• Advice

5 great apps to banish your fear of the blank page

Writing is great! It’s easy and fun! … Except when it’s really, really not.

Sometimes we need a little help to get the words going -- to help us focus, to prod us into typing faster, and to edit us when we’re done. Here are five more great apps for writers-- some word processors and some tools to help the writing along.

(To see the first five, click here!)

1. Draft (free online)

Draft is Google Docs gone minimal. It’s a nice, clean interface for writing that’s automatically saved to cloud. It’s good for collaborating, and has a host of neat functions, like the ability to mark major drafts and publish to multiple platforms. It also has something called Hemingway mode, which is simple: you can’t backspace. At all. Not even to correct typos. It forces you to let go and freewrite -- how liberating!

2. Hemingway (free online, $6.99 for desktop)

Speaking of Hemingway, here’s another app based on Papa’s literary legend. Hemingway-the-app is a neat little post-process editor, letting you know what sentences are unwieldy, which words you can switch out for simpler ones, and the overall “readability” of your prose. Yes, it’s a weird robot editor with no sense of eloquence or lyricism, but it’s also great for making you ask yourself: is that super-long sentence really necessary?

(As an aside, please read this fantastic 1950 profile of Hemingway from the New Yorker.)

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3. Focuswrite (free download for Windows, Mac, and Linux, suggested tip)

Focuswrite is a word processor that preserves rich text formatting (like Microsoft Word) but keeps the writing environment simple. It allows you to work full-screen with customizable backgrounds and colors. It also has cool features like timers and alarms, and live statistics like wordcount. There’s even a calendar where you can track your writing progress, if you’re trying to write every day.

4. Self Control (free download for Mac, with alternatives for other operating systems)

Self Control is not an app specifically designed for writing, but it’s the only reason I managed to get my undergraduate thesis done. (I wrote it over nine days between the hours of midnight and 8 am. I’m not proud. I’m kind of proud.) Self Control works by blocking your access to specific websites, mail servers, or even the Internet in general. You set a time frame of limited access, and once you hit start, there’s no way of getting it to stop-- even if you delete the app or restart your computer.

5. Write or Die ($20.00 download for Windows, Mac, and Linux)

Write or Die is a word processor for those who really need a kick in the pants to get started. It’s intended for those who are gunning for wordcount (hello, NaNoWriMo! Any freelancers out there participating this year?) with features like Kamikaze mode (a little demon eats your words if you don’t keep typing) and ominously named “consequences.” Apparently people swear by this app -- I just tried it on consequence mode and was so terrified that I cranked out 500 words without even knowing what the consequence was.

So happy writing, everyone! Check out the Authors, Editors, Journalists & Writers Hive, and if you know of any other great apps for writers, let us know!

Larissa Pham is an artist and writer based in Brooklyn, New York. She thinks that we should leave Hemingway alone, but there are worse ways to have your style memorialized than an app.