Writing a book is hard. I’ve written seven books and at some point during each one I had the thought, “There has to be a tool, a piece of book writing software, that would make this easier.”
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Bad news/good news: writing a book will always be hard, and the best piece of writing software in the world won’t write your book for you. But the good news is there is book writing software that can make the process a little easier.
In this post, we will cover the ten best pieces of software for writing a book and look at the pros and cons of each.
Scrivener for MAC: The Best Writing Software Ever! Scrivener for MAC: Made for OS X Bigots First off, I'm going to be right up front with you—I'm a Scrivener for MAC bigot, I'm an affiliate for their software, and even if you don't buy MAC Scrivener via this site, if you're a serious author, go buy it please. 'Overall I'd recommend Scrivener, and think the value is good for the money.' 'It helps me to be better organised. However, its licensing terms and compatibility issues between Mac and Windows version are off-putting.' Product Features: check Contextual Speller check Dictionary / Thesaurus. While writing, you can take advantage of Scrivener’s multiple screen modes. For example, if you’re writing a scene based on an actual location, you can drag an image into the window and view. Jun 02, 2019 July 2020 Best Scrivener Discounts These discounts may expire at any time, and without prior notice. If they are active today, use them! For the Windows version, click here and use Scrivener coupon code REDDIT(20% off) or coupon code WORDSWITHJAM (20% off). For the Mac version, click here and use Scrivener coupon code LEARNSCRIVENER which gives a 20% discount.
Click the links below to get our review on the best writing software.
Best Writing Software: Contents
Worst Pieces of Software for Writing a Book
First, though, let’s cover software you should avoid, at least while you’re writing a book:
- Video Games. Especially World of Warcraft (always always always!) but also Solitaire, Sudoku, Angry Birds, and, for me right now, Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes.
- Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Media Software. Do I really need to say more? Fortunately there’s a piece of book writing software for avoiding this very distracting software (see Freedom below).
- Other Productive Software Not Directly Associated With Your Writing. Yes, it’s good to reconcile your bank account on Quickbooks or make sure you’re up to date on your calendar app, but responsible, well-meaning work can easily be an excuse for a quick distraction that turns into a major distraction from writing your book.
Set aside time for your writing every day and then stay focused!
If you need a game, make writing your daily word count your game.
If you want more “likes” on social media, imagine how great getting five-star reviews on your book will be.
If you need to check your bank balance several times a day, think about what your bank balance will be when you stop checking it constantly, finish your book, and become a successful author.
The 10 Best Pieces of Book Writing Software
No piece of writing software will write your book for you, but these ten will help. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.
1. Scrivener (Word Processor)
Scrivener is the premier book writing software. It is made by writers for writers. Scrivener’s “binder” view allows you to break up your book into chapters and sections and easily reorganize it. Project targets let you create word count goals and then track your progress daily. Its composition mode can help you stay focused by removing all the clutter. Plus, it allows you to format for publishing (e.g. on Amazon or Barnes & Noble).
There are some problems with Scrivener. Formatting is more complicated than it needs to be and collaborating isn’t easy, meaning it loses its effectiveness as soon as you bring on an editor. But it more than makes up for that by being so helpful in the early stages of the writing process.
In fact, we believe in Scrivener so much, we published a book about how creative writers can write more, faster using it. It’s called Scrivener Superpowers. If you’re using Scrivener or want to save yourself time as you learn how to use it for your creative writing, you can get Scrivener Superpowers here. The next edition comes out on Tuesday!
Cost: $49 for Mac, $45 for Windows
You can get a copy of Scrivener here, or learn more about how to use the software with one of these resources:
- Scrivener Superpowers by M.G. Herron
2. Google Docs (Word Processor)
While Scrivener is the best book writing software, once you get to editing and getting feedback, it begins to fall short.
That’s why Google Docs has become my second go-to piece of book writing software. It’s free, very easy to use, and requires no backups since everything is in the cloud.
Best of all are its collaboration abilities, which allow you to invite your editor to the document and then watch as he or she makes changes, tracked in suggestion mode, and leave comments on your story (see screenshot below).
3. Google Sheets (Spreadsheet)
If you’d told me when I was first trying to become a writer that one of my most-used tools in my book writing software toolkit would be a spreadsheet, I would have told you I didn’t major in English to have to use a spreadsheet.
But now, as I’m finishing my twelth book, I realize that I’m using spreadsheets almost daily.
Spreadsheets allow you to get a sense of the elements of your book at a glance, and when you’re working on a 300-page document, distilling it down to useable information becomes very necessary.
You might use spreadsheets for:
- Character tracking
- Scene lists
Google Sheets is perfect for this because it’s free and you can quickly share your documents with your writing partners, editors, or beta readers to get feedback. Microsoft Excel is another great option, but for writers, I suggest Google Sheets.
4. Vellum (Book Formatting/Word Processor)
If you want to turn your book into an eBook, it’s not that hard. Scrivener, Word, Pages, they all can make eBooks. But that doesn’t mean they’ll look good. In fact, it takes a lot of skill and effort to make an eBook look good on any of those word processors. That’s why I love Vellum so much.
Vellum makes beautiful eBooks.
Vellum picks up where Scrivener, Word, and Pages leave off, giving you a tool to make great looking eBooks every time.
The most important part of this is the previewer (see the image below), which lets you see how each formatting change or book edit you make will appear on Kindle, Fire, iPhone, Nook, and other eReaders.
It also has stripped-down, option-based formatting, which is perfect for designing eBooks.
I really love this app!
UPDATE: Vellum recently expanded into formatting for paperback books! I haven’t tried it yet but it looks awesome!
Cost: $199 for eBook generation, $249 for Paperback Formatting
5. Freedom (Productivity App)
One question writers always ask me is, “How can I stay focused enough to finish what I write?”
I have too many thoughts on this for this article, but as far as writing software to encourage focus, I recommend Freedom.
Freedom allows you to block your biggest distractions online, including both websites and mobile apps, for a set period of time. So when you mindlessly escape your book to scroll through Facebook, you’ll find the site won’t load.
You can also schedule recurring sessions, so that at a scheduled time (e.g. Mondays from 6 am to 10 am), you won’t be able to access the sites on your blocklist, even if you try.
There are other apps like this that we’ve written about before, notably Self-Control for Mac and StayFocused for Windows. But Freedom goes further, allowing you to block sites on both your computer and your phone, and enabling recurring sessions.
You can learn more about how writers can get the most out of Freedom on our review here.
Cost: $29 / year for Pro version, which I use and recommend (Free trial available)
6. Microsoft Word (Word Processor)
Again: no piece of book writing software is going to write your book for you. If you’re looking for the next “shiny new toy” to help you write your book, it might be an excuse to avoid doing the hard work of writing.
Most of us learned how to use computers by using Microsoft Word, or a program like it. Word gets the job done. Sure, Scrivener is a little better for books, but I wrote my first book on Word and it’s fine.
I wrote a long review of the pros and cons of using Word to write books—the main problem is that as your document grows, it becomes more and more difficult to work with, whereas with Scrivener, it becomes easier—but the point is, if Word is what you have, don’t let that stop you from finishing your book.
As Jeff Elkins said in his review of Word, “If you aren’t already putting in the hard work to be the kind of writer you want to be, it doesn’t matter what new writing software you invest in. It is not going to help.”
Cost: $69 / year from Amazon (includes Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, and other Microsoft software)
7. Ulysses (Word Processor)
When I’m writing for a long time, I like to get up and go for a walk. Sometimes, I wish I could continue writing while I walk. Other times, I come up with an idea while I’m walking, type it up on my phone, and then want to easily move what I wrote to my laptop without having to go through the hassle of emailing it back and forth to myself.
That’s where Ulysses comes in.
Ulysses is a word processor for Mac that allows you to sync between all your devices, so you have what you need wherever you are. Scrivener recently released their iOS app which allows you to do this as well, but the process is clunky and requires you to purchase both the desktop and iOS apps. Ulysses’ sync makes the process much more seamless.
Like Scrivener, it has a binder-like sidebar that allows you to move documents around. Ulysses is not designed specifically for books so it takes a little configuring to make it work for you, but once you have it set up the way you want it’s very intuitive.
And while I hate Markdown, I actually like the paired-down formatting options Ulysses gives. Overall, I’m not going to convert from Scrivener to Ulysses any time soon, but I think it’s a great option for most writers.
8. Microsoft Excel (Spreadsheets)
As Jeff Elkins says in his review of Microsoft Excel, it’s great, but “it’s a little like bringing a bazooka to a knife fight. You will need only a small fraction of its capability.”
If you have Excel and love it, great. Otherwise, use Google Sheets, especially if you’re sharing your sheet with a collaborator or editor.
Cost: $69 / year from Amazon (includes Word, Powerpoint, Outlook, and other Microsoft software)
9. ProWritingAid (Grammar/Spell Check)
Can book writing software replace an editor?
Definitely not. But if you ask Alice Sudlow, our in-house editor, she’s tell you, “If you don’t have access to an editor (or if you do, but you don’t want to hire them to edit your emails or Facebook posts), grammar checking software like ProWritingAid is an accessible, affordable alternative.
If you struggle with grammar, sentence structure, spelling, or even writing style, ProwritingAid can help. It goes far beyond your built-in spell-check.
You should still learn grammar skills, but ProWritingAid can help you start to see the patterns and grow as a writer.
There’s a free version that’s very good. It can even be installed into your browser or Word processor, so you can check your grammar wherever you write. The paid version, just $60 a year (less than half of what Grammarly costs), gives you additional support on sentence structure, style, and vocabulary.
Learn more about how writers can get the most out of ProWritingAid here.
Cost: Free! (Premium version is $60 / year)
10. Hemingway App (Grammar/Style Checker)
Most writers think their sentences are easier to read than they are. You think you’re coming across clearly, that your writing makes sense, but then someone reads it and comes away with something totally different.
Hemingway App helps with that.
Hemingway App is a free website that checks readability. You can copy and paste your writing into the website’s input box. Then it will grade your writing based on your used of adverbs, passive voice, and sentences as units.
Hemingway App is useful, but even the best book writing software can’t replace a good editor.
The 7 Tools Every Writer Needs
Every professional has a set of tools at their disposal that not only makes their job possible, but makes them better at doing it. Writing is no different, and while the right software is important, it’s just one of the many tools you need as a writer.
That’s why we published a free 22-page eBook, 7 Tools to Help You Write a Novel. In this short guide, we’ll cover some of the basic tools that form the foundation of a writing life.
You can download it for free here. Enjoy!
The Most Essential Book Writing Software
Imagine it’s three thousand years ago. You’re sitting around a campfire with some of your family and friends, tired from the day’s work. You begin to tell a story. It’s one you’ve told before, told a hundred times. You can see faces around the fire, the children with their eyes wide, the men and women who have heard the story before but still enjoy it because it brings meaning to their lives.
Storytellers—writers—have existed since the beginning of humanity. They didn’t always have book writing software. They didn’t have the printing press or the internet. They didn’t always even have the alphabet to write their stories down.
Instead, storytellers had their imaginations, their voices, and a rapt audience.
You don’t need book writing software to write a great story. Book writing software can make the process a little faster or easier, but the truth is great stories will always exist, no matter what kind of software we have.
The only three things essential to writing a great book:
- Your imagination
- Your words
- A desire to tell your story
That’s all you need. Do you want to write your book? If you do, then do it. Write it. Nothing is stopping you except you. So go get writing.
What pieces of book writing software do you use? Let us know in the comments.
The world is full of powerful software to help you write your book. In the end, though, all these tools are just that—tools. The stories you imagine and your discipline to put the words on the page are far more important.
So for this practice, set aside all the fancy software. Eliminate all the bells and whistles and open up your computer’s native text editor (TextEdit for Mac or Notepad for Windows). Take fifteen minutes to write without any distractions. Continue your work in progress, or start a new story based on this prompt:
A student discovers one of their teachers is not what they appear to be.
When you’re done, share your writing practice in the comments. And if you share, be sure to leave feedback for your fellow writers!
When you’re writing a book, you might come to this point where exasperation turns to desperation and you think: “There has to be a better way. There has to be a better piece of book writing software than Microsoft Word.”
Microsoft Word is the default word processor, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only option. And especially when you’re writing something as complicated as book, you might want a piece of writing software geared specifically toward writing a book.
In this post, we’re going to look closely at two of the best pieces of book writing software: Microsoft Word and Scrivener, and talk about where each word processor shines and where each falls short.
Plus, check out our Top 10 Pieces of Software for Writers for more tools to help you write better and faster.
How Scrivener Saved Me 250 Hours Writing a Book
In 2010, I was writing what would become my first book when I got to a point where Word became impossible. I was in the middle of the second draft, and I kept have to reorganize sections to see what would make the book flow best. This was very annoying in Word.
I had to scroll, scroll, scroll, highlight the section, click “cut,” scroll, scroll, scroll to the place I wanted to put it, paste, and then re-read the section to see if I liked it there.
Often as not, I would decide the section I just moved fit better where it first was, and I would have to go move it back. Inevitably, I would forget to copy an important line of text that belonged with the section I was moving and the whole thing wouldn’t make any sense. It was so frustrating.
It wasn’t until my second book that I discovered Scrivener. It was completely different, and there was definitely a learning curve. Once I got the hang of it, though, I found that I loved how it was geared specifically toward writing books. And its effectiveness showed in my productivity.
My first book, written solely with Microsoft Word, took me 550 hours to write. The second book, written with Scrivener, took me only 200 hours.
Of course, some of this was because it was my second book and I had refined my process. But I believe Scrivener saved me hundreds of hours of time, not to mention frustration.
I’ve finished six books on scrivener, not to mention half-a-dozen short stories, and I every day I learn new ways to use it, depending on the needs of my project.
But let’s break down Microsoft Word and Scrivener’s features so we can see what each is best at.
Scrivener vs. Word: Which Is Better Book Writing Software?
Both Scrivener and Microsoft Word are effective word processors, but each thrives when used for specific tasks. Best twitch streaming software mac. Let’s compare the two, specifically as book writing software:
Microsoft Word is available in both PC versions ($115) and Mac versions ($124).
Ubiquity. Microsoft Word is the industry standard, and the default word processor for millions of people. And that is a huge advantage for writing a book. Since almost everyone has Microsoft Word and knows how to use it, it makes it very easy to collaborate using it. For example, most editors edit books in Word and therefore require their clients to submit manuscripts in Word formats (.doc).
Great for editing. Word’s track changes feature is great for collaborating with an editor. It allows you to easily see what changes they’ve made, accept or reject those changes, or completely revert back to the original. Very handy for polishing up your final draft. In fact, for most of my books, I moved them from Scrivener to Word for the editing process to take advantage of this feature. (However, since Google Docs added “Suggestion mode,” which is the equivalent to track changes, I’ve started using it almost exclusively in replacement of Word for the editing process.)
Great formatting. Word is a “what you see is what you get” word processor (WYSIWYG or Wizy-wig), and as such, it’s really effective. The way your book looks on the screen as you type it is the same way it will look on the page when you print: if you write the entire book in 18 pt Papyrus font, it’ll stay that way when you send it to an editor or print out a hard copy (and they will be sad because 18 pt Papyrus is a terrible idea). That makes it easy to see what your formatting will look like from the start and make changes along the way.
Simple. For most people, Microsoft Word was one of the first programs they ever used on a computer. It’s simple, convenient, and it works, even for writing a book!
Single document. The major drawback of Word when you’re writing a book is that it limits you to a single, linear document. This means you’re kind of forced to work linearly through your draft. If you get an idea for chapter five, but you’re working on chapter two, it’s not easy to just put that idea in the chapter five folder; you have to put it below in random space. It also means that if you want to make chapter two into chapter three, you have to copy and then literally delete that chapter before pasting it below the new chapter two. This makes for some awkward maneuvering.
Not designed for books. Because Word wasn’t originally designed for documents as large as books, as your book grows, it becomes more and more unwieldy.
Gets slow after you get over certain sizes. For me, this was 30,000 words. After I reached 30,000 words, every time I opened up my book, it took several minutes to load. Even after it opened, I would have to wait until it loaded the pages below. This is really frustrating when you’re antsy to get writing.
You can use it for publishing, but it’s not easy. I’ve personally used Word to publish several books on Kindle, Nook, and other online retailers. It’s not easy or elegant. You have to format every header and chapter title with “Heading 1” and “Heading 2,” remove all indents, save the document in HTML, upload to Kindle, check the proof for formatting errors (which there inevitably are), and then start over. You almost always have to use a program called Sigil, an epub editor, to clean up the file before you publish it. It’s possible, but definitely a hassle. (Note: Now, I use Vellum for this. It’s amazing, and we’ll be reviewing it soon.)
Still, if you decide you have to use Word to publish your book, you can grab Amazon’s own guide on the process here. It’s free, too, which is nice.
Fine but annoying. You can use Word to write books. But the problem is that as your book grows it becomes more and more difficult to work with.
You can find Scrivener for Mac here ($45) and Windows here ($40).
Made specifically for writing books. While Microsoft Word gets more and more difficult to use the bigger your document gets, Scrivener gets more and more useful as your document grows. That’s mainly because of its “binder feature,” which is a simple but game-changing advance for word processors. The Binder allows you to separate your chapters and individual scenes into folders and subdocuments, which you can then drag and drop wherever you feel like they fit best. It’s SO freeing! Trust me, you’re going to love it.
Here’s a screenshot of my latest book in Scrivener. Notice the Binder on the left with all my chapters, sections, and even supporting documents.
Features specifically designed for each step of the book writing process. If the Binder mode was the only difference, then Scrivener would instantly be so much better than Word for writing books. But fortunately, there are dozens of features that make Scrivener awesome for book writing. Here are just a few:
Corkboard mode. Organize your scenes/sections graphically. Drag them around as if it were index cards on real corkboard. (You can even print them out and maneuver them.)
- Composition mode. Want distraction free writing time? Composition mode goes full screen, taking away any visual distractions. Used in combination with Freedom, you’ll have no choice but to write.
Project targets. Scrivener honestly has more features than I need, but one that I use constantly is Project Targets, which allows you to set a deadline and projected word count for your draft and then see how many words you have to write each day to meet that deadline. You can also set it up so you just have a daily word count goal, 1,000 words a day for example, and it will hold you accountable to that (as much as writing software can hold you accountable that is).
Write wherever you are with the Scrivener App. Scrivener recently released its iOS app (you can find it here), which you can sync with your desktop and then write and edit your book wherever you are.
Fair publishing support. One of Scrivener’s selling points is that you can export directly to Kindle and ePub file types, making it much easier to publish your book than Word. (Again, Vellum is even easier and makes much more beautiful eBooks. We’ll be reviewing it soon!)
Formatting is frustrating. Formatting is clunky on Scrivener. And when you format within the document, that doesn’t mean that your formatting choices will all go to print. For example, while Word is a “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) word processor, Scrivener has chosen to apply formatting mainly when you compile the document for print or export. You might write your book in white 18 pt Papyrus on a blue background, but when you prepare it to print, it will format the book according to different formatting settings you’ve selected, like black 12 pt Times New Roman. That means you can customize your writing space to write however you’d like without worrying about messing up how your book will look (or making your editor sad with 18 pt Papyrus). But when it comes to the nitty-gritties of formatting, it’s kind of annoying.
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Collaborating isn’t easy. When you’re working with an editor, or even a co-author, Scrivener gets difficult. Part of this is because Scrivener is just not as ubiquitous as Word, and so if your editor doesn’t have it, you’re forced to switch to Word, the industry standard. Also, like Word, Scrivener has some track changes and commenting features so that you can collaborate with an editor, but they’re not as easy to use or convenient as Word’s. Personally, after I finish my second draft and start working with editors, I prefer Google Docs.
Scrivener is the premier book writing software. And it just keeps getting better. If you’re writing a book, save yourself time by getting scrivener.
In fact, we believe in Scrivener so much, we published a book about how creative writers can write more, faster using it. It’s called Scrivener Superpowers. If you’re using Scrivener or want to save yourself time as you learn how to use it for your creative writing, you can get Scrivener Superpowers here.
Which book writing software do you use? Let us know in the comments!
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The right book writing software is helpful, but what really matters is that you’re writing. So today, let’s get writing.
- First, open your favorite book writing software. If you don’t have a favorite, get Scrivener (here for Mac / here for Windows).
- Then, write 100 words. You can continue a work in progress or free write (bonus points if you use project targets on Scrivener to keep track of your words).
- When you meet your target word count, copy and paste your writing into the comments section below and share it for feedback.
- After you share, give feedback on a few practices from other writers.
Scrivener Templates For Mac