Writer’s Toolbox

This week in a conversation with my fellow MA students about the upcoming hellmonth of term papers and preliminary dissertation work I realized that a lot of the apps and tools and Chrome extensions I use for writing, research, and productivity aren’t necessarily common knowledge. So here, for anyone who wants it, is a collection of writer tools.


  • Momentum: Chrome extension that helps organize your daily goals
  • Strict Workflow: Chrome extension based on the Pomodoro Technique; blocks social media to keep you focused when working online
  • Pacemaker: highly customizable tool which helps you form a plan of attack for various drafts, projects, rewriters, etc.
  • f.lux: freeware which gradually adjusts the colors on your computer screen to make working after dark easier on the eyes
  • Coffitivity: app and website which provides ambient background noise to fake that coffee-shop feeling and keep you focused
  • WriteChain: app which reminds/motivates you to write every day

Outlining & Word Processing

  • iMindMap: mind-mapping software
  • Scrivener: word processor designed for writers (who also happen to be Mac users; seriously if you’re on a PC don’t bother)
  • Evernote: online workspace which can be synced to your laptop and smartphone 
  • Final Draft: script and screenwriting software that does the formatting for you
  • Celtx: the free version of Final Draft
  • LitLift: online outlinging tool and way to keep track of all your projects

Names & World-Building

  • AutoRealm: free mapmaking software; there’s a learning curve but it’s not rocket science
  • SketchUp: 3D modeling software that helps you create imaginary buildings and keep them consistent
  • Google Earth: great for working in real-world locations
  • Stellarium: lets you get a real-time look at the night sky in any location on Earth
  • Ambient Mixer: free tool for creating custom soundscapes; or you can listen to soundscapes other people have already made
  • City and Town Name Generator: a lot of great resources here for fantasy/RPG writes but this also provides examples of real-world place names based on geographic data
  • Ever-Changing Book of Names: freeware which creates random names, also based on geographic/linguistic data; geared toward fantasy but extra sets can be downloaded individually
  • Names by Decade: US census data of popular baby names by decade

Lit Agents & Query Letters

  • QueryShark: blog run by ruthless lit agent Janet Reid who will teach you how to write a query letter, and how not to
  • QueryTracker: online directory of lit agents and agencies
  • Writer’s Marketplace: the paper version of QueryTracker
  • #mswishlist: agents open to queries and what they’re looking for
  • MSWL: a more organized website which keeps track of the above hashtag


  • Calibre: free software which lets you create your own ebooks; a great way to read later drafts and look for errors on the go
  • Mendeley: for organizing research/resources if you don’t want to pay for Scrivener
  • timeanddate.com: calendars for any book you might be writing that takes place in recent history; also provides solar/lunar info
  • Dropbox: document storage so you don’t literally lose your shit

This is a very short list and I will probably expand it as other tools and tricks I use on a regular basis occur to me. But in the meantime, I hope this is useful to other writers (and grad students) out there.