10 Productivity Tools Every Writer Should Know About


In the short amount of time that I began writing my fictional books, I gradually saw an increase in word count. To be more precise, when I first started writing my first novel I couldn’t write more than 300 words per day but now I get an average of 2.000 words per day, and sometimes I can reach up to 6.000 words. On average, I write 50.000 to 60.000 words per month when I write my fictional stories, and it goes without saying that this wouldn’t have been possible without technology. In this article, I will present to you all the tools that improved my productivity.

Tenkeyless Keyboard


In conjunction with the normal keyboards that have a Numpad, I find Tenkeyless keyboards much more efficient. The lack of extra keys helps me reduce the distance I need to move my right hand between the mouse and the keyboard. And guess what? It’s easier to place my hand back in the right position without having to look. It might seem menial, but when you’re editing, you’ll have to repeat the process a bunch of times on each page, and you have to look at the keyboard each time to make sure that you placed your hand correctly on the keyboard. I realized that without the Numpad my brain could easily trace where my hand should be placed and minimized the frustration of constantly looking at the keyboard. My keyboard of choice is a Logitech k480, which is wireless and uses Bluetooth. Any of you who might use it, you’ll find out that the keys have that feeling of a cheap keyboard, and it is, however, it became my primary tool of choice since you can use it for more than one device when you’re writing. 

Voice Typing and Voice Recording


At the beginning of 2020, I had read that several writers use Voice Typing to write the first draft of their book. Those forum threads and blog posts motivated me to start learning Voice Typing. Here I want to point out that although Voice Typing is easier to learn, compared to “hand” typing, it has some learning curve as well. The basic difference is that with Voice Typing you need to think of the complete sentence before speaking to the microphone, whereas when typing with a keyboard you can write, correct, and form the sentence as you go. As a writer, I assume that you can type fast, but nothing can compare with the speed the various Voice Typing tools can provide when you master them. Even traditional writers that write their drafts in textbooks can benefit from voice typing since it’s way easier to transfer your manuscript to digital format. All you have to do is use your cell phone’s mic or your laptop’s, and you’re good to go. 

What’s great about voice typing is that almost every mobile device has Google’s free Voice Typing service (android and iPhone users), so there’s no additional cost involved. What I’ve realized though, is that Google’s Voice Typing service works best when you’re using Google Docs from your laptop’s browser, so it became my tool of choice till I realized Microsoft 365 users like me have the option to use Word’s Dictate feature. For me, Dictate works better than most premium software out there, even though I’m not a native speaker and my accent sucks. I also found out that as a subscriber I can connect my account with Office Mobile and use all those features there as well. One of the many advantages of Word’s Dictate is that you can voice type a variety of punctuation symbols, something that Google Voice isn’t capable of doing yet.

Either you use a free or a premium service, what I want to point out is that these tools made the difference for me. What I usually do is sit for 25 minutes and write 1.000 – 1.500 words in the morning, then another 1.000 – 1.500 words in the noon and then I use my keyboard to edit or rewrite my draft during the evening or late at night, when kiddo is sleeping. Since several of you ask me how possible it is to use Voice Typing as your primary typing tool, I want to point out that all my story drafts have been made with Voice Typing.

For those of you who are premium 365 MS subscribers, you can also use the Transcribe tool, where you upload your recordings, and transcribe your voice recording. I rarely use this tool, but when I do, it’s usually when I go or when I come back from work. This saves me some time while in the car alone.

Editing Tools: Grammarly and Microsoft Word’s Editor


For me, Grammarly’s free version has been the best editing software so far, period! I’m not a native speaker and it has been a lifesaver, but several of my fellow writers use it and all agree that it’s one of the best editing tools out there. You can pay for the premium version, it costs around 10$ a month, but for the most part, the free version covers my needs. Partially, the reason I’m not paying for the premium version is because Microsoft 365 offers the Editor tool that complements several of the premium features Grammarly offers. That being said, Editor is far from perfect and when I first started using it back in 2018 it was barely usable. The tool has come a long way since then and I use it along with Grammarly to edit and correct my manuscript. 

Wide Screen Monitors

I use an LG, 34” curved display when I write. So far, it’s the most expensive investment I’ve done in peripherals since it cost me more than 1.000 euros at the time of buying, however, I don’t regret it at all. Obviously, you don’t have to buy an expensive monitor to write and there are several cheaper options for widescreens, only they aren’t that ergonomic in use and a better-quality screen can be life-saving for your eyes. Additionally, curved monitors can help you observe the entire screen, even the corners, compared to their flat alternatives. I know that firsthand since I also own a flat, 34” LG monitor and the difference is noticeable. 

The most notable advantage of having a bigger monitor screen is that you can improve your productivity when writing or editing. For example, I can split my screen and have my Greek-English dictionary on my left and the word processor on my right. That was my preferred arrangement when I realized I needed more “real estate” for my other tools, such as Grammarly & Editor running at the same time. More on that I explain down below in the layouts section.

Microsoft PowerToys

I don’t know if mac users have something similar, and I didn’t know that I could easily split my screen into different areas till I discovered Microsoft PowerToys. For Windows users, it’s a must-have tool. And most importantly: it’s free! I won’t explain here all the functionality of the suite since I mainly use a tool called Fancy Zones. With it, I can arrange my screen in rows, columns, and layouts. For example, I use the following arrangement when I want to edit since I use a Greek-English Dictionary and Thesaurus. 


When I’m voice typing, I need an additional window with usual expressions and words, so I arrange my screen accordingly in four areas as you can see in the following image.


I want to point out here that Fancy Zones come packed with ready-made layouts but I prefer setting my own.


MS Project Professional (& Why you Should Have a Publishing Schedule)


Having a publishing schedule will help your mind relax and make you realize what is and what isn’t realistic. I tended to set unrealistic goals. I have a day job, and a newborn son, so publishing five to six books a year was practically impossible. To be more precise: I can write fix to six books a year, but my experience showed that they were rushed. After a bunch of negative reviews, it was clear I had to take a step back, learn more about the art of writing, and set realistic goals.

It’s not important to have a publishing schedule for the entire year, although I recommend it. Anyways, I find it relaxing to know what I have to write for the next three to four months. To keep track of your schedule there are a bunch of programs, such as Excel or Google Sheets, but my preferred choice is Microsoft Project. It’s not a tool for writers, project managers use it, so you might be thinking right now: Why do I need it? The answer is plain simple: Because it acts as your personal accountability partner. I started using this tool in December of 2020, and I wonder how I managed things without it. I had used a bunch of other project management tools in the past, but Microsoft Project does the job right for me. By setting realistic goals, I know when the book will be complete. In case that something else comes up, I add it into the program and the dates readjust, giving me automatically a realistic overview of when the book will be complete.

The Grinder by Diabolical Plots

Within my publishing schedule for 2021, I was planning to write one to two short stories and send them to Magazines (but my plan went south). These magazines are accepting unsolicited stories in short format, ranging from flash fiction to novella-sized stories. If you’re starting your career as a short story writer, you’ll find the whole process of finding a publisher daunting. Not only it’s time-consuming to find all these magazines, but it’s impossible to keep track of their publishing schedule. In short, The Grinder is a directory with Pro and non-Pro Magazines that contains all the details a writer would like to know, such as how much each word is paid, when they are open for submissions, etc. If you’ve written a fictional story, then you don’t need to search for an agent (since most of them don’t accept novellas or short stories), instead, you can find a publisher or magazine directly through The Grinder. Some of the several features the platform offers are: average rejection and approval time, rates / payment, and how reliable each magazine is. To cut things short, without The Grinder it’s nearly impossible to get published. And most importantly: the platform is free!

Publishing platform (for Finding Agents)

Writing and publishing your short story is way easier compared to novel publishing. As I explained above, short story publishing doesn’t need representation from an agent, but if you’re targeting one of the big five (or their imprints), the process is much more complex, and you need an agent to get published. 

The problem here is that there are countless agents and it’s practically impossible to find them through a simple Google Search. The most known platform is Publishers Marketplace, but it is a bit expensive for the well-being of my wallet. On the other hand, Duotrope costs only 5$ per month or around 50$ for a yearly subscription. You don’t need to buy a yearly subscription, what I suggest you do is subscribe for a month, get the details of agents that are relevant to your genre, and submit your cover letter to them. If you get rejected, just buy another month and repeat the process.

Word Processors of all kinds

I know that several writers prefer scrivener or other similar software to write their stories, but it just didn’t cut out for me. My preferred word processor is MS Word 365. With it, I can write my story from any device (may it be my smartphone, my desktop, or any other PC that happens to have a modern browser). Along with the plethora of tools that MS 365 offers for $10 a month, I find it to be the best word processor ever made, and it’s my primary tool for anything related to writing, that’s why I think you’ll need it at some point of your writing or editing process.

At times I find my screen overwhelming and I get distracted often. That’s why at times I prefer using word processors with minimal interfaces that offer a distraction-free experience.

For desktop users, I suggest you give Write Monkey a go. It’s minimal and classy like several premium options out there, except for the fact that this one is a free tool. It has some premium tools that I never used, and to be honest: I prefer the interface of the 2nd version more. Its full-screen option promises a distraction-free experience for writers like me who keep checking their emails and social media. The reason I don’t use it this much nowadays is because it lacks voice typing functionality, something that is a must for me.

Draftin.com is a minimal browser-based text editor without the bells and whistles of Google Docs. I tend to use it on Chrome with the Voice-in extension (that allows you to voice type anywhere in the browser). I tend to use chrome in full-screen mode (using the fn+F11 keys on my keyboard to switch in between) so that I don’t get distracted. For several writers, this could be the tool of choice for a minimal and distraction-free experience while at the same time you have the additional advantage of Voice Typing your story.

Cold Turkey Blocker

I admit that I’m an internet junkie when I sit in front of my PC or laptop. It’s really frustrating when every 5-10 minutes I check my emails or my social media. That’s why when I sit my ass down and write, I use Cold Turkey Blocker, the toughest website and app software ever made. You pay it once and I was lucky enough to get a student license since I was doing my master’s degree at the time. If you’re like me: struggling to write because you constantly check your social media or emails, Cold Turkey is the right tool for you. It has improved my productivity considerably, and I wouldn’t be able to write the number of words I currently do without it.

Conclusion

Technology has made my life easier. As a teenager in the 90s, writing was a daunting and frustrating experience, partially because of my awful handwriting. I realized I like writing when I first got my first PC in 2000 and since then I’ve never looked back.

What about you? What are the preferred writing tools that you can’t leave without? Let me know in the comments!


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