Productivity and Writing Tools for Storytellers

There really is an app for everything. And that’s a good thing! Even just a few years ago many of the tasks now handled (sometimes automatically) by bits of software would’ve taken me hours and hours of work each week. These tools (though not all specific to storytellers, are definitely tools storytellers can use) have boosted my productivity and freed me up to focus on the creative side of my my work.

So, here you go. Tools for storytellers just like you. I use all of these personally and wholeheartedly recommend each (with one caveat, you’ll see below). I’ll be updating this list from time to time, so bookmark it and check back frequently.

ps — some of these links generate referral commissions or fees for me (and usually a nice bonus for you upon signup). If you’d rather not, feel free to search for the name of the software instead of clicking through the link

pps — some of these are “offline” tools, particularly those geared toward storytelling specifically

Writing

  • Final Draft
    I’m really not a fan. Unfortunately, right now, it’s the industry standard for screenwriters so if you want to play in that arena, you need to be familiar with it and how it works. There are cheaper, more modern options though that will suffice for the 99 percent of us who don’t need day-to-day production features, so keep reading. Lately I’ve been working with the iPad version — which was long overdue — but it’s really painful and difficult to get files in and out of.
  • Highland
    One of my favorite writing apps — it uses a markup language called Fountain that’s pretty easy to learn. It’ll format your work into screenplays, stage plays and even novel manuscripts. The second season of EOS 10 was written mostly in Highland.
  • WriterDuet
    This app is pretty new to me, but its collaboration features an automatic versioning set it apart. If you write with a partner, then you definitely want to check it out.
  • Evernote
    General notes, research. Most of the time bits of dialogue come into my head and I want a quick way to capture it before it’s gone. I also forward receipts from my email and occasionally backup other documents. The web clipper is especially handy for saving research.

Storytelling

  • Writer Emergency Pack
    I love this so much that I included it in the very first Storyed shipment. A deck of fully-illustrated cards, here’s what creator John August says about it: “Fix plot holes. Spice up stock characters. Rethink your themes. Writer Emergency Pack gives you the questions that lead to great answers.”
  • Inspiration Dice
    Similar to the Writer Emergency Pack but a little different and simpler in execution, these dice help you come up with new ideas for new stories and yes, can also help unstick a sticky story at the same time.

Communications / Marketing

  • Activecampaign
    If you want something nice and simple, use Mailchimp. But I ditched Mailchimp last year for Activecampaign and have been so so happy. AC’s automation features are unparalleled and if you have a freelance workflow for your writing, it can double as a CRM. This is my biggest expenditure per month, but my mailing list is key to my business.
  • Sumome
    Sumome is a website plugin that provides a whole host of features for mailing list building. You’re probably reading this because you opted into my list via one of Sumome’s intelligent popups or smartbars. My favorite feature is the split testing, which really helps me optimize my campaigns. Also promising, though not quite as feature rich, is Picreel.
  • Add This
    While Sumome has many of the same features, I rely on Add This for social sharing options on my website. Their recommended content plugins and sharing buttons are intelligent — they’re optimized for each visitor to increase engagement, page views and shares.

Customer Support

  • Desk.com
    Desk makes it so I can respond to all your emails quickly and efficiently (I’m still usually 2 – 3 weeks behind). It’s best features are macros that all me to quickly respond to the same kinds of emails and filtering that let me see who’s highest on the priority list, who’s been waiting the longest, etc. The majority of my emails come from people on my mailing list, though customer support for Storyed is handled through Desk as well.
  • Olark
    Olark is a live chat tool for customers for customer support. It’s been great to chat with Storyed customers while I’m sitting at my desk working on other things, and helps head off a subscriber getting put into the email queue in Desk.com.

Productivity

  • Instapaper
    I come across so many articles that if I stopped immediately to read them all at once, I’d never get any work done. Instapaper saves them in neat categories that I can sit down and read when I have time. I don’t use the premium version — yet — but it has some nice features.
  • Zapier
    Zapier is a god-send. What Zapier does for me (and I’m still on a free plan) would take me and possibly a few employees hours every week to manage. Those of you on my mailing list? It makes sure you get the bonus content you sign up for immediately and are routed to the right lists. It updates my books with entry from different POS platforms. It backup my Evernote notes to Dropbox. There’s so much more here, I haven’t even begun to explore everything it can do. We’ll both get an extra 100 tasks a month if you signup via my referral link: http://zpr.io/EfRi
  • Dropbox
    Years ago, I was using a complicated system to backup my writing. (For those of you who are interested, it was a github repository). Now, I just use Dropbox. The files are stored on their servers, plus all my local devices from my Macbook to my iPad.
  • Todoist
    I’d long been an Omnifocus user, as it jived well with the GTD system I was (sorta, kinda) using to manage my day to day productivity and todos. I couldn’t, however, justify its costs anymore — not only is it an expensive app for what it does, but you have to pay for each platform you want to use it on. Todoist, on the other hand, not only works super well with GTD, but it’s free on all platforms (with a premium option for a yearly fee). Thy syncing is seamless, the interface is simple and beautiful. The only feature it lacks is a dedicated weekly review, a critical GTD component, but it’s easy enough to manage manually. I also love the karma feature, which tracks your productivity streaks and automatic daily backups.
  • MileIQ
    Did you know that the miles you drive to meetings with your writing partner (or better, your agent!) might be tax deductible? Logging miles is an absolute ridiculous pain in the ass, but MileIQ, a smartphone app, does it automatically. You classify your drives as business or personal and it calculates how much those miles are worth when it comes to your tax returns. There’s a premium version that you’ll probably need if you, you know, do any driving at all (the free version is just too limited), but if you’re operating your writing career as the business it is, MileIQ will pay for itself after a month or two.