Is writing an acquired skill or an in-built talent?
I say it is a little bit of both. Most writers have the talent to observe their surroundings and provide a unique interpretation to it. They also have an active imagination. In addition to this, the ‘skill’ of writing undergoes a constant change. It gets influenced by what you read and eventually choose to adapt with your unique touch. The ‘skill’ also gets honed when you discover how you can improvise your efficiency over a period of time.
The collective wisdom of the internet and its community of writers has propelled the creation of tools that can be helpful to all kinds of writers – beginners and experts, long form and bloggers – to write better.
We bring you a list of 25 tools that makes your writing job easier.
Because the internet is inundated with plenty of content on the same topic, the first impression on whether someone should spend time on your content matters a lot. Telling them that the read is about 10 minutes and can be finished during a quick coffee break makes it a little more attractive. So how do you calculate reading time? According to The average reading time of an adult is roughly 275 words per minute. Add around 12 seconds to each inline image. Once you have the word count and the number of images, you can calculate the read time. Or, you could simply go to Read-O-Meter, copy-paste your text and get the reading time!
Remember how you used to look at the scroll bar when the page loads to see how much time you’ll spend there? The time calculator tool not only makes it better but puts it out there and saves your brain from the additional calculation.
Every writer nurtures a dream of writing something that makes them happy. It isn’t for the world to see – necessarily. It is when you let words flow freely. When you vent out your emotions. It is when you are surrounded with confusing thoughts and want to write things down to get a sense of clarity. To record your thoughts and keep it private, choose a platform like 750 words. Another cool online journal used by 2 million writers is Penzu. The platform is home to several food diaries, pregnancy journals and dream journals.
IO is a good way maintain your online journal or blog with a certain degree of anonymity. You can publish online for others to read but do so anonymously. It is like putting your thoughts to words without attaching your name to it. It is like a platform where there can be a free flow of thoughts without attracting or distracting with attention to the thought-bearer.
4. Write or Die
Ha! Now here’s a tool that will help kill your writers block… or you (just kidding). Set off your word count and add in a timer. You can also set a grace period. If you don’t reach your goal on time, off goes an annoying sound that’ll jar you into reality and make you get back to writing. You can choose the level of annoyance in the sound that can propel you to write. On the other end, you also get some positive reinforcement with a ‘good’ sound if you manage to reach your target word count.
If you are the kind that loves to procrastinate then Write or Die will help you get over it.
Designed to fill a writer’s mind with fear bordering on terror, The Most Dangerous Writing App is for those with a strong heart and like a challenge once in a while. I wouldn’t recommend using it every day but for moments you are working with an extremely stiff deadline, the app may just do the trick of helping you reach it. Go to the app, set your word count. Let’s say you want to write 300 words, the clock immediately starts ticking. If you pause for more than five seconds, everything you just wrote will be gone – FOREVER! The app basically wants you to stop editing and just write and write and get everything out at once.
6. Tomato Timer
Need something less intimidating but equally helpful in increasing your productivity is the Tomato Timer. You can set your word count and time and look to finish your project within the set timeline. This seems like a meek version of the Dangerous Writing App though. It won’t ‘kill’ you to use it but over time it can be helpful in increasing your productivity. Consider using this app if you are a freelance content writer, this tool will help you optimize your time on which projects you should drop and which you should continue working on.
Want your grammar corrected as you write? Try the Hemingway Editor. It’ll highlight your complex and lengthy sentences and let you correct them easily. The site has different colour codes for different types of errors. It can highlight words for which you can use better synonyms, or even sentences with passive voice that need rephrasing. First click on ‘Write’ and you can directly write here or copy-paste from your writing tool like Word. Next, click on edit to see suggestions from the tool. The tool presents a quick highlight of ‘hard to read’ and ‘very hard to read’ sentences that you can quickly consider rephrasing.
8. Google Docs
Docs for writing? Yes. And it is a great tool at that too. You see, writing is not just about writing. It is also about ideating (sometimes as a team) and collaborating with multiple people on edits. Google docs is a popular tool used by many big content teams to easily share ideas and edit them. The tracking feature also tells you who made the edit and lets you go back to older versions if you want. The tool by itself isn’t complete and you’ll need other tools if you want to edit effectively but it acts as a starting point when you want to get your base ideas and article together.
Refly tells you that it’ll help you write better and faster. The tools has many integrated features inspired by other tools. It allows you to set writing goals and do the regular leg work on checking for grammar errors. But the best part of the tool is its SEO capabilities. These days, a blog post isn’t worth publishing unless it is optimized. Refly will read what you’ve written and remind you to add important keywords before you publish. It is like your own personal SEO checker that comes with a reminder service.
Grammarly is a personal favourite. By adding it to your Chrome browser, it not only checks your blogs but also your social media posts, tweets, and even emails. Now, you don’t make a grammar mistake – like ever! The tool claims to catch over 250 errors that aren’t caught by Microsoft Word. It also gives explanations that come with the suggested corrections.
11. Daily Page
Look at advice from the best bloggers and all of them will tell you one thing – it is important to be consistent with writing. Everyone wants to have a blog that attracts thousands of visitors but we fail to understand that those visitors are coming from years of consistent writing.
Daily Page is a tool that will help you get into the habit of writing everyday. The tool emails a prompt to you every morning. So there it is – right in your inbox – staring back and telling you to write. Will you write because of it? May be not. What if you have to declare publicly that you responded to the prompt everyday? May be.
12. Swipe Worthy
Hmm.. so you have to write everyday. But what do you write about? Where do you find inspiration for new topics? How do you find time in a day to write and research? Swipe Worthy may be the answer you seek. It is a cool way to look for ideas, memes, images, ad copy, emails and more in one place. Now this is one place where all your ‘inspiration’ is stored. You can go back to it anytime and look for a topic that made you go ‘wow’ and start to write about it.
13. Alternative: Google+
If you don’t want to add one more tool to all the ones you are already using, you can simply use Google+. You can create a fresh Google+ account with no one in your circle. Now, when ever you see something interesting on the web, you can post a link of it to this account. This way, all you favourite links are in a single place and more importantly, they are searchable too.
14. Help me write
As far as digital goes, you are only as good as your content being discovered. One of the key things is to write about topics that people want to read. The problem is, if you pose this as an open question, you’ll be left with too many ideas. So, you can use Help me write and set up a survey with certain topics and share it with you social network. You can crowdsource the winner and go on to write about it.
Writing a story is a complex art. With multiple characters and plots it sometimes becomes a little difficult where you are heading. To make things easy, use Storyist has tools that help you track your plot and make scripts that are of movie making standard, If you plan to self-publish, this is a tool you should explore
This is a really cool tool that works to optimize an existing blog topic or spin a new one. Write three words (nouns) around the topic you have in mind and the tool suggest 5 blog headlines that come as optimized as far as titles go.
Some of the titles generated are
“How to solve the world’s biggest problems using x”
“13 common misconceptions about x”
“What will x be like ina 100 years”
“15 best blogs to follow about x”
“The ultimate cheat sheet about x”
You’ll notice that the titles use superlatives, negatives and numbered lists to attract reader attention. It also just about helps give you a direction for your writing.
17. Alternative: Portent
Check out the tool just for its fun interface. You write a single word as your “subject” and the tool gives you a “content idea” around the title. It also provides a cool explanation around why it has suggested the topic. Also do check out one of the reads on their site. The status bar right on top has a timer on the amount of time you’ll take to read the article. This timer changes as you continue to scroll with the time counting down as you continue reading. A bit of a distraction but works well psychologically to keep you glued.
When Google assimilates the world’s information, it also has access to vast public databases. It becomes a good starting point for infographics and content ideas. From life expectancy rates to world economic movements, the interface provides facts and trends with charts. When you click on ‘Explore Data’, you get extensive information that is already plotted in graphs and the source of the data. Catch a trend and you’ll have a great topic idea.
We’ve known for a while that “white noise” can boost creativity. And this white noise generator is as creative as it gets. Choose from “Morning Murmur” to “Brazil Bristo” to “University Undertones” and have the noise playing in your background as you work. It may just startle someone walking by your home office, but it can probably help you work better if your brain can process better with chaos in the background.
If you are not good with distractions and want to run away from an app like Coffitivity, then choose a tool like ZenPen. The interface is clean and minimalist. It will block out all distractions and help you focus just on your writing. Once you are done writing, you can use other edit tools to get your blog together.
21. Power Thesaurus
Use the collective wisdom of the writer community to find better words yourself. The Power Thesaurus is as good as the regular thesaurus but with a little extra on the side. The site also has popular searches and a live search that shows search as it happens
We’ve all been there – the word is just stuck in our head be we can’t find it. You know the meaning. You know the alphabet it begins from. But that word eludes you. The solution lies with OneLook Thesaurus. You can find a word if you know its definition, you can use the reverse dictionary feature to find what you are looking for. The process is quite addicive and can pull you in for a good couple of hours on a word discovery journey so do use the Tomato Timer to keep time.
Think writing is ‘Easy as Pie’? You need to take a ‘chill pill’. Don’t judge a book by its cover or a blog by its length. We guess that is too much to take. We will let you explore the Cliche Finder for yourself and rest our case here.
24. Rough Draft
Have too many tools led you to miss your good ol’ pen and paper? Well there is another tool to help you ‘un-miss’ it. By not allowing you to use the ‘delete’ key, rough draft only allows a strike through. Because we are used to deleting and re-writing, the number of strikethroughs become a striking reminder of how much time you are spending editing just one part of your writing. This allows you to use less edits and write better overall. The tool also allows you to put a place holder for an image or video so that you don’t get out of your article mode and spend hours searching for the perfect image / video.
Last but not the least,
25. Pen and Journal
Just because we are new age writers doesn’t’t mean we forget the most fundamental tool of writing. Writing the good ol’ fashioned way promotes creativity. It is also helpful if you want to de-tech yourself for a while and give your eyes some rest from screen time but don’t want to stop the flow of thoughts. Customizing this with an interesting diary or pen makes it all the more interesting.
Have some tools that you’ve used and loved? Do share with us.
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