5 Great Productivity Tools for Online Writers

What can I possibly do to start writing creatively on the computer?

I recently talked about how I found writing on paper to be more productive than writing on a computer. And so I started searching for ways to motivate myself – to complete chapters, meet deadlines and revise stylistic elements of whatever novel it was that I’m writing … whether it was on paper or on keyboard.

I thought my answer would lie somewhere on the internet. After all – it’s a rapidly growing ecosystem of blogs, websites, forums and chat conversations, some of which would be able to provide me with a solution, right?

Yeah, I was right. And the solution is paper.

1. The Task Progress Tracker

No – don’t get me wrong. The first solution starts off digitally, but it’s really a cool to-do list that you have to print out on … (waitforit!) strips of processed bark paper. productivitydavidseah.jpg
It’s called the Task Progress Tracker, part of David Seah‘s Printable CEO series of productivity sheets – something we can all do with in our daily lives. You start off with jotting down the name of your task, and then colouring in your progress in 15 minute increments. The maximum time alocated for each task is 4 hours – David includes instructions for what to do on the sheet if you overshoot (rewriting your climax five times), or if the task is too easy (a one page chapter, perhaps).

I found the check at the end of a task very rewarding, and the fifteen minute bubbles prevented procrastination, even with the TV on full blast. And that isn’t all! David provides Destruct-o-Matic and Power User editions, cute little variations on the original idea. Click the links above to be taken to their respective pages, read up a little on his instructions, and print!

2. Language is a Virus!

For downtime and writer’s block I found the Language Is A Virus page, with little writing ‘toys’ and resources to help you overcome obstacles. It doesn’t do much, and it wouldn’t help everyone, but I always find inspiration comes from the most unexpected of places. If walking the dog and chatting over coffee fails, I’d go there and give their toys a little spin. My favourite? The Writing Prompt widget.

3. JDarkRoom

I checked my inbox about 10 times while composing this post. It was distracting, time consuming and a complete waste of energy (there were no new emails). Why not blank everything out, instead of having a plethora of links, buttons and options assault you while you write?
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Enter JDarkRoom. It’s runs on both Windows and Mac, and is completely free. Wipes out everything and leaves you to deal with just your words on the screen. Green on black. A real beauty. 105 kbs, download it here.

4. Writer (The Web-based JDarkRoom)

If you’re stuck in, say, Nepal, with a computer that doesn’t have Java (gasps at Windows 98 users), you can still have JDarkRoom on your browser. Go to Writer and hit F11, and then proceed to write. In Firefox? Not to worry. Disable tabs so you won’t glance desperately at your inbox.

5. Google Homepage
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Don’t look so shocked. The Google Personalized Homepage is a really useful tool for writing. For a daily dose of quick loading inspiration get the Writer’s Unblock Tool. Here’s one:

Imagine a Beduoin on a sick camel
with a maid in a fresh-ironed apron
A frightened girl prays to the Gods;
a gypsy wagon comes travelling by
while we all dream of provincial love.

Almost like poetry.

[Update]: Here’s a sixth tool, for naming your characters: Quick Baby Names. The site’s got a cool, searchable repository of names and I think it sells itself to two kinds of people: 1, expecting parents 2,writers. Need an exotic name for a plain character? Go grab yourself something under ‘X’.

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Category: Writing Tools
  • http://www.alexandraerin.com Alexandra Erin

    Whoo… JDarkroom is exactly the sort of thing that I need. Distractibility I write in Notepad instead of typing directly into my blog (and thus having a browser open.) Give me an emulated Apple II monitor with nothin’ but a text input area any day!

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    There is another version of that software, but just for Mac. It was the original, I believe: Writeroom

  • rabbitchaser

    Now these look so useful. I was just fiddling with my computer settings last night to figure out how to make my computer screen do white on black in the word processor. I ended up settling for white on blue. I love the Language is a Virus site too. I use the poetry generators.

  • http://andrefischer.ch André Fischer

    I’ve found Scrivener (for Mac only) to be an amazing writing tool. It’s only $10 more than WriteRoom, but has about a thousand times more features, including:

    a “no frills, no distractions” full-screen editing mode (with a configurable, semi-transparent background, so you can still see important research notes etc while you write).
    the possibility to split your manuscript into chapters, sub-chapters, sub-sub-chapters, etc
    a “corkboard” mode where you can see the synopsis of each section of your manuscript
    configurable tags for everything under the sun
    a place to store research, notes, links and related materials you need to refer to for your manuscript
    export in a large variety of formats, including “stripped-down” to Courier etc for submission printouts
    and loads more.

    You can get a copy over at Literature & Latte

    (By the way, I’m not trying to push the product, it’s just a tool I use and find really, really good.)

  • http://andrefischer.ch André Fischer

    Urgh – posting the comment ate all the bullets I’d so carefully put in. Sorry for the quasi-unreadable mess!

    André

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    I’m sorry for the late reply, Andre. And thank you for pointing out Scrivener to me. If (okay, when) I get a Mac, you’ll be sure I’ll look into it. =)