Writing is challenging enough, but keeping organized while juggling everything needed to write a long-form book project, academic dissertation, or business presentation or project brief can cause anyone to burst a synapse.
In addition to what you contribute from your own thoughts, complex longer projects require outside resources and articles, notes, timelines, character descriptions, and many other support materials.
The slips of paper, journals, spreadsheets, 32 open tabs on the computer, phone notes app, and reference and grammar books cluttering your workspace may make you feel like you’re writing from inside the eye of a hurricane.
Now, according to studies of the neurological function of a creative person’s mind, we *apparently* don’t mind chaos (which you can learn about in our FREE course on the writer’s creative brain), but still- having to bear in mind lists, developmental arcs, facts and figures, in addition to the maelstrom of all the reference info around can make us feel truly discombobulated.
The 6 Best Writing Apps That Will Organize You– And Your Writing
If you’re working on a long-form project, you will definitely benefit from an organizational tool designed to help keep the scope of work manageable, all in one place, and ensure it emerges in its best form.
This review is of the current 6 best writing programs out there to keep you (and your writing) organized:
- WriteWords, Cliché Finder, & Grammarly.
These 6 best writing apps provide a wonderful organizational scaffolding that makes sure the work stays manageable, your stress at a minimum, and you staying on track.
Disclaimer: We are in no way affiliated with or sponsored by any of the programs mentioned in this article. All experiences, commentary, and reviews are based on personal experience only.
**No time to read about the apps? No problem! Coming soon to One Lit Place, our own Pascale Potvin will be reviewing each of the 6 writing apps in quick videos that will give you all the important details you need to know about how you can soon organizing the business out of your writing!**
(But if you’ve got a few minutes, read on …)
1) For World-Building: Miro
As an online interactive whiteboard, Miro enables you to create a blueprint of your project. While it can be used for every kind of project in any genre, it’s fantastic for writers who want to see their project laid out as it will ultimately be or who want to test out developing structures, plot, character development, or progression of ideas to see how they’ll manifest in the greater scope of the whole.
(J.K. Rowling did not use Miro when plotting out Harry Potter. Nor did Gay Talese, Sylvia Plath, or many other writers. What would it have been if Miro had been around then? *Mind blown.)
What a pleasure it is to have all your complicated ideas and possiblilies in one place! Miro allows you to create and store timelines, family trees, and visual outlines, all things that can become so tangled if left in your head. You can even add notes, photos, documents, and other kinds of files, so you have the whole giant picture in one spot. Zoom out to have a bird’s eye look at the whole thing or zoom in to see the details as you wish.
Collaborating with other writers or colleagues? Miro lets everyone on the project work on the same board at any time, even simultaneously, and it’s continuously synced up so you’ll always be able to see who’s done what.
Plus, it offers you the option of collaborating not just on the documents and files but with each other in real time: text and video chat, screen sharing, and commenting options make all manner of connecting over the work possible.
(Plus, how fun does this sound? Far less like work and far more like a writing party!)
2) Planning and Tracking: Pacemaker
There are so many reasons to generate new writing:
- You’re embarking on or re-invigorating a writing practice in our new self-guided course Cultivating Creativity: How to Start and Sustain a Writing Habit in 31 Days *developed with love to help all writers bust a move with a rejuvenated mindset and new material!
- NaNoWriMo, a month-long international initiative to get writers from zero to finished book
- Working toward a master’s thesis or Phd dissertation
- Delivering content at work or to your team
- You’re a professional writer.
As someone who strives to write on a regular basis, you know there are days when you write finely, your fingers doing their thing, and there are other days when you write a line, delete it, write a word, examine your nails, think about what to make for dinner and remember you need to make a dentist’s appointment, then get up and sort through and bundle old electrical cables or organize your filing cabinet.
One of the hardest things about writing is that you have to be both the administrator of the process as well as the creative spirit making the process happen.
One might argue that having to be aware of your progress and goals enough to strategize how to get to them, while at the same time needing to be in a zone to give over to your ideas and flow, is counter-intuitive and antithetical and perhaps some other big words as well.
In most real-life situations, we do not want to give away our power, but when it comes to writing, we really really do.
By letting something else worry about your admin, you’re much freer to get into the writing.
Pacemaker is a word count planner and tracker. You can customize it based on your individual routine, and it’s always there for you either in graph, calendar, or table form. Plus, you can download it into your iCal (and even share with friends online to keep accountable- Tip: this is a fantastic idea.)
You can tell the app how much or little you want to write: steady amounts every day, more on the weekends or holidays, or during November, a whole novel, perhaps? Once you set it, you can forget it, sit back, and simply write. The program will tell you how much writing you have on the dock for the day.
If your schedule changes, that’s no problem either. The program will re-calculate your writing days to keep you on track for your greater goal, which is essential to keep your spirits up and for you to see yourself progress!
3) Brainstorming, Outlining and Writing: Scrivener
Are you the kind of writer who always has the computer, a notebook, scraps of paper, and your phone notes app open at all times? Do you toggle between projects constantly depending on your fatigue level, interests, and allotted time? Do you keep your character outlines, timelines, outlines, and other lines all in different files, plus different tabs open in Chrome and Safari so you’re constantly shifting between everything?
Those hundreds of small breaks in your concentration are creativity killers, says Joyce Carol Oates. They’re also hard on your productivity.
Scrivener makes it so you can stop torturing yourself. With Scrivener, you can brainstorm, outline, and write your projects in one neat and tidy place, moving between chapters, notes, and all of other references easily.
Imagine how clean your workspace will be! It’ll look like one of those Instagram photos you see in other people’s feeds!
In Scrivener, you can upload pdfs, word docs, images, videos, sound files, web pages, and more. You can even keep four files open at the same time, so any pictures or timelines are right there for easy reference. Any notes you make in your journal before bed or on the back of a receipt during your kid’s soccer practice can be digitally uploaded as well.
You can work on a novel or nonfiction manuscript, a screenplay, an academic journal article or dissertation, or a presentation or other complex business document and easily navigate between chapters, rough notes, interviews and references. The screen can be sized larger to tune out notifications from social media or email (the #1 enemy of your concentration), and the background is customizable as well. (Just because we’re writers doesn’t mean we don’t also like pretty things).
When it’s time to send the file to your academic committee, literary magazine, or agent, you can save the file in any industry-required format, hit “print,” and you’re good to go.
Scrivener has already improved my writing process to the point I can never go back. My research, character sheets, and plot points can be kept in one organized document, instead of the haphazard pile of notes I used to carry around (and had nightmares about losing). It’s so easy to find an earlier scene within a few clicks, rather than the endless scrolling I used to do, and Scrivener auto-formats short stories or novels so they’re ready for submission. There are also a ton of tutorials or video walk-throughs to help writers learn how to navigate the program. Though I probably only use a fraction of Scrivener’s capabilities, and it isn’t free, it was a game-changer for my organization and efficiency.
–Michelle Tang (Author of How I Learned Lyricism, Tone, Attention to Genre, and Humor from Literary Greats at One Lit Place)
4, 5 & 6) Proofreading Help: WriteWords, Cliché Finder & Grammarly
What a beautiful day it is when you finish your article, story, or book-length project. You know it’s done because a) you can’t bear to look at it anymore b) you’ve taken it as far as you can c) you smacked into your deadline, and whether it’s “perfect” or not, she’s off to the races.
But before you show it to anyone, it must be clean, lean, and grammatically spot-on. The problem with you being the last guard on the project is is you’re so familiar with it, you can’t actually identify it for its parts anymore.
Semantic fatigue is a real thing (I wrote a whole blog about it!): when your eyes and ears are so attuned to the same word or combinations of words and can no longer identify them as language because now they sound like gibberish. That dangling modifier that would make a reader laugh doesn’t even phase you.
This is the part when most writers lean on their editors, whose fresh-as-daisies eyes can do what you can’t do yourself, which is see the diamond in the manuscript. (Check out all the many ways our OLP human editors provide support to our writers)
Absent a human editor, there are programs that can help you improve aspects of the readability of your manuscript. These should be used with caution, for as good as WriteWords, Clichéfinder and Grammarly are, they’re no substitute for a person who is trained to hear and see the music of the lines, catch things that are disconnected contextually or want for transition, or who knows how to identify grammatical uses in one of those wending several-clause sentences some people are fond of (ahem) all while maintaining the lines’ integrity and adjusting them so they are correct, fluid and tonally appropriate.
WriteWords Word & Phrase Frequency Counter: it’s more common than you think to inadvertently self-plagiarize. If we use a word at the top of a paragraph, for example, our brains often hook into that word or phrase, and now, so delighted we have that word in our arsenal, unconsciously use it a few more times within a short space.
We might not catch it, but a reader may see it glaring at them from all its many positions in a paragraph and make them think you simply weren’t paying attention, pulling the reader out of the reading experience and ultimately giving the reader the impression you are less competent. (see?)
- Write Words will find those words and phrases with its Word Frequency Counter and Phrase Frequency Counter, and let you know when you need to reword or re-phrase in order to keep the flow flowing and the reader turning pages, entirely mesmerized by your beautiful language use.
- The Online Cliché Finder by Arczis, similarly, will detect common expressions in your writing: nobody should be leaning on clichés, for heaven’s sakes. Why would you use old hat language when you can find a cool new way to say the same thing?
- Grammarly: without a doubt, this is a helpful program. It catches whatever mistakes are in the text you have missed and even teaches you how to fix the issues for the next time. Any line-level errors, missing or incorrectly used punctuation, and mistakes like subject-verb disagreement (he say –> he says) and spelling gaffes all get caught by the program.
Can Grammarly replace a human editor? Nope.
Its AI is only able to locate specific instances of misuse. It can’t take into account the whole work, as in making sure your ideas are coming across cohesively and consistently in tone, purpose, and to suit your audience. It can’t suggest reordering material or reconfiguring a line to better suit the paragraph, section, or whole text.
A human is always necessary when you need to be completely sure you’ve done due diligence by your work before sending it out. But Grammarly is certainly going to help you with things your tired eyes will have skimmed over, which is extremely helpful for maintaining your credibility with your audience.
(Nothing like typing “pubic” when you mean “public”!)
It’s fun to romanticize the old days when writers had nothing more than their typewriter, a full ashtray, and the sound of the keys ticking away. But now that we have these 6 best writing programs to make our lives and easier (and jogging and kale have replaced smoking), it’s fun to see where our minds will be free enough to take us– especially when we’re this organized.
We hope you use these writing programs in good health, and we look forward to seeing your fabulously clean desk on Instagram.
To chat with us about your writing goals, connect with an editor to ensure you’re presenting your best work to the world, or to see how we can support you in your work, please be in touch for a free consultation any time!