Writing is difficult, even for those who have been doing it for a living for years like me. Non-writers think that we can magically create a well-written and well-researched article in just a couple of hours because we do it every day, that's not how it goes. We equally treat every piece of our work as a masterpiece, and a masterpiece always takes time and a lot of thinking to be as flawless as we want them to be.
From thinking of what to write, doing the research, to constructing the first few sentences of our work – it will never be the same process because it's always a unique struggle every time. Fortunately in this age, we are blessed with apps, online tools, and websites that can lessen the struggle of writers.
If you're a blogger, content writer, journalist, or novel writer, here are 10 FREE online tools that I recommend you to use to make your writing life a whole lot easier:
Content Idea Generation
When I started working as a Content Strategist for Spiralytics and having worked as an editor for magazines before, I thought that my main task to create blog topics for various clients in different industries would be an easy task. I was dead wrong. It might have been easy on the first time, but if you do it on a weekly basis, you will definitely run out of ideas. Thank God for these tools, I will never run out of topic ideas and content inspiration:
Ever wondered which articles or contents are getting the most shares for a specific topic? That's what Buzzsumo can help you with. Just input a keyword or phrase then it will show you a list of top content. You get to decide if the content that they will show you are from the past year, month, week, or in the recent 24 hours. You can also exclude specific types of content like videos or giveaways. What does the list mean? If these topics got a ton of shares, then you should create a better version of them.
Hubspot's tool is one of the easiest topic generators that you can use. Just input a couple of nouns that you want to write about and voila, it will give you a list of topics that you can work with. It's not perfect though and you still need to tweak the titles that it gives you, nevertheless, it's a fast and easy way to create topics out of a single or two word ideas.
Now don't get intimidated by this one. Though it has the word "AdWords" in it, you don't need to have knowledge on it to be able to use this one. This tool is used mainly by our Paid Ads and SEO teams but it's a great tool for us in the content team as well because it shows us a list of keyword groups that are getting a high volume of search. Neat huh? Here's how you can use Google AdWords Keyword Planner for your topic generation.
a) Click on "Search for new keyword and ad group ideas".
b) Type in a word or keyword that you want to write about. If for example you want to only view the keyword searches in a specific country, you can select it under Country in targeting. Then click on Get Ideas.
c) It will show you a list of keyword ideas. Sort it by Avg. monthly searches to find out which keywords have the highest searches. In this example, "wedding invitation" get the most number of searches in the Philippines so work on article variations about wedding invitations.
While Google search is the more obvious free tool for research, I find these two tools convenient for keeping myself updated with topics that interest me, as well as bookmarking and taking down notes especially when I'm not in front of my laptop. And if you're a writer, you know that our best ideas usually come to us at the most inconvenient time, like when we're on a bus and we only have our smartphone with us.
If you're following a lot of blogs and subscribed to a ton of email newsletters that are piling up in your email, I suggest you sign up for a Feedly account and download the app in your phone. Feedly is a better version of the now discontinued Google Reader and I'm a BIG fan of it. All of the work (and non-work) blogs that I follow are in my Feedly account and are organized into their own categories. Because it has an app, I can also read my feed while on the go. If you're researching for an article you're working on, just add them to your Feedly in its own category and read them whenever, wherever.
Evernote allows you to take down ideas, write a blog when inspiration strikes, and even take snapshots for your notes whenever you need to, even if you're on the road or stuck in traffic. Unlike paper notes that will get lost, your notes taken with Evernote will be synchronized in all of your devices like your phone and laptop.
Writing (and focusing on it)
Though the Internet offers us a lot of information to help us with our research, it's also full of distractions. While writing is already tough for us, Facebook and other websites eat up a lot of our time that we should have been using instead to write.
Those who write for a living have deadlines to meet so we can't afford to be distracted every now and then. Some writers need peace and quiet to do their work. While plugging in your earphones to listen to soft tunes can do that trick, writers will also need a clutterless screen to avoid the temptation of doing other things aside from writing. FocusWriter is a great tool that lets you do just that with its clean interface to get you immersed on your writing.
This ruthless chrome extension is like your Mom getting you grounded so you can stay at home and do your chores. StayFocusd limits the amount of time you spend on time-wasting websites like Facebook so you can increase your productivity and do your work. It's not my most favorite tool in the world but it makes me get the job done.
I recently discovered Dayboard with the help of our resident designer Jevie. In the Spiralytics team, we use Asana to keep track of our daily tasks, but when you're swamped with tons of tasks, it can get confusing as to which tasks you need to prioritize for the day. Dayboard is a to-do list that shows up everytime you open a new tab, so you will always be reminded of your tasks. I love that Dayboard only lets you list down 5 tasks a day. Because of that feature, you'll be able to quickly reorganize your long list and decide which ones are the most important. It lessens the stress too compared to looking at a long to-do list.
I know, I know, this is a list for writers so why include design? Adding visuals to your content is a great way to increase the page views, engagement and shares of your work. Investing in good quality images help to make your article more readable, easier to scan, and make it stand out from the tons of content produced on a daily basis.
I love Canva! It's an easy to use browser-based graphic designing tool that is also user-friendly to non-designers or those that don't have or don't know how to use Adobe Photoshop. With Canva, you can produce social media images, infographics, blog headers/banners, and more by dragging and dropping design elements that are built-in in Canva. You can also upload your own design elements if you want to use a photo that you have for example. They also have a blog called Design School where they teach tips and tricks on graphic design to non-professional designers.
Last but not the least is editing your work. Though you might have an editor, you should still check your own work for spelling and grammar mistakes, including plagiarism.
Okay, so maybe it's tempting to immediately submit your work after you've spent hours (or even days!) on it, it doesn't hurt to check for mistakes. After all, your work has your name in it. I understand that you might just depend on Microsoft Word's spelling checker, but it's not as accurate and doesn't have a plagiarism checker, unlike Grammarly. Editing is as simple as clicking on the underlined and highlighted words, a suggested correction will appear in the sidebar and clicking on it will automatically make the corrections. It will also explain why it thinks there's a mistake. For plagiarism checking, it will show the link to the original source of the said plagiarized sentences or paragraph. Grammarly also has a browser extension so I use it when I directly write in Wordpress or in my social media accounts.
I hope you'll find these tools useful!
How about you? Do you use other tools that are not included in this list but highly recommend them? Do share them in the comments below!