“I can’t lie and say there are no bad writers. Sorry, but there are lots of bad writers,” wrote Stephen King in his memoir, On Writing. Isn’t that a bummer?
Let me drop a truth bomb on you before you label yourself a “bad writer”.
You can become a good writer if you try.
It doesn’t take that much time to become a super effective writer if you have good ideas in your head. You just have to learn how to put it down in words. But I understand why you haven’t been able to yet… after all, everyone tells you to hook the reader in the first few seconds, but nobody tells you how that happens.
Starting a piece of writing is the hardest part and you are often left staring at a blank screen for hours on end, waiting for the muse to show up. Here’s the good part: you are not alone.
In fact, all writers, even the likes of J. R. R. Tolkien suffered from writer’s block at one time or another. However, the awesome part about being a writer is that you can always improve.
Now, thanks to the digital era, there are plenty of writing and research tools, apps, and software that will help you write better than you ever dreamed you’d be able to.
Word of Warning: Brace yourself. Some of these writing tools can be brutal in their assessments. Don’t be stunned to find the article that took you six hours to write highlighted in blues, yellow, and pink.
Table of Contents
- 1. Sharethrough
- 2. A/B Rankings Blog Title Split Testing Software
- 3. Grammarly
- 4. Notes for Mac
- 5. Answer the Public
- 6. Copyscape
- 7. Hemingway Editor
- 8. Yoast
- 9. WordWeb
- 10. The Most Dangerous Writing App
- 11. Pexels
- 12. Quora
- 13. Google Docs
- 14. Readable
- 15. Cliché Finder
- 16. Writing Schedule Calculator
- 17. Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator
- 18. Cold Turkey
- 19. Ulysses
- 20. Creativity Portal’s Imagination Prompt
- 21. Zen Writer
- 22. Scrivener
- 23. Brilliant Quotes
- 24. The Story Grid
- 25. Marinara Timer
- 26. Zotero
- 27. Evernote
One of the first tips that you learn when trying to master writing is that you need to hook your reader in the first few seconds. How do you do that online?
How many times have you glanced at a headline, only to find it uncompelling and leafed to another page without even reading the story beneath it? Don’t let that happen to you.
Sharethrough heading tool analyzes your headlines and grades it based on certain key attributes of your headline. It suggests ways on how to increase reader interest, whether you need to increase the headline length, or if it needs more catchy phrases.
This is an amazing tool for noobs that have a hard time waiting for inspiration to strike for the single most important part of an article.
There are 2 more headline generators – here are a few I’ve used:
I use A/B Rankings and love it.
Kevin O’Leary on Shark Tank is known to say the only proof that a product is a good idea is sales. If people want and are willing to pay for it, it’s a good idea.
The same can be said with blog post titles and headlines.
You can come up with all the blog titles and headlines you want, but the real test is actually testing it in the SERPs to see how well it attracts people to your site.
A/B Rankings split tests your blog titles in the Google search listings. It reports the click-through rate (CTR). The higher the CTR, the better the title (unless you mislead which is never a good idea).
Read my full review of A/B Rankings here.
Let me be frank — it might get frustrating to see Grammarly list down all the faults in your writing when you think you’re on the brink of a creative writing breakthrough.
But here’s the thing – nobody knows grammar like Grammarly.
Grammarly has very strict academic writing standards, mostly derived from APA and other writing styles. The software highlights incorrect phrases in red and offers suggestions on how to improve sentence structure, syntax, and readability to name a few of its benefits.
Creative writing has its own rules involving figurative language and slang, and in this case, you can use your own judgment if you don’t want to make use of some of Grammarly’s corrections.
Still, whether you are writing a thesis or a blog post, Grammarly is a no-fuss godsend for making you aware of the fine prints of grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
When inspiration hits, it doesn’t knock on your door.
When you are out in your car and a light bulb lights up in your head, it doesn’t wait for you to get back home and jot it down in your writing pad.
Has that happened to you more than once?
Get Mac Notes. With Mac Notes, you can save your thoughts in a jiffy.
All you need to do is open the app in your iPhone, click the New Note button, and start typing. The great part is that it offers you so much more than just jotting down text.
You can drag and drop pictures, videos, links, and others files into your note. You can even lock up private content and share your notes with other people.
Do you also have an iPad or Macbook?
You can access your notes on all your devices through iCloud.
If there was a mind-reading tool that allowed you to read what your audience was thinking, Answer the Public, or ATP, would probably give a run for the money.
Answer the Public is a very smart keyword research and data visualization tool. It’s basically a godsend for content marketing beginners.
The software fetches and maps search engine queries and predictions, and can help you generate infographics from the data in just seconds.
Organized in categories like who, what, how, and where, ATP provides an overview of the questions people are asking Google from their various devices.
This tool is great for content creators looking to create unique, relevant, and useful content as well as building links on authority sites. Best of all, it’s free!
The bane of plagiarizer and copy-cats, Copyscape, is the answer to content-owners’ most prevent prayers.
The plagiarism checking software seeks to prevent “content theft,” which involves using someone’s work without crediting them, duplicating someone else’s content, or closely imitating language used by another writer.
All writers need to check their content for plagiarism, whether they have participated in the act or not.
Don’t be alarmed if Copyscape comes up with a few matches.
This can happen when people use direct quotes (with credits) or boilerplate text. The tool also offers you clickable links of the sources of those matches and you can use them to go to the website and see for yourself whether the stuff you have used comes under plagiarism or not.
A Copyscape report ensures that the content is unique and authentic. Both factors are important if you want to create content that gets you good engagement.
The first time I dropped my text in the app, I got quite a shock because my entire article was covered in red, yellow, and green highlights.
The basic premise of this super easy to use app is simple to understand.
People don’t like overly complicated text.
The more difficult your writing is to understand, the less likely it is that people will appreciate it.
Hemingway App gives you feedback in real-time that helps you write for a larger audience. It’s great if you have a problem with overrun sentences or complex verbiage.
This is an awesome and surprisingly fun tool for writers who wonder how well people understand their writing. You can also make it your “coach” to improve your writing, in general.
The advantages of adding the Yoast plug-in on your WordPress blog are too numerous to recount but we I’ll do the best I can.
Yoast is a search optimization tool that helps you makes sure your fabulously-written content meets the standards set by search engines. Use it well and you’ll be able to generate substantial traffic.
The tool optimizes meta-tags, suggests keyword corrections, lets you know what a good word count is, and recommends better headlines.
When you create headlines and a description, the tool will show you a preview of the snippet so that you’ll know how they will look in search engine results. What’s even better is that it generates a sitemap with a press of a button and enables social media integration.
And those are just a few of its amazing uses!
One of the biggest bumps in your creative writing process comes when the perfect word eludes you. Say goodbye to that with WordWeb, an awesome word-finder, dictionary, and thesaurus, all rolled into one.
With over a million different entries and phrases, this tool is surprisingly light and works quietly in the background without slowing down your computer.
If a word isn’t available in its database, the tool will automatically feature searches from other encyclopedia and dictionaries.
Best of all: no ads!
As its name suggests, this is a no-nonsense app that is not afraid to give you a wakeup call if you are facing writers block.
The Most Dangerous Writing App works on the principle that the flow of creative writing should not be stopped and it implements that by giving you a platform to write on, then vanishing all your work if you decide to take a break for more than 5 seconds!
Talk about sadistic!
However, it’s a great tool for writers that are natural procrastinators. It’ll shove you in the
write right direction.
After all, “tis better to have written and lost, than never to have written at all,” says the app.
I loved the wordplay.
How difficult is it to find that perfect royalty-free image to give a strong visual element to your article?
“A picture is worth a thousand words,” and the absolutely free Pexels gives you a chance to illustrate your marvelously written content with some colorful images.
The website offers hundreds of thousands of free to use pictures retrieved from public domain, in various sizes, including HD.
The website is great for designers and bloggers that want access to vivid, beautiful pictures that empower them to create amazing content.
Remember Yahoo Answers? Quora is similar to that but it’s so much more.
Arguably the world’s biggest question-and-answers website, Quora allows users to ask questions on every topic under the sun and get answers from other users, including former President Barack Obama.
Populated by millions of users worldwide, the website also allows writers to find great topics to write on. You can also use it get ideas and arguments for your content.
Basically, I’d recommend you check out questions and answers on Quora that are relevant to the industry that you’re writing on if you’re looking for inspiration. You can thank me later.
13. Google Docs
Sometime or another, all of us have experienced the horror of our laptop suddenly betraying us and dying on us — with all our hard work inside!
Switch to Google Docs.
Google Docs lets you create, edit, share, and save documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and drawings, with other users, remotely and in real-time.
Best of all, even if Windows crashes, you can access your work because it is automatically saved to your Google Drive which you can access from any device.
How readable is your writing?
Ask this app and it will tell you exactly that.
Similar to Hemingway Editor, Readable generates you a “readability” score and tells you whether your writing is simple enough for your audience to understand.
It generates a rank for your writing (A, B, B+, C, etc) and highlights phrases in your text that it suggests you change.
If your text is too difficult, your message may not be understood. If it is too simple, your audience may get bored quickly.
Whether you are a writer or a marketer, this app will make sure every word you write counts.
Want to write a really wonderful blog but can’t get past all the hackneyed phrases? How boring and uninspiring will your story be if it is filed with the same metaphors, figures of speech, and clichéd phrases?
To avoid falling into that trap, check out Cliché Finder.
This wonderful tool allows you to copy and paste your text in a text box and with just a click, shows you all the overused phrases in red.
It is a simple but awesome tool for giving your writing some character.
One of the biggest worries when I take on a huge writing task is how long will it take me to finish it.
The Writing Schedule Calculator is an online tool which will ask you a few questions about your project and will calculate how long it will take you to write it.
This tool is ultra-helpful when you want to factor in days you want to reserve just for writing, how many hours each day you can write, how many pages you usually write in an hour, and the amount of words you need to write.
This is a great tool for writers that have problems managing their time or setting up deadlines.
Most writers get in the habit of writing every day but what happens when you just run out of ideas?
Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator can be the answer to your problems.
Just give it a single keyword you want to write on and the tool will come up with a week’s worth of unique writing ideas for you to write on in a couple of seconds.
In fact, it also offers a year’s worth of ideas but for that you need to have a premium account.
The perfect tool for those of us who frequently suffer from writer’s block.
18. Cold Turkey
If you are one of those writers who have trouble focusing because you waste time scrolling down your social media feed when you should actually be writing, then Cold Turkey is the tool for you.
This program lets you lock yourself out of certain distracting sites for a period of time to remove the temptation and allows you the luxury of going offline.
It also has daily limits that ensure you do not spend more than a specified time limit on a certain site.
You might end up hating this tool, but trust me it’s very useful if you’re easily distracted by YouTube and Facebook.
The aptly named Ulysses gives you the ability to write like Homer, rather than Paulo Coelho, literally.
One of the best writing apps on Mac, Ulysses helps you create beautiful poetic writing from simple, homely text.
It also provides a pleasant working environment and all the tools a writer may need, including a library to arrange your content, and search tools to find information on a topic.
Sadly, the tool is not free but, fortunately, it is available for a 14-day trial.
I know the name may be a mouthful, but I wouldn’t put it on this list if it wasn’t a gem.
This tool is a sure-fire way to help you get you rid of that blogger’s block.
The simple online tool gives you simple to complex prompts, such as “What is YOUR meaning of life?” and encourages you to write on them within a set time.
It might seem like a waste of time. I thought it was too unorthodox when I first saw it.
The Creativity Portal will do an incredible job of jogging your creative juices and sparking your imagination.
21. Zen Writer
The great Zen Writer allows you to “empty your cup”.
Don’t understand that reference? Stop being an ignoramus and learn a little about Buddhism today.
The app is inspired by Buddhist teachings of self-control and helps you minimize distractions. In a nutshell, the app encompasses the entirety of your screen so you don’t have the option to check notifications or whatever other distractions you got going on your computer.
To help you concentrate, this app plays therapeutic music and shows natural scenery in the background to calm your mind. It also does not offer you the extra stuff like formatting options or tables and lets you only focus on the flow of words.
This is the go-to app for book writers. Scrivener is used by contemporary best-selling novelists and screenwriters — and that speaks for itself.
The miracle app provides writers everything they need to start writing and keep writing till the very last word.
The app is tailor-made for long-form writing and allows writers to create a text in any order, move large passages around, or insert new scenes.
It also lets you create a table of content in the binder and automatically saves your files, so you are never in any danger of losing any work.
The app comes with a bit of a learning curve but it has so many advantages that many contemporary writers openly endorse it as their favorite writing software.
23. Brilliant Quotes
It’s so hard to find the perfect quote when you need it to start your perfect blog.
Fortunately, now you can.
This simple but amazing app called Brilliant Quotes has a collection of over 3,600 quotes from the world’s most famous people, including Thomas Edison, Jim Morrison, and Walt Disney.
The app is a virtual trove of treasure of golden sayings by philosophers, academics, writers, and spiritual leaders, ranging from motivational words to heart-wrenching expressions about death.
The Brilliant Quotes app will help give your writing a lot of credibly, character, and intrigue.
24. The Story Grid
If a book is a page-turner, a writer knows it is a good book. However, some writers need some help in getting their thoughts onto the pages. The Story Grid created by author Shawn Coyne helps writers tell their story the way they want.
This website cum platform is not your typical writing tool. It is an essential guide for writing your first draft and applies to both fiction and nonfiction writing. It is essentially a 101 writing course created and taught by Coyne and offers numerous podcasts, advisory blogs, downloadable tools, and writing lessons.
The Story Grid is a one-stop destination for novice storytellers.
25. Marinara Timer
One of the best ways to make sure you have been productive is to get this app. If you are a fan of the Pomodoro technique, you are going to love the Marinara Timer.
The app allows you to set time segments, followed by pre-programmed 5-10 minute breaks. Its trusty timer records the exact time you start writing and finish, when you take a break, and when you pause the timer.
This is a very helpful way to keep track of how many hours you have worked and managing your time.
Zotero is one of the most powerful tools for collecting, referencing, and organizing research sources and information and is the only software that automatically senses new research on the web.
Its extensive knowledge-base can retrieve articles from numerous credible sources like the New York Times, JSTOR, or even a book from a library.
The software instantly creates a bibliography for any text editor and writing tools like MS Word, Google Docs, and LibreOffice.
One of its biggest plus points is its interactivity that allows you to co-write a paper with other people and share course materials to students. You can also share its library with other people for absolutely free.
They say elephants never forget — and neither does Evernote. The app with an elephant as its logo is perhaps the best note-taking and organizing app out there.
It not just allows you to quickly jot down ideas, make lists, or note down topics while brainstorming, it lets you take audio notes on the go.
With its Clipper extension, you can clip articles from across the web and save them into Evernote for a quick reference. The best part is that it syncs itself automatically to any and all devices you use.
Write More, Use Tools to Improve, and Get Real-Time Feedback
Try these writing tools and you’ll wonder how you ever wrote without them!
The secret to becoming a great is twofold:
Start writing a lot (even if you don’t like what you’re writing)
Read a whole lot more than you write
Trust me, you’ll start noticing an improvement in a matter of days once you start using these amazing tools.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes that’s “the best blogging email newsletter around.”
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.