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 average around 2,000 words per day, and sometimes I even reach up to 6,000 words. On average, I write 50,000 to 60,000 words per month when working on my fictional stories, and it goes without saying that this wouldn’t have been possible without the tech I'm using. Here's an extensive list of all the tools that helped me improve my productivity.

Tenkeyless Keyboard


In conjunction with the standard keyboards that include a Numpad, I find Tenkeyless keyboards much more efficient. The absence 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 position my hand back correctly without needing to look. It might seem trivial, but during editing, you have to repeat this process numerous times on each page, and you need to glance at the keyboard each time to ensure your hand is correctly placed. I realized that without the Numpad, I could easily locate where my hand should be positioned, minimizing the frustration of constantly looking at the keyboard. My keyboard of choice is a Logitech K480, which is wireless and utilizes Bluetooth. For those of you who might use it, you'll find that the keys have the feel of a cheap keyboard, and indeed, it is. However, it became my primary tool of choice since it can be used for more than one device while writing. 

Voice Typing and Voice Recording


At the beginning of 2020, I came across several writers discussing their use of Voice Typing to write the first draft of their books. These 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 traditional typing, it still has a learning curve. The fundamental difference is that with Voice Typing, you need to formulate the complete sentence in your mind before speaking into the microphone, whereas when typing with a keyboard, you can write, correct, and structure the sentence as you go. As a writer, you may already type fast, but nothing compares to the speed that various Voice Typing tools can provide once mastered. Even traditional writers who draft in notebooks can benefit from voice typing, as it's much easier to transfer your manuscript to digital format. All you need to do is use your cell phone’s or laptop’s microphone, and you’re good to go.

What’s great about voice typing is that almost every mobile device has access to Google’s free Voice Typing service (for both Android and iPhone users), so there’s no additional cost involved. However, I've realized that Google’s Voice Typing service works best when used with Google Docs from your laptop’s browser, so it became my tool of choice until I discovered that Microsoft 365 users like myself 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 isn't perfect. I also found out that as a subscriber, I can connect my account with Office Mobile and access all these 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.

Whether you use a free or premium service, what I want to emphasize is that these tools have made a significant difference for me. My usual routine involves writing 1,000 – 1,500 words in the morning and another 1,000 – 1,500 words in the afternoon. Then, I use my keyboard to edit or rewrite my draft in the evening or late at night when my child is asleep. Since many of you have asked me about the feasibility of using Voice Typing as your primary typing tool, I want to point out that all my story drafts have been created using Voice Typing.

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

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. Several of my fellow writers use it, and we all agree that it’s one of the best editing tools out there. While you can pay for the premium version, which costs around $10 a month, the free version covers my needs for the most part. Part of the reason I haven't upgraded to the premium version is because Microsoft 365 offers the Editor tool, which complements several of the premium features Grammarly offers. That being said, Editor is far from perfect. When I first started using it back in 2018, it was barely usable. However, the tool has come a long way since then, and I now use it alongside Grammarly to edit and correct my manuscript. 

Wide Screen Monitors

I use an LG 34” curved display when I write. So far, it’s been the most expensive investment I’ve made in peripherals, costing me more than 1,000 euros at the time of purchase. 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. However, they may not be as ergonomic to use, and a higher-quality screen can be life-saving for your eyes. Additionally, curved monitors can help you see the entire screen, including the corners, compared to their flat alternatives. I know this firsthand since I also own a flat, 34” LG monitor, and the difference is noticeable.

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

Microsoft PowerToys

I'm not sure if Mac users have something similar, and I wasn’t aware that I could easily split my screen into different areas until 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 functionalities 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, as I use a Greek-English Dictionary and Thesaurus. 


When I’m voice typing, I need an additional window with common expressions and words, so I arrange my screen accordingly into 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 can help your mind relax and make you realize what is and isn't realistic. I used to set unrealistic goals. With a day job and a newborn son, publishing five to six books a year was practically impossible for me. To be more precise: I could write five to six books a year, but my experience showed that they were rushed. After receiving a bunch of negative reviews, it became clear that I needed to take a step back, learn more about the art of writing, and set realistic goals.

It’s not necessary to have a publishing schedule for the entire year, although I recommend it. Regardless, 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 several programs available, such as Excel or Google Sheets, but my preferred choice is Microsoft Project. It's not a tool for writers; project managers typically use it. You might be wondering, "Why do I need it?" The answer is plain and simple: because it acts as your personal accountability partner. I started using this tool in December 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 something else comes up, I add it to the program, and the dates readjust automatically, giving me 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)

Within my publishing schedule for 2021, I had planned to write one to two short stories and submit them to magazines. However, my plan didn't go as expected. These magazines accept unsolicited stories in short formats, ranging from flash fiction to novella-sized stories. If you’re beginning your career as a short story writer, you'll likely find the whole process of finding a publisher daunting. It's not only time-consuming to discover all these magazines, but it's also impossible to keep track of their publishing schedules.

In short, The Grinder is a directory containing both Pro and non-Pro Magazines, providing all the details a writer would like to know, such as payment rates, submission windows, and more. If you've written a fictional story, 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 platform's features include average rejection and approval times, payment rates, and reliability ratings for each magazine.

Without The Grinder, it’s nearly impossible to get published. And most importantly, the platform is free!

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 it for me. My preferred word processor is MS Word 365. With it, I can write my story from any device, whether it's my smartphone, desktop, or any other PC with 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 in your writing or editing process.

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

For desktop users, I suggest you give Write Monkey a try. 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've 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 as much nowadays is because it lacks voice typing functionality, which 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 (which 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 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 still having 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 down to write, I use Cold Turkey Blocker, the toughest website and app software ever made. You pay for 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 significantly improved my productivity, 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 liked 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 live without? Let me know in the comments!


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