The Perfect Writing Software For Your Writing Style
One of my most prized possessions is a red, portable Underwood typewriter.
I have no idea how old it is because I can’t find anything exactly like it online. It belonged to my grandfather, who received it from his sister before I was born.
And I’m over the age of—well, let’s just say it’s an older model. Oh, how I love the sound of the keys clacking and the cartridge returning!
As a young adult, I worked in the electronics department of a local retail store. Back then, “electronics” consisted of clock-radios, boom boxes, radar detectors and electric typewriters.
Then one day the word processors arrived. Whenever I wasn’t helping customers, I was reading the booklets to learn how to use them. I could answer almost any question a customer had.I married a man who loves technology as much as I do, and we’ve always had at least one computer in our home.
At one time I purchased a portable word processor that let me see four lines of text at a time. I could then hook it to my computer and download my writing to a text file. Today, we own multiple computers, smartphones, and tablets. Yes, I still love to communicate with written words.
If you’re reading this, you may or may not share my love for writing.
Maybe you never cared to write as a child, but now find you have a knack for it. Or, maybe you have no writing skills, but there’s a story in your head begging to be told.
Today’s writers tend to shy away from typewriters. Computers are the tool of choice thanks to the ease with which they allow us to type, correct, and (of course) copy and paste.
But if you ask a group of writers what writing software they use, you’ll get mixed answers.
Some, like me, prefer to stay out of the Cloud when they write. (The “Cloud” being any online storage system.) Others would rather stay in the Cloud because of the ability it gives them to bounce between devices as they write.
Then you have the coffee-shop-writers, the lock-myself-in-my-room writers, the multiple-drafts writers, and the edit-as-you-go writers.
Is there such a thing as “the best writing software” out there? Yes, and no. What’s best for you may not work for someone else. Features you need may not be needed by others.
Here’s what you need to consider when looking for the best book writing software:
What do you need when it comes to writing?
Are you looking for something to help you write a good story, something that allows for editing, or something that will do everything but wash your dishes?
Although you may not think much about it, you have a writing style.
Do you prefer a darkened room, with just the light of the monitor glowing dimly? Or do you prefer sitting outside in the bright sunshine listening to the birds? Maybe you prefer coffee shops, where you can eavesdrop on conversations to get inspiration for stories.
Perhaps you like to create your first draft before going back to make any changes. Or maybe you write in chunks, out of order, waiting until the end to rearrange and put it all together. How you work is your writing style.
Centuries ago, pen and paper were used by everyone. Today, some sort of computer is the choice of most writers. But, the thing that still varies is writing style: what each writer needs in order to write.
The Big Guns
When it comes to writing, most people either use the word processing program on their computer or Scrivener.
After hearing it mentioned so much in writing communities, I thought I better check it out. If I were writing a novel or any sort of fiction, this would be a fabulous program. The templates and organizing features are well thought out; I particularly like the corkboard idea.
While it’s possible to create a similar filing system within a folder on your desktop, the ease of switching between things within Scrivener is pretty sweet. There’s a free 30-day download which includes a detailed tutorial. The complete program is priced reasonably, too, even for a starving writer.
It does have its drawbacks, though. Since it’s a download, you can’t switch between devices to work on your manuscript or collaborate with others online.
You also won’t find editing features in the program, other than a basic spelling check, simple formatting and the ability to add tables and graphics. It’s all a bit less than what you can do in Word. Not too bad of a trade-off considering the organizing tools it offers.
Microsoft Word is the software of choice for many writers.
With Word, you can quickly and easily catch most spelling and grammar mistakes, format text, set up tables and lists, change margins, add graphics and blank pages, track changes made by editors, create and print mailing labels, and even translate individual words or whole documents into other languages.
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I’m old enough to remember when Word came pre-installed on computers. Today you have your choice: a one-time charge for the download of Word alone, or a small monthly fee to get Word and a few other Microsoft Office programs through the Cloud.
The perk of using the cloud-based option is the ability to collaborate with others in real-time. With so many “virtual” companies out there, the Cloud seems to be the way Millennials are heading.
If you have an Apple-based device, such as a Mac, you’re probably familiar with Pages.
Pages is to a Mac as Word is to a PC. From what I can see, their capabilities are comparable. Pages even seems to be going the cloud-based route.
If you save your work to the Cloud, friends who use Windows can sign into iCloud and join your collaboration team. Pages can even save as a Word file, as well as import and edit Word documents.
As I mentioned earlier, your writing style is all about how you work. There are other options out there besides Scrivener, Word, and Pages. Depending on your needs and your style, some of these may work well for you.
With so many companies operating in the Cloud, it’s no wonder Millennials are turning to Google for their writing software needs. Google Docs works like Word and Pages.
With it, you can create manuscripts, articles, newsletters and more. Nothing to buy, nothing to install, usable from any computer, tablet or mobile device. You can share the document, send people a link to it, or email it to collaborators. You can even track changes between various editors.
Maybe you need a little bit more when it comes to writing, though. Maybe you are easily distracted by shiny things, making coffee shops unproductive places because there are too many things to see and hear.
Go into your writing room, shut the door, dim the lights and pull up FocusWriter. This program blocks out your whole screen with a background graphic and gives you a blank white “sheet of paper” in the middle to type on.
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It comes with basic word processing functions, plus the ability to set alarms for taking breaks or knowing if you’ve hit your word count for the day.
It works on any operating system and is downloaded to your computer. If you miss typewriters as much as I do, you can turn on “typewriter sounds” to hear your keystrokes. How cool is that?!
WriteWay is a downloadable software which works much like Scrivener, keeping files all in one place and easily accessible (although the free version of WriteWay pales in comparison to Scrivener).
Besides basic word processing and formatting, it includes word tracking, so you know how much you write each day. Unfortunately, this is only available on Windows. Sorry, Mac users.
FastPencil is an online community for writing and publishing. The free version allows you to publish your book privately in either print or electronic form.
The social media interface allows you to interact with other users by commenting on each other’s work. If you’re looking to publish a book and you need a little encouragement from other writers along the way, this is worth looking into.
Sigil is a downloadable program specifically for creating and editing ebooks (epub format). It has a bit of a learning curve, but it’s free.
If your goal is to publish an ebook, you may want to check out this software. It’s available for both Windows and Mac.
OmmWriter is a downloadable, simple, text-only application. You’ll find no formatting whatsoever here. Much like FocusWriter, this program blocks out all distractions from your screen. Headphones are recommended for the audio tracks. There is a small fee for this program, but it’s available for both Windows and Mac.
Beyond Writing Software
Maybe you like using Word, or Pages, or Scrivener. But maybe you’re not quite as productive as you’d like to be. Let’s look at a few ways to take your writing to the next level.
Many writers will have a fan running in the room to act as white noise. One popular music program even offers a white noise station (which is really neat, by the way).
Perhaps, when you were reading about OmmWriter, the idea of audio tracks caught your attention. If so, you might like Noisli. Similar to Coffitivity (coffee house sounds), Noisli is strictly for distracting your mind from the other sounds around you.
You choose the writing software and then turn on Noisli for various sounds from nature. It’s white noise at its finest!
When you finish writing (or maybe as you write) it helps to have an editing software program to run your work through. Three of the most popular ones are ProWritingAid, Grammarly, and the Hemingway Editor.
While you can type directly into each of these programs, they’re designed to be editors, not word processors. Each has unique attributes, and each will find errors the others missed.
Each of these programs will also tell you something is wrong at times when it’s not – this is why a human editor and proofreader should always be factored into your writing budget.
What Do You Use?
I know I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to writing software.
What type of writer are you?
What do you use to compose your writing?
Why do you like it?
Do you use any other resources, like ambient noise or editing software?
Technology is advancing and growing. I can’t wait to see how we write in 20 years!