5 terrific tools for professional writers

From clever apps to a simple ballpoint and legal pad, these can boost your productivity and help you organize all your flashes of brilliance.

Want to make your writing easier and be more productive?

Check out these five writing tools every writer should have in their toolbox whether they are blogging for businesses, copywriting for websites, writing articles for clients or just doing creative writing:

1. Good old pen and paper

Having trouble wrapping your mind around an idea or concept? Step away from the computer, and welcome the ease and pleasure of putting ideas down on paper. Most any sheet of paper will do, and it’s almost always available when you need to do a quick sketch, create an outline or just doodle until your mind relaxes. Next thing you know, the ideas will start flowing, and you’ll be off and running again, back to your computer.

Another reason to use pen and paper? In meetings with clients or business associates, it’s less distracting than using a laptop or tablet, so you can focus on the people, instead of on the technology.

2. WorkFlowy

WorkFlowy is a fabulous outlining tool that can help you easily capture questions, little ideas, random thoughts, copy snippets or anything else you’d like to keep track of quickly. The free version works great and lets you keep up to 250 notes at a time.

The beauty of WorkFlowy is the ability to record a thought the second you get it, without disrupting your focus. You can organize your notes in an easy-to-use hierarchy with virtually unlimited branches. Plus, WorkFlowy is available just about anywhere with versions for PC, Mac, iPhone and iPad.

3. Scrivener

At first glance this platform looks incredibly complex, but you don’t have to use all the elaborate features to get great use out of it. Scrivener can help you organize your work, manage a multitude of projects and adapt to the unique ways you work.

One of Scrivener’s best features is the Notes section that sits across from the main document. You can use this section to brainstorm ideas, add important information a client shared or hold vital statistics or product information while you’re writing. The beauty of this little Notes box is that it sits right beside the main copy window, so it’s easy to refer to it without leaving the document you’re working on.

Another great thing about Scrivener is its ability to let you focus on one thing at a time or everything at once—and all so easily.

In the folders pane, you can list multiple projects in folders, each with a list of all the pages below it. If you want to see all the pages as a whole, all the information is right there. When you want to focus on just one project, you can minimize the other folders and concentrate on the task at hand.

Plus, you can easily switch back and forth among pages, to write content or make edits as items come up. Brilliant.

You can also do some very simple project management using Scrivener. In the example above, Scrivener’s color-coding function helps you easily track the status of projects.

Each color represents a different status, so it’s easy see what is completed, what still must be done and more. Implement your own color-coding system to suit your needs.

One thing that makes Scrivener perfect for writing is the ability to take a snapshot of a page and preserve the original when you have to rewrite something. The snapshot function has a “compare documents” feature, so you can see all the changes you’ve made.

We’ve barely scratched the surface of all the cool features available in Scrivener. If you do a lot of writing, it’s certainly worth a look. Scrivener is available in both PC version ($40) and Mac version ($45). There’s a free 15-day trial so you can test the app before you buy.

4. Skitch

Do you often have to copy and annotate Web pages or take screenshots of applications when blogging or writing articles? Skitch makes it easy to grab whatever you need from the screen, crop it, add an arrow or some text and send it just about anywhere. The Pixelate function is useful for hiding details from a screenshot for privacy. It’s a snap to use, and it’s available for free for both Mac and Windows users.

5. Pomodoro—the procrastination killer

We may have saved the best for last, at least in terms of any writer’s productivity. Many writers procrastinate when beginning a piece of writing. The blank page can be intimidating, even if you write every day.

To push through procrastination, we recommend trying Pomodoro. The app is based on the Pomodoro method, developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. You simply set a timer for 30 minutes, focus on a single task until the timer rings and then take a short break. Each 30-minute segment is called a Pomodoro. The original technique was implemented by using a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato.

The app makes it easy to time your Pomodoros; it even shows you how many you’ve completed during the day, which can be very motivating. A tomato symbol representing the original analog timing method marks each completed Pomodoro.

Setting the timer and forcing yourself to work on a specific task for just 30 minutes can do wonders for your productivity. The Pomodoro App for iPhone is available from the iTunes app store and costs just $1.99. An Android version is available in the GooglePlay store for the same price.

Amy Christaldi has worked for EZSolution, a Web design and marketing firm based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, since 2000. A version of this article first appeared on Business2Community.

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