Every November during NaNoWriMo, I test a variety of writing websites and softwares, particularly those that are online. They’re run through their paces as I pull out hefty word counts in short amounts of time.
Here are the pros and cons for five of the websites I tried this past November. Keep in mind that this is all subjective to who I am as a writer and what I value. I am a plantser (I do a bit of planning, but a lot of pantsing) and all of these websites were used with fast drafting.
4 out of 5 stars.
Best usage: fast drafting and word count tracking
(The website is still in beta, so there are a few kinks, but for the most part it’s a solid website.)
Out of all the websites I will be talking about, MyWriteClub is by far my favorite as it holds a lot of similarities to the capabilities of NaNoWriMo’s site. I stumbled across this website late November last year and I have been using it ever since for fast drafting and word count tracking. It holds quite a bit on one site.
There’s no steep learning curve with this software, which five to ten minutes any user should be able to navigate seamlessly and use it expertly.
- You have the ability to set custom word count goals (or chapter, percentage, to do list, pages, lines goals). They can be set to public or private.
- You can set up private sprints (where only you can see your word count and progress) or you can sprint with other writers who are on the website at the time (no one can see what you write, only your progress and how fast you’re typing).
- You can back up your writing and upload it to Dropbox. At the end of every sprint session, MyWriteClub reminds you to do such.
- You can only save your work to Dropbox from within the sprint. While MyWriteClub auto-saves everything within your browser too (if the window accidentally gets closed you’re not going to lose thousands of words), you do have to manually copy and paste all your writing out of the sprinting section and into your own documents when you’re done writing. I would like to see them add the ability to download what you wrote as a .doc or .docx file.
- There is no way to delete word count goals. I have word count goals that I have created accidentally or never used that is taking up space either on my user page or in my archive. Over time this unused word count goals clutter and make it difficult to find old or current projects. While I could use the accidental word counts and re-customize them for new projects, it would be much easier to just delete them.
- The word count tracker isn’t comprehensive enough. There isn’t anyway to adjust what you’ve written on certain days (so, if you wrote a bunch and forgot to enter the count that you wrote that day, you don’t have the ability to go back and add it later which causes the word count tracker to be skewed. The word count tracker also does not give you any suggestions on how much you will have to write to meet your goals.
Neutral (but could cause concern for other writers):
- The word count tracker adjusts based on the word counts you place in the tracker.
- It can be difficult to find other writers, unless you’re in a sprint.
- The word count tracker is only in a line graph.
- You cannot set custom sprints. The sprint section automatically sets up 20 minute sprints with 5 minute breaks in between.
4 out of 5 stars
Best usage: Fast drafting
If any of you where wondering how I was able to get 900 words in 15 min, this website was how.
Fighter’s Block is a less stressful alternative for Write or Die (and it’s free, Write or Die isn’t.). Instead of deleting words, it has two bars across the top. One is the time (a little bad guy figure that you’re ‘fighting’ based on how fast you write) and the other is your typing speed. The faster you type, the more your bar shrinks, moving from green to red as you get closer to your set word count goal. The slower you type, the faster the other bar shrinks, moving from green to red, until it flashes a warning that you have lost.
The more goals you set and accomplish, the further up you move in levels (I’m currently on level 31).
- The website is fully customizable. You can change font, colors, speeds of the second bar, text size, and width.
- If you accidentally close out your browser your last session is automatically saved on the browser.
- You can pause the session.
- It does not delete your words if you are writing too slow.
- There is no way to download what you have written. You have to manually copy and paste into your document. When you have larger word counts, it can be a bit slow or difficult. I recommend keeping your word counts around 1500 words or less.
- The theme of the game is something I’m not really into. It’s a wizard against an egg thing. This isn’t a huge con by any means, but it can be a bit odd.
Neutral (but may trouble other writers):
- You can only race with word count. You cannot set time, line or character goals.
4.5 out of 5 stars.
Best Usage: Focused Writing, Dyslexic writers, Academic Writing
CalmlyWriter is really good for when you want to concentrate on your writing. It’s a free online website that also offers a chrome extension. I love this website for late night writing. I can sit down with my laptop with dark mode on and just write without the distractions all the other softwares can bring. The design is very sleek and neat, which helps keep the focus solely on the writing. For those of you who work in google docs or Word, this is probably the easiest to use when it comes to saving your work, backing it up, and copying it to other places.
- Full screen mode and the ability to focus on one paragraph at a time. Has dark mode for late night writing.
- Has a program for dyslexic writers.
- Ability to save and print your writing.
- Full customization of font, width, font size, etc.
- Includes extensions: grammar checker, plagiarism and proofreader, typewriter sound effects.
- chrome extension
- Keeps track of word count, character count and reading time.
- You can open old or local files and upload them onto the website to write.
- The website can only be used in Chrome.
Neutral (but may bother you):
- You can only save in .txt, .htm, or .docx and you can only download or save to google drive.
3.5 out of 5 stars.
Usage: Word Count Tracking
If you’re looking for an amazing, comprehensive word count tracker, this one rises far above the others. Anything you may want to customize or can even think of customizing, this website can probably do it.
So, why the lower score? You can only make two custom plans if you have the free version and the options they have for saving your plan to your desktop, honestly aren’t great. They’re also only a word count tracker, so the price they ask for premium is a tad expensive. While the software is really neat and I love it, it is not worth $8 a month or $72 a year (They recently have added the ability to use it for things like spending, saving, or workouts, etc. Not exactly sure how that works though, and since they don’t yet have an app, I still don’t think it’s worth it to get premium.).
However, if you don’t mind creating just one or two plans, completing them, taking screenshots of the said plans and then deleting the plans and starting over again, the free version is totally worth it. I use this program for all of my really big projects, like NaNoWriMo, and longer projects like multi-month writing plans. I don’t use it for anything other than that. I’ve found free options like MyWriteClub, WriteTrack or just an excel sheet are better for most projects (under 50k).
- You can customize everything: from how it’s measured (chapters, lines, words, etc) to what type of project it is (novel, drafting, spending, saving, etc) to your strategy (same every day, work more on weekends, etc) to how you record your progress and view it.
- They’ve had a few major bugs in the software recently that caused huge problems with saving progress.
- Premium is kind of expensive for what they’re offering. I believe $5/month or just flat out buying the software for $72 (with upgrades that cost x amount) is more reasonable. While the software is impressive, it’s not that impressive.
- It’s a pain to try to save or copy plans for reference offline.
Neutral (not really exciting but some people may like it):
- You can share your progress on social media sites.
- You can embed your progress as a widget on your website.
4 out of 5 stars.
Best Usage: Word Count Tracking
I discovered this website mid NaNoWriMo and I really enjoyed the way this website is set up. It’s user-friendly, very customizable and practical for writing in the middle of life.
I use this when I’m setting up online writing events, so that I understand how a one day spike of writing really affects my word counts goals for certain months, weeks, or over the year.
There’s a minor learning curve compared to the other word counters but I still figured it all out pretty quickly.
- You can hook the tracker up to your NaNoWriMo word count.
- You can ‘pre-plan’ your schedule by adjusting the weight of certain days. When you do this, the schedule automatically adjusts so you know exactly what you need to write every day to meet your goal.
- You can plan ahead as many challenges (word count goals) as you’d like and do as many challenges as you’d like at the same time.
- You can view your progress as a calendar, bar graph or line graph.
- The color palette is kind of blah, it’s poop brown which isn’t very attractive. (I realize you can’t really tell this from the photo.)
- There are some minor glitches in the way the menu will show up on laptops (at least MacBooks).
- The charts can be confusing to read.
- You can connect with friends and choose to make your plans visible or private.
- The daily calendar shows up green, yellow, or red based on how well you adhered to your writing goal of the day.
What are some of the free writing softwares, resources, or websites you love?