Tools can improve your writing, but they can also keep you from it.
As a technology enthusiast, I love a good writing tool. The problem: it can prevent me from doing the work.
So I've found that the key to writing tools is minimalism.
You'll find lots of websites and tools out there, but picking the right one amongst the alternatives will cost you time. Time you could spend writing.
I will provide you with insanely helpful yet minimalistic tools for every stage of writing that I personally found helpful. I tried lots of them; as I said, I'm a technology enthusiast. Those are the ones that made the cut.
Writing tool #1 – Inspiration
I remember sitting in a Hans Zimmer concert. At one point, I started crying. I was so moved by the score.
Of course, there was a show, but what moved me was the soundtrack. In this moment, I realized that the power of music is huge.
Every time I write, I always have my headphones in. What do I listen to? I listen to film soundtracks. As a film director, I love a good film soundtrack.
I pick the music strategically, depending on the scene I write and the mood I need. It inspires me while I write and sets the tone for the session.
My tool for that is Spotify.
Why? Because Spotify also has an insanely good discovery algorithm, helping you spot everything related to the type of music you listen to.
Writing tool #2 – Research
I do a lot of research – futuristic technology, science, places and history. Research helps me refine my story and deepen it.
The problem is getting through all the material because there is so much out there that I find interesting; I can get stuck in the research without having written anything.
Blinkist is an app and website that summarizes books. Every chapter is summarized with key basic takeaways and some quotes.
I read the summary of a book first and then decide if I want to go in depth and purchase it. Blinkist is an excellent tool to save time and invest it in writing without having to compromise the quality of your research.
Writing tool #3 – Outlining
There are several outlining tools and programs out there – like Plotter or Novel Factory, and I've tested most of them.
But as a minimalist, I find them too overwhelming. My go to tool is: Milanote.
I work with the three act structure, dividing the outline in four parts – 4 columns.
The notes in that column are the scenes. You can move them around the way you want to, mark the turning points, like the pinch point, the inciting event aso.
And I also give the notes an emotional tag. The emotional intensity of the scene is tagged with colors. Red scenes are emotionally intense and packed with action. Orange are also intense, but not that full of action. The green ones are important for the book but consist of more tension in dialogue and reveals. Blue scenes are reactions and calm scenes.
This way, I can see the emotional pacing of the book at a glance.
Writing tool #4 – First draft
I tried every trick out there to get through the first draft.
And what I found is that it's really important to track your progress and challenge yourself all the time. You can do this with a mastermind group or a fellow writer, or with the app called Wordly.
It shows you your writing speed – words per hour. It creates a competition with yourself, prompting you to increase your writing speed and see how many words you can get on paper in a short time.
And I've found that this also helps get into focused writing because when you're in deep focused writing, you can get more quality words down faster.
Writing tool #5 – Writer's Block
There are many things that can block our creativity, but few solutions that help us free it.
I found if I get stuck with writing the first draft, I have to switch to dictating.
Or more precisely: transcribing.
My problem with the more popular dictation software is that you have to pronounce the punctuation – coma, full-stop, colon. As someone who needs to get into the flow of talking when I dictate, it's too distracting.
That's where Descript comes in. It's an AI tool that I use for podcasting, but recently have discovered for my first draft when I get stuck with typing.
I record my dictation with QuickTime. For that, please make sure that you have a good microphone. Then pop it into the program and it does the transcription. Of course, there is still a lot of correction to be made. But it's very efficient, especially when it comes to getting unstuck.
Writing tool #6 – Editing
Pro Writing Aid is my new must-use tool in the last stages of the editing process.
It spares me the shame of having obvious grammatical mistakes in my books that I just haven't seen because you truly become blind to this stuff after having read your work for a thousand times.
This is the tool for line edits and some stylistic help with language.
Helps me spot the overused words, delete them or change them up with the build-in thesaurus.
Spots my passive voice, showing instead of telling.
Helps spot explanatory dialogue tags and see how to change them up.
Shows all grammatical mistakes.
Writing tool #7 – Everything
When talking about writing tools I cannot not mention Scrivener. It's my go to tool for everything.
It's the best writing tool ever. And the best part: it's so cheap for what it offers and also a onetime purchase (not a subscription).
It has so many tools yet at the same time can be used instantly for the basics like: organizing, writing, commenting, tagging, summarizing... I can not do this tool justice. If you only get one of those tool, get Scrivener.
Remember: stay minimalistic.
Get words on paper. This is your most important work: producing amazing books. and everything that helped me with that, I shared with you today.