Writing Apps 12 min2023-08-11 00:00

Best Book Writing Software: Top Tools for Writing a Novel

book writing software

I’ve been on an epic quest for the last few years to find the perfect book writing software. 

By now, I’ve tried well over a dozen different novel writing apps. My writing friends laugh and urge me to commit. But I want the best book writing software possible.

One person’s perfect writing app might be another person’s technology nightmare, so I’ve rounded up several options for you to choose from. I’ve also outlined the features I look for when choosing a great book writing app.

10 Top Features to Look For in Book Writing Software

What makes a book writing software great? It needs to check several boxes. Here are the ten criteria I consider when choosing a novel app.

1. Online and Offline Capabilities

Sometimes, you need to write on a browser. Other times, you may want to write in a cabin in the woods. A great writing app will allow you to do both.

An app that only has an offline desktop version for one or two devices won’t help you if you’re writing at a library or borrowing a computer. On the other hand, apps that only work with an internet connection will leave you frustrated when the network is down or you’re writing on a cruise ship with a drink in your hand.

So, look for a book writing program that has online and offline capabilities.

You can also look for apps that have mobile versions. This way, you can add a scene on the go with your phone or tablet, and it will sync the next time you’re on your computer.

Be confident about grammar

Check every email, essay, or story for grammar mistakes. Fix them before you press send.

2. Easy Organization

What makes a book writing software different from a word processor like Microsoft Word or Google Docs?

You need the ability to quickly organize your scenes and chapters so you can navigate through your manuscript and easily format for a query or for publishing. You can also write nonlinearly if you prefer to skip scenes while you draft.

Sometimes, you may need to add a chapter or scene between two existing chapters, or you might need to move a scene to a different chapter altogether. Great book writing applications will have a drag-and-drop feature for rearranging your scenes.

3. Multiple Functions

The more your writing app can do, the better value it is. The writing process has several steps: notes and research, plotting, writing, editing, and formatting. Look for an app that can help you with multiple steps of the writing process.

The closer you can get to a one-stop program, the better. It will save you time, headaches, and money. 

4. Affordable

Writing isn’t a particularly lucrative career. Finding a book writing software that won’t break the bank is essential—at least until you strike it big on the bestseller list. 

Pick a book software that’s well within your budget. And here’s a tip: if you sell books, you can also write off the cost as a business expense on your taxes.

5. Security

A few years ago, I was using a great novel writing software that no longer exists. It was a new, small startup. The servers crashed for five days, and customer support said they didn’t know if they could recover all the data they lost—e.g., everyone’s stories.

Thankfully, they did, but I jumped ship to find a more secure company. (And I back up my work more frequently.)

Look for an app that will protect your writing and your data. After all, these companies will have your email address, credit card info, and billing address. Companies that have SOC2 and/or GDPR compliance are among the most reliable.

top book writing software features

6. Great Customer Support

With any luck, you won’t ever have to contact customer service. But sometimes things happen, or you just need a little help understanding the product. Check out reviews to see people’s feedback about the software’s customer support. 

7. Customizable

Every writer has a different writing process. A great writing app will easily adapt to your needs. This might mean specific character templates, a variety of plotting tools, or different interfaces. Maybe you prefer a focus mode or a dark mode, or you want to upload your own outline template.

Keep in mind that often, the more customizable a book writing software is, the higher the learning curve. Consider how much customization you actually want and need so you don’t get overwhelmed.

8. Word Count and Goal Tracking

Setting word count goals is an excellent way to keep yourself motivated. You might even participate in a word count challenge like NaNoWriMo! Or maybe you’re a person who would prefer to write every day without setting a minimum word count.

Not every app allows you to set writing goals or track your progress. If you enjoy seeing how often or how much you’ve written, look for this feature when selecting a novel writing software.

9. Writing Resources

The best writing software isn't one that just lets you write—it also teaches you how to write. Look for a book writing software that has excellent learning resources.

Most apps offer a blog, but some aren't as robust as others. Great software may also include embedded videos, plot templates, and more. Many apps offer webinars and online conferences too.

You want the most value for your money, so be sure to explore the writing resources offered by the software before committing

10. Shareable

A great book writing software will also have methods for sharing with critique partners, beta readers, and editors. Shareability might look like easy exporting to Google Docs or just a public view link. You may prefer a collaboration feature that allows in-line comments directly in the app.

Some writers might want to publish through an app to build an audience. Some book writing software tools include a Wattpad-like platform where readers can read your novel online. This is a great option for authors who don't want to traditionally publish or monetize their novel.

top book writing software features

Best Book Writing Software for Writers

Now you know what to look for, let's check out some of the best book writing software on the market. This list includes both free writing software and paid. Some of the paid book writing software includes limited free versions as well.

1. ProWritingAid

Of course, we're pretty certain ProWritingAid is the best writing software out there. Many people think of ProWritingAid as just a grammar checker, but we're actually so much more.

ProWritingAid offers detailed in-line comments on your writing. This includes style feedback, pacing suggestions, sensory notes, and more. You can customize your writing goals based on genre. We even offer rephrasing suggestions for when you can't figure out how to make that pesky line sound better.

The premium version lets you compare your writing against the style of dozens of bestselling authors. You can get most of our other features on the free version, but you're limited to 500 words at a time.

You can absolutely write a novel in ProWritingAid. You can create multiple documents and folders on our web editor. Or you can integrate ProWritingAid with Google Docs, Microsoft Word, Scrivener, or just about any other website or app.

We also offer robust writing resources. Our blog has in-depth articles on every aspect of the writing process. We also have in-tool articles, videos, and quizzes. And we have incredible online conferences featuring popular bestselling authors.

2. Campfire

Campfire is one of the most in-depth world-building and book writing software out there. It's highly customizable, which means it comes with a learning curve. But if you want a visually pleasing, personalized writing app, it's worth the time to learn.

Campfire comprises several modules for aspects of plotting and world-building. They include things like timelines, maps, religious systems, characters, magic systems, and more. These are all easy to link together in a dynamic world bible.

Recently, they've built up their manuscript module so you can write directly in the app (and export for formatting and publishing). Their mobile app keeps getting better with each update.

One of the best aspects of Campfire is their flexible pricing. You pay for what you need: if all your characters are human, for example, you don't have to buy the species module. Then you can purchase each module monthly, yearly, or for a lifetime. This ends up saving you money.

3. One Stop for Writers

One Stop for Writers is a web app with a treasure trove of resources and tools specifically designed for novelists.

It includes templates and worksheets that can help you develop every aspect of your story. You can create realistic and well-rounded characters with the Character Builder, design fantasy worlds with the World-Building Surveys, and so much more.

There's also a Story Map you can use to develop your plot structure. You can choose one of three arcs to work with: the change arc, the static arc, or the failed arc. Then, you can see the beats you need to include in your story in order to create a satisfying plot.

Their descriptive database gives you access to countless ideas for descriptions, such as emotions, weather, themes and symbols, textures, occupations, and more.

One Stop for Writers requires a monthly or annual subscription, but if you're not ready to invest in a subscription, you can sign up for a two-week free trial first.

7 best book writing softwares

4. Scrivener

Scrivener is one of the most useful tools for organizing large, ambitious book projects.

Novels are long and require a lot of organization. You have to keep track of all your different characters, settings, and subplots, and that's before you even start drafting.

Scrivener is a word processing tool that's specifically designed to make writing a book as easy as possible. It organizes all of your writing in a "binder" so you can easily drag and drop scenes and chapters into new locations.

You can also toggle between multiple different views in Scrivener, which is incredibly useful when you're moving between ideation, drafting, and revising. For example, in the corkboard mode, you can see a bird's-eye view of your book as index cards on a corkboard. There's also an outline mode, where you can see your book as a written outline.

Scrivener also helps you track your progress on your novel by letting you set targets so you can make sure you're hitting your deadlines.

There's no free version of Scrivener, but you can buy a license with a small upfront fee, and after that, you can use it for a lifetime.

5. LivingWriter

LivingWriter is a word processor that makes it easy for you to organize your novel and organize it chapter by chapter, similar to Scrivener.

Where LivingWriter shines is in its unique features to help novelists. It makes it easy for you to make a glossary of characters, locations, plot points, and other elements so you can easily refer back to them. The app will even give you a list of the words you've made up for your novel so you can autofill them easily.

LivingWriter also provides several basic templates to give you a starting point if you're not sure where to begin. You can use plot structures, like the hero's journey, to start planning out your novel.

One additional benefit of LivingWriter is that it's a cloud-based app that automatically backs up your project to the cloud using Amazon Cloud Services. If you've ever had your laptop crash without saving your work, you know what a lifesaver it can be to not have to worry about backups.

The drawback to LivingWriter is that it requires an ongoing subscription, which makes it less cost-friendly than Scrivener if you plan to use it for more than a few months. You can try the two-week free trial first if you want to see how it works.

6. Dabble

Dabble is a writing software that's sometimes referred to as "Scrivener without the learning curve."

It offers similar organizational features to Scrivener. For example, it makes it easy for you to organize your book into chapters. It also lets you use "cards" to keep track of your plot points in the Plot section.

Like many other writing software options, it also lets you set goals and timelines to keep track of your progress. It also has a focus mode that helps you write without distractions.

The downside is that its features aren't quite as powerful as Scrivener's. You also can't export books in special formats, which means you'll have to use a separate formatting tool to make sure your manuscript is ready for publication.

Dabble offers three subscription tiers that give you access to different features depending on how much you pay. You might be able to find cheaper options if you're simply looking for a great novel writing software.

7. NovelPad

NovelPad is a word processing tool that's specifically designed for novelists.

NovelPad lets you organize your book in a clear and efficient way. You can color code your scenes to help you visually keep track of which ones you're drafting, editing, or planning.

One feature NovelPad offers that I haven't seen anywhere else is the character tracking feature, which lets you easily see all the sections in your book that include a specific character. If you want to make sure all your major characters are getting equal page time, or if you want to check for consistency in a single character's actions, this feature makes that easy.

It's a subscription-based software that only works in a web browser, so this might not be the tool for you if you prefer to write offline in a desktop app.

8. Fictionary StoryTeller

Fictionary Story Editing Software is a must-have for authors looking to improve their story editing skills. The software’s systematic approach to developmental editing guides you through an evaluation of your manuscript's structure, character, and plot progression so you can make it as powerful as possible for your reader. 

The Story Arc feature automatically visualises your narrative structure, allowing you to identify instances where your pacing may lose your reader. 

The Story Map feature offers a comprehensive overview of your story, highlighting common problem areas such as story flow, character developments, revelations, tension gaps, or confusing timelines. No more sticky notes or massive spreadsheets to keep track of everything. 

The Synopsis Generator helps you harness your manuscript's pivotal scenes, crafting a synopsis that encapsulates key story elements and the central conflict.

In addition to the software, the Fictionary Team of Certified StoryCoach Editors offers a comprehensive program of training and support to help writers get their manuscripts publish-ready. 

Fictionary StoryTeller is an indispensable tool for authors who want to make sure their story is tight, engaging, and unputdownable. 

Conclusion on Book Writing Software

There you have it—our picks for the best book writing software options on the market.

No two writers have the exact same process, so the writing tools that I love using might not be the same ones that work best for you. The best way to figure out your favorite book software is by experimenting on your own.

So, try some of these options out, and see if they can help you take your novel to the next level.

Good luck, and happy writing!

Write like a bestselling author

Love writing? ProWritingAid will help you improve the style, strength, and clarity of your stories.