best writing app

5 Great Writing Apps

5 Great Writing Apps You’ll Really Use in 2015

I confess, I’m really into apps. Last year, I downloaded so many “productivity” apps, they took a serious toll on my productivity. In 2015, I’m streamlining my app use. I’ve deleted a couple dozen apps from my phone, keeping only the ones that I really use, and the ones that don’t distract me. Drum roll please.

Pomodoro ($1.99)
This is a really simple app that forces you to stick to a schedule. Even though it’s not made specifically for writing, Pomodoro is great for staying on track with a writing project. Basically, you set your phone for one pomodoro–a segment of time (mine is set for 25 minutes). Once you click “start,” you work until the app dings, and then you take a break (I set mine for 5 minutes) until it dings again. Then you work for 25 more minutes, then a five-minute break, etc. After four segments of work, you get a “long break.” Basically, it’s a time that encourages you to stay in your chair and write.

WordPress (Free)
Well, let’s start with “it’s free.” No commitment. If your blog runs on wordpress, you should try it. I spend a lot of time waiting for my kid at sports events and school pick up. With the WordPress app, if I have an idea for my blog (and these ideas almost always strike when I’m not at my desk), I can draft it right on my phone. You can also post from the phone, although I usually save whatever I’m writing as a draft and then edit and post it from my laptop.

Drafts ($9.99)
I do a lot of research when I’m writing a novel. I’m also constantly earmarking articles that I want to mention on my blog. Drafts is an easy way to save article links and texts directly from what you’re reading. I like it because I’m always bookmarking articles on my phone or iPad, never to see them again. With Drafts, I have a handy list that’s easily navigable, so none of those great ideas get lost. I purchased Drafts during a New Year’s deal for $4.99, and it was worth every penny. The regular price is $9.99, which is a lot for an app, which brings me to…

1Writer ($2.99)
If you liked the idea of Drafts but don’t like the price tag, try 1Writer. It’s pretty, has great features, and costs seven dollars less. The developers describe it as “distraction free writing with inline markdown preview.” Before I downloaded Drafts, I used 1Writer all the time. It doesn’t have as many fancy features as Drafts, but it has plenty. My favorite feature is the in-app browser, so you don’t have to leave the app to go to Safari if you’re doing research.

30 Day Novel (99 cents)

Screenshot 2015-01-15 11.57.12best NaNoWriMo app - 30 Day Novel

The 30 Day Novel app is a content-rich app designed to help you get a draft of your novel on the page quickly. It won’t write your novel for you. It won’t time you. There are plenty of great timer and scheduling apps on the market. This app, by contrast, focuses on clear daily assignments that are progressively arranged to help you build your novel from the ground up, one day at a time. In additional to the daily assignments, you’ll find articles on narrative craft and a series of 500-word writing prompts. Based on The Paperclip Method, a highly effective approach to novel writing that values discovery over formula.

And one fun app you don’t need at all:
Hanx Writer makes your iPad or iPhone keyboard sound like a typewriter. That’s all it does. Nothing else. But it’s really fun. It was developed by Tom Hanks. It’s not so useful, but it’s really addicting.

What are you favorite writing apps?
Please comment with the apps you find the most useful for writing, and I’ll post them here on Sans Serif.


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Je Suis Charlie – the Paris unity march

Huge crowds turned out for the Paris unity march to support freedom of expression and honor the cartoonists, policemen, and others who died during the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the grocery store in Paris.

“Paris is the capital of the world today. The whole country will rise up.” Francois Hollande

In attendance were Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and other world leaders. The dignitaries walked at the front of a crowd of hundreds of thousands.

Read the full coverage of the Paris unity march on the BBC and NPR.

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Online Fiction Writing Classes

Get the new year off to a productive start with an online writing class. Whether you’re just starting out or you have a few stories or novels tucked away in a drawer, these classes can help you rev up your writing practice. Choose from Fundamentals of Fiction Writing, the Fiction Master Class, the Publishing Workshop, and more.


Fundamentals of Fiction Writing 


Get the tools you need to turn your ideas into stories! In this course, you will learn how to write a short story or novel using the fundamental building blocks of fiction.

The course is divided into nine sections. Each section focuses on an essential element of narrative craft. Through video and written lectures, you will learn the tools you need to begin writing fiction:

  • Characterization
  • Point of View
  • Setting
  • Description
  • Dialogue
  • Plot
  • Structure
  • Voice
  • Revision

Each section includes writing exercises to help you practice what you’ve learned and deepen your understanding of the material, as well quizzes to assess your progress and suggestions for further reading.

Who should take this class:

If you’ve always wanted to write a story or novel but don’t know where to begin, or if you took a couple of writing classes in the past and want to brush up on your knowledge and reinvigorate your writing practice, this course is for you. Led by a New York Times bestselling author with more than a decade of experience teaching creative writing at the university level, Fundamentals of Fiction Writing provides a great foundation for anyone interested in writing short stories, novels, or novellas.

Choose the workshop add-on to get individualized feedback on your assignments from the instructor.

Enroll now


Fiction Master Class

Designed for intermediate and advanced writers with prior workshop experience, this six-week intensive workshop will delve into complex issues of narrative craft. You’ll receive valuable feedback on your project from the instructor and your peers. Weekly Google hang-outs will provide a space to interact one-on-one in real time with the instructor.

Dates: Feb. 17 – March 24

Get $54 off when you enroll before Jan. 20, 2015.

Enroll now.

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Tommy Caldwell Waxes Poetic on El Cap

Tommy Caldwell and Keven Jorgeson are wowing the world and the climbing community with their mind-blowing attempt to free-climb the Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite. From the looks of it, Caldwell may have a book in him. Caldwell’s Instagram posts are nothing short of lyrical. Take this one, an ode to an inspiring frog:

At night on El Cap these frogs are our only companions. They emerge and effortlessly free solo around on the blank walls. This guy was 900 feet up and completely in his element. Keven and I are trying to summon our inner frog. We climb mostly at night and are doing our best to adapt to life on the wall.

I imagine a bunch of T-shirts with the slogan “Summon Your Inner Frog.” Hey, Tommy, wanna send me something for Fiction Attic?

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Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin

In the warm, practical style that her fans have come to expect, Gretchen Rubin explains why habits matter, and how to make them work for you, in her new book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. Rubin begins by breaking people down into four groups: upholders, obligers, questioners, and rebels, providing checklists to help you decide where you fit in. She then goes on to delve into the psychology of habit formation, peppering her personal narrative and a good dose of self-help with quotations from the likes of St. Augustine and Benjamin Franklin.

Better Than Before is light but inspiring reading for anyone who wants to adopt a few new good habits, or discard some bad ones. If you’re like me, you’ll be very glad to have Rubin’s book in your hands, and equally glad that she isn’t your neighbor or sister, and that she hasn’t set her sights on your dietary habits. While the author often comes off as judgmental or meddling, her keen awareness of these traits in herself makes her more likable than you might expect.

Despite a tendency toward repetition, Rubin’s prose strikes a nice balance between engaging, informative, personal, and practical. Readers who loved to hate the author of Happier at Home–who came off as stingy with her money and her affections (she doesn’t like buying gifts and had to make an effort to kiss her husband before he left for work)–will likely find more common ground with the voice behind Better Than Before. Here, we get a glimpse of the author as committed friend, sister, and daughter, someone so passionate about exercise that she buys her sister a treadmill desk, and so intent on the benefits of de-cluttering that she spends hours cleaning out a friend’s apartment, only to realize that clutter doesn’t really bother him much. One gets the feeling that Rubin really likes to help people, and that all that busy-bodyness comes from a genuine mix of passion and compassion.

Readers who started their own happiness projects after reading The Happiness Project are likely to enjoy Rubin’s latest effort. While there is something slightly grating about the author (she hates travel and interesting food and never misses an opportunity, in any of her books, to remind readers that she once clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor), there is something inspiring about her as well. Although it sounds like a line from a bad romcom, she really does make you want to be a better version of yourself. If it’s any indication of just how practical this book is, I’ve already started keeping track of three new habits, and I’ve even started researching DIY treadmill desks.

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