Ah, technology. It’s done wonders for novelists – I, for one, am glad not to write and revise my novels by hand – but what giveth, also taketh away… technology also includes the insanely distracting world of the internet and all the pretty toys that we can play with instead of writing our wonderful stories.
But behold! There is a whole whack of apps that can make your writing life easier. Read on for the definitive 2017 list of great writing apps and software.
Story Planner is a website-based tool that helps you plan your story with a LONG list of story planner outlines ranging from character profiles to the “Novel Launcher,” a six-step plan for brainstorming and outlining your novel. If you’re not sure where to begin when it comes to the novel in your head, Story Planner is a great place to start!
Lists for Writers is exactly what its name suggests: an app full of lists that can be helpful for writers in the midst of a story. From names and occupations to plotlines and settings, Lists for Writers can help keep you off the black hole of Google when all you need is a quick idea.
MindNode is a mind-mapping app that can help you organize your thoughts into a somewhat coherent structure. If you’re a visual thinker, MindNode is a brilliant way to express your thoughts and figure out the connections between the various aspects of your story.
We’ve all experienced writer’s block before, and Unblock is a project from the creators of WerdSmith to help you get back to productivity. The app uses decks of cards (including ones you have to purchase within the app) to give you prompts and inspiration for getting pen to paper or fingers to keys as soon as possible.
Beyond a writing tool, EverNote is a life-organization tool that can help you keep track of where you’re going next – in your story and in your day. It syncs across platforms, allowing you to keep up-to-date lists and notes no matter where you’re working.
Keep yourself off of distracting sites (hello, Facebook world) with SelfControl, an app that blocks you from accessing certain sites for a pre-decided block of time. “Until that timer expires, you will be unable to access those sites–even if you restart your computer or delete the application.” Now you can go ahead and write without the backup of social media for the moments of writer’s block – lucky you, right?
Now we get into the actual writing apps. I recently switched to Scrivener from Storyist, although they are both extremely good writing apps. Scrivener is an all-in-one planning, writing, and editing app. It’s not a simple software, but its complexity comes from the fact that it does EVERYTHING, including exporting your novels in Kindle-ready format. Within Scrivener you can organize notes, character profiles, chapters, research, and even front matter, and you can reorganize chapters and scenes easily within the app. Everything syncs to DropBox so you know you won’t lose your work.
Storyist is another writing app that is amazing – the choice between these apps will depend on your personal preference. With Storyist, you can easily organize your settings, characters, manuscript, notes, screenplays, and other research into folders and get a high-level view of each of your projects. You can also import images and the app will automatically structure your writing into a submission-ready draft before your final export.
The last of the major novel-writing apps, Ulysses is a distraction-free writing app that manages to remain high-powered with all the necessary editing and export tools. Ulysses is a markup-based text editor, which means you can incorporate bits of code into your writing to create the necessary structure for publishing online. You can also set daily writing goals and incorporate attachments as you plan your novel, and Ulysses has full sync capabilities with iCloud so your work will never be lost.
If you’re not yet in the habit of backing up your work to the cloud, start today! Many of these apps will automatically back up to iCloud or DropBox, but if you’re working in Microsoft Word or Apple Pages, make sure there is at least one backup copy of each of your files that auto-syncs with your chosen cloud application. Losing work is the WORST, so backing up your work in case of a computer crash is so worth it.
The Dictionary.com app is my best friend while writing – it will help you find the best word and make sure you are using the right word in every situation. As basic writing tools go, this is worth saving!
OneLook is a reverse dictionary and thesaurus – when you can’t think of the right word, type in something close to the definition and it will give you lots of word options. If nothing else, the exploration of related words can spark your creativity beyond the current phrase you are searching for!
The Hemingway App can be used for free on their site for short chunks of text, or you can purchase the app for offline use on your desktop. Hemingway searches your text for weak structures like passive voice and adverbs as well as unnecessarily lengthy words and sentences. It also analyzes the reading level of your text and gives suggestions on how to modify it up or down.
Grammarly is a free Chrome plugin that instantly points out grammatical mistakes in emails and forms. It’s touted as the world’s best grammar checker, and since I’ve been using it for a while, I can tell you that it picks up grammatical errors that other checkers never would. If writing is important for your job (hint: it is) then Grammarly is a no-brainer addition to your toolbox.
AutoCrit is a revision tool specifically for fiction writers. If you plan on self-publishing, getting a quality edit is essential for keeping readers engaged; AutoCrit helps you create a better final draft by measuring and providing feedback on pacing and momentum, dialogue, word choice, repetition, and more.
Are there any apps I missed? Let me know in the comments!