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.

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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Golden State Reading Group Guide

Golden State - the novel
Golden State – the novel

See why Golden State makes a great book club book! Below, you’ll find the Golden State reading group guide. You might also enjoy the author Q&A.

“Ripe for reading groups.” The Sacramento Bee   

“Golden State‘s fast-moving plot combines political turmoil, a birth, a hostage situation, and a woman’s struggle to find inner strength after divorce…a perfect summer page-turner! ” Coastal Living Magazine  May Book Club pick

“[A] riveting read . . . Mesmerizing and intricate, Richmond’s dissection of a California on the violent brink of secession from the nation provides the backdrop to her deeper inspection of the uneasy, fragile relationship between siblings.”—Booklist (starred review)

Reading Group Guide

1. The author uses an unconventional timeline to tell her story, moving back and forth between past, present, and earlier that morning. What elements does this add to the reading experience? How would the experience have changed had the author used a strictly linear approach?

2. How are music and lyrics important throughout the story? What does the incessancy of Tom’s voice on the radio mean to Julie?

3. Describe how Heather and Julie’s relationship changes. What are the most influential moments? If you were Julie, would you have been able to forgive Heather?

4. On page 148, Julie questions her and Tom’s relationship by saying, “Without a child, are we even a family?” Ethan undoubtedly transforms Julie and Tom’s life, but does he prove that children are necessary to have a real family?

5. On page 80, Julie wonders, “Between a marriage one chooses and a blood relation one doesn’t, shouldn’t marriage be the more powerful bond?” Does Julie find an answer to this question? Which do you think is the stronger bond?

6. What does Julie’s mother represent? Why are Julie’s memories of Mississippi and her childhood so important? Why might she reflect on them during the stress of the hostage situation?

7. The characters in Golden State grapple with the idea of things either happening for a reason or happening due to cause and effect. Julie spends most of the novel defending the latter, but which do you believe in? Why?

8. Explain Dennis and Julie’s relationship. How is it possible that Julie could feel remorse for Dennis in the midst of a hostage crisis?

9. Throughout the novel, Julie views her life as a series of beginnings and endings, rather than a continuum of learning and growing. Does this mindset hurt or help her? Does her attitude change by the end of the novel? Through which interpretation do you view your life?

10. The author leaves certain questions unanswered at the close of the story. If you were to write a sequel, how would you tie up the novel’s loose ends?

11. On page 94, Tom says, “We become so used to the way things are . . . we can’t imagine things being any other way.” What does he mean by this? How does the premise of Golden State encourage readers to imagine the impossible?

12. Of all the themes in the novel—-forgiveness, family, belief, patriotism, identity, etc.—-which was the most relevant to you? Why?

Buy the book:  Green Apple (signed copies)   Amazon  Barnes and Noble

Add Golden State on goodreads.

Read an excerpt from Golden State on my Random House author page.

Get the Golden State playlist.

An exquisitely wrought piece of storytelling that is sure to linger in the mind long after the last page is read…in the hands of talented author Michelle Richmond, we very soon find ourselves completely invested and onboard…A many-layered page-turner that is emotionally resonant and satisfying, enriched by a playlist of songs composing a mental soundtrack that music lovers will embrace. Bookreporter

More book club books from Michelle Richmond: The Year of Fog (Kirkus Reviews, top picks for reading groups), No One You Know  (“a thoroughly riveting literary thriller”–Booklist, starred review).

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