Digital Writin'

I Write, I Fail, I Write Again (cr. Chuck Wendig)

One of my friends online was looking into various writing apps out there that wasn't Word or Google Docs, or anything like that. "But it's an industry standard! Why would I use anything else?"

Let's dive into that (especially with NaNoWriMo coming).

Being Minimal

Just because you have all the options doesn't mean you'll use them. Seriously, 90% of the features of Word most people will never, ever use. Let's look at what a typical fiction project needs:

  • Basic formatting: Bold, italic, underline. Highlighting is more on the editorial side of things, in my opinion, so it's usually not needed. Nor really is text color. Again, keep this simple.
  • Hierarchy: Headers.
  • Data Display: Tables, lists.

Now for fiction pieces, you don't need the second all those data formatting, pie charts and graphs, and and and—you don't need 'em. In fact, they are a distraction.

Which is how the trend of distraction-free writing apps came about: a way to get away from the cruft and just focus on the creation of the words. For me, this is the hard part. Even having spell check and grammar check and all those details active is enough of a killer to my focus that the words don't get out of my head.

Zen and the Art of Getting the Goddamned Words Out

Three apps come to mind for minimal writing.


Everybody has some form of this on their computer. Formatting? HAHHAHAHAHAH—


I use Notepad++ but that's because I also use it for programming and doing a lot of text manipulation with regex and data sorting.


So pretty! Ommwriter combines color and sound to create kind of a white noise scenario for writers. If you're the kind of writer that needs some background noise to keep going, you might want to take a look at this. You can use some of the features for free, it's available for Mac and Windows, and they have a minimal cost of $7.21 USD (plus if you want to pay more, you can).

Still way cheaper than a subscription to Office365.


Much like Ommwriter, this app focuses (hah) on killing extraneous details. But FocusWriter does have some really cool writer-friendly features like: a timer (great if you use the Pomodoro technique), daily goals (how about that NaNoWriMo), custom themes—and it's free! No, you shouldn't get it for free, even though it's an option. You can tip between $5 and $20 to get FocusWriter for a variety of operating systems.

But What About Scrivener?

Scrivener is an amazing piece of software. Really.


I don't know that I would qualify it as "minimal." It has a host of features that can be a little overwhelming if you just want to churn out a quick drabble about your favorite Dragon Age ship.

Tools for Your Toolbox

A final piece of recommendation for anybody that's got a word count and a deadline to meet: Pacemaker. Set a deadline, set your  word count, and it calculates out how many words per day you need to do. Pretty nifty,  eh?


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