While the tools don’t make the artist, they certainly do make the artist’s life a little (or a lot) easier.
As a writer, you only need a pen and paper to tell a story. But there are a lot of amazing tools out there that can help make the process more efficient and support your creativity, and I’m all about that.
Here’s a list of tools for authors for every step of the writing process, including organizing notes, gathering inspiration, time management, and of course, writing a novel (or whatever project you’re working on).
Writing Tools for Authors
Some writers famously prefer simplicity in their tools. Quentin Tarantino, Neil Gaiman, and Joyce Carol Oates are among the writers who pen all of their work by hand, while Danielle Steele only writes on a 1946 Olympia manual typewriter. It doesn’t matter what you use as long as you get the words down on the page. There are a lot of new options on the market now, though, for anyone who does want an upgrade with some extra bells and whistles.
My personal favorite: Scrivener.
I’ve been using Scrivener for years because it used to frustrate me that my manuscript was in one place and my notes were spread out in another, so it was clunky for me to find what I needed in the middle of writing. With Scrivener, I’m able to keep everything organized in a system that works really well for my personal workflow because it’s all in one place. It definitely has a learning curve so I recommend watching tutorials before you dive in (there are a ton on YouTube), but once you get the hang of it and find what works for you, it can be a really great asset to your writing process. It even has a version for your smartphone if you want to write on the go.
The important thing is to find what suits your preferences, budget, and creative process. Here are some of the most popular premium writing apps on the market:
- Write! App
- Final Draft (for screenwriting)
- Manuskript (free)
- Bibisco (free)
All of our projects exist as a web of notes before they are magically turned into a story. Just as each writer’s process varies from another, so do their note-keeping systems. Again, it’s all about figuring out what works best for you.
Elizabeth Gilbert uses a system of note cards and shoeboxes to organize her notes, which I outlined in another post. Some authors keep a notebook on hand at all times. And of course, there are digital options (my preference).
I used to use notebooks, but now I’m almost strictly digital because I like how organized and searchable they are that way. Evernote and Trello both have apps for browsers and smartphones, so I can access them whenever I need to. Evernote is my go-to; I love how organized everything is and how I can tag documents, search for keywords, and even format the documents to my needs. I don’t use Trello as often for my fiction (though I use it for many other things daily), but I have used it a few times storyboarding. Honestly, it’s an amazing, robust app that could definitely be used as a main note-taking system.
I eventually move all of my notes over to Scrivener once I’m deep into a project but Evernote is easier for me to use in the beginning stages when I’m gathering notes or if I think of something on the fly.
All of these tools for note-taking are free with optional premium upgrades:
Typos, erroneous grammar, and missing punctuation are just an annoying part of the writing game. They happen to the best of us. Thankfully, there are apps to help with that.
My personal favorite: Grammarly.
Most word processors have built-in proofreaders, but digital proofreaders should only be used for initial run-throughs because they can still miss things or overlook subtleties in phrasing. Nothing beats multiple sets of human eyes looking over your project to catch errors. (Unfortunately, though, nothing is fool-proof.)
A few popular tools for proofreading are:
Other Great Tools for Authors
A few more things to consider adding to your arsenal to save your sanity…
BACKING UP YOUR WORK
The pain of your notes or manuscript getting deleted is one that haunts you forever, so always ─ ALWAYS ─ back-up your work. Scrivener automatically backs up the file as you write without you even having to click ‘save’ which is another thing I love about it. However, you never know if something could suddenly happen to your hard drive, so I highly recommend backing up your work to a second source, as well, such as to an external hard-drive or a third-party service like the ones below.
CREATING MOOD BOARDS
I love gathering images that inspire me and creating a mood board for each of my projects. It gets me excited about it in the brainstorming phase and then helps get me into the zone when I’m writing. Below are some apps you can use to put together your own mood board, all of which are free except for Photoshop. Pinterest is a great source for finding images and you can also create your board there, or you can use one of the other apps to create a collage you can save to your computer or smartphone and then print it up.
One of the biggest challenges writers face is time: finding the time to write and making the most of that time once we get it. As someone who has struggled in this area for years, two of my favorite time management methods are the Pomodoro technique and time blocking. Check out LifeHacker’s Introduction to the Pomodoro Technique and Entrepreneur.com’s Time Blocking Tips Experts and Scientists Use to Increase Productivity to learn more about these methods.
Here are some free apps that will help you implement these techniques:
What are your favorite writing tools to use? Let me know in the comments!