When it comes to choosing the best book writing software, authors have several choices. You may be asking yourself: Do I stick with Microsoft Word? Is Scrivener the best investment with its robust features and user-friendly tools? How about Google Docs for so I can easily share and co-edit my book with an editor?
We could try and tell you which one to pick, but everyone has different tastes and needs. Let’s take a look and compare the three writing “giants” to make the choice of book writing software clearer.
Which is the Best Book Writing Software for YOU?
The purpose of this post isn’t to sell you on any particular book writing software. We’ll share with you the Good, the Bad and the Average so you can weigh the options for yourself. Who knows—you may even want to switch to a different writing software that works better than anything you’ve tried before.
There are nine things to consider when deciding which program to use to write your book (some of these might be more or less important to you):
- Ease and style preference of formatting
- Template choices
- Simplicity (if that’s important to you)
- Bells & whistles and tons of features (if that’s important to you)
- A distraction-free feature for writing [we are writers, after all]
- A user friendly Platform with the right powerful tools for you
- Easy access to the files no matter where you are
- Collaboration with team members
Why Microsoft Word Works
Before Scrivener came along, and other various platforms, we had Microsoft Word—and today it’s still the most widely used software enjoyed by millions of users in homes and offices worldwide. Personally I started out writing with Word years ago as did many people, so it has been my personal choice when there were not that many choices available.
If you have a Mac computer, then Word might cause you a lot of frustration with crashes and formatting. However, PC users tend to enjoy Word a lot more.
If you’re a Word user and you’ve got your own system in place for writing books, then perhaps you need to look no further. Word is trusty and reliable. You’re relatively distraction-free while you’re working in it. (Compare that to working on Google Docs in your browser, where you only an errant mouse-click away from the entire internet!)
You can create your own free book writing template using Word. And if you start writing your book in Word and don’t begin with the correct formatting, it’s pretty easy to clean up your formatting to make it “book ready” with a few simple steps.
Word is great for waking up in the morning and meeting your word-count goals by keeping your head down and getting those words pounded out onto the page. No fuss, no muss. It’s as simple as it gets.
But for many authors, those times have changed with the emergence of programs such as Scrivener and Google Docs that have shaped the way we create online and offline content and how we organize our ideas.
There are many types of authors out there and each of them has a preference as to what software works best for them. If you have been using Word for years, you’re probably attached to it. Transitioning from MS Word to Scrivener has proven challenging for some writers, in part because of the learning curve to master a new program. The Scrivener Manual itself is around 550 pages. There are also plenty of Scrivener YouTube tutorials you can learn from as well.
When’s the last time you had to call Microsoft for technical help with Word? (I never have.) If you need to know how to do something in Word, you can Google it. Scrivener, on the other hand, actually has support emails and bug reporting and a customer forum…because it’s really that complicated!
Why Some Authors Love Scrivener
That said…Scrivener was created with writers as the primary customer. And a lot of writers swear by it (once they get over that very steep learning curve.)
For those authors who have put in the work to understand how the program works, it’s the favored choice for ease of writing, formatting, and organizing your content for publishing. If you invest the time up front to learn Scrivener, then you will get that time back—and then some—once you see what the program can do.
Blogger and author Jeff Goins swears by Scrivener after giving up Word. He says: “I wasted years of my life doing all my writing on Microsoft Word. But that’s all over now. I have finally seen the light.”
Entrepreneur Michael Hyatt says about Scrivener: “I now begin every piece of content—no matter what it is—with this tool. It has simplified my life and enabled me to focus on the most important aspect of my job—creating new content. I am more productive than ever.”
Scrivener has a ton of benefits for authors that we could fill up dozens of pages discussing. I’ll keep it simple and give you the top benefits here:
- For fiction authors, Scrivener helps with plotting
- Easily export your data to other digital platforms such as Kobo, ibooks, etc… [this is one of the best features]
- Provides outlining functionality that keeps your content organized
- Powerful composition mode with distraction free writing environment
- Easily move sections around with drag and drop
- A collection of robust templates
- Supports MultiMarkdown for bullets and numbers
Scrivener was designed for writers because you can lay out scenes, move content around and outline stories or manuscripts. In Scrivener, you don’t have to become distracted by formatting; you can stay focused on the writing as it separates the content from the presentation.
Scrivener works best as a tool for plotting out storylines. It’s also a handy book formatter. Scrivener has hundreds of features beneficial for writers and enables them to focus on the writing process without getting sidetracked.
The one huge downside is that the steep learning curve in getting to know this program isn’t going to happen overnight. But the investment in learning this tool could save you time in the long run if you plan on putting out lots of books.
Google Docs for Writing Books
We’ve looked at the appealing simplicity of Word and the power of Scrivener, but another writing software loved by many is Google Docs. These are all great writing tools; what it comes down to in most cases is the process you use for writing.
Google Docs and Google Drive are best used for team-sharing your content, files, and docs. It doesn’t require any installation and can be accessed anywhere via your browser (or an app on your phone). One of the best features is: everything is saved on the server frequently, so you never have to fret about losing a version or draft of your work. (Anyone who has ever lost a draft of a book understands how valuable this feature is!)
Plus you can access your work when you move from one location or another—no carrying a laptop or thumb drive around with you. When you share a book draft with others, like test readers or your editor, they can comment directly on the draft using the built-in comment functionality.
Remember to backup your work when using a server-based platform, though. A simple click of a button could delete your work if you aren’t careful and when things are hosted online, they aren’t automatically saved to your hard drive.
Alternative Writing Software + Pricing
If you are not sold on Word, Scrivener or Google Docs, there are other software programs and apps that authors and bloggers are using to get their work done.
One of these is Evernote, which functions much better as a productivity tool than a word processor, with only limited functionality when it comes to writing a book. Some of its functions are: uploading pics, docs and voice recorder. I have written many blogs and sections of books using the Evernote platform.
Pages is a great alternative to Word if you use a Mac computer. It has a variety of beautiful templates to choose from, has a simple design and syncs with all devices from within iCloud. I personally love the ease of Pages and it works great for creating ebooks or manuscripts with a variety of tools you can get creative with.
FastPencil is a nice little platform with lots of tools. You can also use it for distributing your ebook. It is free to start writing with, but they offer paid services.
FocusWriter is another software for writers that is intended to eliminate distractions to help you get your book written quicker. It is a lightweight basic text writer that was designed to to be completely free of the distractions. In its fullscreen mode, there are no toolbars or additional windows, just a background and your text so that you can concentrate solely on writing your draft.
Now that you have these awesome tools at your disposal, what is your favorite writing tool? What best suits your needs as an author? Can you speed up the writing process with any particular tool?
Pricing: How Much Does Book Writing Software Cost?
- Scrivener costs about $45.00
- Word costs $79.99 US.
- Google Docs is totally free but you have the option to pay for more storage in Google Drive.
- Evernote is free but there is a cool upgrade for $5 a month that gets you Evernote Premium.
- Pages costs about $28.00 for Mac.
- FocusWriter is free to download.
Take some time to check out each of these tools if you aren’t already using them. Stray focused on crafting your next book and stick with the book writing software that gives you the best results in terms of saving you money, time and frustration.
Keep writing. Keep it simple. Best of all, enjoy the creative process!
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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in June of 2016 and has been updated for accuracy.