Here at ProWritingAid, we're geekily interested in writing tech, almost obsessively. And in honor of the upcoming NaNoWriMo, we thought we'd do a roundup of the best writing apps we've reviewed over the years. Links to our full reviews are throughout.
Best apps to tame distractions
Do you get sucked away into social media when you're supposed to be writing? There's an app to take care of that, of course. Actually, there are a couple. Which one you choose depends on how distracted you get.
For those of you who need to see what you're writing without worrying about formatting or making it pretty will love Ulysses. It's a straightforward text editor that lets you write and see what you're writing without worrying about formatting. You can do that later.
Others get majorly distracted by what they're writing and lose their train of thought. Do you break the flow of writing to go back and correct a spelling error or something that doesn't sound quite right? If you need to focus on what you will say rather than what you've already said, you need ilys. You can't see what you've already written, only the last letter you typed. Not even a whole word. A single letter.
For those who get sucked away into social media and end up following rabbit holes for hours, there's Freedom.to. You can block all of your time-wasting websites, apps, social media, and even your email. And the best part…you can block everything on all of your devices. So if you've blocked Twitter on your laptop, you can't just pick up your phone and surf. It's blocked there, too. Freedom.to. forces you to focus on writing instead.
Now for those of us who are mildly distracted, but still need to see what we've written, Write! is the perfect app. You can still edit as you go, and you can even perform some basic formatting. What it's great at is blocking out everything else on your computer screen so all you see is the word processing part.
Finally, for those who still want to see what they've written, but don't want their inner editor taking over while they're supposed to be writing, there's Rough Draft. It's like an old school typewriter on your computer screen. You can see everything you've typed, but you can't backspace and erase anything. Backspacing merely strikes through what you've written, reminding you it's a rough draft, not the finished product.
Best app for planners
Hands-down, it's The Novel Factory. You get a logical structure that helps you flesh out each part of your novel, from beginning call to action to the final conflict and denouement. You start out with your premise or what your story is about, and flesh out your story's skeleton (your story arc). You then work on creating your characters. Next, you write a short synopsis; then you flesh it out into an extended synopsis.
On it goes through creating scenes and detailed character sketches, from high level plotting to creating your story's world, and so much more. The Novel Factory is a planner's dream.
And they recently released an online version, where before you could only download a Windows version of the app. Now us Mac users can partake in its wondrous process.
But wait! There's another fabulous app that appeals to planners a little differently. Beemgee helps you flesh out your characters and plot by asking you detailed questions about each. There are almost 40 questions to answer for each character in your story. It really helps you get down to their essence and create 3-D characters. You build plot event cards for each element in a menu to help you look at location, story lines, motifs, point of view, and much more. Then you can start creating your Step Outline, which is a detailed outline of your novel to help you make sure you've covered everything before you begin writing.
Finally, where would this article be without mentioning Scrivener? The ultimate writing tool for planners, Scrivener offers you the planning structure you love best in an electronic version. Do you love to write all of your scenes on index cards and move them around to find the best order? You can do that with Scrivener. Do you like to capture pictures and other information to help you visualize your characters, locations, settings, etc.? You can do that, too, with Scrivener. Scrivener is like a big binder full of everything you need to write your novel: research, scenes, character sketch and setting templates, synopsis and overviews for each scene, plus much more.
So again, awesome programs for planners, albeit each a different style. Your best bet is to experiment with all three to see which makes more sense to you.
Best app for pants-ers
The best app for those of you who fly by the seat of your pants depends on how distractible you are.
If you are highly distracted while writing, you need a combination of Freedom.to and ilys. You can block every website, social media, and app that sucks your attention with Freedom.to, and you'll only be able to see the last letter you typed with ilys. Talk about serious focus on writing your story.
If you're only mildly distracted, programs like Ulysses, Write! or even Scrivener again are great for just letting the words flow.
Best app for ideas
You've got to try One Stop For Writers. This writing app combines a little bit of planning in the form of templates to help you create your characters and your story's world, but it's much more.
Where its strength lies is in the "library." There's an "Information Desk," "Thesaurus," "The Stacks," and more. In fact, it can take days of roaming around the information in the library to see and experience everything.
You start at the "Information Desk" to learn how to use the app. From there, you can go to the "Thesaurus" with a comprehensive list for each of 13 categories like emotions, negative traits, talents and skills, symbols and motifs, and more. "The Stacks" is where you'll find the templates and worksheets to help you create your characters and setting. There's even an idea generator.
In fact, there's so much information and knowledge in One Stop For Writers that it's worth signing up for a one-month subscription just to cruise around and see it all.
Best app for editing
OK, if you are reading this blog, you probably already know that ProWritingAid is far and away the best app for editing your writing.
Haven't tried it yet? What are you waiting for? It's free to use the online version and it will take your writing to the next level!
There's an app for every kind of writer. It may take a little experimenting to find the right one for your style and comfort level. And you may find that your tastes and needs change the more you write.
If you're interested in learning more about the apps mentioned above, you can find our in-depth review of each here: