In this top 10 list, I’m tackling tools that make life easier for the writer. These writing tools can be electronic, completely digital or, dare I say it, real and tangible. However, I am going to avoid some obvious ones, such as popular word processors (Microsoft Word) or cliched ones, such as typewriters.
Despite the exclusion of Word and typewriters, many of these are helpful for any type of writing you’re doing; they’re not just for authors or journalists. Whether you’re blogging, writing your resume or revising your great American novel, you’ll find something useful on this list.
Top Ten Tools for Writers
10. Ink and parchment – That’s right, the always reliable pen and pad. I’m not advocating sitting at a desk with a quill and an ink jar, a la Shakespeare, unless that’s just how you roll. But many writers insist on carrying a pen and notepad of some kind with them where ever they go. It’s difficult to replace the ease of clicking a pen and simply jotting down your ideas as they come to you. And there’s something to be said for the palpable feeling of physically putting ink to paper and seeing your ideas come to life. Many writers have replaced this method with mobile apps like OneNote or Evernote. But the simplicity of pen and ink still makes it a great tool for quick note taking and idea logging.
9. Definr – In short, Definr is a super cool (and uber fast) online dictionary. It’s based on Princeton’s open WordNet 2.0. This online dictionary suggests words as you type, capable of doing thousands and thousands of completions per second. It not only offers definitions, but also example usage and synonyms. There is even a handy extension for those of you using the Firefox web browser.
8. OneLook – I really didn’t want to put two online dictionaries on this list, but I just had to. Both of these writing tools (Definr and OneLook) offer much more than just definitions. OneLook is refreshingly unique in its approach to online definitions. They have indexed over 19,000,000 words from over 1,000 dictionaries. When searched, OneLook not only gives you a definition, but links to other places with definitions, as well. But the really great part is the reverse dictionary. Have a great word on the tip of your tongue, but can’t quite spit it out? Type the definition, concept or idea of that word into the reverse dictionary and a list of suggested words pops up. Very cool.
7. Draft – Where do I even begin with Draft? I could literally do a whole post on this tremendous tool for writers. Especially if you’re interested in collaborating, sharing your work to get feedback, finding help with edits, etc, etc. The feature list is so extensive, I’m not going to list them here. You can check out some of what Draft can do at this link. It’s writing software, it’s version control, collaboration, distraction free text editing; it’s an audience for improving your craft.
6. WordPress – Being a writer or an author sadly is not just about writing. There are many other aspects to being a successful writer. One such aspect of that is self-promotion. An author blog is essential to building a wider and more loyal audience and WordPress is one of the best ways to create one. I’ve designed many websites over the years and have used just about every CMS and web design software out there and have found none more complete than WordPress. It is free software used to create and manage a complex website or even a simple blog. It allows you to design beautiful and functional websites without having to know any coding. Set up your hosting, install the software, pick a theme and add some plugins to make your website more unique. And did I mention it’s free?
5. Book Reviews – Many people view book reviews as a double-edged sword, but I don’t see them that way. Yes, a bad review can be hard to deal with. Yes, it could even dissuade someone from purchasing your book, but it can also be tremendously helpful. Use a bad review as motivation to improve, and use the elements of constructive criticism as tools to do so. Good reviews, on the other hand, can build your confidence, brighten your reputation as an author and help make your work more popular through word of mouth. By now, we all know the story behind the success of 50 Shades of Grey and the Twilight Saga, among others. They were stories that came out of nowhere to become global franchises, originally published independently or by small presses. One of the biggest keys to their success was word of mouth advertising, much of which was brought about through reviews.
4. Hemingway – I said I wasn’t going to put word processors on this list, but I kind of lied. Hemingway isn’t technically a word processor. Although, the latest version could certainly be used as such. It is primarily a tool used for editing, revising, and thus, improving your writing. It highlights your text in color-coded fashion so you can easily identify those pesky adverbs, overly long and complex sentences, passive voice and more. It even offers suggestions when you hover over highlighted areas. A desktop version is now available, promoting it as a primary text editor, as well. It now offers the opening and saving of files, mark down, side-by-side preview of formatting and more. ProWritingAid is another useful and feature-rich editing/revision tool worth checking out. Look at that, a two for one. You’re welcome.
3. The Snowflake Method – From AdvancedFictionWriting.com. There is an impressive amount of free (and some paid) resources for writers on this website, but my favorite is the Snowflake Method. The Snowflake Method is basically a way of designing a work of fiction. Brainstorming, plot outline, character development, the whole process. The Snowflake Method is a brilliant way of prepping your work and will absolutely improve your writing production. There is a lengthy and detailed article on the website describing how to use this method. But there is also a software program available for sale that not only streamlines the process, but also makes it more enjoyable.
2. Evernote – I love this app! Evernote is an extremely versatile and robust piece of software that writers of any type should be exploiting. They have a desktop version as well as mobile apps, and they all sync with one another seamlessly. Evernote is just what it sounds like; it’s a note taking app. But it is so much more than that. Evernote has several awesome features built in, like the web clipper browser extension. This allows you to “clip” things you find interesting on a web page and either save them or share them, without having to save the whole web page (unless you want to). Evernote itself is a digital filing cabinet; an everything inbox; a journal/notebook and so much more. As a notes app Evernote even offers many methods of input beyond simply tapping keys, like audio and handwriting on a touch screen.
1. Your Brain – There is no substitute for your mind; your own creativity. No two brains, no two imaginations are exactly alike. Only you can dream up the worlds, characters and stories that your brain provides. There is no greater tool, no more versatile tool for a writer than the human brain. Unlike the other tools on this list, the brain gets better with use. The more you challenge your mind, the stronger, sharper and quicker it becomes. So dream more, learn more, and most importantly, never stop writing!