Digital Writing Tools
|10 min read
Recommended Journals
A Crash Course in Slam Poetry
There are ten days left to submit to the Louder Than dA Bomb submission folder. With that being said, I'm putting out an article that offers some tips and quick solutions to problems a poet may be facing when writing their slam poem. But very quickly, I would like to address a stigma surrounding submitting "great" work to contests. I'll keep this brief. The world is not set to your pace. Or anyone else's really. Everybody's just trying to keep up. This line of thinking can't be taken to the publishing industry (for those that would like to publish) or anywhere else for that matter. Applying the thought to your art or literature that unless i
Being Real with Poesdaughter
There's nothing better than a good story...unless it's a good story that also happens to be true. And that's why we have an entire genre known as "creative non-fiction." It doesn't get a lot of press on dA, but essayists like David Sedaris and authors like Mary Roach and Jon Ronson routinely make the bestseller list, and rightly so. Creative non-fiction isn't limited to essays and memoirs. Which doesn't say what creative non-fiction is. Thankfully, better minds are on hand to answer that question. While PoesDaughter (https://www.deviantart.com/poesdaughter) is new to dA, she's no stranger to creative writing—her master's thesis is a series of creative non-fiction essays. W
France's Fancy Fixed Forms: Rondeau and Friends
France's Fancy Fixed Forms: The Rondeau (& Friends) ~legaspplz (https://www.deviantart.com/legaspplz) Ah, the French. Their proud romantic culture has provided us with a wealth of artistic innovation: a wide range of cheeses and pastries; the Louvre, Versailles, and the iconic Eiffel Tower; and some memorable poetic forms, including the ballade, the villanelle, and today's subject: the rondeau (ron-DOH). While not as well-known today as the sonnet or haiku, these French styles have been around just as long, if not longer. The rondeau, like its cousins, has a restricted number of end rhymes (two, usually labeled 'a' and 'b') and a short refrain repeated throughout. This r
Featured in groupsSee All
illuminara's avatar
By illuminara   |   Watch
14 22 1K (1 Today)
Published: October 28, 2014
My NaNoWriMo word count:


NaNoWriMo is almost upon us! I, for one, am terribly excited and fully prepared. For freaking once. I solicited the help of some slick digital tools to get here, and I thought I’d take a moment to share them with you. I’m a long-time Mac user, so many of these apps/programs are Mac only, but I’ve also included non-Mac alternatives.

No. 1 - The mother of all Markdown programs: Ulysses III


Ulysses III is flipping amazing because it’s damn simple, drop-dead gorgeous, and loaded with useful features without having an obscene learning-curve-to-productivity ratio. As in, you can open it up and start writing without having to read a novel-length instruction manual first (unlike Scrivener). You just start typing, and the rest is intuitive and optional. Best of all, it saves every keystroke automatically and instantly. Export directly to MS Word, .PDF, HTML, ePub, and Markdown. There’s currently a 30-day, full-featured trial for NaNo! I HIGHLY recommend checking out this app if you have a Mac.  You'll never write in MS Word again! (Approx. $50 but occasionally goes on sale for half off.)



Non-Mac alternative: Nothing quite this awesome, but try Write Monkey.  (free)

No. 2 - The simplest app of all: Grandview


Grandview does one simple thing: provide you with a full, blank screen to display each bold, beautiful letter you type. It then shows each word and finally the entire sentence you've written before you move on to the next. You can customize colors and fonts, and you can “zoom out” to see your entire document. You can turn cursor blinking on and off and disable backspace, and that’s it. That’s what makes it beautiful and amazingly productive. ($5)



Non-Mac alternative: ilys (free)

A program right in-between these two would be iA Writer. I use it for the distraction-free writing of one-shot documents. Not the greatest for longer stuff, but it is THE idiot-proof, distraction-free writing app. ($5-$10)

No. 3 - Dropbox


So I can save my files to the cloud and access them at work as well as at home. Enough said, right? There’s always iCloud, but I use Windows at work, and I like Dropbox better. Ulysses also syncs to it, and it doesn’t get any better than that. (free)

Alternative: Google Drive (free)

No. 4 - DayMap Lite


DayMap is a free scheduling app I found that’s perfect for creating a novel outline and then scheduling which scenes to write each day of NaNo. Pretty simple and highly useful for those of us (like me) who need everything planned out with no room for error so they won’t end up watching Netflix all day. (free)



Non-Mac alternative: Nothing exactly like this, but give Google Keep and Google Calendar a try. (Both free, of course.)

No. 5 - Progress journaling: One Day


One Day is a beautiful and intuitive journaling app perfect for keeping track of writing ideas and novel progress. ($10) I also started a tumblr to share my non-private NaNo progress here: dreamcasterproject.tumblr.com



Alternative: Journal (free)

No. 6 Extras:


Scapple is a sort of mind-mapping/whiteboard app great for organizing ideas. I haven’t used it that much yet, and I’m not sure if I’ll end up buying it, but you should definitely check out the 30-day free trial if you’re looking for something of the sort. (Works on Windows and Mac - $15.)

Soundrown.com has 10 background noise sounds that are all super awesome, but the recording of fire is my favorite. You can even play multipul sounds at once with variying volumes. (free)

Pandora.com ... duh. Gotta have me some smooth jazz.

RescueTime is an app the runs in the background and logs how much time you spend in individual apps and on individual websites. It’s useful and terrifying to see how much time you spend doing certain things. :O You can also set what’s distracting and what’s productive, and it will email you a productivity score at the end of the week. Super useful and motivating stuff. (Free for Mac and Windows.)

SelfControl is an app that lets you set up a blacklist of websites you can then block for however long you want. You can’t get back onto said websites until the timer runs down, not even if you restart your computer or delete the program. Terrifying but extremely useful. You can also set a white list, which will only allow you onto the specific websites of your choosing. (Free for Mac.)

Chrome extension alternative: StayFocused (free)

Check out more Windows and Mac productivity tools here.

And that’s a wrap. What digital writing tools/apps/programs do you use and find the most helpful and productive? Also, let me know if you’re looking for a program with specific functions. I keep up with this kind of thing fairly well and might know of something that could help. :aww:

Good luck to all you fellow NaNo participants! Bye for now.

P.S. I'm making a list of all my favorite analogue writing tools! I'll post it before NaNo starts this weekend. =D

  • "Originality does not consist in saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you think yourself."

    - James F. Stephan

Recommended Journals
A Crash Course in Slam Poetry
There are ten days left to submit to the Louder Than dA Bomb submission folder. With that being said, I'm putting out an article that offers some tips and quick solutions to problems a poet may be facing when writing their slam poem. But very quickly, I would like to address a stigma surrounding submitting "great" work to contests. I'll keep this brief. The world is not set to your pace. Or anyone else's really. Everybody's just trying to keep up. This line of thinking can't be taken to the publishing industry (for those that would like to publish) or anywhere else for that matter. Applying the thought to your art or literature that unless i
Being Real with Poesdaughter
There's nothing better than a good story...unless it's a good story that also happens to be true. And that's why we have an entire genre known as "creative non-fiction." It doesn't get a lot of press on dA, but essayists like David Sedaris and authors like Mary Roach and Jon Ronson routinely make the bestseller list, and rightly so. Creative non-fiction isn't limited to essays and memoirs. Which doesn't say what creative non-fiction is. Thankfully, better minds are on hand to answer that question. While PoesDaughter (https://www.deviantart.com/poesdaughter) is new to dA, she's no stranger to creative writing—her master's thesis is a series of creative non-fiction essays. W
France's Fancy Fixed Forms: Rondeau and Friends
France's Fancy Fixed Forms: The Rondeau (& Friends) ~legaspplz (https://www.deviantart.com/legaspplz) Ah, the French. Their proud romantic culture has provided us with a wealth of artistic innovation: a wide range of cheeses and pastries; the Louvre, Versailles, and the iconic Eiffel Tower; and some memorable poetic forms, including the ballade, the villanelle, and today's subject: the rondeau (ron-DOH). While not as well-known today as the sonnet or haiku, these French styles have been around just as long, if not longer. The rondeau, like its cousins, has a restricted number of end rhymes (two, usually labeled 'a' and 'b') and a short refrain repeated throughout. This r
Featured in groupsSee All
Comments22
anonymous's avatar
Join the community to add your comment. Already a deviant? Sign In
SadisticIceCream's avatar
Music hack I just discovered: Spotify has pretty good playlists for basically anything you want, and if you install AdBlock on Chrome, you don't get any of the radio-like ads in between songs. Not sure if that also works for Pandora, but thought I'd mention it. :D

This journal is awesome and I'm saving it for when I decide I'm sick of dealing with Word and want something more robust. I'm half-luddite: I plot with pen and paper, then I usually take a picture of my notes and upload it to Evernote so I don't have to carry my half-dead notebook back and forth from home/work, I do the actual writing with Word, and I email the document to myself after every writing session as a back-up. Old-fashioned, but it works for me.

I do need to get in the habit of backing stuff up on Dropbox or Google Drive, though. Even if a story is on two computers, in my email, and on an external hard drive (as a whole-system back-up), I'm still absurdly paranoid about losing it. I lost a (really shitty) novella once when I was a kid and it traumatized me for life. :stare:
illuminara's avatar
illuminaraHobbyist Writer
It does work for Pandora! =D I can't even imagine using the internet without adblock ... what would that even be like? But seriously, I like Spotify too. And sometimes 8tracks and slacker radio.

Hehe, it's not that these programs are more robust. They're just better at removing distractions and getting shit done. I plot and brainstorm all on paper, too, but I carry multiple notebooks around with me everywhere. :XD: That is kinda old-school, but you gotta do what works. Dropbox is REALLY nice for sharing files between work and home. Much easier than email, and you don't end up with a bunch of files and wondering which is which.

That's understandable, but if you keep one file in your dropbox and back it up on your computer or a flash drive every once in a while, that's more than enough. I'm actually not sure it's even possible to lose something from your dropbox. I thought I did once, but it turns out that dropbox saves your deleted files and you can restore them later. Pretty awesome.
SadisticIceCream's avatar
I literally just discovered adblock and it changed my life. :lol:

I think my problem is that my paranoia knows no bounds, and so I'm always like, "But what if these cloud services go out of business? What will happen to my files?! :stare:" Which is ridiculous, but I am indeed ridiculous. :lmao: I'll have to finally sign up for an account, though. I used it at a few internships and I loved the functionality, just been avoiding finally committing to it personally.
illuminara's avatar
illuminaraHobbyist Writer
Hehe awesome.

That's why you should never use small, fringe cloud services you've never heard of before even if they look awesome ... (guilty). Dropbox is gonna be around a while, and if it goes out of business, there will be plenty of advanced warning. I know the feeling though. It actually took me a while to commit to it too. I'm kind of an early adopter, and it wasn't that great when it first came out. (Really slow syncing.) So that turned me off to it for a year or two, but it's awesome now, and I've been using for the past year. Just do it! You'll thank yourself later. =D
SadisticIceCream's avatar
I might finally take the dive later this week. I'm going to a conference starting tomorrow, and I have a whole day of nothing to fill. :dummy: Thanks for the confidence boost!
illuminara's avatar
illuminaraHobbyist Writer
Go for it! :omgomg: (< That emote is a spaze; he has issues.) And hey, if you don't like it, you can always go back. :aww:
VFreie's avatar
Cavewoman alert, read on at your own risk: I use crap old Word for writing, hours-long music playlists on youtube or 8tracks to provide background noise, GDrive and USB flash drive for back-ups. All the rest is ballpoint pen and a notebook. :B

Also, I've been toying around with LitLift but have already grown bored with it. Surely my fault and not the site's, though.
illuminara's avatar
illuminaraHobbyist Writer
Haha, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that! Whatever works is what works. 8tracks is nice, but I got bored with it after a few weeks. :shrug: But I'm a picky music snob. I should do another review like this of analogue writing tools, cause I love pens and paper even more than digital programs. Writing emoticon 

Yeah, I messed with it for a hot second too, but it just seems kinda clunky and not all that useful. Oh well.
VFreie's avatar
I start off as music snob, choosing this or that piece that fits exactly what I'm writing, then after five minutes or so I stop noticing the music and could write a tragic death scene to a Britney Spears tune. Background noise, QED. Then again, most of the times I'm doing historical fiction and several baroque/classical/full opera playlists go on for hours, so at least it's period-appropriate background noise. :dummy:
illuminara's avatar
illuminaraHobbyist Writer
Haha, yeah, I do the same thing, but after a few minutes, I'm find with anything that doesn't have lyrics. That's just too distracting for me. :XD:

Full opera playlists? That's some nice, light listening. :giggle: I don't know though ... writing a death scene to a Britney Spears tune just seems appropriate. 
lion-essrampant's avatar
lion-essrampantHobbyist Writer
writeordie.com is my lifesaver towards the end of the month.
illuminara's avatar
illuminaraHobbyist Writer
That one is terrifying. :O Which is why I haven't used it that much. Last time I checked, it didn't support tabbing, which is annoying when you write a lot of dialogue ... But it's an awesome concept indeed. =D
lion-essrampant's avatar
lion-essrampantHobbyist Writer
Ah, yeah, the whole not tabbing thing is dumb, but, it's helped me catch up, so, I'm happy. XD
illuminara's avatar
illuminaraHobbyist Writer
You've gotta take a win where you can!
lion-essrampant's avatar
lion-essrampantHobbyist Writer
:nod: Indeed!
CheekyStoat's avatar
CheekyStoatHobbyist General Artist
Aw, I love Scrivener. As a PC user, I'd love to try Ulysses but I didn't bother reading the manual for Scrivener and I seem to be doing quite well.  Been using it for years and I love it. It's also way cheaper, you get it for $20 so long as you win NaNo and they have a special NaNo trial where the trial expires on Dec 1st, so people can download it now, get a feel and keep using it for the entire month.  Great list though, definitely trying out some of these, particularly Journal.
illuminara's avatar
illuminaraHobbyist Writer
:XD: I gave up after a while and just started messing around ... and messing around some more and never ended up doing anything productive. Hence the problem. :P Nice! It's normally $45, which is basically the same price as all the heavy-duty writing apps. I don't mind paying that much for a piece of software that I'll actually use on a regular basis. (I mean, come on, how much is Word?)

Thanks! Yeah, the journal apps are pretty great. I never really could get into journally before, but having the right app makes it super easy and actually worth doing.
CheekyStoat's avatar
CheekyStoatHobbyist General Artist
I'd love to find a free records program.  That looks *super* useful for keeping me on track.

That's fair, not everyone likes the same programs otherwise we'd have a monopoly. ;P Thanks for the list though, it was really helpful!
illuminara's avatar
illuminaraHobbyist Writer
=D Good luck with your writing projects!
DreMalone's avatar
I just use OpenOffice Writer and Dropbox. Gonna look into Pandora for tunes.
illuminara's avatar
illuminaraHobbyist Writer
Can't knock that! Pandora's great for tunes as long as you're not super picky. :aww:
anonymous's avatar
Join the community to add your comment. Already a deviant? Sign In
©2019 DeviantArt
All Rights reserved