There’s no shortage of apps and programs on the internet to run every aspect of your writing career, from social media to productivity to organising research to cataloguing the books you’ve read. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in all these sparkly tools, and totally forget that your writing needs attention too.
So we scavenged for the best tools to improve what actually matters: your writing. All of the below tools are free or have a free version, because we don’t think writing should be restricted to those who can afford fancy tools.
While this app won’t touch your words or sentences, it will get you to write every day! Writing is a craft and a skill, and you can’t get better at it if you don’t do it. This app focuses on building habits so you can live the life that you want to.
Set yourself a goal and then check off each day as you meet it to build pretty graphs. It’s up to you whether you want to set goals in time-specific (e.g. write for 30 minutes every day) or task-specific (e.g. write two pages a day) formats. Before long, writing every day will be so natural that the graphs won’t matter so much any more.
This app is super flexible as well. If you’ve got the writing-every-day thing down, but you struggle to do other tasks, this can help you keep track. Other writing-related tasks you could track would include working on a specific project, editing your work, reading or studying.
One of the most exciting things about writing is coming up with lots of ideas, and starting to link them together to form a story. Good mindmapping software can really help you get your ideas out of your head, and fit them together in a way that makes sense.
There are countless mindmapping tools out there, but this is an old open-source favourite. It’s easy to use, scalable for bigger projects, and of course, it’s totally free to download.
It’s also a good idea to go back and re-mindmap your plot and characters during the editing process. This can be a great way to check continuity, and making sure that no characters or plot points disappear.
If you’re looking for feedback on your writing and connect with other writers, online writing and feedback communities like The Writers Bloc and The Pen Factor work to provide just that. By reviewing the work of other writers, you earn feedback on yours. These resources are great, especially if you’re just starting out and experimenting with your writing.
Of course, there are other sites where you can share your writing like Wattpad or on a blog, but these sites are specifically engineered to get you feedback and connect you with other writers. On other sites, you may receive opinions from readers, but not measured critique. You can also report reviews that aren’t helpful to the site.
Do be careful, though—some publishers and publications may not want work that’s already been posted online for free. If you’re working on something you’d like to submit, it might be best to keep that specific piece offline.
Once you’ve written a thing, this tool is great for editing your work—especially if your chosen style is clear and concise, like Hemingway himself. Hemingway is an app that highlights all the bits you might want to eliminate, including adverbs, lengthy sentences, passive voice, and complicated words.
Of course, this might not be the style you’re going for. Plenty of authors write wonderful books with lyrical prose and long sentences galore; this app makes sure that all of those choices are deliberate. We also wouldn’t recommend writing inside of this app, especially if you struggle to turn off your inner editor.
Another great tool for the editing process, this is a free online PDF editor that will let you annotate, highlight, white-out, and add images and links to your manuscript. All you need to do is save your writing as a PDF, and upload it to the site.
The key here is to look at the manuscript in a different way—consider changing the font or colour of the text, or read it in a different order. Making the writing look different will help you to see it in a fresh way, and pick up on mistakes you may have otherwise missed.
Of course, some writers may prefer editing via pen and paper, but this is a good option for those that like to keep it digital. Whether you’re going through your own work, or adding notes to a critique partner’s writing, this is a great tool for working “on top” of your document.