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This article was published on October 29, 2015

This is a clever app for creative writing: You don’t get to see what you’ve just written

This is a clever app for creative writing: You don’t get to see what you’ve just written
Martin Bryant
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Martin Bryant

Founder

Martin Bryant is founder of Big Revolution, where he helps tech companies refine their proposition and positioning, and develops high-qualit Martin Bryant is founder of Big Revolution, where he helps tech companies refine their proposition and positioning, and develops high-quality, compelling content for them. He previously served in several roles at TNW, including Editor-in-Chief. He left the company in April 2016 for pastures new.

There are plenty of minimalist, ‘distraction-free’ writing apps out there, but Ilys is by far the most distraction-free I’ve ever seen.

As the annual National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo for short) approaches, you might be looking for a tool to help you build up a longform piece of work. Ilys helps you get on with writing thanks to a simple twist: you don’t get to see what you’ve just written.

At the start of a writing session, you set yourself a wordcount target and then you start typing into the void of a blank screen. You can see the last character you typed, but that’s it. A progress bar and counter at the top of the screen shows how far you are from reaching your target number of words. Once you reach it, you can stop, read back what you wrote and edit it.

You only get to see the last character you wrote.
You only get to see the last character you wrote.

Trying Ilys, I liked how it encouraged me just get words out of my head in a stream-of-consciousness flow that emphasized creativity over careful planning. I didn’t write a masterpiece or anything, but I managed just one typo in my first 150 words, which surprised me.

No Man Booker Prize for me, I fear.
My unedited first draft. No Man Booker Prize for me, I fear.

If I had a strong idea for a novel in my head, Ilys would have allowed me to write with as little self-editing as possible along the way – often a productive way to be creative without setting too many restrictions on yourself.

Ilys allows you to save multiple projects, and multiple writing sessions for each project, so you can work on as many ideas as you like. It tracks your wordcount per day, so you can look back and see when you’ve been most productive, and when you have a finished story, you can export it as a text file for use elsewhere.

The app normally costs the highly precise amount of $10.08 per month to use, but TNW readers can subscribe for a year for just $59.99 after a free, 3,000-word trial. Just make sure you sign up via the URL https://www.ilys.com/tnw .

Ilys