Congratulations on deciding that you will penning your masterpiece! Earlier, you could use pen and paper to write your book. Then came the typewriter. Today, typewriters are extinct except as decoration and in some ancient government offices. Though you can still use pen and paper but most writers—including the old fashioned ones—use the computer. Which brings us to the question—which book writing software would you use to write your work of art? We can’t give you a definitive answer because this is totally a subjective preference but we can give you options from which you can choose the one that suits you best.
However, before that you’ll need to think a bit about the kind of book writing software you are looking for.
Consider Before Choosing the Software
Before investing in or choosing a writing software, you’ll need to ask yourself some questions.
Take some time to mull over the questions and answer them as honestly as possible. Now you are ready to peruse the options for the writing software. Let’s deep dive into them.
MS Word is the most obvious choice for any writer since it came out. Even today after so many years MS Word is the go-to software for writing books for many writers. Most publishers also ask for their manuscripts to be submitted in MS Word since MS Office is the most widely used software in the world.
Word allows for an almost distraction-free writing experience. And with the simple organising features such as chapter headings, sub-headings and navigating via the Navigation pane. Using the word count feature, you can meet your daily word-limit goals as well.
MS Word also has formatting features which you can customise for your book including size, headers, page numbers and footers.
If you are already using MS Word and it’s paid for then you might not have any need for another book writing software.
The one downside to using MS Word is that it is not compatible with Mac so if you are a Mac user, you might have faced some trouble since it might have crashed often and given you formatting headaches. For Mac users, there’s Pages, which we will look at next.
As you know, MS Word is a part of the MS Office Suite which is a paid software.
Pages is to Mac what Word is to MS Office. It is essentially a writing software suited for Mac users. Pages offers users a variety of beautiful templates housed inside a simple design interface and syncs with iCloud, which means you can access it from many different places. It’s neat and easy to use and works well for writing manuscripts and collaborating on projects. However, it is still a paid software open only to Apple users.
MS Word is a democratic writing software meant for students, businessmen, lawyers, marketers and so on. (Even Pages is somewhat like MS Word.) Scrivener, however, was created for only one target group of users—writers.
If you are in the profession of writing, you would definitely have heard of Scrivener. It claims to combine the functionalities of a scrapbook, typewriter and ringbinder. Not only that, it can be synced with Mac, Windows and iOS devices so you can literally use it anywhere you can take your device.
Scrivener also allows you to write piecemeal as and when the idea strikes and then later fit it into your manuscript. You can add a synopsis and use it to organise your plot first and then get working on the manuscript. The drag and drop functionality helps you to rearrange the chapters as and when you are writing them or before you get started, whichever you prefer.
However, apart from being a paid software, Scrivener is not easy to get used to and requires some learning time before you can wield it to your advantage.
Google Docs is a good collaborative tool if more than one person is working on a manuscript. So two or more authors can collaborate smoothly. Like the track changes feature in MS Word, any changes to the document are highlighted making them easy to spot. It also has a comments feature much like Word where suggestions can be added and accepted as the authors work through the document.
Not just that, it is easily accessible from anywhere since it is not a file on your desktop but a file in your Google drive. Moreover, it is free, can be shared as a link and downloaded as an MS Word file when you need it. However, it doesn’t have any significant advantage besides synchronous editing. Also, unless you accept all the changes, you can’t toggle between the edited document and the final changes.
So if you are a single author, any other writing software will also do for you.
One of the problems of any writing software is that you can easily get distracted not by the jazzy interface but by the internet surfing that is possible while you are writing. Haven’t you ever wished for an app that blocks out the internet temporarily while you write? Freedom is that writing app. It blocks distracting websites and apps so that you can write without being tempted to check the cricket score, a recipe, the daily news, or that celebrity gossip.
The creators of Freedom claim that many successful authors use their app to write their books, and it has been extensively covered by the world’s press. Freedom comes at a cost—in this case, a monthly or annual fee.
ProWritingAid is not a writing software by itself but an editing tool that can be added to Google Docs, Google Chrome, Microsoft Word and Scrivener. It has several features such as a built-in thesaurus, context-specific grammar help and detailed explanations. It’s available in a free version but the best features are paid.
Grammarly is similar to ProWritingAid in that it is a tool or application which can be added to the Chrome browser to help you refine your writing. It’s not just for writers or fiction novelists, it’s for everyone who wants to write in a grammatically correct way. That means almost anyone. The free version checks for spelling and grammar while the paid version helps you with better sentence structure and word choice, safeguards against plagiarism, observes style and more.
The drawbacks are that it cannot be integrated with Scrivener and its best features are for paid customers only.
Evernote is a note-taking app that can be used anywhere you can take your phone. It’s the electronic equivalent of the notebook if you don’t like using or can’t use the physical one. When inspiration strikes or ideas come out of nowhere, note them down on Evernote so that you can look them up later. Available as a phone app, it has been around for some time but it has been expanding its features a lot.
Evernote can be your word processor on the go but not the main word software as it is a bit limited in that respect. Almost all features are available in the free version with some premium features available with a paid upgrade.
Focuswriter as the name claims is a distraction-free simple writing software. It has a hideaway option which means that in the full screen mode, the toolbars and additional windows disappear leaving you only with the background and your text. This will enable you to focus only on your writing. It even allows you to choose how you’d like your screen to look like with a customisable background image. It is available for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X.
The best part is it is free and doesn’t have too many features so if you are drawn to simplicity, then this is for you.
FastPencil is platform for writing, editing and publishing. You can even invite editors to edit your manuscript. Available in free and paid versions, it is easily accessible as it is browser-based, which means you can access your files from any computer as long as it is connected to the internet.
yWriter is a writing software intended only for novelists. The app has the chapter-wise breakup feature, character notes, scene notes, scene goals and other features. You can get a snapshot of your writing progress with all its details at one go. yWriter focuses on scenes rather than chapters: this allows you to deal with even more manageable chunks. The software also allows you to rearrange these scenes in the order that you think is best.
Believe it or not, it is a completely free software.
Named after the famous writer, Ernest Hemingway, the Hemingway Editor is a writing software that helps to make your writing better. You need to copy and paste your text into the working space and the application highlights all the problems with it. Then you can proceed to correct them in the app according to the suggestions.
There are two modes, you can write directly into the app in the Write mode or edit in the Edit mode. On the right, a panel will give you a ‘report card’ of your progress as you go along. It is available as a paid Desktop app or you can use the free browser version.
While everyone has heard of the paid MS Office and Word, very few people have heard of free Open Office and Writer. It is much like MS Word or Pages and is a free alternative to them. However, it does not have that many features and is quite a simple writing tool. If simple what you want, this writing software is perfect for you.
So now that you know your options for writing your masterpiece, take your pick and get started! You don’t have any more reasons to procrastinate. Good luck and happy writing!