Category Archives: Writing Practice

Staff Q&A: Online Writing Tools

Online Writing Tools

What is your favorite online writing tool, app, or website?

Sophie L. Nagelberg. Advice to Writers is Jon Winokur’s collected “writerly wisdom of the ages.” It has a little bit of everything—author quotes, interviews, resources, articles and essays. I visit the site or twitter feed for brief bouts of inspiration, then stay for the excellent content.

Danette Chavez. I’m fairly new to the freelance game and have found The Write Life very helpful for both business and craft advice. It’s free to use, and there’s a whole community at your fingertips.

Jess Millman. I’ve used Noisli pretty frequently this winter. It’s not exclusively for writers, but has been a perfect match for my binge novel-rewriting sessions. Noisli is a free web-based atmospheric tool, and its presets conveniently list the intended uses: “random, relaxation, productivity.” Essentially, you’re provided with a simplistic, easy-to-use digital soundboard, and given free reign to mix-and-match ambient noises to create your best possible audio backdrop. My favorite settings: fire and rustling leaves. The rumbling train click-clacks are nicely immersive, too, for those of you who celebrate the romance of the wandering writer. And when the real Chicago snow kicks in, the windchill is -40, and you don’t want to put three pairs of pants on to walk three blocks, Noisli’s “coffee shop” track is here for you.

Julia Fine. I can’t say enough about Scrivener. I am in the middle of a fairly lengthy project, and the software has been well worth its $45 in keeping me organized. There are numerous elements (like keyword tracking and metadata) that I haven’t yet explored, but the cork board feature is great for playing with structure and the binder and icon features help me keep track of my to-do list and jump quickly from one part of my project to the next. A huge relief after wrestling with 100+ page Word Docs.

Alba Machado. As part of my New Year’s resolution, I lined the favorites bar of my browser with writing sites—no time wasters. I also found FocusWriter. It’s a word processing application that takes up very little memory, costs only as much as you’re willing and able to “tip,” and has become a total addiction for me. Here’s why: it’s immersive and distraction-free, taking up the full screen but, at the same time, giving you only a small window in which to write; it allows you to set daily goals according to time, word count, or page count, and it tracks your progress over time; and, best of all, it has a feature that, when enabled, makes your keyboard sound like an old school typewriter with those oh-so-satisfying clicking, clacking, and swooshing sounds. I customized mine so that it looks like I’m flying over clouds as I click-clack-swoosh my way to my writing goal everyday.

Daniel Camponovo. The only online writing tool I need is Seriously, though, I’ve gotten a lot of utility out of Duotrope‘s massive catalog of journals and literary magazines. At $5/month (or $50/year), it’s a bit too rich for my blood, but if you have a piece that you know is finished and that you truly believe in, it’s helpful to pop on for 30 days and see what up-and-coming journals are out there. Their catalog is well-organized and easily filtered by genre, length, subject, acceptance ratio, minimum payment—just about any criteria you can think of. With magazine payouts shrinking every day, Duotrope may never pay for itself, but if you want to put in the time to research and make your own offline journal spreadsheet, it’s a great one-month rental.

Kori Klinzing. I really like for character naming. They even have a randomizer. But I always use Rainymood, and Duotrope when I’m ready to publish.


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The Write Spot: Star Lounge Coffee Bar
by Danette Chavez

Star LoungeI’m not the most disciplined writer: my attention is easily diverted, and I give myself a lot of time to “decompress” from my day job. So I’m often in search of a place to get work done without feeling tied to another desk. Oh, and to  enjoy several cups of delicious (read: strong) coffee. Star Lounge Coffee Bar (2521 W Chicago Ave) fits the bill, with lots of space, a friendly staff (with excellent taste in music), and said delicious coffee. I’m somewhat hesitant to add to their kudos, because I’d rather not fight any more folks for a spot at a table. But since this is one of my favorite spots to work away from home–and work–I’ll give you the rundown. Continue reading

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The Write Spot: Dollop Lakeview
by Julia Fine



As one who is at least 100x more productive outside of my “home office” than in it, I am excited to introduce a new regular feature here at Literary Chicago, The Write Spot: Rating Our Local Haunts.

We are kicking off at Dollop, whose Lakeview location at the corner of Belmont & Clark is one of my go-to spots. When I scout out a good place to make camp for the afternoon or morning, there are several elements I’m looking for, and Dollop has all of these in spades. Local artwork, good coffee, relaxing but not overly generic coffee shop music, and some big tables to spread myself out. Here’s how this location rates on our official LC scale:

Beverages: Metropolis coffee, a variety of Rishi teas, and some delicious indulgences like the Honey Cinnamon Latte make Dollop a great place to get caffeinated. They also offer free water in mason jars — a huge bonus in these hot summer months.

Food: No hot food, but a large assortment of pastries and bagels from the likes of Southport Grocery and Fritz Pastry. If you are willing to skip the egg sandwich (a struggle sometimes, I know), Dollop is a great breakfast/general snack-time spot. I’ve also seen folks bring takeout from places down the street, though I’m not sure how the management stands on this.

Atmosphere: Just lovely. A large, open space with shared tables that are long enough to feel like private desks. More than enough outlets, a reclaimed warehouse feel, and lots of natural light from the front windows. Dollop is also home to lots of laptop workers: some leave after an hour, others put in another few. In all of my visits, I’ve never felt pressure to leave or been unable to find myself a spot. I’m also a fan of the bathroom, always clean and plastered with fliers for local events.

Location: IDEAL! Just a block from the Belmont Red line (and, it so happens, my current apartment), and surrounded by restaurants, Divvy Bikes, and even several gyms for when you need a non-caffeinated energy boost.

Price Range: Inexpensive.

Word Count: Ahh, the chimera of all writerly endeavors. I’ve actually been able to get a lot of material written here, despite the comings and goings of area coffee drinkers during peak hours. Just pop in some headphones or be inspired by the barista’s eclectic musical choices and the range of Dollop customers, and channel the low-key vibe. At my best, I’d say I’ve made it 900 words in two hours — which for me is quite the feat.

Overall, I’d recommend Dollop to anyone who needs to get some serious writing done. Let me know when you’ll be stopping by, and we’ll make it a date!

Do you have a favorite writing spot that you think we should review? Let us know in the comments — we are always on the lookout for new and exciting places to be productive.

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