Facebook and Twitter can be great tools when it comes to marketing your book, but they sure can be obstacles when it comes to writing it. There's always one more post to write, or check, or comment on. Another new tweet to get out there. Even—in the document itself—another bit of formatting to add.
Computers can be serious distraction machines.
The Quest for Distraction-Free Writing
If you're finding this the case, you may be a logical user of one of the growing crop of relatively low-tech software applications out there for distraction-free (DF) writing.
You won't mistake them for an up-to-date and feature-rich app like Microsoft Word. The DF tools are intended to take away almost all of those features and leave you with almost nothing but a blank screen on which you can write.
The DF tool on my computer is FocusWriter (by GottCode), a free download available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Open it and for a moment you may wonder if something has happened to your computer: Your whole screen will be taken over, turned either black or gray. No buttons or controls are visible. You can type words, as many as you like, and those words are all that show up on screen. It's almost like a return to the earliest pre-Windows days of word processing.
Though not entirely. If you move your mouse to the top of the screen, a menu bar does appear, and it gives you options including saving or exporting what you've written or quitting the program. You also can place another image in the background when you're writing. You can set timers and alarms, maintain production statistics in real time, even enable spell-check and auto-save. And—a nice touch—you can make your computer keyboard sound like a typewriter.
Mouse away from the menu bar, and it disappears, and you're left once more with your words.
Another free download that's even simpler, available only for Windows, is called Q10. Developed by a Spanish programmer, it doesn't even have a toolbar, operating only on keyboard commands (such as Control + S to save a file, or Control + K to show statistics). A kind of cheat sheet (a “help card”) pops up when you press F1. It also calls itself “perfectly portable,” because the whole program is contained in one executable file which can be copied from one computer to another. Despite the simplicity, you can do quite a bit here, including changing text fonts and colors, line spacing and indents, and more.
If the limits on basic formatting are a concern, you might check out WriteMonkey (a free Windows download), which also has a distraction-free writing surface but additional plug-in options as well. It has clipboards, scratch pads and corkboards—all devices that let you hold pieces of text separately and then reorganize them. It has tools for searching and replacing and jumping around a document, and what it touts as a “big huge thesaurus”. There's also an active user forum.
There's a Mac-based distraction-free app too, called OmmWriter, which as you might guess from the name is intended as a relaxing piece of software. While the basic version is free, the makers do seek voluntary donations— preferably at least $4.11, since “monetary gifts ending with a 1 are considered auspicious in certain cultures”, the website says—and their information page is labeled as “frequently meditated questions.” It has fewer features than some of its counterparts, deliberately. But it does have several soothing images for use as background themes.
Finally, there's a for-pay ($24.99) variant called WriteRoom, which comes in Windows and Mac flavors. It too makes its virtue from simplicity: “WriteRoom’s full-screen writing environment gets your computer out of the way so that you can focus on your work. The result is a subtle clearing of the mind that I think helps you write better.”
For most of us, full-dress word processors like Word or LibreOffice or WordPerfect will get the job done. For some of us, a tighter focus on the writing itself can help. What do you use to create a distraction-free writing space?
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