November 1, 2013

Participating in Academic Writing Month? Six Cool Tools for Planning and Drafting Your Writing

Did you know that November is National Academic Writing Month? Based on the same concept that has led novelists all over the world to write 1667 words a day for the month of November, Academic Writing month focuses on helping writers meet daily word count or time-based goals.

Don't want to write 1000+ words a day? No problem. Academic Writing month allows you to set your own goals. It's a way to be mindful about what you want to accomplish during the month of November--a month when many of us will be happy just to make it to Thanksgiving.

Many of you know that I prefer time goals to word # goals. But we all need to change it up every once in a while, and you need to experiment to find what works for you. So give word # goals a try and see if it helps you!

Are you intrigued by the concept, but not sure where to start? Or do you already have goals for your writing, but you're still facing the terror of the blank page? You might want to check out these free (or nearly free) websites below, which are designed to get your minds and fingers moving:

1) Freemind

When planning out your academic writing, it's important to let your mind roam, but then to capture some of that roaming on paper. A good tool for managing that process is a brainstorming tool called a mindmap. Rather than arranging an outline in a linear order, mindmapping allows the writer to discover the relationships between ideas and to express them in a more fluid, visual way. Freemind is an open-sourced mind mapping program that you can download to any computer, and while it is one of the older mindmapping tools available, its consistent presence on Internet "best mindmapping" lists makes it a definite tool to consider.

2) bubbl.us

Similar to Freemind, bubbl.us is a simple, free mindmapping program. The virtue of bubbl.us is that you can go to it from anywhere on the Internet and just start working, right there on bubbl.us's site. The downside is that you will need to sign up and log in before you can save your map, so make sure that you do that if you don't want to lose your work. The plus side is that it's easy to use and you can get started without downloading a program.

3) Coggle 

Another useful tool, and perhaps even simpler than bubbl.us, Coggle is google's mindmapping tool. Completely free, it has most of the features of professional mindmapping software, and comes as a web app, so works whether you're a PC or a Mac User.

4) 750 words.com

For those times when you generally know what you're going to write, but still just can't seem to get started, 750 words is worth a try. Based on creativity guru Julia Cameron's concept of writing three daily “morning pages,” 750 words counts your words as you type, and whether it takes 15 minutes or two hours, when you reach 750, it awards you points. The more days in a row you write 750 words, the more points you get, until you win a virtual award. The website is cleanly laid out and intuitive, and while there is a $5 monthly fee to participate after the 30 day free trial expires, if you like writing to word count goals, this might be the best site for you.

5) writeordie.com

While some writers may not like the dire name of Dr. Wicked's web app, many swear by it. Like 750 words, the application does count your words, but here there is no set word count goal as the site centers around the concept of timed-based goals and fluid, continuous writing. You can elect from three different writing modes: (1) gentle, where if you stop writing, you'll get a friendly prompt, (2) normal, which plays an unpleasant sound if you aren't writing consistently, and (3) kamikaze, where the screen actually turns red and if you don't continue to type after a certain period of time, the site begins erasing your words.

6) writtenkitten.net
For those who prefer a gentler approach but don't want to set a goal as high as 750 words, writtenkitten may work for you. Similar to 750 words, writtenkitten provides an online writing space and counts your words as you write them. Unlike 750 words, this site allows you to choose your own word count goal and then displays an adorable animal photo if you reach it. You can choose to have a cute photo displayed after every 100, 200, 500, or 1000 words. If you like cute cat pictures, this may be the site for you. Caveat: Unless you use Google Chrome as a browser, the site won't save your work, so make sure to copy and paste.

Whatever tools you use, remember the important thing is that you're getting the words down. We support whatever you can do to help facilitate that process, including joining the Academic Writing Club, our supportive small group accountability-based program.  It is the original online accountability tool meant for academics only.  Learn more about the Academic Writing Club here.  If you haven't joined, why not give it a try when our next session starts? Remember, there is a new session every 4 weeks, so sign up now!  Click here now and get help you on your Academic Writing Month goals.