6 Writing Tools You Can’t Live Without in 2017

Last year saw me complete and edit no less than two manuscripts. That’s good, but it’s not enough to get me writing full-time. So this year, I’m even more ambitious. In 2017, I want to publish not one, but five books. Yes, I know, my sphincter tightened saying it too.

Given I am a mum to a toddler and I work full-time, it’s ambitious, utterly mindfudgingly insane. But YOLO bitches, if I don’t start publishing a lot of books soon I’ll spend another year watching my glorious dream disappear in a vat of sludgey self-loathing and word-turds. I’d rather cut out my left ovary and eat it than go another year without publishing (and that is saying something I have been a vegetarian for 28 years).

BUT, publishing five books in one year is not going to be easy. Over the past six months, I’ve been building up a set of resources to help me be super efficient. Besides, everyone knows I love to share my process, and what better way, than being totally transparent with all the tools I use.

So here is my list of 6 recommended tools to help you be as productive and efficient as you can in 2017.TOOL 1 – GRAMMARLY

Grammarly is an online proofreading tool that checks for grammar,  punctuation, and style, and features a contextual spelling checker and plagiarism detector.

I had the free version of Grammarly forever. It’s not a secret my grammar is abysmal, my work generally suffers from comm-postroph-itis – a plague that infects my commas and apostrophes and either multiplies them to wrong places using its best mitosis impression or deletes them from the right places in a fantastic rendition of phagocytosis. I can’t win.

Grammarly is like a little box of editorial heroin. It integrates seamlessly with my entire laptop and fixes all the bad shit. By that, I mean, once installed it checks my emails, my Facebook statuses, any messages or tweets I send, it’s even checking this blog post as I type (and sure, it might still miss things, and it get VERY pissy when I make words up, but that aside, it is awesome sauce).


Everybody raves about Evernote. But I missed the boat. I’m sure it’s amazing, but I never mastered it, and I don’t think at this late stage I’m going to either. Not only that, I resent paying a subscription to store my thoughts and notes on multiple devices.

One of my goals this year was to find a better note taking system. I mean, yeah sure, I could use a pen and paper, and I’m even partial to the occasional Post-it note. But I’m also an occasional sufferer of extreme senile moments and I lose shit, including my glasses, although they’re usually on top of my head. But there are definitely post it fairies in my house.

I wanted a system I could take with me anywhere, would sink automatically across all my devices, integrate photos, draw unicorns in it by hand, write lists have tick boxes and different sections and folders for different projects.

One note does all of this, and it also does something else really exciting. It allows you to share notebooks. So I forced encouraged the bloggers committee to store meeting notes and actions in it.

TOOL 3 – JOAN DEMPSEY’S Free Video Course

I’ve taken this course myself and it really made me think about my own writing. The free video training helps you determine once and for all if your writing is really any good. So you can stop torturing yourself and tearing out chunks of hair because you don’t know whether the hours of bleeding words is all just a big fat fucking wasting of time. Joan will help you focus on making sure your writing is as good as it can be.

Course Info:

Video One: Gain Fresh Perspective about why you worry that your writing isn’t any good, so you can easily overcome your concerns and focus on what matters most: making your writing the best it can possibly be.

Video Two: Distance Yourself so you can accept yourself as the writer you truly are (and not the writer you fancy yourself to be), and then do what you’re meant to do: take your writing to the next level!

Video Three: Use Simple Tools to advance your skills as a writer. Determine which tools have worked best for you in the past, and identify new ones that will elevate your writing skills even further.

Find the course here.


Image from Trello

Trello is an organisational tool sent from the very gods of organisation themselves. I use this tool with Allie Potts my writing accountability partner. Together we share a board, we have tasks, to-do lists, checklists, completed things gold sticker stars for when we’ve been good girls and sarky comments and boards of eternal doom and punishment for failure!

The point of Trello is to keep us both focused, with three clear, stretching but achievable writing-related goals for each month. Open accountability because we can each see each others progress throughout the month.

It updates instantaneously, so there’s no hiding. But the best thing for me is ticking something off my checklist because it actually crosses out the task. Is there anything more satisfying than seeing an action crossed out? Don’t fink so!


I mentioned this the other week, and eventually, I intend to give it it’s own post. But for those that missed the other post, I listened to a lot of podcasts talking about how good Dragon Dictation is. And I wasn’t convinced. I mean, who can actually write 5000 words an hour? That’s the equivalent of being able to parkour up the Empire State, one handed in a tutu singing ‘We Will Rock You in Swahili). Sure some idiot might be able to do it, but your average Joe can’t. But these authors were publishing 22 books a year. Clearly, they knew something I didn’t.

I tried speech notes, (a free online tool), it’s not overly responsive, nor is it fantastic with accuracy, but it was good enough to show me the potential dictation had.

It doubled my daily output in the first session. I went from an average of 1000 words a day, to an average of over 2500 words. That might not seem much but add it up over a week and it sure as shitsickles makes a difference.

Image from gify

Normal avg: 7000 per week

Speech notes: 17500 per week (and that wasn’t even using dragon)

With a little help from Santa, I invested in Dragon Dictation and on my first attempt I went from 2500 words per session to 4500.


Oh, the potential, suddenly that list of 30 book ideas doesn’t feel like a lifetime’s work.

I’ve set a goal to reach an average of – 3500 words per hour by the end of 2017.


Image from Amazon

How to Market Your Book by Joanna Penn – a good intro to marketing for any author who is in this for the long game. Maybe not for long term indies. But I found it super useful and learnt loads from it.

Buy it from AmazonUK, AmazonCOM



The Emotion Thesaurus & The Positive & Negative Trait Thesauri by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

The Emotion Thesaurus took my writing to the next level. It helped me to show not tell characters emotions, insert better subtext, and develop better action too.

Buy it from AmazonUK, AmazonCOM

The Positive and Negative Trait thesauri help me to create more depth in my characters, matching or opposing traits and giving me a wealth of information about how that would make the characters behave or feel or react.

Buy the Positive Trait thesauri from AmazonUK, AmazonCOM

Buy the Negative Trait thesauri from AmazonUK, AmazonCOM


Structuring Your Novel and Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland

Image from Amazon

I’m including both the full versions and the workbook versions in the links below, but I have recently read the workbooks. Another one of my goals this year is to write better quality first drafts, which means I need a little more structure and planning than I am comfortable with. The full-length books I found a bit too detailed and daunting, but the workbooks were actually, to my surprise, awesome. They gave just enough detail, and more to the point asked the right grey matter poking questions to get me thinking about my own books.

Image from Amazon

Buy Structuring Your Novel from AmazonUK AmazonCOM

Buy Structuring Your Novel Workbook from AmazonUK AmazonCOM

Buy Outlining Your Novel from AmazonUK AmazonCOM

Buy Outlining Your Novel from Workbook AmazonUK AmazonCOM

What tools would you recommend for writers to maximise productivity this year? Let me know in the comments.

Did you know the Bloggers Bash is running a blogger competition? Want to win a basket of blogger goodies? Check out the competition here.

Don’t forget you can check out my new blog for my fiction books here. And if you want to sign up to hear about the release of 13 Steps to Evil, you can sign up here

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  1. Wow, some of these I use already, but a couple I shall have to investigate further. I can quite see you reaching your goals with some many helpful tools, and with a bit of luck and a following wind, so might I!

  2. Thanks for sharing your tools and books, Sacha. Believe it or not, I don’t use any of them! Perhaps I should. I do use Dropbox, which sounds a little like OneNote. Joan Dempsey’s course sounds good. I might have to check it out. Lots to learn! I’m pleased you were able to train your Dragon, and I wish you much success with your writing goals this year!

    1. Dropbox is more of an online file holding area. Whereas one note, although you can drop files inside it, is more of a tool for taking notes and dumping thoughts and inspiration. Joan’s course is fab, it made me feel a lot more confident. πŸ˜€

  3. Cool, Sacha. I have to try out Joan’s course. It sounds like a good resource.

    Dragon dictation sounds interesting too and the idea of increasing output is enticing, but I don’t think I can do it. I’m a slow slow writer because I edit as I go. Like really edit. I’ll edit a paragraph four times before I move on to the next one. Maybe next book!

    1. another spammed comment – why I’ll never know. Do – it’s free and made me feel a lot better about myself! lollll.

      Wow four edits… I do a full pass before going back, even with editing. It means more passes but also lends itself to the dictation as I don’t mind doing a vomit draft. But I use the dictation for emails, blog posts ALL sorts. Speeds up everything!

  4. Can you ever write a post that I don’t need to keep Sacha? I’ve got this saved to my pocket – thanks for these useful tips.
    I hope you’re well πŸ™‚

    1. I have to say, it is easier to dictate non fiction than fiction. But I think that is more about practice and preparation than genuine ease or not. I am writing up notes etc as I learn things and in a few weeks once I crack it on the fiction too, I will share πŸ˜€

  5. Okay first off, wow and good luck. I know you can do it, the five books a year. Secondly thank you for posting this article, it is going to make my writing life a lot less stressful and I do agree with you on publishing more books. I am going to save this article and check out these things myself. Thanks, Sacha, x

    1. You’re so welcome πŸ˜€ thanks for stopping in – and I hope you find the course as useful as I did πŸ˜€ oooh, well I haven’t heard of that one you use – *trots off to investigate*

  6. Fab post girl! Okay, so ya, we’ve obv read the same books LOL, a good thing. And I’m an Evernote junkie. I have one note, I send my photos there and they are a disorganized mess, this app does not cooperate friendly with me. Now Dragon, I’m getting more interested? How much does that cost? πŸ™‚

    1. We will have to compare notes in June. Well, it depends if you’re on a Mac or PC. Unfortunately it’s HALF the price on a PC (I am Mac SIGH!) but I think over here it’s about 130 on a PC, about 250 on a Mac. 100% worth it though.

    1. I know, I was SUPER resistant to trying it because I didn’t think I would be able to talk my story either. That’s just not how my brain works, or so I thought. But at the time, I refused to be defeated just because I didn’t think I could do it. No one is going to tell me I can’t do something, not even my own brain!!!!! So I tried. To my dismay, it actually wasn’t that different. To be fair, it does take a bit of getting used to – and the biggest change is that I need to do a bit more planning before I start, (where before I was 100% pantser). But I think ‘typing’ was actually slowing my brain down. I always thought my typing speed was my brain speed. The more excited and faster the ideas came, the faster I typed. But actually. Speaking IS SUPER FAST, it’s next level, and of course I speak, which means my brain has had to process that speech before I talk so clearly my brain is faster than my hands. We speak naturally at 150 words per minute. Our brains process way faster than that speed, and yes, even the processing of thoughts and churning ideas over, we are SO much faster than we realise. I have found my brain is getting faster because of dragon because I can actually work faster. It has been a FASCINATING experience. Really, truly, I am gobsmacked at how it’s worked and how much more comfortable I feel doing it. I was 100% against it, now I will NEVER look back and I will never do a first draft by hand again. Of course, editing is by hand but not drafting. I would recommend everyone give it a go for at least a month before deciding it doesn’t work, and I am sure there are people it won’t work for but you just gotta try! Does that explain a bit better?

      1. Great that you’ve found something that works so well for you. I’m better at writing than speaking. I mean I think better when I’m writing. I’m not too worried about speed. Some days thousands of words role, other days I have great ideas, which are ten handwritten sentences, and others I’m stuck on one word or sentence for hours until I’m satisfied. I love reading about the writing process. It’s fascinating!

        1. It’s interesting – cause it’s harder to dictate fiction than non fiction (at least for my brain anyway) so the fiction count is creeping up slowly but its a bit of trial and error still. But I’m the same absolutely love the writing process.

  7. They all sound great! I’m afraid I use pen, paper, index cards, post its, punched plastic file folders, or whatever they are called! I write notes by hand first and pad it all out on my pc, which works well for me. So a few pages of notes can easily become 2-3,000 word chapter. Then I have an editor ( or two ) to check the grammar and style, which is usually Ok, except for the dreaded commas ?

    1. OMG, I am the worst when it comes to commas! I tend to do all my problem solving by hand, using post its and the like, but when it comes to jotting ideas and collecting thoughts I prefer OneNote these days.

  8. Grammarly can be a huge help, but it also drives me nuts. Is there a British version? I really get fed up when it keeps telling me that I have mis-spelled words like colour, neighbour, and tyre!
    Grrrrrr! Just one of the reasons why I only still have the free version.

          1. Thank you. Done it after your last comment. Now it needs to just stop telling me to add certain words in front of other certain words when they are not needed. Still, it’s the free version, so I’m happy with it.

  9. Thank you for this list – very helpful. I can also recommend Harry Bingham’s series of videos from The Writer’s Workshop. I’ve watched the 1st 3 free videos, and found them excellent.

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