15 Essential Time-saving Tools for Busy Writers

by | Apr 17, 2015

By Bryan Collins (@BryanJCollins)

Are you having trouble finding time to write?

Do you find it difficult to balance self-publishing with the other parts of being a writing, creating and marketing a book?

Are you looking for a definitive list of writing tools you can use and depend on?

Don’t worry.

In this post, I’ve gathered 15 of the best writing tools that will save you time, write more frequently, and become a more productive writer.

  1. Scrivener

    What is it: Scrivener is a word processor and a project management tool that many writers including Joanna Penn and Jeff Goins use to manage their writing projects.

    How it will save you time: If you take the time to learn how to use Scrivener, you can can organise all of your writing, including blog posts, books and screenplays, in one place.

    Scrivener makes editing easier and you can use it to convert your work in eBook formats for Amazon, Google Play, Kobo and other stores.

    Price: USD45

  2. Cloud Storage

    What is it: Google Drive and Dropbox are two great ways of backing up your writing for free and collaborating with other writers. No more dead hard-drives and lost manuscripts.

    How it will save you time: With Dropbox you can restore earlier versions of your work, while the comments feature and shareable links provided by Google Drive simplifies collaborating with editors and proofreaders.

    Price: Free

  3. Google Apps for Work

    What is it: Google Apps for Work is a suite of tools for professionals. Alongside additional cloud storage, it enables you to send emails to and from your domain using the Gmail interface.

    As a writer, you’ll look more professional if you send emails from your domain i.e. firstname[at]mysite[dot]com.

    How it will save you time: The Gmail interface is the easiest and fastest way to manage email on the go. Plus, the additional cloud storage can help seasoned writers with lots of book design assets to backup.

    Price: USD5 per month

  4. Grammarly

    What is it: Grammarly is an online grammar checker that will find up to ten times more clichés and mistakes that the spelling and grammar checker in a word processor.

    How it will save you time: Grammarly isn’t a replacement for a human proofreader but if you need an extra line of defence before you self-publish your next book, it’s a good investment.

    Price: USD29.95 per month.

  5. Compfight

    What is it: Compfight is a Flickr search engine for finding free and premium images for your website, blog posts and books.

    How it will save you time: Compfight speeds up the process of finding stock and license-free images. It also provides an attribution that you can cut and paste into your blog or the acknowledgements section of your book.

    Price: Free

  6. Death to the Stock Photo

    What is it: Hate stock imagery? Death to the Stock Photo is a monthly curated photo pack of high-quality images, many of which are aimed at writers.

    How it will save you time: You won’t have to spend time looking for images for your books or your website. Death to the Stock will send them to your inbox.

    Price: Free.

  7. Evernote

    What is it: Michael Hyatt is just one of the bloggers who recommends Evernote for organising the research that goes into non-fiction writing projects. If you haven’t used it, it’s a digital tool for storing your research, notes and ideas in one place.

    How it will save you time: Writers read a lot more than they write and organising this research is often tedious. With Evernote, you can sort your research using meaningful tags and notebooks and find information when you need it. I use it for storing blog posts, articles, giveaways, ideas, and quotes.

    Price: Free/USD5 a month

  8. Rev

    What is it: Rev is an audio and video transcription app. The people at Rev will take your recordings and transcribe them for you. I used this service to dictate or write a blog post that should have taken four hours in just one.

    How it will save you time: First drafts are hard, and all the more so if you stop to edit yourself. Rev is great for getting a first draft of your head and onto the blank page. Pat Flynn provides a great guide for writing your first book draft with Rev.

    Price: USD1 a minute

  9. Google Adwords Keywords Planner

    What is it: Google Adwords Planner is a free tool that you can use to discover the the language of your target audience. When you input your niche, topic or book idea, this tool show you keywords that people are searching for. Using these should make your work more discoverable and relevant.

    How it will save you time: If you’re a non-fiction writer, the AdWords planner will help you unearth popular search terms you can use in your promotional copy and even your title.

    Look for terms that have a relatively high search volume (i.e. over 10,000 per month) and a low or medium degree of competition.

    Price: Free

  10. A Social Media Automation Tool

    What is it: Buffer and HootSuite are two popular social media automation tool that you can use to master Twitter and send Facebook and LinkedIn updates at a time that suits you. It’s also great for curating content.

    How it will save you time: Most savvy writers who self-publish recognise the importance of building an audience on social media.

    However, it doesn’t make sense to stop writing every hour to sent a tweet. Buffer and HootSuite take care of this heavy lifting for you so you can write your social media updates in one sitting.

    Price: Free/USD10 a month

  11. Pickfu

    What is it: Do you find it difficult to pick titles and covers for your books? Using Pickfu, you can ask 50 or more people which title and book cover they prefer.

    How it will save you time: Inspiration is nice, but real-world feedback is more practical, especially if you want to sell books.

    Price: From USD20

  12. WordPress

    What is it: If you have the time and patience, maintaining a blog is a great of building a relationship with your readers. WordPress is the most trusted and accessible blogging platform for writers.

    How it will save you time: I’m not going to lie, there’s a learning curve to WordPress (more on that in a moment), but a blog will help you practice the art of writing and it’s an ideal platform for non-fiction writers.

    Price: Free (but you’ll need to pay for a domain name and web hosting)

  13. Lynda.com

    What is it: Lynda.com is an online training service that you can use to learn everything from self-publishing to WordPress. I learnt the basics of blogging from Morten Rand-Hendriksen’s tutorials.

    How it will save you time: No more scrubbing through YouTube videos or looking for tutorials that make sense.

    Price: From USD19.95 per month

  14. Medium

    What is it: Medium is a blogging platform for people who hate the nuts and bolts of running a blog.

    It’s run by the people who set up Twitter, and it’s almost impossible to write an ugly looking post on Medium. This Medium guide by Kevan Lee should help you get started.

    How it will save you time: No Medium is not a replacement for self-hosted WordPress blog, but it is a great way of exposing your work to an existing audience.

    You could, for example, post chapters of your book and then link back to your sales page or website.

    Price: Free

  15. MailChimp / AWeber

    What is it: Using these email marketing tools, you can ask your readers to join your email list and write to them every time you have a book out or some new writing to share.

    How it will save you time: Social media is great, but unless you’ve a large audience, it’s an inefficient way of attracting new readers.

    This is why every online writer and marketer asks for an email address in exchange for an ethical bribe. Do this and marketing your books will get a whole lot easier.

    Price: Free/USD1 a month until your list grows

Resources

Alternatives To Google Products

What’s the Best Project Management Tool for My Business?

Put Your Words Before Your Tools

A bad craftsman blames their tools when things go wrong. The writing tools in this post won’t do the hard work of writing for you, and you’ll still need to put the hours in on the blank page. However, these tools will help you become a more productive writer, find your audience and market your work.

What are your favourite writing tools? Share them in the comments section below.

Bryan Collins headshotBryan Collins is a writing coach and author who helps other writers use words to achieve their goals and dreams. His free 20-part email course will help you launch your writing career and become a writer today. https://becomeawritertoday.com/.

 
Photo: bigstockphoto.com. Scrivener link contains my affiliate code.

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25 Comments

  1. Joe Mello

    Thanks, Bryan, there are some good udeas in this list. For Bloggers these work, but you’d need to tweak the list for book writers. Swap Google Adwords Planner for a Kindle keywords tool. Or at least add a tool for Kindle.

    Lynda.com is a decent site. There are good alternatives like Udemy. AppSumo sometimes has good offers.

    I like the cloud storage ides.

    Thanks,
    Joe

    Reply
  2. Ricardo Fayet

    Very good list, Brian. You might be missing a good formatting tool for print and ebooks (like the Reedsy Book Editor: https://reedsy.com/write-a-book), but not sure which one in your list I’d take off to make place ;)

    Reply
  3. Cate Hogan

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful article! Four years ago I also left my job as a marketing manager in Sydney to do something I’d always dreamed of: writing and editing romance novels full time. Anyways, here are also my 8 best tips and tricks for those wanting to follow a similar path http://catehogan.com/tools_for_writers/

    Reply
  4. Xinyu

    People keep saying that WordPress is the best tool for blogging, but could somebody explain why? What sets it apart from other sites like Blogger or Medium or other blogging sites? Also, what would you consider the best 100% free (zero upfront cost, no fees for domains and hosting and stuff) alternative to WordPress? Blogger? Medium? Something else?

    Reply
    • Bryan Collins

      Hi Peter,
      WordPress is great because it’s powerful, it’s free and it gives you complete control over your content. When bloggers talk about WordPress they are talking about the self-hosted version and not WordPress.com

      If you post content on Blogger (Google) or Medium (Twitter), you are posting your content on some one else’s network. This gives them the ability to change how and where your content is displayed. In other words, you don’t own your content. It’s like posting on Facebook.

      I hope this helps.

      Reply
  5. Kevin Peter

    Bryan, most of the time I have trouble getting the first draft right. Is there a tool helping people to get this set and manage my time?

    Reply
    • Bryan Collins

      Great question. You can use Grammarly to search your first draft for grammar and typos and Hemingway App to check if it’s readable.

      Reply
  6. Lorraine Reguly

    Great resources, Bryan.

    I use many of them already! :)

    Reply
    • Bryan

      Good to hear Lorraine

      Reply
  7. Trisha Cupra

    Many libraries offer a free subscription to Lynda.com – so if you’re a member of your local, state, or school library, check if it’s a member benefit. I had no idea I had access to Lynda for free until someone mentioned this just last week.

    Reply
    • Bryan

      I didn’t know that. Thanks for providing this extra info Trisha.

      Reply
  8. Frances Caballo

    I’m pleased to see Grammarly on your list. I’ve been using it well over a year and I wouldn’t publish my blog posts or podcast show notes without putting them through the Grammarly test — however, I still need to proof read the text. But Grammarly does a great job of detecting misplaced commas and squinting modifiers. While Hootsuite is a good option for text-based tweets, it doesn’t work if you want to schedule images. What happens is that instead of the image appearing in your followers’ news feeds, a link to the image appears. This defeats the purpose of tweeting images. SocialOomph is a better choice in my opinion.

    Reply
    • Bryan Collins

      Hi Frances,
      Yes I’ve been using Grammarly almost everyday since I took out a trial a few months ago. It’s not a replacement for a proofreader but it’s another tool for the toolbox.

      Reply
  9. Joel Friedlander

    Glad my all-time favorite productivity app made the list, too: Evernote. I’m always amazed when I run into writers or bloggers who don’t use this Swiss army knife of “note” apps. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it, and it’s really free.

    Reply
    • Caroline Mawer

      Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou Bryan for the Evernote recommendation! I love it!!

      Reply
  10. Michael W. Perry

    It’s a good list, although I’d add that this summer Scrivener will be releasing a long-awaited iOS version for iPhones and iPads. Get a used iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard and you could have a writing system for under $200.

    Also, those who have smartphones might want to get a notetaking app to take down ideas that come to them on the go. Some have a companion app for Macs or Windows that can come in handy.

    Alas, I fail to see the point of Death to the Stock Photo, at least for authors. Getting just the right picture is important, especially for covers. That free monthly pack is unlikely to have the ones I need, and $20 a month is too much for a mere author. I poked around and couldn’t even figure out how to search their collection before I sign up. They should make it possible to try before we buy.

    Besides, photos from business-oriented stock photo suppliers such Bigstockphoto.com and Depositphotos.com simply aren’t that expensive, particularly if you watch for sales. A couple of years ago, I picked up a special offer of 100 high-resolution photos for $100. The only downside was that I had to do the downloads within a year. Both have good search engines and millions of photos, most professionally done.

    Reply
    • Bryan Collins

      Hi Michael,
      Some good points here about stock photos. I included Death to the Stock as they recently featured a series of high quality photos aimed directly at writers for free.

      If you’re writing a short story you could use one of these photos or a tool like Canva to create a cover. Then when you write you a novel you could hire a designer.

      There also good for writers who blog.

      I use Scrivener religiously. The iOS app should be interesting.

      Reply
  11. Joel Friedlander

    Very helpful rundown, Brian. Readers should note that Mail Chimp is free until you reach 2,000 subscribers, then there’s a monthly charge, and AWeber offers a free 30-day trial, but after that the fee is $19.95/month for up to 500 subscribers. I use both services, and have written about why I recommend AWeber here: Why I recommend AWeber

    Reply
    • Bryan Collins

      Thanks for having me on here Joel.

      Some good points about AWeber in your post too.

      Reply
  12. Ernie Zelinski

    My writing tools are still notepad, Word, and an old desktop publishing program from the 1990s called PublishIt. I have created 15 books with these tools, three of which each have sold over 100,000 copies in print editions. As I prepare to write another book, which I am sure will sell well over 100,000 copies, I will continue to use these three tools and none of the above. Although I have a new Mac with the retina display screen, I still continue to use a six-year-old Dell PC.

    Even better, Dr. Wayne Dyer, whose books have sold in the millions, apparently still writes his books by hand. And he seems to create at least one new book a year.

    In short, it doesn’t matter how it gets done — as long as it gets done!

    Reply
    • Bryan Collins

      Hi Ernie,
      There’s nothing wrong with Notepad or old tools Shakespeare did just fine without the internet! I shared these ones because I know many writers like to know what others use to get things done.

      In short, use what works.

      Reply

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