The American journalist Gene Fowler once remarked,
“Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”
Make no mistake, though – Fowler was totally lying, and writing is really hard. So let’s enlist the help of our robot overlords in order to make it a little easier.
Today I’ll share 15 apps and websites that might help you become a better writer. Some are huge, multi-faceted programs, while others are more single-purpose and can help with organizing research, planning, gaining motivation, or editing.
If you’d like even more resources to help with other aspects of your education, you’ll find even more websites, apps, and tools over at the Resources page.
If you’re unable to see the video above, you can view it on YouTube.
- Coggle – a free mind-mapping tool that can help you organize ideas.
- Storyline Creator – a mapping tool that’s built around individual characters and the flow of events in a story.
- Evernote – my second brain. Pretty much everything I write starts out as a note here. Here’s another article I wrote with additional Evernote tips.
- Scrivener – a full-fledged application for writing a novel. This is what I finished writing 10 Steps to Earning Awesome Gradeswith.
- Novlr – a new alternative to Scrivener. It seems like it has a nicer design, but fewer features. I found some recommendations for it on the NaNoWriMo forums.
- Byword – a minimalist Markdown editor for OS X. You don’t need to know Markdown to use it… but Markdown is really easy to learn.
- Twinword Writer – a tool with a built-in thesaurus that suggests alternative words when you pause in your writing.
- Write or Die – an app that will punish you if you don’t keep writing. Punishments can range from annoying noises to “Kamikaze Mode”, which starts erasing your writing!
- Written? Kitten! – a more positive take on the Write or Die concept; instead of punishing you, it rewards you with pictures of kittens every 100 words.
- 750words – the name describes it pretty well; this is a site that can help you build a daily writing habit. It’s got pretty cool stat-tracking as well.
- DailyPage – a site that gives you a different writing prompt (e.g. Write about your favorite leader) every day.
- Mendeley – I’m not a grad student, but I’d use this if I was. It’s a free tool that can help you manage research documents and PDFs.
- editMinion – a tool that can analyze your writing and pick out weak and over-used words. It can also tell you if your sentences are too short or long.
- Coffitivity – plays coffee shop noises to give you a nice working atmosphere – a good alternative to white noise generators.
- Brain.fm – a web app that uses AI to generate music that’s supposed to help you increase your focus and attention. The site even has research to back up their claims. I’ve tested it a few times, and while I’m not sure if the music is truly working or just providing a placebo effect yet, I will way that it’s pretty darn good music for working.
By the way, if Brain.fm’s style of music isn’t for you, then you might enjoy my Ultimate Study Music Playlist on YouTube. I add new songs to it often.
Lastly, if you haven’t heard it, you might enjoy the CIG podcast episode where I break down how I wrote my 27,000 word book.
Got other recommendations that I didn’t include here? Share them in the comments!
If you liked this video, subscribe on YouTubeto stay updated and get notified when new ones are out!
A good essay plan makes the most of your essay material by helping you to organise the content of the essay before you begin writing. This guide shows you the key steps in preparing and planning an essay effectively.
Other useful guides: Writing essays; Thought mapping
Using essay plans
Being organised before you begin writing your essay will make the writing process quicker and easier. Good preparation and planning gives you a clear overview of your material so you can see the best way to organise your points. This guide presents four main steps to planning your essay:
- planning ahead
- analysing the question
- selecting material
- organising your material
Why an essay?
Essay writing gives you a chance to:
- explore a specific subject area in depth
- select relevant material
- explain theories and concepts
- evaluate arguments
- express and support your own views and opinions
Before you begin
Check your department's guidelines. There may be information about:
- how long the essay should be
- what the deadline is
- relevant assessment criteria
- requirements for presentation & referencing
Analysing the question
Before you can begin to select material for your essay, you need to make sure that you understand the exact requirements of the question. The following method of title analysis encourages you to break the question down into clearly identifiable elements so that you can accurately see what the question requires.
Analysing an essay title
Selecting the material
Use your analysis of the question as a focus for the selection of materials. Read:
- course Module presentations on Blackboard
- required readings in the Module Guide
You may find other relevant material in:
- course text books
- websites and other sources suggested in the Module Learning Unit
- you may also want to do some of your own research, but remember it is important to be selective. Use the guides Evaluating Online Resources and Improving Your Reading Skills to help you with this
- Use the essay question as a focus for note taking
- Be sure to record only information that is directly relevant to your essay question. This will save you time and make your notes easier to organise in an essay plan.
Organising your material
All essays need a structure that is logical and coherent. An essay plan gives you a quick way of trying out different structures. One way of making an essay plan is to list your main points in keywords and phrases and organise them under main headings. This gives you an overview of your points so you can decide which should be included and what is the most logical sequence for them.
An example of a linear essay plan using key words and phrases
You may wish to use diagrams for essay planning. This method is described in the guide: Thought Mapping.
An example of a non-linear essay plan using key words and phrases
Find your preferred style
Experiment with different styles of planning essays and use the method that you find most useful. Make as many essay plans as you need to find the best sequence for your material. By separating the planning stage from the writing stage you will be better able to write an essay that is well organised and clearly expressed. The guide Writing essays explores the key elements of an essay and shows you how to use these elements effectively.
Analyse the essay question before you begin making notes
Be selective in your reading
Record only information that is directly relevant to your essay question
Use essay plans to create a clear and logical sequence for your material before you begin to write