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There’s nothing quite like writing your story in a fresh notebook, with that new page smell and crisp white paper staring back at you, just waiting to bring your ideas to life. But we all have busy lives, and sometimes having a helping hand to hit your daily word count is just what you need to finally finish that novel. That’s where book writing software comes in.
Whether you’re thinking about switching from one type of software to another or are exploring digital options for the very first time, we’re here to give you the rundown on some of the best writing software on the market today for both nonfiction and fiction writers. Let’s dive in!
11 Book Writing Software Programs to Consider
1. Google Docs
Almost everyone has a Google account these days, even if it’s just for email. But, with that account comes a whole suite of products that you can use for free—and that includes Google Docs.
The format is similar to Microsoft Word (which we’ll look at in a minute) but is entirely web-based and saves to the cloud in your Google Drive folder. Gone are the days when you lose your entire first draft because your computer crashed before you hit “save.”
Google Docs isn’t specifically formatted for authors, so you won’t find any bells and whistles here like you will with other book writing software. But if you need something free that’s easy to use and allows you to share your work with other writers or editors, you can’t go wrong with Google Docs.
At some point in our lives, most of us have used Microsoft Word. From completing school assignments to tapping out some fan fiction over the weekend, MS Word has been the go-to for writers of all genres almost since the invention of the PC.
When it comes to writing software, this is one of the most basic tools that you can get. You can format everything (although you’ll need to do that manually), and editors can use the “Track Changes” function to leave their notes for you.
It can be time-consuming to get everything in place using only MS Word, but if you’re looking for a blank canvas to get your words out of your head and onto the page, this will do the trick. You can find it for $160 as a one-off purchase without updates, or you can subscribe to Microsoft Office’s ongoing plan for $6.99 a month and get Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook also included.
At $49 for a buy-once license for Mac or Windows, Scrivener is definitely a tool to consider when you’re getting serious about writing and publishing your work. The software has so many features that writers can use to organize notes, chapter plans, and so much more.
There’s a handy corkboard feature that allows you to create index cards (perfect for laying out character notes or mapping out your key plot points), with drag and drop capabilities to move sections around as you write.
There are also plenty of templates that you can browse through and adapt, from screenwriting guidelines to formatting your final work for self publication or submitting to an agent. Scrivener has been one of the preferred partners of NaNoWriMo for years, and with software this great, it’s easy to see why!
If getting your ideas onto paper isn’t a problem, but you feel let down by your grammar and spelling, ProWritingAid is the software for you. It’s one of the pricier options at $80 per year, but the support that it gives you as you write is priceless.
The app is an add-on that can be used with plenty of word processors, like Microsoft Word, Scrivener, and Google Docs, and it also has a handy Chrome, Firefox, and Safari extension for all of your web-based writing.
ProWritingAid’s reports will quickly show you where you can tighten up your writing, like moving away from passive voice or correcting any spelling or grammar mistakes, along with giving you an idea of the readability of your work. Whether you’re thinking of self-publishing or sending a book proposal out to a publishing house, this tool will ensure your work is polished and professional.
5. Apple Pages
For those of you working on Apple products, Pages is a free writing software that gives you the ability to write, edit, and collaborate with others. It’s likely the simplest word processor that you’ll find and, like Google Docs, seamlessly syncs with your Apple account to store everything in the cloud.
One of the best features of Apple Pages is the ability to sync across devices. If you’re planning to write on the go and from multiple devices, you can easily pick back up where you left off and carry on writing. You won’t find any of the extra features here like you would with a tool like Scrivener, but Pages is perfect for first drafts and outlines.
If distractions are your procrastination demons, look no further than FocusWriter. This free software gives you an entirely customizable background for your blank document with absolutely nothing else on the screen. No word counts, no toolbars, nothing.
There are some added functions like daily word counts, timers and alarms, and spelling checkers that you can enable if you’d like, but the tool keeps all of this hidden unless you choose to use them. When you want to get down to work, FocusWriter is an ideal option.
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It may not look fancy, but yWriter does what it says it can: It helps you write books. The basic interface helps to avoid unnecessary distractions and, for a free tool, there’s a surprising number of features made specifically for authors.
Like with Scrivener, you can divide your writing into scenes or chapters, create note tabs for character profiles or plot outlines, and easily reorganize everything to flow more effectively. The biggest downside is the lack of collaborative tools, so if you’re working with an editor, you’ll need to export your work and send it to them another way.
LibreOffice Writer can be thought of as an offline version of Google Docs or a free version of Microsoft Word. It should have all the tools you need to work on writing your book and formatting it for publication. But, like with some of the more commonly used word processors, this will have to be completed manually.
This is the tool to look into if you’re not a fan of big tech companies, particularly if you’re working on a different operating system like Linux. Where most writing tools are formatted only for Mac or Windows PCs, LibreOffice Writer is compatible with almost any OS thanks to its community involvement and installation guidance.
For $10 per month or $100 per year, you can have access to all of the features within Novlr, a simple word processor with added benefits for writers. It can sync with both Google Drive and Dropbox, which keeps your work safe from accidental deletions, and works in online and offline modes.
While it isn’t the best for formatting options (you can only add front and back matter, along with print-friendly formatting), Novlr’s standout feature is their proofreading tool. This spelling and grammar checker is on-par with Grammarly and significantly better than the native functionality in both Google Docs and Microsoft Word. If having an all-in-one system that helps with your typos (rather than a separate app) is what you’re after, Novlr is a great choice.
For character-driven novelists, Bibisco is one of the best choices for book writing software. The basic version is free, but there’s also a pay-what-you-want premium version that helps support other writers and to develop the software (the product is not-for-profit).
Like FocusWriter, there’s a distraction-free setting to keep you on task as you write, and there are endless options for breaking down your characters by location, scene, traits, and more. There aren’t as many formatting features in this tool as others, but if the writing portion of your project is your main priority, you can’t go wrong with this software.
11. Ulysses Software
If you’re familiar with Evernote, Ulysses is the perfect complement for all of your writing endeavors. The simplistic, distraction-free interface is incredibly clean and an excellent place to write. Its various features like split-screen view allow you to pull up notes alongside your draft as you work.
It costs $5.99 a month or $49.99 a year to use Ulysses. But, with so many benefits, it’s definitely worth the price. There’s a progress tracker to keep you up-to-date on where you are in your work, along with the ability to sync across multiple devices. You can even export to formats like EPUB to make self-publishing quick and straightforward once you’re happy with the final piece.
Start Working on Your Next Novel
Whichever book writing software you choose to use, find something that has all of the features that you need to create your best work.
You never know—your next writing project could be a bestseller!
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