Getting the tools of the trade right can be tricky. It's all down to personal preference, so I've compiled this quick list of the most simple and effective software for authors at any stage of their journey.
FOR BEGINNERS OR ZERO BUDGETERS
You don't have to fork out a tonne of cash to be writing ready. Google Docs is a free word processor for anyone with a google account (also free). It embodies all the key elements you need to get started, including using headings for your chapter titles and exporting to PDF when you're done. While you don't have quite as many of the intelligent tools in that of paid software, Google Docs still offers options such as named file sharing (so only you and your editor can see the document), and the Suggesting edit mode which allows you to track your changes and accept or reject them later. This is great for when you come to edit your drafts so you don't lose any old phrases you prefer, or if you work with an editor, you can choose which changes you want to keep. This one is ideal for those who want a clean, simple workspace that simply lets you crack on with writing, saves your changes automatically to the Google Drive cloud, and allows for intelligent editing – all at zero cost.
THE INDUSTRY STANDARD
There's a reason why Microsoft Word has stood the test of time. It's simplistic word processor design masks a number of highly intelligent features to help you master your manuscripts. From managing your page numbers, layout, automatic referencing, headings for chapter titles and the Track Changes feature that allows for a forgiving editing session – you can revert back to your previous edits or adjust edits made by others to your liking – it's got everything you need. Plus with the Microsoft's OneDrive you never have to worry about losing your recent changes, thanks to the automatic saving feature. Most authors opt for this one as it's the most versatile; many publishers, agents and editors will use the software so it ensures a seamless sharing of your document and maintains your formatting. However, at £59.99 a year for its subscription service, it's not the most pocket friendly. You'll have to decide what's most important to you.
FOR HARDCORE PLANNERS OR PANTSERS
Now let's pull out the big guns. Scrivener is one of the most popular writing tools of today and for good reason. Unlike the previous two tools, Scrivener is not just a word processor. It includes templates for various writing formats including screenplay, short stories and novels formatted for submissions. You can also export your finished manuscript to Word format, in order to send it on to any editors, agents or publishers – even if you don't have Word on your computer. Above all, it's also a highly effective planning tool. Its intuitive interface offers flexibility for writers to choose how and which features they want to use to organise their thoughts, research and drafts. You can bookmark existing files on your desktop, links to webpages and photos – and open them all with just one click. You can build character profiles and location sheets, create post-it cork boards and note cards, and even use tags or cards to create timelines. Using the split-screen feature you can work with both a character profile or research notes and your draft in the same window, which makes cross-checking SO much easier. There are so many features, I'd be here all day trying to relay them all. My point is, there's a reason Scrivener is my writing software of choice. It may look like a complicated tool with faaaar too many features, but the key thing is to use the tutorial to see which features are most beneficial for you and your writing process. The ease of having all the relevant documents in one place is a lifesaver for me. I'm also a very visual writer and like to use photos, maps and timelines to plan my work. Scrivener allows for all that and more. The best thing? It's only £47 for a ONE OFF payment. No dodgy subscription services. You buy it once and that's it, with updates included. It's yours to go wild with forever.
So there you have it, 3 simple and effective tools for authors, whichever stage of your journey you're at.
Let me know which software is your favourite!👇
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