A Writer’s Toolbox (Part 1)

This is a three-part post.

The first focuses on software and websites that offer Software as a Service. The second is focused on people, the third on building a WordPress site.

Software and Websites

For note-taking almost any app will do. Don’t overlook your email app. I often write or dictate notes on the go directly into my iPhone email app and send them to myself. I use the story title as subject to make it easier to search them later on my laptop.

When it comes to writing, long form, I love Scrivener. I was about 80,000 words into a novel when I found that Word just couldn’t give me what I needed – the ability to re-arrange scenes, find specific points in the story, try different flows for pacing. Scrivener makes all of that easy (and so much I don’t use, like research, timelines, plotting tools). It has a 30-day free trial. I bought it on day 6. I can use it to write the scene that is the set up and the scene that is the pay-off at the same time, then move them to their respective places in the story. Within 6 months, I had a 135,000 word draft of a complete story. (It still needs revision, but that’s on me, not the software)

If you’re a more linear writer, then Word may work fine for you. I know other writers who swear by Google Docs, but I’ve not used it.

Plottr is a relatively recent piece of software that helps writer who are plotters, well, plot out their novels. Again, I’ve not used it, but I’m told it works for many types of plotting, like linear and snowflake plotting.

Grammarly advertises everywhere, and it can be very useful for discovering your mistakes, but it can also over-power your voice. That’s also true for these next two recommendations. I don’t use Grammarly, I use the free levels of both Hemingway App and ProWritingAid. And I use them both, in that order, as they do slightly different things, and catch slightly different mistakes. Hemingway will tell you how readable your text is, and at what grade level, as well as flagging complex sentences. It also catches passive voice.

ProWritingAid will catch many more grammatical and spelling errors. You don’t need the paid versions, in my experience, as long as you’re not offline when you need them. None of these supplant the need for a human editor.

If you’re a self-pubber, you’re going to want to format ebooks at some point. Scrivener does this quite nicely, but there are some specialized tools that may be better. Vellum and Atticus are the two that come to mind. I’ve not used either, as I know Scrivener well enough for my needs, but they both have a high profile in the self-pubbing community. 

Canva lets you make decent covers without needing to know Photoshop, but if you’re serious, you’ll end up using (or hiring someone who is using) Photoshop .

I do my print layouts in InDesign, but Vellum or Atticus should be able to do those also. Technically, you can do those layouts in Word, but I wouldn’t expect to get good results without a lot of pain.

I want to mention BookBrush. this is for creating ads for self-published works. Again, there are many paid tiers, but the free tier offers a lot of good stuff. You upload your book cover, select from a generous listing of free mock-ups and download the image of your cover embedded in the mock-up. A much more limited version of this, but also free, is DIY Book Covers.

That’s it for Part 1. Go to Part 2. Go to Part 3.