Writers may not be cooks, knives at the ready, but we certainly need our own set of tools to get the job done. The problem is what works for one writer may not (and usually doesn’t) work for every writer. There are no set rules: don’t use a bread knife to carve a chicken, for instance. If the bread knife leads to a finished novel, then fuck rules, right? Instead, focus on which tools work best for you, which brings me to writing applications.
To be clear, I will be focusing on internet-based, no downloading necessary writing applications in this post (the majority of which are free). In the course of my research, I was a bit stunned by how many options are available to today’s writers. Below I’ve included some of my favorites. Take a look, and see how incorporating the writing apps below into your creative process could help you be a more productive writer.
I’ve been using 750 Words for less than a week, but so far it’s keeping me on task. That is, I’m accomplishing the goal of writing 750 words, at least, daily. For thirty days, the website is free to use. After that, the creators ask that you become a member to continue using the service. The fee is $5/month. It offers a distraction-free writing environment, foregoing bells and whistles. The goal-based, minimalist environment encourages you to produce something (anything) every day, a habit many find necessary to being a writer at all.
When I sit down and log into my account, I don’t necessarily have a plan. I free write. I resist the urge to edit, to self-critique. Whether you continue to use the service or not after the end of your thirty-day trial, you’ll still have access to your writing and stats—another great feature. And honestly, at the price of a cup of Starbucks coffee, if it keeps you trudging onwards, do it.
While you can write directly in this application, it’s really best for simplifying your writing for clarity and conciseness, à la Hemingway. The application will also provide a readability score. The Hemingway App will check adverbs, passive voice, complex phrases or word choices (utilize vs. use, for example), and complex sentences. It’s also available as a desktop application.
Evernote is one of those writing applications you’ll find on nearly every listicle out there. There’s a reason for that, since its features are robust. Even so, it’s really an application better suited to research. You can organize that research into different notebooks, marking down specific locations or attaching PDFs, photos, and other scanned documents. Like the Hemingway App, it’s also available as a desktop application.
Grammarly is one of those applications I’ve always known about, but rarely used. Until lately. I recently installed the Chrome extension while researching for this post, and I have to say, it’s pretty handy. Like a teacher slapping you softly on the wrist, chiding your misspellings and improper punctuation until you correct them. Grammarly reviews contextual spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and style, underlining errors and suggestions in red.
On Grammarly’s website, users can type directly into a blank field or upload an existing document. The premium version of the service will also check for plagiarism, offer suggestions to enhance vocabulary, and provide access to professional proofreading services.
I’ve yet to explore all of Atomic Reach’s features, but it seems especially useful to content writers and bloggers due to its integrated SEO and analytics features. When using the editor, writers can check target audience readability, spelling and grammar, broken links, sentence/paragraph length, and vocabulary. You’ll be given an Atomic Score, and when you’re satisfied with your work, you can then copy and paste it into another document or WordPress.
As far as I can tell, ZenPen is completely free to use. An open source application created by Tim Holman, it’s another distraction-free writing tool with a minimal amount of features. Users can write in full-screen mode, shift between black or white text/background, enter a target word count, and save their finished document as a markdown, HTML, or plain text file.
Unlike the Hemingway App or Grammarly, ZenPen does not offer suggestions at the sentence level. It’s truly a writing surface, plain and simple.
This application is similar to Atomic Reach, but with less of those SEO and analytics features. The application can determine the moment you get stuck on a word and make suggestions for similar or related words. In the process, Twinword aims to deliver a better writing environment. To be honest, I caution writers against using apps like Twinword or Atomic Reach until after they’ve written their initial draft, as they are tools better put to use while editing and formatting.
If you’ve noticed a trend—that many of these writing applications promise a clean, minimal surface—you’ve been paying attention. Typen is no different, though it’s also a tool better used for organizing your work. Text can be packaged together by project, which are then broken down into groups. Users can also customize the theme, background, font, and color (though, if you ask me, these unnecessary options defeat the point of a distraction-free writing space).
A writing and publishing tool in its infancy, I’m excited to explore all that Reedsy has to offer and all that’s to come. You can join the website as a writer or a “professional,” but let’s focus on the former. While, like some of the other applications on this list, I wouldn’t recommend writing directly on the website, Reedsy has many features akin to a software like Scrivener. You can organize your project into parts, chapters, front matter, and back matter. Essentially, you can format your project into a finished book. What’s more is that you can then export that book as an .epub or .mobi file. You can also export it as a Print on Demand PDF.
Now back to that “professional” side of Reedsy. The website has a marketplace of professional ghostwriters, editors, designers, publicists, and marketing professionals (a marketplace you can join, if you’re a freelancer) to help you polish your manuscript before it hits the shelves. For a preview of how Reedsy works, check out the video below.
As with everything involving the digital landscape, new writing applications are being launched every year. The list above represents, I’m sure, only a handful. Which one is your favorite? Least favorite? Are there any applications you use that didn’t make this list? Tell us below!