Jonathan Franzen, everyone’s favorite literary grump, once said, “It’s doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” We understand what he’s getting at: If you’re embarking on the daunting and time-consuming task of writing a book, there’s no shortage of fun and exciting and pointless stuff online to distract you. But that doesn’t mean technology is entirely counterproductive to the creation of quality writing.
Sure, breaking periodically from your story to look at cat videos is probably not the best use of your time. But there are a boatload of apps that can help writers stay organized, expand their vocabularies, and use their time more wisely.
Here are 11 apps that can help you finally finish your novel:
Read, read, read!
Take it from Stephen King: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” There are a number of apps offering free books, from the Bibleto thousands of out-of-copyright classics. If you’re looking for newer titles, Oyster is a great option for discovering them. The supposed “Netflix for books,” the app “offers unlimited access to over 100,000 books for $9.95 a month.” Another great tool for discovery is Goodreads‘s tried and true platform, which recommends titles based on the books you’ve already read and rated.
Organize your thoughts
Joan Didion has already articulated the importance of keeping a notebook: “We are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not.” She emphasizes that jotting down observations from your own perspective is essential not only for good writing, but for self-knowledge. If you’re without time or a pen, Dragon Dictation will turn your voice recordings into text (albeit sometimes error-riddled text). If you’ve got a little more time, Evernoteallows you to record observations and musings in a structured way. You can even add photos, reminders and to-do lists. For a more visual and free-flowing means of cataloging and organizing your musings, MindNode is a tool that aids in the creation of flow charts — great for plotting and character mapping.
Find the right words
Hemingway re-wrote the ending of A Farewell to Arms 39 times. When asked what was stumping him, he replied, “Getting the words right.” When words are escaping you, apps like Poetreat can come in handy; it not only allows users to search for rhyming words, but also assists in restructuring a poem’s entire rhyme scheme. To generally stay fresh on your vocab, we recommend, well, reading. But also,Dictionary.com‘s Word of the Day app, which we think offers a smarter, more fun selection than Merriam Webster’s. Their choices are often timely, or explorative of little-known alternate definitions for common words.
Find your voice
Speaking of Hemingway, there’s a new and much buzzed-about app named after the famously clear writer. Hemingway analyzes a block of text, highlighting hard-to-read and very-hard-to-read sentences. Adverbs are called out, and synonyms are supplied to minimize verbosity. Even if you’re not aiming to write like Hemingway (heck, even Hemingway didn’t necessarily want to write like Hemingway), it’s a fun tool, and a means of swiftly eliminating pesky adverbs. Similarly, Writer Pro is an app that allows you to select and highlight different parts of speech within your text. It also displays the reading time and number of sentences in a given work. In theory, such a tool can help you simplify (or spruce up) your writing.
Perhaps more of a facetious nod at writers’ tendency to procrastinate than an actual motivating tool, Write or Die allows users to set word count goals for themselves, with various punishments administered if the word counts aren’t met. The app can either be set to stimulus mode, in which luxuries such as a user-created playlist are taken away when goals aren’t met, and consequence mode, in which laziness is met with “the disappointed glare of grumpy cat.” SelfControl may be a simpler and more pragmatic choice; the app allows you to block certain sites, such as Twitter or Facebook, for an amount of time of your choosing.