Writing books is a serious business – trust me, I’m in the middle of redrafting one right now – and when it comes to the best apps for writing books, there are so many options out there it can be hard to know where to start. Some of these apps can be a great alternative to using a standard writing software, like Google Docs or Word, and some of them are designed specifically to make sure you don’t end up wasting all your time on the internet. We’ve chosen a range of prices too, from completely free up to premium, depending on what you are looking for. So if you’d like to start your book writing experience on the right foot, or you want to shake up your writing routine, check out these 10 best apps for writing books.
Calmly Writer markets itself as a distraction free writing and editing tool. I am writing on it right now, and all I have on my screen is a plain white background with a cursor. The menu which offers me options such as inserting a picture fades away as soon as I begin to write and only comes back if I move the mouse. It is a very clean, simple interface.
There are two versions of Calmly available, which makes it an attractive option for people on a budget as well as those with a bit of money to spend. The app version, which charges you a one-off fee after a 30-day free trial, is downloadable to Mac, Windows and Linux. It offers extra features such as exporting to PDF, or working with local documents. The free online notepad is a great little tool that still gives you the distraction free writing space. Just make sure to save or copy your work to a more permanent document before you close it down.
If the thing standing between you and productive working is how easy it is to click out of a document and onto the internet, then Cold Turkey is certainly one of the best apps for writing books that you could possibly want. Cold Turkey has three available products, including a typewriter app that literally stops you from doing anything except writing until you’ve met your wordcount goal, but Cold Turkey Blocker is the one we are here to discuss.
Again, there is a free and pro version, with the pro version available for a one-off fee. The free version of the app allows you to set up blocks for certain websites, for periods of time that you can determine. It also lets you put in exceptions to the rules, in case you need to open the internet for research, for example. The pro version is very robust, if you absolutely can’t trust yourself to settle to work; it allows you to block apps as well as websites, set up scheduled breaks, and – if necessary – completely lock yourself out of your computer.
FocusWriter is a very simple word-processing app. In much the same vein as Calmly Writer, it gives you a clean, distraction free writing environment, with all menus and options disappearing as long as you aren’t moving your mouse. It is only available for Windows and Linux, so Mac users will have to look elsewhere, but for those users that can access it, FocusWriter is a little gem.
Completely free – although if you like it, there is an option on the website to tip the man behind the curtain – FocusWriter gives you a lot for that attractive lack of price tag. As well as taking over your entire screen, it also allows you to set alarms for when you’ve been writing for a certain amount of time You can also set time or wordcount targets, and FocusWriter notes how long you’ve managed to keep your writing streaks for, which is fun if you want to make work into a game.
Grammarly is an app that divides people, but those folks who love it really, really love it. If your only experience with Grammarly is one of the million YouTube ads that you’ve seen for the app, then it is worth checking out their site and seeing if what they have to offer suits you and your needs. In terms of using it for writing books, it is fair to say that Grammarly is more suited to non-fiction than fiction, where it might get in the way of your creative choices.
If you are working on non-fiction, then Grammarly can offer you real-time feedback on your work, checking for things such as spelling and grammar, as well as looking for synonyms and suggesting how you can improve confusing sentences. Some people would find this very irritating, but if you like the idea of your work being checked and potentially improved as you go, then Grammarly is the tool for you.
Hemingway Editor is often listed as one of the best apps for writing books. Named after Ernest Hemingway, of course, it is a great tool for if you want to emulate his style. Hemingway was known for clean, adornment free writing. If a sentence could be shorter, then Hemingway made it shorter. If there was an extra word which could be cut, then it was cut. It isn’t a style that will suit everyone, but if you are guilty of using overly complicated sentences or too many adverbs, then Hemingway Editor might be the way forwards for you.
The online word processor is a simple – and free – tool that allows you to type directly onto the webpage in ‘write mode’. Once you have your words down, you can switch to the ‘edit mode’ and Hemingway highlights a number of categories for you, such as where sentences are hard to read or where you’ve used the passive voice too many times. The desktop app has a number of great features you might like to explore, but the free version is just perfect if you have some paragraphs in your book that just aren’t coming together.
iA Writer is an app that doesn’t come with a free version – although you can access a free trial – but it is very much a case of getting what you pay for when it comes to the best apps for writing books. iA Writer is like a combination of Calmly Writer and Hemingway Editor, which makes them a great option if you have some money to spend on an app that can do everything at once.
iA offers the same distraction free writing environment, where everything but the cursor is removed from the screen at the point of writing. It boasts a Focus Mode which many other apps have since copied from it, wherein only the sentence or paragraph you are working on is in focus. It also then has a syntax hack, where writing quirks you are guilty of can be highlighted for you, and the style check keeps an eye on your use of clichés and filler words.
This isn’t something that comes up very often as one of the best apps for writing books, but one of the best apps for planning has to be MindMeister, a very intuitive mind mapping tool. It is a very specific type of writer who would enjoy using an app like this; either someone who has the type of logical brain that enjoys how a mind map can be organised, or someone writing the kind of book with extensive worldbuilding happening in the creation process. If you are one of those people, you should check out what MindMeister has to offer.
Most people have created a mind map or two in their time, so MindMeister is not difficult to grasp, or to use. Your maps can be as big or as small as you like, with the ability to add images as well as words – helpful if you are worldbuilding. It isn’t cheap – the free version only allows you to have three mind maps at a time – but if you are serious about using it to map out your fictional world then the cost of a monthly individual plan could be worth it for the time it takes you to write your magnum opus.
If you are already well on the way to having a book completed, and you are thinking about self-publishing it instead of going down the traditional route, then you should definitely check out what Reedsy, and Reedsy Book Editor, have to offer. Reedsy itself is a start-up that connects authors with a very carefully vetted group of editors and other publishing professionals, to help smooth over the self-publishing journey.
Reedsy Book Editor, which is free to use, is a tool which helps authors to format and export a professional looking book. There is the distraction free writing interface, and then Google Docs style collaborative editing processes which can be shared with editors in real time. Lastly, the finished files are formatted and exported ready for self-published authors to get them onto selling platforms. If you’re looking to self-publish, you should certainly see what Reedsy Book Editor can offer you.
Scrivener is a celebrity in the world of writing apps, one of the big-name players. If you are working on a long project, such as a novel, then Scrivener is tailor made to suit that long format. It isn’t cheap at all compared to some of the others on this list, but there is a reason that people swear by it, and there is a reason it is so popular. If you are a serious writer, or want to be one, then Scrivener is absolutely the way forwards for you as one of the best apps for writing books.
Scrivener, quite simply, combines everything you need for your project in one place. All of your research and notes can sit side by side with your manuscript, and you can import any files you already have. There are outlining tools for planning, and the ability to break your work down into sections which can be easily moved around and worked on as standalones. A corkboard feature allows you to arrange parts of your manuscript, and Scrivener rearranges your manuscript as you go so you don’t have to. There are so many good things about Scrivener that it is well worth taking advantage of the free trial to see if it works for you.
Writing Challenge is more of a fun writing app than one which will help you improve your writing, or do any serious work, but sometimes fun is what authors need – especially if you’re experiencing a block or just want to work on something different for a while. If you have every struggled to get started with your writing, or you feel like you need a warm-up before you hit the big project, then some exercises like this can also be helpful.
Writing Challenge is a bit of a game, and it is a super fun one that can go in any direction. Download the app, press the start button and start writing based on the prompts that Writing Challenge throws at you. Every minute or so, the app will give you something else to add to the story. Free writing is a very valid exercise taught on a lot of creative writing courses, and Writing Challenge gives you a taste of that experience in a fun and low-pressure way.
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