Our thanks to writer and educator Leona Hinton for this guest contribution!
Another year has come and gone, and everyone has made their New Year’s resolutions. But as January comes to a close, the excitement can wear off, and so can our enthusiasm.
What are you going to do to reach your writing goals in 2016?
I have put together a list of online writing and editing tools that you can use to be a more productive writer this year. Some of them can help you with the writing process, and others can help you polish your drafts into a finished product.
The first and most important step to becoming more productive in your work is to get organized, and Trello is a great way to manage your projects. Everything you have to do can be organized into different categories, and you can even add checklists to help you manage each phase.
#2: Zen Writer
Zen Writer offers a writing environment that is free from distractions, and it has a pleasing background and font. It will even play soft, meditative music, which can help you to focus more on what you are doing. The idea of this program is to simulate a typewriter, and users of Microsoft Word won’t have a problem. You can use the same hotkeys with Zen Writer, which makes it easy for you.
OMMWRITER is a tool much like Zen Writer. It has an option of choosing suitable backgrounds and audio tracks that help you focus on writing and work productively. Choosing keystroke sounds is possible as well.
Byword is a simple text editor that uses the “markdown” markup language, but it can use Rich Text Format (RTF) as well. It allows you to write text for the web by typing plain text. It’s similar to Zen Writer in the sense that it can simulate a typewriter by eliminating any extra features that you would see in many word processors. You can even export it into Word if you choose to do so later.
Studies have shown that coffee shop noise tends to boost both creativity and productivity, as it provides the right amount of background noise. Coffitivity is designed to play these sounds so you can get the same effect in your office or at home.
#6: Google Keep
This is Google’s first note-taking app, and it works seamlessly with Google Drive. With Google Keep, you can easily take notes while you’re on the go. You can create everything from voice memos to checklists, and you can save them to your Google Drive. It works great for jotting down quick ideas that you can save for a later time, and it works seamlessly with Chrome.
The Pomodoro Technique is designed to boost your productivity so you can focus more on what you’re doing. It’s a simple timer that focuses on working in short bursts while taking more frequent breaks. You work for 25 minutes before taking a five-minute break, and you follow this pattern in succession throughout the day. This cycle is designed to keep your mind fresh, and it forces you to adhere to a strict time schedule.
Quabel is another online text editor that focuses on simplicity by eliminating distractions, but what makes this one different is that it’s web-based. Not only does it give you a word count, but it also gives you the time it would take for someone to read it out loud. This is a handy feature, because it can give you a better idea with regard to the length of your work. It even has a night-time mode if you prefer to write on a black background.
If you do a lot of blogging, you will find value in this tool, as it will make your articles more readable to your audience. It has a very simple interface, and it’s easy to use. So, you won’t have any trouble learning how to use the program. Not only does it have extensions available for many major web browsers, but it also supports many mobile devices (including Android and Kindle).
A large part of writing goes into organizing what you’ve written, and Scrivener makes it easy for you do that. You can keep all of your ideas and notes in one place, and you can move it around in any way that you feel is necessary. The beauty of Scrivener is that it allows you break large projects into smaller parts. This comes in handy whenever you’re constructing an outline for each section of your project, especially if you writing a work of fiction.
Soundrown is an app that creates ambient noise, which can help to keep you motivated while you work. You can choose from a variety of sounds, and you can either play them on your own or behind music. Some of these include:
- Coffee shop sounds
- White noise
- Moving train
- Park fountain
- Kids playing
The only negative is that the sounds aren’t looped, so you will have to start them over again once they have played through.
Named after the famous author, Hemingway is an excellent tool to help you to simplify your writing style so you can express yourself in a clearer and more concise manner. It can help you eliminate unnecessary adverbs, as well as the use of passive voice; and it can be useful in shortening your sentences. It does this by highlighting any sentences that it feels are too long. If it’s marked in red, it is way too long and should be shortened. If it’s marked in yellow, it is a little too long, which means you should consider shortening it for the sake of clarity.
Unplag is an online plagiarism checker that will check your content for any parts that have been previously published. There are times when you may plagiarize something by accident, and Unplag can help you to catch yourself in case you do. A great plus is that the tool shows similarity and originality percentage of the work. Every time users rewrite unoriginal parts and check them again, the system recounts percentage and displays actual results.
Synchroedit is a browser-based editor that is useful for online collaboration in real-time. It uses a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) design that multiple editors can use to make changes simultaneously. This tool is useful for collaborative projects that are done across many different locations.
Sometimes it’s difficult to see the mistakes in your own writing, and Autocrit can help you be that extra pair of eyes during the editing process. It will find and identify any potential problems with your text, and it can even point out possible weaknesses in your writing. It will even identify some of the common mistakes that are often associated with fiction writing. It does more than just check grammar and spelling; it’s a style editor as well.
#16: After the Deadline
After the Deadline has a variety of editing tools that can help you simplify the process, but it does more than check for grammar and spelling. It also does a detailed analysis of your writing style, and it can help you identify potential problems that are commonly associated with writing fiction. It’s free for personal use, and extensions are available for Chrome, Firefox, Open Office, and WordPress.
#17: Cliché Finder
Sometimes writers will use a common phrase – either by mistake or because they think it will add some extra cleverness to their writing. In reality, these common phrases can make your writing seem bland or unoriginal, and this online tool can help you find and eliminate any clichés.
This web application counts the words and the characters in any piece of text, which you can type or “copy and paste” into the box they have provided. Not only will it give you a word count, but it will also give you the number of characters (both with and without spaces).
EditMinion is another online editing tool that is similar to After the Deadline, offering style analysis in addition to grammar and spelling. It’s free to use, and it can help you clean up your writing. Just “copy and paste” your text into the editor, and it will evaluate your writing in real time.
ProWriteAid is a useful tool for anyone who wants to improve their writing style. Not only does it tell you want you need to improve upon, but it also tells you how to improve it – both in a stylistic and mechanical manner. It does a detailed analysis of your text, and it will point out one or more of the following errors:
- Overused words
- Sentence length
- Writing style
- “Sticky” sentences
- Consistency errors
ProWriteAid is a comprehensive editing tool that can go a long way to improve your writing.
Writers today are faced with many challenges. Life is more fast-paced than it was before the technological age came to pass, but it can have its benefits when it comes to developing your craft – that is, if you know where to look…
Are you using any of these writing and editing tools or do you have another tool to share with fellow writers? Tell us with your comment below!
Leona Hinton is a young writer and passionate educator from Chicago. Her life is impossible without reading, traveling and horseback riding. On Sunday mornings. She will be happy to meet you on Facebook, Twitter and Google+