you can also set the program to reward you when you hit so many words. The beauty of this program is that it keeps you moving, makes you put the words down as productively as possible without looking back. If you stop writing for too long, you’ll get the angry noise. You don’t want the angry noise.

  • Pacemaker.press. Any time I share a word count/deadline goal on Instagram, I’m using pacemaker.press, and I get so many questions about it! Like the other programs on this list, Pacemaker is free. When I stopped using Scrivener, one of the things I missed most was the deadline/daily word count goal calculator. Pacemaker provides that for me. All you have to do is set your word count or page goal, your chosen (or assigned) deadline, and the pace at which you’d like to work. The program calculates everything for you from there. As you write and update your word count each day, the program adjusts your progress and targeted speed, which helps me stay on track more than you’d believe.

  • For blocking websites, since I use Google Chrome, I recommend the StayFocusd extension. It’s free and I’ve been using it to get things done since college. Simply put in the websites that most often distract you, set your time limit, and bang! You’re in business. I LOVE StayFocusd. You can even tweak the settings so the app is harder to disable/uninstall, but for me, just the accountability of the timer keeps me honest, so I’ve never needed to trick myself.

When it comes to choosing writing software, you should choose what works for you. If your process differs from mine, that doesn’t mean you’re in the wrong. As long as you’re getting work done, don’t worry about it. And, if you’re feeling stuck or looking for tools to help you become more productive, I hope that this post has given you some ideas.

As always, thanks so much for your support and generosity. What kind of blog post would you like to see at the end of this month? Let me know in the comments!

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