The right book writing software can make all the difference in the world.
With the right software you can write faster and more effectively. You’ll be more focused, with fewer distractions. And just as importantly, you’ll have an easier time keeping your outline and notes better organized.
But to get there, you’ll have to make some choices. Authors have all kinds of options when looking for the best book writing software.
Should you stick with tried-and-true Microsoft Word? Move to Scrivener, the software of choice for many professional authors? Or maybe it’s worth giving Google Docs a try, so you can easily share and co-edit your book with an editor?
We’ll cover the best options in this article. For a quick overview, here are the 11 best book writing software options for writers:
- Microsoft Word – Word Processor, $79.99
- Scrivener – Word Processor, $45
- Pages – Word Processor, $28
- Google Docs – Online Word Processor, Free
- Evernote – Note-Taking Software, Free
- FocusWriter – Word Processor, Free
- FastPencil – Word Processor, Free
- yWriter – Word Processor, Free
- Freedom – Productivity Software, $2.42/month
- Hemingway App – Style & Grammar Checker, Free
Let’s get started by comparing the 3 book writing software “giants,” and then I’ll share some less well-known tools that might help improve your writing process even more.
First, though, there’s one thing you should spend some time thinking about:
Which Book Writing Software Features Are Most Important to YOU?
I’m not trying to sell you on any particular book writing software in this article. Instead my goal is to give you an idea of what’s out there so you can weigh the options for yourself. Who knows—you may even discover a brand-new tool you absolutely love.
There are 9 things to consider when deciding which program to use for your book. Depending on your needs, some of these questions may be more or less important to you:
- How easy is it to format text the way you want?
- Does it have templates available? How many?
- How much does it cost?
- Is the program simple & easy to use?
- Does it offer any extra features or other bells & whistles?
- How about a distraction-free writing experience?
- Is the program user-friendly?
- Can you access your files no matter where you are?
- How easy is it to collaborate with editors & team members?
In the end, the truth is that there are many great writing tools out there. It isn’t really a question of which tool is BEST. What it comes down to is: which tool works best with YOUR unique writing process?
The Big 3, #1: Microsoft Word Review
Before any other tools came along, Microsoft Word was the only option available. Everyone used it.
Today, even though there are many other word processors out there, Word is still the most widely used book writing software in the U.S. Millions of people continue to use it for their writing needs.
And it’s easy to see why. Word has a lot going for it!
It’s been around a long time. It’s trusty and reliable.
It also provides a relatively distraction-free writing experience. (Much better than working on Google Docs in your browser, for example, where you’re only an errant mouse-click away from the entire internet.)
If you just need to wake up in the morning and meet your word-count goals by keeping your head down and getting those words pounded out onto the page, then Word is a good choice. No fuss, no muss. It’s about as simple as it gets.
Word also offers some simple organization. Using headers, you can organize your book into chapters—and then you can navigate through them quickly using the Navigation pane:
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.
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.
But Word does have some downsides.
For starters, it doesn’t always play well with Macs. If you use a Mac, then Word might cause you a lot of frustration with crashes and formatting. (Luckily, Apple offers a comparable program—scroll down to the “Pages Review” to learn more.)
Word is also pretty vanilla. That’s part of its appeal, sure, but it also means Word lacks some of the more advanced features you get with other programs like Scrivener and Google Docs.
(For example, Scrivener offers more advanced outlining functionality. And Google Docs makes it easier to share and collaborate on your files.)
All in all, Word is a solid contender for best book writing software. But there are many other choices out there.
Cost: $79.99 if purchased separately.
The Big 3, #2: Scrivener Review
You just learned that Microsoft Word is the most widely used word processor in the world. But does that mean it’s the best?Think about it this way. The fact that Word is so prevalent means that it has to cater to all sorts of users—students, businesspeople, writers, teachers, marketers, lawyers, the list goes on and on and on.
But Scrivener was created for one type of person only:
And if you’re a writer, chances are you’ve heard of Scrivener. A lot of writers absolutely love this program, with its advanced features and distraction-free writing experience.
This 6-minute video gives you quick overview of Scrivener along with some highlights and screenshots:
In short, Scrivener gives you an insane amount of flexibility for writing, formatting, and organizing your book.
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:
- Helps with plotting for fiction authors
- 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 drag and drop to move sections around
- Provides a collection of robust templates
- Supports MultiMarkdown for bullets and numbers
Because Scrivener was designed for writers, it’s super easy to lay out scenes, move content around, and outline your story, article, or manuscript. Instead of keeping all your content in one big file, Scrivener allows you to create multiple sub-files to make it easier to organize and outline your project:
Scrivener is a fabulous tool for plotting out storylines. Using the corkboard view, for instance, you can recreate the popular “notecard method” for outlining your project:
But as awesome as Scrivener is, it’s not perfect.
And the biggest downside to using Scrivener is the steep learning curve involved. You aren’t going to master this program overnight.
But if you’re serious about your writing career, then investing the time to learn this program will be worth it. You’ll save time and energy in the long run.
And if you want to learn how to use Scrivener as quickly & easily as possible, we can help!
We offer a free training called Learn Scrivener Fast, where we teach you how to use all the most powerful features in Scrivener to supercharge your writing process…all in just an hour. To watch that free training, just click this image (it will take you to a separate page with the video training):
Long story short: Scrivener is an investment. It will take some time to master. But once you do, you’ll never go back—it’s the single most powerful book writing software out there.
If you like what you see from Scrivener, you can buy it here:
The Big 3, #3: Google Docs Review
We’ve looked at the appealing simplicity of Word and the in-depth power of Scrivener, but there’s another writing software that more and more people are starting to use: Google Docs.
Essentially, Google Docs is a stripped-down version of Word that you can only use online through a Chrome browser. It’s a simple yet effective word processor.
The beauty of this program (and Google Drive in general) comes in the ability to share content, files, and documents among your team. You can easily communicate via comments, for example:
This program keeps a complete history of all changes made to a document, so if you accidentally delete something you wanted to keep, simply click the link at the top of the screen that says “All changes saved in drive.” That will bring up the version history, where you can review all the changes that have been made to your book file and revert to a previous version if you so choose.
Google Docs doesn’t require any installation and can be accessed anywhere via your browser (or an app on your phone).
And here’s one of the best features: everything is saved on the server frequently and automatically, 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.
Out of the “big 3” book writing software tools, Google Docs is probably the least sophisticated when it comes to formatting and outlining tools. But it makes up for that with easy collaboration, sharing, and online access.
Think of Pages as the Mac alternative to Microsoft Word.
It has a variety of beautiful templates to choose from, has a simple design, and syncs with all devices from within iCloud.
Personally I love the ease of Pages. 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 as well.
Everything happens online in your browser, which means you can access your files from any computer (as long as you’re connected to the Internet). Here’s what the word processor looks like:
Cost: Free (or you can pay for more extensive features)
FocusWriter is word processor for writers that is intended to eliminate distractions to help you get your book written quicker. It is a basic, lightweight 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.
Here’s an example:
You can customize the image in the background to suit your project to help inspire your writing.
Not much more to say about FocusWriter. It’s simple and effective. If you need a lot of features, it probably won’t work for you. But if simplicity is your thing, then you may have found your perfect writing tool.
yWriter is a really popular word processor (intended mainly for novelists) with some impressive features (especially for a program that’s completely free).
It helps keep your project organized by giving you space to include notes on all sorts of things, like character notes, scene notes, scene goals, etc. You can specify whose point of view each scene will be written in, and you can see the word count of your entire novel broken out by chapter—all at a quick glance:
One thing that yWriter does differently than a lot of other programs is focus on scenes, rather than on chapters. A lot of writers prefer this, since scenes are usually fun chunks of story to work on. And using yWriter, you can rearrange all those scenes to compose a compelling novel.I’d call it a Scrivener alternative that is free to use. But one downside is that it only works for Windows (at least, for now—an iOs version is currently in beta).
Evernote is a note-taking app. It’s a great way to keep track of your thoughts—like brainstorming ideas, outlining chapters, and jotting down inspiration when it strikes.
The mobile app is particularly useful for capturing new ideas when they strike, since most people have their phone with them 24/7. Here’s what Evernote looks like on a phone:
While you can use Evernote to write content—I’ve used it for writing blogs and other small sections of books—you wouldn’t want to use it as your main word processor. Its functionality is a bit too limited.
But as a way of keeping track of ideas, it’s a great find.
Cost: Free, but there is a cool upgrade for $5 a month that gets you Evernote Premium
Freedom isn’t technically a writing tool, but it sure can help improve your writing. It’s a productivity app designed to help eliminate distractions by blocking certain websites.
For example: let’s say you have a tendency to get distracted by social media sites. All you have to do us start a Freedom session that blocks all your social media sites—and then you won’t be able to visit them even if you wanted to.
Here’s what it looks like when you schedule a session:
Notice that you have a lot of options. You can schedule one-time sessions (starting now or later), or you can set up recurring sessions (for example, to block distracting sites every day when it’s time to write).
When you try to visit a site that’s being blocked, you’ll get this message:
This is a really liberating tool. Once you know you don’t have the option of visiting those distracting sites, you’ll find it easier to keep focused on your writing and you’ll be able to get a lot more done.
Cost: $2.42/month and up, or $129 for lifetime access. (Sometimes they offer discounts, so look around for a coupon code.)
Hemingway Editor Review
The Hemingway Editor is a unique kind of writing tool. It’s a style checker that’s designed to help tighten up your prose and make your writing clear and bold.
Simply paste your writing into the editor and scroll through. You’ll notice that the program highlights certain words & passages—like long, hard-to-read sentences, passive verbs, and phrases with simpler alternatives.
Here’s an example of what it looks like:
(Yikes. Too bad Dickens didn’t have this app.)
What I love about this tool is how easy it is to use. Everything is color-coded and super easy to understand, so you can see at a glance where your writing could use a little elbow grease.
Cost: Free, or you can purchase the desktop version for $19.99.
Reading this, you may be wondering:
Dropbox? How is that a writing tool?
Trust me—it is!
While it’s true that Dropbox isn’t a word processor like Scrivener or yWriter, it is a very helpful tool for writers. Especially writers who write on more than one computer, who need to collaborate with other writers or editors, or who want an easy way to back up their work.
Here’s how it works.
When you set up Dropbox and install it on your computer, it will create a new “Dropbox” folder on your machine.
Any files that you save in this folder will be automatically backed up to Dropbox’s servers in the cloud, and will be automatically downloaded to any other computers that are synced to that same Dropbox account.
A lot of writers choose to save their book on Dropbox, so that it will be automatically backed up. And as you can see, it looks the same as any other folder on your computer:
Using this strategy, you can make it easier to share and collaborate on your files—even if you aren’t using Google Docs.
Cost: Free for a basic plan, or $9.99/month for extra storage.
Pricing: How Much Do These Book Writing Software Programs Cost?
I would recommend not worrying too much about the cost of these programs. After all, dropping $100 or less on a program is not that big a deal if it is going to help improve your writing for years to come.
That said, I know you work hard for your money—and you want to get the best deal you can! Here are the most recent prices for all of the tools in this article:
- Scrivener costs about $45.
- Word costs $79.99 US.
- Google Docs is 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 for Mac.
- FocusWriter is free to download.
- FastPencil is free, or you can pay for more extensive features.
- yWriter is also free to download.
- Freedom costs $2.42/month and up, or $129 for lifetime access. (Sometimes they offer discounts, so look around for a coupon code.)
- Hemingway App is free to use online, or you can purchase the desktop version for $19.99.
- Dropbox is free for a basic plan, or you can pay $9.99/month for extra storage.
What’s Your Favorite Tool?
Take some time to check out each of these tools if you aren’t already using them. Stay 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!
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?
Like what you read and want to learn more? We’re holding a FREE online workshop where Chandler is revealing the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row… and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years. Click here to save your spot now!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in June of 2016. It was most recently updated for accuracy in April of 2018.