If you are a first-time author, you want the best possible tools for the job. But because you’re a first-time author, you don’t know where to look. And besides that, many of us are dealing with limited budgets.
There are hundreds of pieces of writing software out there today. How do you sift through the different offerings and figure out what is the best fit for your needs and your writing process?
Today, we’re going to talk about that. We’re going to focus on different apps and pieces of software that any writer can take advantage of today to kick-off their careers.
Some of these offerings are free. Others cost money. But what we are looking for are tools and services that will be useful, practical, and affordable. We’re not looking for the fanciest apps. We’re looking for the best ones.
Along with that, we’re also going to be focusing on programs and services that are backed by established companies. There are plenty of great new writing apps out there today, but we have no idea if they are profitable. And if they aren’t profitable, the developers won’t keep working on them. The last thing you want to do is become reliant on an app or service that doesn’t exist for much longer.
We’re going to break up this list into a few different types of software. Let’s start with the easiest one: the writing app.
These are the apps that you go to when you want to generate content.
While other apps on this list might serve different functions, the main function of this portion of the list is getting words on the page. They can organize them in different ways, but the focus has to be about writing.
To lead off, it’s hard to recommend anything other than Google Docs. If you want a free solution that is easy to use and offers enough features so that you can start writing your next Great American Novel, Google Docs is the way to go. It has excellent features, a free price tag, and is built for collaboration with your editor.
Microsoft Word is also a worthwhile addition, but if you are just starting out and don’t have much of a budget, Word is not going to get you very far. It’s expensive and not a necessary expense.
Now, you may want to consider Scrivener. This depends on how you approach your writing, how your brain processes information, and how much money you’re willing to spend. Scrivener is about half the price of Microsoft Word, but it is loaded with features that are built for writers to organize their novels.
Scrivener works with you and can be customized to your workflow. It can be your entire database for your book, and you are free to organize it however you like. There is a bit of a steep learning curve with Scrivener, however, and if you are just starting out, you may not want to take the time to learn it. Instead, your focus should be on writing itself.
Notetaking is a very important part of the writing process, but it doesn’t get talked about nearly as much.
Some writers are perfectly happy to carry a pocket notebook with them. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there are other convenient solutions that you can use.
When we are looking at notetaking apps, we’re looking for something that will sync between devices. You want to be able to access your notes from anywhere, but you also want to be able to capture them from anywhere.
There’s nothing more frustrating than coming up with a great idea and not being able to record it somewhere. So your app needs to be cross platform, and easy to use both on your phone and on your computer.
Google Keep is an excellent tool for quick capture of ideas. It’s apps are simple and streamlined, so you can get your notes taken quickly and easily. If you work with Post-it notes often, then Google Keep might be a great way to go. However, it’s not the most sophisticated solution, either. It’s almost too simple, and once your notes start getting more complicated, Google Keep starts losing its allure.
Evernote is the gold standard of notetaking to this day. While others have become challengers to Evernote due to questionable business decisions over the years, Evernote still is the most comprehensive notetaking solution available to you. You can capture notes quickly, clip content from the web, and organize it however you wish. It is an excellent tool for organizing your next book. Evernote is free to a point, but there are limitations. Check with Evernote to be sure of what you get for free versus what you get for Premium. If you have the budget, Premium would likely be worth it.
Productivity apps are not necessarily writing apps or notetaking apps. What these apps are meant to do is help you create the type of workday that you want. This can come down to scheduling, or managing distractions, or just simply helping get you to work.
Of course, if we’re talking about scheduling, we have to talk about Google Calendar. Google Calendar might be the best service Google ever produced. It is free, works just about anywhere, and is incredibly flexible for you to build out your schedule the way you want to. You can sync and integrate it with other programs, and that means you can organize your workday however you see fit. Yes, there are other calendar apps out there. But Google Calendar is the best.
Freedom is another app that deserves more mention. Creating content requires you to manage your distractions. But when you work at a computer, it is so easy to open up a new tab and start going down a rabbit hole of useless information instead of getting words on the page. Freedom allows you to set up times where you intend to write. You can block anything on the internet, or even the whole internet if you need to. And, Freedom syncs to your other devices, so you won’t be tempted to grab your phone and scroll through Facebook, either.
You can use Freedom to block just a few sites that are causing problems, or you can go to the nuclear option and block everything. Plus, it even offers a “locked mode” so that you can’t circumvent those blocks when you’re too tempted.
Finally, you might want to consider Marinara. Marinara is a Google Chrome extension that lets you employ the Pomodoro Technique.
The Pomodoro Technique is simple: work for 25 minutes, take a break for 5 minutes. Every fourth break, you get a 15 minute break instead. That’s the traditional Pomodoro method, and it works extremely well. It helps you get over that hump of trying to get to work, without overwhelming your brain. It’s a great way to beat the resistance that you have to work.
Marinara allows you to start a Pomodoro cycle with one click, making it as easy as possible to set up and execute. Plus, you can adjust the timers for your own workflow so that you can work as you see fit.
Finally, you want to be able to check your work so that you can find room for improvement somewhere. There are a lot of different options here, but two have become gold standards.
ProWritingAid is a comprehensive solution. It integrates with everywhere that you decide to write, and you can run different reports and generate suggestions to improve your grammar, writing style, and word choices, among other things. It’s one of the easiest ways to improve your writing.
Grammarly is a similar program. It offers suggestions to improve your writing as it analyzes against its database.
Either of these are solid offerings for someone looking to improve their writing. Because you’re a first-time author, you might not be able to afford a full editor. That doesn’t mean these apps can replace an editor, but they do offer a lot of ways to improve your writing at a much more affordable cost.
By picking two or three of these pieces of software, you can build a suite of apps that will increase your productivity, boost your word count, and put you on the path to finishing that book at a high level of quality.
And none of them will break the bank.