Before the computer there was the typewriter, and before the typewriter there was pen and paper, and before pen and paper there were plenty of other lost tools of writing — like clay, papyrus, wood, slate, parchment, and, of course, pens made out of reeds. (Fun fact: the name “Reedsy” is inspired by the “reed pen,” which was used as early as 800 B.C. for documentation).
As you can tell by now, the act of writing has been a part of human culture from the days of chiseling stories onto the walls of caves — and as we have evolved, so have our writing tools. In fact, today’s writers and storytellers are spoiled for choice when it comes to deciding which tools to use.
The following list details our favorite writing tools and resources for taking any idea through to its written conclusion. If you want to cut straight to the chase and find out which is the right writing app for you, we recommend taking this quick 30-second quiz.
Which writing app is right for you?
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Otherwise, let's dive in!
We all know Google Docs and Microsoft Word, so we’re not going to waste your time giving those two a run-down in our list. Below are four other word processors you might not know about, and that are worth checking out.
1. Reedsy Book Editor
Does “fake it ‘til you make it” ring true to you? Well, the Reedsy Book Editor is a free, online word processor that formats your book as you write. See your drafts automatically turn into a professional-looking, ready-to-publish manuscript — and allow this glimpse of your work as the final product spur your motivation to write.
It comes with an automatic spell-checker — and a built-in goal reminder system to get you back into shape if you find that you're falling behind on your writing schedule! Another one of the Reedsy Book Editor’s best functions is that it lets you instantly typeset your manuscript to EPUB and print-ready PDF files.
Check it out if: if you want a writing tool that takes care of formatting and conversion for you.
Do you like a helpful tap on the shoulder, reminding you about something you need to do? Well, you’ll likely enjoy Draft then, because the book writing software not only keeps track of how many words you write per day, it can also email you daily reminders about your daily word count goals. (Of course, if this sounds a little too “hands-on” for you, you can always turn the reminder function off).
Other than that, Draft functions a lot like Google Docs: allowing you to track changes, collaborate via suggested edits, and make comments on the doc.
Check it out if: you like Google Docs, but want an even simpler interface.
Yes, we did say that we wouldn’t mention Microsoft Word, because by now everyone knows that it’s a useful writing tool. But we didn’t say we wouldn’t mention its free counterpart: LibreOffice.
LibreOffice is the open source answer for people who want to try Microsoft without paying the price tag. (Open source means that the software is built on code that anyone can inspect and enhance). Plus it’s compatible with all of the regular file types people are used to, such as .doc, .docx, .xls, .xlsx, .ppt, and .pptx files.
Check it out if: you like a classic word processor — and moreover, a free one.
Cost: $50 (or try a 30-day free trial)
The people behind Mellel don’t just know word processing — they also know catchy, memorable marketing. Their description of why writers should choose Mellel starts like this: “Mellel is a writer's dream come true. To start, it is exceedingly boring: it just works, day in and day out, reliably. An enormous number of people used Mellel to write and they all report that their journey with Mellel was boring and uneventful. As well it should. In other words, it does all the mundane bits, and leaves the creative stuff to you.”
Mellel is not free (and note that it’s only for Mac). In return for the price tag, you’ll get more book-specific tools than other, perhaps more traditional word processors — such as outlining and bibliography-making functions. And, judging by the witty, funny copy on Mellel’s website, Mellel makes the process of writing much more fun than they let on.
Check it out if: you’re a Mac user who wants more than the Pages app offers.
Plotters tend to finish their writing projects quicker than pantsers — simply because when they hit a wall, they have their notes or outlines to reference, allowing them to jump straight over that hurdle and hit the ground running. P.S. You can grab a free template for your book outline here in this comprehensive guide to outlining.
The following resources will help you keep your thoughts organized so that any bouts of writer’s block don’t slow you down.
Cost: Free for basic plan or $12.50/month for premium.
Milanote is an easy-to-use creative writing app to organize your research, ideas, characters and outline in one place.
The vast majority of novelist-oriented writing software is organized around the idea of a linear document. But for most people, writing isn’t linear — because thinking isn’t linear. Writing is about gradually getting a jumble of ideas into shape, and Milanote's writing app matches the way writers think.
Check it out if: you're a plotter who likes a flexible workspace to organize ideas and see a birds-eye view of how your story outline is coming together.
Get our Book Development Template
Use this template to go from a vague idea to a solid plan for a first draft.
Cost: free for basic plan or $9.99/month for premium.
Its cute, little green elephant logo aside, Evernote is a great and easy-to-use option for writers who could do with a little more organization in their lives.
The app lets you quickly jot down thoughts, record audio notes, save online articles you’re hoping to reference, and it will sync all of this information across all of your Evernote-installed devices. What’s also handy about the app is the collaborative aspect of it: you can create shared accounts, so that multiple people can access saved documents at once.
Check it out if: you’re prone to getting great ideas while on the go, and need somewhere to make sure you don’t forget them by the time you’re home.
Cost: $5/month or $40/year (or try a 14-day free trial)
While it’s ultimately a writing tool, one of the best assets of comprehensive programs like Ulysses or Scrivener are their organizational features. At the end of the day, whether you’re writing a blog post or a full-length novel, the seed of an idea doesn’t get too far without the ability to organize that idea into a cohesive piece of writing.
And that’s exactly what Ulysses allows you to do: organize your thoughts into a well-written work. This is accomplished through features like customizable writing goals and deadlines, plain text enhancements, a distraction-free typewriter mode, bookmarks, outlining functions, and more.
Check it out if: you’re working on a lengthy piece of non-fiction, like a blog post or essay. (For a comparison of Scrivener vs. Ulysses, keep reading!)
Cost: $45 (or a 30-use free trial)
Literature and Latte’s word processor is a popular writing tool — also, in large part, thanks to its organizational capabilities that seamlessly allow writers to turn fragmented ideas into a fully realized book/script/research paper/or whatever else you’re writing.
Scrivener vs Ulysses
Apart from the price (Scrivener charges a one-time licensing fee while Ulysses charges yearly), the two platforms offer many of the same features. So we’ll focus on what makes the two programs different.
- Scrivener’s corkboard function is an absolute favorite for writers who rely on visual aid to help with outlining. The function looks like an actual corkboard, and lets writers pin notes to the board in chronological order.
- Scrivener offers templates for works such as fiction, essays, recipe collections, screenplays, comic books — which gives Scrivener another point for versatility.
- Ulysses boasts an interface that is slightly more clean and simple — so if ease-of-use is high on your priority list, it might be the better option for you.
- Ulysses offers a very helpful WordPress and Medium integration, which bloggers who publish on either of these platforms will love.
Check it out if: you’re working on a longer piece of content (like a book or screenplay) and want one comprehensive place to manage all your work. (And don’t forget to check out our equally as comprehensive review of Scrivener’s newest update: Scrivener 3!)
Alright, let’s kick things into high gear now. You know what you want to use to write, and your thoughts and ideas are concisely organized. If you’re finding it difficult to buckle down and get the job done, these resources will help you realize that Nike manta: just do it.
Cost: free web version or $7 for the full program
Do you find the clacking sound of old typewriters satisfying? Do you find soft, neutral colours calming? Does nothing really get you focused quite like a purposeful, long, deep breath? If so, Ommwriter might be the tool to help you reach your goal. As the site’s tagline reads, Ommwriter is “a perfect place to think and write.”
With soothing background noises, customizable keyboard noises, and peaceful backgrounds to choose from, Ommwriter could just be the “break” from everything else going on around you that you need to write.
Check it out if: your very best writing ideas come to you while in “savasana.”
10. To Doist
Cost: free or $4/month for premium plan
Have you ever woken up in a cold sweat, panicking about something important you forgot to do? Or, god forbid, gripped in dread about how far behind you are on your word-count goals?
Well, To Doist might be able to help. It’s the ultimate app for creating to-do lists — but these aren’t your grandma’s pen-and-paper lists with little check marks beside them (though we mean no offense to your grandma). It lets you get a daily or weekly overview of your tasks, prioritize the tasks that are most important, and even lets you assign tasks to other people if you’re working on a specific goal with other collaborators.
Check it out if: you have never been able to find an agenda that’s souped up enough to keep you on track.
How to Build a Solid Writing Routine
In 10 days, learn to change your habits to support your writing.
11. Marinara Timer
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method meant to promote productivity. In a nutshell, it stipulates that you should work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break, then work for 25 minutes, take another 5-minute break, etc., etc.
The free-to-use Marinara Timer makes this easy for you by alerting you each time your work sessions and breaks are up. It also offers customizable timers in case the 25/5 isn’t quite right for keeping you on track. Fun fact: taking a break to stand up or walk (or do anything but sit!) every hour is also a good way to protect your back if you sit hunched at a computer working for long stretches at a time.
Check it out if: consistent breaks from work help actually keep you focused on the task at hand.
12. Cold Turkey
Cost: Free for basic plan or $20 for premium plan
“Meet your match, Zuckerberg,” says Cold Turkey’s tagline. In case that, paired with the writing tool’s name, doesn’t make it clear enough, Cold Turkey is a program that allows you to completely rid yourself of distraction. And when we say “completely,” we mean completely.
With Cold Turkey, you can block yourself from accessing certain websites — or even your entire computer — for periods at a time, only allowing you to use the current document you’re working on.
Check it out if: “willpower” is not a characteristic you’d ascribe yourself, and the only way for you to get something done is in a totally distraction-free state.
Cost:$7/month or $29/year (or a 7-use free trial)
Apart from pleasantly getting the “freedom” refrain from Aretha Franklin’s “Think” stuck in your head, the Freedom app is another resource that can turn your devices into tools of productivity once more.
It functions like Cold Turkey; however, a unique function of Freedom is the ability to sync your distraction-free periods across all your devices. So if you know that on Tuesdays, you want your computer, phone, and tablet to all block access to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook — you can!
Check it out if: letting other people know not to bother you during your non-negotiable writing time isn’t enough, you need to let yourself know not to interrupt, well, yourself.
If total silence encourages your mind to wander, whereas light sensory action keeps your thoughts on the task at hand, Noisli will be a friend to you. The tool lets you choose from a range of soundtracks, such as rain, coffee shop, wind, lake, and more. You can mix several sounds at once, and choose the volume for each one. So let’s say you want to create the atmosphere of writing by a babbling brook, with a fire crackling next to you, and the moon shining brightly overhead. Noisli will make this happen for you!
Check it out if: you get the most work done with white noise.
If you’re planning to publish a book — or any kind of writing you’re hoping to make a profit from, it’s crucial that your work is thoroughly edited. To that end, working with a professional editor is an investment you should give serious thought to.
In the meantime, here are a few editing tools that can help you out along the way. Hopefully, they’ll either ensure a typo-free draft, so by the time you do work with an editor, they can spend less time fixing small typos and more time on big-picture work, or, if you decide to forego a professional edit, you’ll have the tools to do the best editing job you can.
The Hemingway app claims to make your writing “bold and clear.” It has a number of handy features like a word-counter and an automatic readability score. But its real use lies in the features that make suggestions to your prose. For instance, it might highlight a complex sentence that’s hard to read. It also highlights instances of passive voice, qualifiers, and adverbs. Let’s take a look at how this passage from Ernest Hemingway’s very own To Have and Have Not fares:
“Just” is highlighted because it’s a qualifier, and Hemingway suggests, instead: “Be bold. Don’t hedge.” The sentence in red is highlighted as being hard to read. And “probably” is pointed out as an adverb — the app suggests using a forceful verb instead.
Check it out if: you want to bring out your inner Ernie. (Curious what else Hemingway offers? Check out our full review of the app right here.)
How to Write a Novel
Bestselling novelist Ben Galley will guide you from page 1 to the finish line.
16. Marlowe Pro
Cost: $29.95/mth or $199/year; $45 for single reports
This manuscript assessment tool will provide in-depth feedback on your novel within minutes. Using artificial intelligence, Marlowe can analyze your plot, pacing, story beats, and readability — then provide actionable insights (as well as comp titles) based on its database of bestsellers across a number of genres.
Check it out: to take a scientific and methodical approach to your developmental edits.
17. Cliché Finder
Cliché Finder is exactly what it says on the tin: it combs through your writing in search of clichés, and then highlights them for you. It’s not always necessarily a bad thing to use clichés in your writing, but when you do, you want to be purposeful about it (and not to mention aware of it!).
Check it out if: you want to avoid clichés like the plague, and for your book to sell like hotcakes — and the rest is history.
Have you ever sent an email, only to realize just as you hit “Send” that you’d made a glaring typo? Well, no more!
Grammarly essentially functions like the spell checker tool from Microsoft Word or Google Docs, but here’s the great part: it’s a plug-in that will work wherever you happen to writing. That means Twitter, Gmail, Google Docs, Facebook — anywhere. Plus it offers vocabulary or alternate word suggestions — for instance, it might suggest you replace “walking aimlessly,” with the word “wandering.”
Check it out if: you’re typo-prone! (Read below for a comparison of Grammarly vs. ProWritingAid.)
Cost: Free browser extension or $79/year for the full software
ProWritingAid is a tool you can install that will proofread and spell check your material for you, no matter where you’re writing. It will also offer suggestions to improve your overall language — outside of just grammatical technicalities. (You can even get 20% off via this special offer!)
ProWritingAid vs Grammarly
The two programs offer a lot of the same services, so you might be wondering which one to pick. We have a review of ProWritingAidthat dives deep into this comparison, but the main differences are:
- Grammarly is free to use, and while ProWritingAid offers a free Google Chrome plug-in, this free option only offers spell checking services, it won’t make editorial suggestions.
- ProWritingAid is slightly more tailored towards authors, while Grammarly is a slightly better fit for articles and essays. Ultimately, both tools lend a very helpful editing hand, so deciding between the two mostly boils down to the one you enjoy using more.
Check it out if: you want to make sure your writing is as polished as possible.
At the end of the day, all you really need to write is a pen and paper. All the fancy tools and apps in the world won’t get the words out for you. That being said, creating an environment that’s appealing — and conducive! — to write in can make the whole process more enjoyable, and encourage you to get the job done.
Here are few physical tools to look over if you’re thinking of sprucing up your workspace.
20. Livescribe Pen
Cost: starts at $100
If you prefer writing on paper, but dread the process of transferring your words to a computer, Livescribe will likely be right up your alley. Through Bluetooth technology, the pen can actually transcribe your pen and paper words to your device. What’s more, it can also transcribe voice notes into digital documents for you.
Check it out if: you’ve ever felt envy at Rita Skeeter’s Quick-Quotes Quill in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
21. Ergonomic desk setups
As more and more of the workforce moves to sedentary jobs where the majority of 9am to 5pm is spent sitting — usually hunching — at a computer, a growing number of sitting-related health injuries have been occurring. That’s why looking into more ergonomically friendly desk setups is a good idea for writers who spend long hours at the computer — or even writing in a notebook. This could be a standing desk, or even just a number of textbooks piled under your desktop so that your screen is eye level, resulting in less stress on your shoulders.
Check it out if: you don’t want writing gains to come at the cost of growing back pains.
22. Computer Glasses
Writers are all familiar with computer-caused eyestrains. Because you blink far less when looking at a screen than you do otherwise, computer vision syndrome (CVS) is a condition people have been developing due to long stretches of staring at a computer.
One way to help alleviate this — other than just making sure to take time looking away from your computer — is to invest in some computer glasses. They typically come in blue or amber shades, and are coated with a protective coating.
Check it out if: you notice itchy or tired eyes after long writing sessions.
Have you tried any of the above writing tools — and if so, which were your favorites? Or maybe you feel there are some great resources missing from this list? Let us know in the comments below!
- Digital Smart Pen. ...
- Digital Voice Recorder. ...
- Dragon Dictation. ...
- AquaNotes, the Waterproof Notepad. ...
- Write or Die. ...
- Dropbox. ...
- Ergonomic Keyboard and Mouse. ...
- Kitchen Timer.
|Rank||Book Writing Software||Type|
|2||Google Docs||Word Processing|
- Scrivener. Scrivener is the ultimate book-organization tool. ...
- Google Docs. Google Docs is a great collaborative tool. ...
- Freedom. ...
- ProWritingAid. ...
- Grammarly. ...
- Novel Factory. ...
- Hemingway Editor. ...
In light of this, I've identified ten habits every writer should avoid in favor of concision and clarity. Avoid wishy-washy words. “It was as if…” “It seemed like…” “It felt…” “I heard…” “I saw…” “There was…” “It was like…” “She sort of…” “They kind of…” “He probably…” These are weak ways to start a sentence.What are the 2 essential tools for a writer? ›
- Writing App. A writing app is the most important tool you will use all the time. ...
- Editing Tools. If you are writing whether it is emails or social media posts, or articles, you need an editing tool. ...
- Notes Taking Tools. ...
- Newsletters Apps. ...
- Speech To Text.
Other Free Writing Apps:
- Reedsy Book Editor.
- Apple Pages.
- MS Notepad.
Interesting fact: Stephen King uses MS Word writing software to draft his book manuscripts. He uses Final Draft to write screenplays. How much does MS Word cost? Microsoft Word costs $139.99 as a one-time purchase.What platform do most authors use to write? ›
Google Docs is by far the most common and widely used writing software, and this list of free book writing software tools wouldn't be complete without mentioning it. Google Docs is a word processing tool that comes with your Google account. If you have a Gmail account then you already have access to Google Docs.What free program is best for writing a book? ›
- Google Docs.
- Kindle Vella.
- Scrivener app.
- Pomodoro Timer.
- Ulysses app.
- Cliché Finder.
The 7 stages of the EEF's writing process: Planning, Drafting, Sharing, Evaluating, Revising, Editing and Publishing.
- Describe a Place in Detail. ...
- Use Specific Words to Paint Pictures. ...
- Show How Something Feels, Smells, Tastes, Sounds or Looks. ...
- Compare Two Different Things Through Simile or Metaphor. ...
- Use the Exact Thoughts or Words from a Person. ...
- Describe How Someone or Something Moves.
- Organize your thoughts. ...
- Choose your words carefully. ...
- Customize your writing to your target audience. ...
- Avoid using unnecessary words. ...
- Write short sentences. ...
- Use the active voice. ...
- Take a cue from copywriting. ...
- Edit your work for simplicity.
- A writer should never spend too much time sitting at the computer. ...
- A writer should never worry about how she “should” write. ...
- A writer should never allow others to determine how important her writing is. ...
- A writer should never stop pursuing his own path.
There are 3 general things to look out for when editing for conciseness: cutting unnecessary words, cutting unnecessary repetition, and finally, simplifying sentences (when possible). You can find out more about these tips on the Writing Centre's Writing Concisely resource!What should you never do when writing? ›
- Strike the wrong note. Your text should be written in a way that appeals to your target reader. ...
- Intrude. Let your language flow. ...
- Not answer 'why' People want to know why they are reading whatever has been put in front of them.
- Audience: If you had a favour to ask, would you do it in the same way whether it was aimed at a close friend, your parents or a professor? ...
- Purpose: Why do you write? ...
- Context: Any topic exists within a larger context. ...
- Media: All children should be immunised.
Writer's checklists are evidence-based procedural facilitators that prompt students to actively engage in the writing process. Students with diverse learning needs experience problems when composing texts because of the complex steps involved.What does every aspiring writer need? ›
- #1 An idea. Having an idea may seem obvious, but there is a big difference between an idea and a well-thought-out idea. ...
- #2 A deadline. ...
- #3 A plan. ...
- #4 Advice along the way. ...
- #5 Persistence. ...
- #6 Accountability. ...
- #7 Encouragement. ...
- Information alone is not enough.
I use Scrivener and OmniOutliner to plan and write my novels. I loathe Microsoft Word. What tools do you use?Is there an app to improve writing skills? ›
Grammarly is an incredible and well-designed app with a wealth of features that guide and improve your writing. From the basics like checking grammar and punctuation to recommending tone and word choices.
- Write every single day. Writing is like a muscle—the more you exercise your craft, the stronger, leaner, and more efficient it will be. ...
- Give yourself a topic. ...
- Create an outline. ...
- Gather information. ...
- Get rid of distractions. ...
- Set a challenge. ...
- Start a timer. ...
- Revise later.
Scrivener is the go-to app for writers of all kinds, used every day by best-selling novelists, screenwriters, non-fiction writers, students, academics, lawyers, journalists, translators and more. Scrivener won't tell you how to write—it simply provides everything you need to start writing and keep writing.Why is Scrivener better than word? ›
Pros: Made specifically for writing books. While Microsoft Word gets more and more difficult to use the bigger your document gets, Scrivener gets more and more useful as your document grows. That's mainly because of its “binder feature,” which is a simple but game-changing advance for word processors.What word processor do most writers use? ›
If there was a popularity test for word processing tools, Scrivener would be a major contender. It's a top tool for all types of writing, from novels to screenplays to memoirs and much more. If you're looking to organize your writing, research, notes, thoughts, and all in one central place, Scrivener delivers.Where do authors get their ideas for writing? ›
Authors get their ideas everywhere. Newspapers, TV, movies, other books, overheard conversations, dreams, nightmares, people we've met, loved, hated, been married to. And sometimes we have no idea how we got an idea!What font size do author's use? ›
Font: Your font should generally be 12 point Times New Roman. Though some agents and editors may prefer different serif or sans serif fonts like Arial or Courier New, Times New Roman with a 12 point font size is the industry standard.What is the easiest program to write? ›
- HTML. Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is the language that is used to code most web pages. ...
- C. C is a general-purpose language that most programmers learn before moving on to more complex languages. ...
- Python. ...
- Use black, 12-point, Times New Roman as the font. ...
- Use the U.S. standard page size of 8.5×11 inches and set your margins to 1 inch on all sides. ...
- Set alignment to left justified. ...
- Use a single space after periods. ...
- Use double-spaced line spacing.
As a quick answer, yes. You should use Google Docs to write a novel if you like using Google Docs to write a novel. There's no correct way to write a novel, and if Google Docs is what's most comfortable for you, then go ahead.What is the most used writing style? ›
Modern Language Association (MLA)
The Modern Language Association style is almost exclusively used in the academic world. It applies mostly to literature and humanities. This is likely the style first introduced to most writing students and undergrads.
Expository Writing – This is the most common type of writing. This blog post is an example of expository writing, as I'm explaining a concept and providing information. However, expository writing often doesn't include the author's opinions.What is the first tool of writing? ›
The earliest material used to write on was clay. It needs little preparation before use, is easy to work and was readily available in Mesopotamia, where the first writing developed. Damp clay could be formed into a tablet in the hand and drawn into with a stylus.What style of writing does Stephen King use? ›
King favored an epistolary form to produce realism in the novel by using a combination of letters, news clippings, magazine articles, and passages from books. Stephen King also creates identifiable characters that elicit immediate sympathy from readers due to inherently flawed but human traits.What style guide do most publishers use? ›
The Associated Press Stylebook (AP Stylebook)
Most U.S. newspapers, magazines, and broadcast writers use it as their go-to style guide.
- Cursive Handwriting. Cursive handwriting is 'joined-up' writing where letters are connected, making it faster to write as you needed to take your pen off the page less. ...
- Print Handwriting. ...
- Modern Cursive. ...
- Letter Shapes. ...
- Letter Size. ...
- Letter Spacing. ...
- Letter Angle.
Alphabet: A writing system based on a set of letters, each standing for a single spoken sound. Concrete counting: the use of different sets of numbers to count different set of items. Cuneiform: The writing system developed in Mesopotamia in the fourth millennium BC.What are the three earliest forms of writing? ›
The oldest writing systems historians have found are cuneiform, hieroglyphics, and the alphabet. Cuneiform is the first known form of writing. Cuneiform is considered the most significant contribution of the Sumerians because of how important writing is to civilization.What is the oldest writing ever found? ›
The earliest known writing was invented there around 3400 B.C. in an area called Sumer near the Persian Gulf. The development of a Sumerian script was influenced by local materials: clay for tablets and reeds for styluses (writing tools).