Book Creation Software
Once upon a time writers had to use elaborate physical systems to keep track of their manuscripts in progress. Think post-it notes on a mindmap pinned to the wall, index cards on a cork board, or typewritten sheets lovingly piled next to a typewriter, the final page proclaiming “The End”…
Of course, these are still viable options for those who like working hands-on with physical paper. But for most of us who do so much of our writing digitally, here are my top picks for software that will make the writing process as bearable and streamlined as possible.
This is the go-to writing software that many seasoned writers swear by. There’s a free trial version for 30 days, and then it’s $45 to own it forever (no subscriptions). The main features that will help you on your writing journey are
- the ability to drag and drop chapters and sections, which means you can easily write out of order if you work non-linearly and reorder later, and
- the ability to “compile” your chapters/sections into a full Word document. Scrivener will export all the discrete pieces into a formatted document, which is amazing!
If you’re visual like me, and perhaps a bit obsessed with outlining (also like me), then you’ll love the “cork board view,” where you can see all your sections as if they were index cards on a cork board. Similarly, you can move these around to your heart’s content.
YWriter is a great free alternative to Scrivener that also allows you to reorder scenes and chapters by dragging and dropping them in the sidebar and to see your book in storyboard view. This standalone software also holds all your notes and research, which can be a real time-saver, and has features that allow you to do character sketches and track character point of view. You can export your manuscript as an rtf file.
Wavemaker is a free online app you can easily access with your Gmail account. It also has a sidebar where you can reorder chapters/scenes and cards to organize notes. You can also create a basic timeline for your novel.
Wavemaker also has a 30-day Nanowrimo tool (National Novel Writing Month, held every November where writers try to write 50,000 words in a month). A great feature of this tool is that your word count is prominently visible at the top, which spurs you to meet your daily quota (if you thrive under such constraints!). And it’s layed out in calendar form to help you develop a daily writing habit. Overall, an easy-to-use web tool.
Self-Editing Online Tools
Once you’ve written a bunch of content, you’ll delve into the process of revisions. The cleaner you can get your manuscript on your own, the more money you’ll save on professional editing because the editor won’t have to spend precious time correcting basic grammar and consistency errors. Here are three excellent tools that will help make your writing clearer, more vivid, and engaging.
4. The Hemingway Editor App
The Hemingway Editor is a free online tool (which has a desktop version you can buy for $19) that will make your writing clear and bold. The app flags four main areas and colour codes them:
- Adverbs (suggesting you “remove most manner adverbs,” she said unnervingly),
- Instances of passive voice (suggesting you recast),
- Words that have simpler alternatives (think “use” instead of “utilize”) and
- Complex sentences, those ones that seem to — perhaps not fully meaning to but nonetheless adding so much space between the subject and verb that the reader forgets what the sentence is about — meander endlessly and hinder reader comprehension.
The more complex a sentence, the more menacing a shade of red it is. The app also includes a readability score. Here’s a screenshot of what that last sentences looks like in the app:
ProWritingAid is more like a personal writing coach. It provides a multi-pronged approach to correcting errors, fixing style issues, and has 19 in-depth reports that will give you a sense of what types of writing errors you are prone to (repetitiveness, vague wording, adverb overload, cliches, passive voice, lack of sentence variety, etc.). The best part is that you can learn from your mistakes.
There is a free online version, but you’re limited to checking 500 words at a time, or a premium desktop version for $50/year with no word limit.
6. Consistency Checker
Consistency Checker is a free add-on that flags inconsistencies in spelling, hyphenation, numbers (spelled out or written as numerals), abbreviations, and more. It does a series of checks on your document and tells you when inconsistencies arise (although you have to physically make the changes yourself). This apps helps you focus on the level of detail required in editing your manuscript. The more technically clean your manuscript is, the more money you’re likely to save on professional editing services. The premium program, PerfectIt, is a top-notch software used by professional editors.
Now get writing!
These tools will give you a head start on writing and revising your book. But I won’t judge you if you want to go old-school and write your book outline on index cards and shuffle them around! The digital space may or may not be a game-changer — I’ll leave that to you to decide 😉