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Writing Apps That Will Keep You Focused on Writing

It’s hard to focus. Sometimes it feels like the moment you sit down to write, you’re distracted by a text message, social media, or the people around you. But if you want to write, you have to find some way to carve out writing time for yourself. Here are a few apps that can help you sit down and write, and stay focused once you start writing.

Self Control App (free, available for Mac OS X)

Do you ever wish that you could block distracting sites while you write? If so, you’re in luck: That’s exactly what Self-Control app does. You can blacklist certain sites for a set period of time. Self Control App knows that you’re sneaky and addicted to distracting sites, so even if you reboot your machine and uninstall the program, you still can’t access the site until time’s up. So you might as well do some writing.

If you aren’t a Mac user, don’t worry—self control can still be yours. Other developers have created Windows and Linux versions. Also, Chrome users can check out the Stay Focused Chrome extension for a similar functionality.

Write or Die ($20, available for Mac, Windows, and Linux)

This feels like the writing version of the popular Zombies! Run! app. Write or Die rewards you for writing a certain number of words (say, with a picture of a cute puppy) or punishes you for not reaching your goal (perhaps with spiders, a grumpy cat, or loud noises.) It also gives you stats like words per minute and delivers stimuli as your write (for example, the screen will start to turn red if you’re off track to read your goal.) If you need an extra kick in the pants to start writing, this is for you. (It reminds me of a high-tech version of Sandy Hall’s candy reward system for reaching word count goals.)

Coffivity (free, available for iOS, Android, and in-browser use)

Want the ambiance of a coffee shop without having to actually go to the coffee shop? Try Coffivity, a website lets you stream coffee shop white noise like “morning murmur,” “lunchtime lounge,” and “university undertones.” Ahhh. So relaxing.

Songza (free, available for iOS, Android, and in-browser use)

When you load this app, you’re presented with a spread of options based on the time of day and weather, for example: “Snow Day,” “Brand New Music,” “Enjoying the morning,” “Keeping calm & mellow,” and “working (no lyrics).” If you’re trying to focus on writing, you might choose “working (no lyrics).” You can choose between a handful of focused stations, such as a soundscape like “in a busy coffee shop,” a film soundtrack station like “western movie scores,” or something retro like “vintage rock instrumentals.” One great thing about Songza is that you can filter by mood. Whether you need quiet white noise while focusing or a rockin’ beat while you write an action scene, you can find your sonic bliss on Songza.

Ambiance ($2.99, available for iOS, Android, and in-browser use)

If you’re the kind of person who needs white noise in order to focus on your writing, try Ambiance. Though you have to buy the app, it offers 2,500 different sounds you can listen to, so you’re sure to find your zen in one of their ambient offerings.

Hootsuite (free, available for iOS, Android, and in-browser use)

For better or for worse, authors have to have a social media presence these days. But all that tweeting, posting, and sharing can eat up large chunks of your writing time. Luckily, Hootsuite helps you schedule many posts at once across multiple social media channels. That way, you don’t have to constantly interrupt your writing time to post on social media.

If you’re a Swoon writer, try setting up a Hootsuite account (and a Twitter account, if you don’t already have one) and scheduling a few tweets promoting your story. You’ll be surprised by how easy it can be to connect with other writers and get the word out about your writing.

How do you stay focused while writing? Will you start using any of these apps? Also, be sure to check out our roundup of great apps for planning and writing your novel and apps to help you beat writers block.

Author spotlight

Christine Barcellona

Editor / I blog and edit for Swoon Reads, plus I'm the editor for our paperback line, Square Fish. Find …

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