Treasure Trove: An Ultimate List of Digital Writing Tools
It seems like every day there are new digital tools promising to change the way you write. If we have learned anything from our closets full of empty notebooks, it’s that it’s easy to get overwhelmed by a sea of shiny trinkets. When offered a vast array of wonders, it’s hard to find the tools you actually want, or need. So, we’ve collected a hoard of digital resources for writers, from organizational apps to medieval naming archives, and beyond (we know a website that will generate you a custom conlang for your fantasy world. You’re welcome).
No collection of digital tools for writers can be exhaustive, but if there’s something you think we need to add to this collection, let us know. We’re always looking for new ways to improve our writing, too.
Let’s dive in!
Fine Arms and Bejeweled Armor: Word Processors, Planners, and other Practical Treasures
Open Office: Probably you already know about Open Office. In case you did not, let us be the first ones to tell you: there are free alternatives to pretty much the whole Microsoft Office suite. These programs suffer some issues with stability, but if you lack access to one or more of the Microsoft products that have become central to how we share information, they’re a godsend.
Scrivener: The dominant name in novel-organizing programs, Scrivener has a huge amount of versatility, with ready-made tools for novel writing, screen-writing, poetry-composition, recipe-writing, you name it. In addition, it has some of the most complex and in-depth options for organizing storyboarding, scene plans, plot-lines, and just about everything else. Two major downsides: (1) the program’s complexity is both a strength and a weakness - it can do just about everything, but the tutorials alone can take up more than one work day; (2) it’s not free. A month-long trial gives you some time to work out whether or not it’s worth investing.
Instruments, Marvelously Wrought: Motivational Tools for the Distracted, Overwhelmed, or Blocked
TImers: Sustained productivity is hard. Most of us are just not designed to sit down at a desk and write for hours at a time. Enter the Pomodoro technique, a fancy term for breaking down your productivity into short intervals, with carefully timed breaks in between them. The concept is named for the tomato-shaped kitchen-timers it originated on, but there are many digital timers you can use to implement it in your writing life.
White noise generators: Find silence too depressing, but music too distracting? White noise generators are a great tool for putting you in a focused mindset. Programs that mimic ambient sound - like Coffitivity’s famous cafe, or Rainy Cafe are especially helpful, and a lot of fun, too.
Mysterious Gems and Mechanized Toys:
Vulgar - We promised you a conlang generator, didn’t we? Vulgar claims to “model[…] the regularities, irregularities and quirks of real world languages.” We’re not linguists and can’t tell you if that’s true, but it will spin you a 200-word lexicon for free, based on a list of preferences you feed into the machine. All you’ve got to lose is the time you spend picking your favorite vowel sounds. If you’re happy with the results, you can pay for an upgrade and generate 4,000 word lexicons. Which is probably enough to write flash fiction in your invented language… We’re not necessarily advising that, mind.
donjon - if you’re not a devotee of table-top roleplaying games, there is something you need to know about the people who “run” (serve as the primary storyteller in) RPGs: they spend as much time worldbuilding as writers do. Maybe more. donjon is a collection of generators for Games Masters, many of which writers will find useful, too. They’ve got a random name generator that allows you to input your own source lists. They’ve got a tool that allows you to work out how many craftsfolk and nobles a medieval European city of a certain size could support. They’ve even got a tool that generates a random world map. Should you build your whole book on the results of a random generatorp? No, but maps and demographics are some of the most intimidating aspects of worldbuilding, and this can be a good place to start.
Medieval Fantasy City Generator - speaking of gamers and generators, here’s a tool that will generate a map of a medieval city for you!