The Best Writers Software and Writing Apps for 2020

Dec 01, 2019
 

 

Get Tooled Up for 2020, Writers.

The list of presents that every good writer boy and girl deserves to gift themselves this Christmas. Here's your round-up of the writing apps upon which writers really rely. They've been hand-picked to cheer you right up! I love these gadgets.

You'll find some old faithfuls and some new entries to our list - the tools I use when I'm writing and those most loved by our writers at The Novelry.

It's a better time to be a writer than ever before thanks to technology. (I know, I know, proper writers are supposed to be Luddites, but why? Make your life easier. Writing a novel's tough enough.)

#1. Scrivener

If you're tackling a big project like a novel, the organizational engine of Scrivener will ensure everything goes off to plan. Our members can enjoy a 20% discount on Scrivener at our Members' Library.

#2. ProWritingAid

The app analyzes your writing and presents its findings in over 20 different reports (more than any other editing software). You can keep track of your writing style with a neat integration of ProWritingAid and Scrivener. ProWritingAid imports your Scrivener folder into its platform and gives you a detailed analysis of how you're writing. I use ProWritingAid for that final finesse. For nuts and bolts, the dotting of i's and crossing of t's, ProWritingAid will cover that too, but you may also find Grammarly useful.

#3. Grammarly

The kindly grandma of all writing apps, this is a must-have for writers. You can install the plug-in and everything, even social media, gets a clean sweep before it goes out. Go premium. It's worth it. I consider this an essential and like the way it checks everything I do as I write online. I wouldn't press 'enter' or hit 'send' without it. For Mac users,  you have to upload your text into the site browser but it's not a big deal and you get a second back up of those important chapters! I find it helpful for silly mistakes, tiresome little niggles, too many spaces and so on. Think of Grammarly as your copy cleaning service. 

#4. NEW: AutoCrit

Swoon. I've had my head turned by this piece of kit which does everything almost every other app on this page does all in one and presents it beautifully too. Members can find a discount code and download the sample report I ran on The Great Gatsby's first chapter at our Members Library.

Unlike the other tools above, AutoCrit is 100% focused on the needs of fiction writers and authors. They say -"AutoCrit helps fiction writers quickly and easily refine their work by providing the most relevant, impactful feedback. The software dynamically adjusts your editing guidance based on data from millions of published books across many different genres and even lets you compare your work to published fiction by bestselling authors."

What I love about AutoCrit is the design of the summary report which includes a word cloud and enables you to take a look at the health check for your prose at a glance. I'm going to use it on my writers' work for sure. It offers a nice natural voice read-aloud feature too. You can at the flick of a switch pluck out them adverbs and passive phrases, should you wish. The show vs tell indicator is a great idea but it's set up is a little clunky, hey it's a start. It's weak on grammar, fine on spelling, so I'd still use Grammarly in combination with this. AutoCrit picked out my overused words in a way I've not seen so obviously shown before. Quite a surprise. ( So many 'thens', so little time.)

Authors can compare their manuscript to mainstream published fiction works and see how they stack up against them. "With AutoCrit, you can compare your work directly to real, published fiction from some of the top publishing houses in genres such as Mystery/Suspense, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Romance. A couple clicks are all it takes to see whether your manuscript matches publishing standards. You can even compare your writing to that of your favourite author to see how you stand up. Want to know who uses more adverbs, you or Stephen King? Now you can find out!" 

The whole thing is put together in a less critical, more positive experience than its name suggests. I love the way it highlights your uncommon words and any writer's got to look at that and smile a little smugly, a roll call of your darlings. It's not often a writer feels flattered, so that might explain my heady feelings for AutoCrit, scoring my chapter at 87% vs Gatsby at 79% may have been the clincher. Maybe it's more of a Christmas toy maybe than a daily tool, but it made me happy. Love it. Try it. 

#5. NEW: The Novelry's 'Book in a Year' Package

A new complete programme for writers old and new. A year of complete guidance and support to write wisely and fulfil your ambition as an author. The Novelry will lead you through the creation of a sound and appealing story idea onto writing a novel, then revising and editing your first draft. You will complete and hold in your hands a final draft ready to pitch to agents with our dedicated help and support every step of the way. Choose the safe and smart way to stay on track and achieve your ambition get that book done. Sign up here and save 20% on the prices of courses when sold separately. 

(Don't forget you can gift a writer friend the novel course here.)

#6. NEW: Kindle App 2019 Version

Listen up. You can use all the tools in the world, but nothing compares to the earnest practise of comparing your writing to great work and asking yourself insistently - why isn't mine as good as this? Be fanatical about your craft. Read wisely. Take notes, make notes at bedtime to steer your morning's writing.

A lot's happened with Kindle app and now compatible with iOS and Android reading platforms; it's the ultimate reading tool for writers. No matter which platform you use, you will find in the Kindle app a more intuitive search, Goodreads integration, and support for Audible audiobook playback. It's important to me as an author to be able to highlight passages of fiction and non-fiction and keep them as sources of inspiration and reference. I use the Kindle App on my iPad. It's a great combo with the perfect reading experience thanks to the background light enabling you to read with the light turned off, and magnification for the older reader.

There are so many options now for the text you highlight. You can keep it as Instagram ready 'art', send it to your Notes programme (now my mainstay for keeping random inspirations for my novel) and you can also search in Wikipedia, the dictionary and translate a word or passage to any language. It's amazing.

If you're planning to write a novel, spend a couple of months working on the idea with our Classic course, after which you'll sign up for the novel course to write it which asks you to run it past me at The Novelry to make sure it's a go-er and in the best possible shape for you to invest your writing time. When you're confident you've got all you need to start writing, choose a 'hero' book to lean on during your writing period. By that I mean an exemplary text, commonly recognized to be great, which works according to the great novel story format, our very own Five F's ®, which we teach at The Novelry. You can find a list of hero books at writershop.co.uk  also thenovelryshop.com

#7. NEW: Google Street View

Don't leave home with it! (Apologies for the pun.)

It's now possible to get interactive panoramas for almost any location in the world using VR photography. Think about that. In my new novel I needed to check how customs point between Albania and Montenegro. Within seconds I was there, taking a good look around. Google Japan now offers the street view from a dog's perspective, and Google Street View covers two offshore gas-extraction platforms in the North Sea... great setting right for those writing Sci-Fi/Dystopian? The drag-and-drop Pegman icon is the primary user interface element used by Google to connect Maps to Street View. Occasionally Pegman "dresses up" for special events or is joined by peg friends in Google Maps. When dragged into Street View near Area 51, he becomes a flying saucer. The six main paths up Snowdon were mapped in 2015. A Google tricycle was developed to record pedestrian routes including Stonehenge, and other UNESCO World Heritage sites. Trolleys were used to shoot the insides of museums, and in Venice the narrow roads were photographed with backpack-mounted cameras, and canals were photographed from boats. Check out your location and get the detail just right. Instantstreetview.com is a nice easy interface using the tech.

 #8. NEW: Wordcounter

So many writers worry about what their word count should be for their 'genre'. Tell a great story regardless of how many words. If you're going commercial you're going to want to hit 70k, but literary's much broader as a range. It's surprising how many favourite novels have low word counts. Sometimes a short book can feel very long, and a long book can feel short! Check them all out for free here. I've given this a high ranking for saving me so much time hunting the internet to check out how long that novel is!

#9. NEW: PickFu

Want to get feedback on your novel title? Well, many of us know Lulu title scorer with its bizarre algorithms for picking a winner but now you can get a poll done to pick your title between two candidates using PickFu which poses your question to a minimum of 50 respondents in the USA. 15 minutes to see results from $50. You can narrow your audience to heavy book readers, fiction, and a whole host of other criteria to check your candidate titles against your prospective readers. This can make a slow writing day a whole lot of fun!

The feedback you get is detailed too, and explains what's alluring in the title. The intelligent comments really give you food for thought, allowing you to see what inference each title is cueing at a glance. You can see how each title performs against age groups and genders. The results come in fast. My poll was neck and neck all the way until the final stages. I made my choice based on the cues mentioned by respondents.  In my title poll Option A was 'classic' and 'timeless' and Option B seen as more 'intimate' and 'personal.' Option A appealed more to under 35's and men, and B to over 35's and women.

Get a 20% discount with the code THENOVELRY20 .

Oh, I love this! I could spend all day playing this game! What's more you can get feedback on your book premise or description too. You could run the poll against up to 500 people. Given the audience targeting features, I think this would be useful right at the beginning of scoping out an idea, and even more useful before revising your story to go to second draft, so you can proceed with what's appealing to readers. I find PickFu wildly exciting, but then I don't get out much.

#10. NEW: Otter Voice

Wow. Just wow. This one really works! It faithfully transcribes your voice to words before your very eyes on your desktop. I was quite stunned watching it automatically finesse and correct the word before my eyes. You can import recordings too and you'll get a notification when the transcript is ready. You can use this app for free and get 600 minutes of transcription time. For less than $10 a month you can export files as documents, skip silences and sync all your files via Dropbox. It's the ultimate tool for first, dictating your novel or second, getting reality recorded and onto the page.

Use it to collect the cadence of conversations and the sounds around you to bring 'buttoned-down detail' to your prose to make it more immersive. See our recent blogs on why such detail is vital for a novel. Unlike Just Press Record or other recording apps, the words appear before your eyes and make sense and next to the words is a second by second timeline making it easy to locate passages. I think this could be a winner as a replacement for two apps - voice recording and dictation - so it's gone straight into my must-haves for 2020. Get it, use it, love it - here.

Folks, it's time to tidy up the apps on your phone or iPad and the bookmarks on your desktop or laptop, for a fresh start in January. Bookmark these babies!

You may want to add this book to your bookshelves, particularly if you're not a member of The Novelry and will have to do the hard work of finding yourself a literary agent and publisher.

Writers & Artists' Yearbook 2020

Buy it now on sale with a 45% discount at just £13.75 until 15th December here.

Children's Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2020 with a 45% discount at just £13.75 until 15th December here.

And finally, stay healthy. 

Date and save your manuscript daily and keep it on the cloud, and keep your equipment clean. I dote on this baby. CleanMyMac (they also offer CleanMyPC). I'd probably have bought a new Mac had it not been for this gorgeous app which rids me of my data grime and keeps my RAM moving. I wouldn't be without it. For me this is an essential.

Stocking Fillers.

Sometimes you forget quite how the title works for little words. Head to Capitalize My Title. Phew. Job done.

Want to convert a PDF document to Word, edit or compress a PDF? It's free and functional with SmallPDF.

A cheap and cheerful way to check your writing is offered to you with the compliments of the charming Count Wordsworth. Check the number of times you use a certain word. You may be surprised and what seeds you're sewing in the subconscious of the reader! In the first book of The Bible “behold” occurs more commonly than “there”, “as”, “went” and “we”. For an analysis of the cunning repetitions of words to seduce the reader in The Great Gatsby, you may enjoy this blog article.

In search of an idea for that novel you're meant to write? How about writing one you never meant to write. Try the Random Logline Generator! I hit the page while writing this and found the idea for my next novel in less than 5 seconds. 'A telephone operator gives advice to the anachronistic adopted daughter of a magician in Scotland.' Why have you been fretting over your big idea for so long, you will ask yourself.

When you wake from a gripping dream, look it up and decode it. Writing is one way of finding out what's going on in your head, but dreams are the flash fiction reading of your troubled psyche and can save you some pondering in prose and provide a jumpstart to creativity. Like many writers, I started writing when I started writing down my dreams. Dreammoods App is a free app, and it's on the money more often than not.

For a thesaurus beyond compare if you're writing historical, I strongly recommend the Oxford English Dictionary which will who you what words were used when, but the bog-standard Thesaurus is great and here's another kid on the block for you - Onelook.

Check the differences between drafts very simply with Diffchecker. (Find those old darlings, and restore them to draft 58.)

Scope out the timeline planning for your novel with Mindmeister the mind mapping tool or with Aeon Timeline. The latter syncs with Scrivener, but I find it's encroaching too much on what Scriv does best. I prefer Mindmeister for getting a good oversight of my story development and I show you how to use it for yours in our Ninety Day Novel course.

Many of us use Canva for design work and to create some of the working tools we use at The Novelry to visualize the novel. It's a must-have, really if you want to create a social media presence. 

You can bring all those highlighted passages from your Kindle or iPad iBooks into one place with Readwise. 

Get a health check on your novel chapter by chapter at a glance by looking at the verbal DNA with Wordclouds.com. If you're writing a novel you're going to want to see in that cloud our hero or heroine's main focus of interest writ large. See this name loud and proud in your cloud for the first chapter, this is the name of the person who represents the embodiment of your main character's 'problem', weakness or flaw. So telling. More on the way novels work and how to build them with the author-created practical courses at The Novelry! Sign up and make sure you get your very best novel done in 2020.

Gifts for Writers You Love.

For more inspiration for writers' gifts do check out our shop for writing accessories, and don't forget you can give someone special the gift of a novel here.

Now, please share this article with your writer pals and via social media. Lots of goodies here to make life sweeter.

Wishing you much happy writing in 2020.

The Novelry.

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Disclosure: Content may contain affiliate links to WriterShop and other companies. If you buy something through one of those links you won’t pay more, but we may get a commission. The Novelry is independently owned and opinions expressed are our own. 

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The Novelry.