Do You Need Novel-Writing Software to Write a Book?

Humanity has come a long way in its storytelling abilities. Admittedly, the tools are better. We no longer have to write 50,000 words by hand or clack away on a clunky typewriter, but do we need to buy novel-writing software to get our tales told?

There is hardly an article out there that doesn’t suggest using some sort of app or program to help us get words on the page.

Yes, there are many things to distract ourselves with, like social media and online games, so I get the appeal of turning that off for a spell. But do you need a note-taking app or something to organize all your notes?

Is a simple spreadsheet or Word doc, not enough? Let’s find out.

The Argument For Novel-Writing Software

Many authors claim that having a novel-writing software helped them stay focused and get their book done faster. They also say that the software helped them stay focused and kept them organized.

Why is that? Some apps and extensions help you minimize distractions, letting you focus on your novel, which can lead to faster turnaround time.

Another common usage is to keep all of your notes in one place. Evernote is an excellent example of this because it allows you to jot down notes and ideas from anywhere. You can type something on your computer, and it’ll show up on your phone and vice versa.

The main thing to remember here is that novel-writing software can make your life easier as long as it doesn’t take away from your writing time. Don’t use it as an excuse to procrastinate. 

The Argument Against Novel-Writing Software

On the other hand, you don’t need some fancy app to write your novel. People have been writing down stories for years. Most often by hand. Yes, there have been advances in technology to make writing a novel easier and faster, but we don’t need them.

I’ve never used a software system to help me write a book faster. The only thing I use consistently is Grammarly.

And here’s why.

The few times that I have looked at using software, they’ve either been mediocre programs, cost more than I’m willing to pay, or proved to be more of a distraction than putting my phone in a different room.

It takes you a while to research the different programs before you test one out. Then you need to figure out how the software works, so you spend an hour or two doing that. All of that time, you could’ve been writing.

I might sound like an old granny saying this, but sometimes the simplest method is to do things old school. Write your notes and keep them at your side.

Writing is about discipline, and if you can hone that skill, you won’t need software to write your story.

Popular Novel-Writing Software

You have to decide for yourself if using novel-writing software is the best option for you. You can write your story with or without the help of technology. All you need is some self-discipline and grit to see it through.

Here are seven top-rated novel-writing software for writers if you are looking to technology to help you out.

#1: Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word can be used as a novel-writing software

Cost: Subscription-based. For individuals: one-year is C$79 or C$8 per month.

Type: Word processor.

Microsoft Word is perhaps one of the oldest and best-known novel-writing software on the market today. Word has many features to offer, and productivity features are added regularly, making writing more accessible to the average writer.

You can use headers to organize your chapters, use the navigation pane to navigate them, and create templates that you can use with multiple manuscripts or projects. Additionally, you can collaborate with others, use it as a brainstorming tool, and even use an ebook template to publish your book online.

Most editors prefer to edit Word documents for manuscripts because it makes tracking and reviewing changes and comments easy.

The best thing about this option is that you probably already know how to use it, so there is no learning curve.

#2: Google Docs/Sheets

Google Docs can be used as a novel-writing software

Cost: Free.

Type: Word Process and spreadsheets.

As much as I like Microsoft Word (and I do), I prefer to use Google Docs and Sheets. It automatically stores everything in the cloud, and you can access it from anywhere. On top of that, it’s great for collaborations. You can watch revisions being made in real-time by your editor or beta readers.

And if you need to change the type of document before you send it off someone, you can. Google Docs allows you to convert your manuscript into a Word doc, PDF, or EPUB file for easy sharing.

The last thing that I love about Google Docs is that you can see all of your revisions in one place, which is an excellent option if you delete something and then need to read it later.

As for Google Sheets, they are great for keeping track of characters, scenes, and outlines. Spreadsheets allow you to get a sense of the elements of your book at a glance, and when you’re working on a 300-page document, distilling it down to useable information becomes necessary.

#3: Scrivener

Scrivener is a novel-writing software developed by writers for writers.

Cost: $67 (you can try the program for free first)

Type: Word processor.

Scrivener is by far one of the most popular novel-writing software out there. Both Mac and PC users can use the program. It was a program made for writers by writers. However, there are some pros and cons to using the software

On the pro side, it has a collection of templates for both fiction and nonfiction writing. You can also export books to other digital platforms like Kindle, Kobo, and iBooks, which will save you time when it comes to formatting your manuscript.

It’s also easy to drag and drops sections, create outlines and scenes, and develop sub-files to keep your manuscript organized. Additionally, Scrivener lets you keep track of all your research and notes with a project binder.

The biggest drawback of the program is that it doesn’t let you collaborate with others easily. In addition to this, there have been complaints when it comes to formatting the book itself. While the exportation part is easy, getting your manuscript in the right order can be a pain.

#4: Freedom

Cost: $6.99 per month (A free trial is available)

Type: Productivity app

Freedom allows you to block your biggest distractions online, including websites and mobile apps, for a set period. The page won’t load for you during that time. You can also schedule recurring sessions so that at a scheduled time (e.g., Mondays from 6 AM to 10 AM), you won’t be able to access the sites on your blocklist, even if you try.

I haven’t used it personally, but I hear nothing but great things about the app. It’s an excellent tool for you major procrastinators out there.

#5: FocusWriter

Cost: Free

Type: Productivity tool

The FocusWriter app helps you laser-focus your efforts into writing and nothing else. You can still format your novel and check your word count and daily goals via, but the default state is a blank page. You can also use full-screen mode, so the only thing you see is the page in front of you.

It’s simple and without a lot of bells and whistles, making it a perfect option for those who suffer from extreme procrastination cases.

#6: The Hemingway App

The Hemingway App is a novel-writing software that checks for grammar and style elements.

Cost: Free

Type: Grammar and style checker

Hemingway App is a free website that checks readability. You can copy and paste your writing into the website’s input box. Then it will grade your writing based on your use of adverbs, passive voice, and sentences as units.

I like the Hemingway App for its ability to pick out wordiness. (It’s a problem for me.) It’s great for making you cut your word usage down, and I sometimes use it in conjunction with Grammarly.

#7: Grammarly

Cost: Free. Paid plans are also available.

Type: Grammar and style checker

I’m a huge fan of Grammarly. It works well with Word and Google Docs. It also integrates into WordPress, which is handy for blog writing.

The free version of the app gets you the bare minimum of features, including correctness readings for grammar, punctuation, and spelling, conciseness on select sites, and tone detection on select sites. The premium plan, which is $11.66 per month, gives you a lot more feedback on your writing across multiple websites.

What I like most about Grammarly is that you can set “goals” for your writing. Goals can include who your audience is, how formal the writing should be, and what type of writing you’re doing (they have a creative mode).

If you’re a professional writer with a blog or a career author, I suggest going for the premium account. You will get your use out of the app.

This list of novel-writing software is by no-way complete. I wanted to give you the top seven out there on the market as well as ones that I use or have used in the past.

The main takeaway I want writers to take away from this post is that you don’t need any of these programs. The only two apps I’d say are a must-have are the grammar and style checkers, and they still can’t replace the talents and insights of a professional editor.

The real thing that you need to have to write a novel is self-discipline. That means making a habit of writing and resisting the urge to procrastinate or distract yourself from the task at hand.

You don’t need to use novel-writing software to write your book. All you need is an idea, an imagination, and the willingness to put in the work until you type “the end.”

Do you use any novel-writing software? What’s your favorite program?

Stay safe, everyone.

Until next time.



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Danielle Adams

Danielle Adams

Danielle Adams is a writer and editor for a local marketing agency. She has formerly worked as a writer for the Investing News Network and as an editor for Whetstone, a bi-annually published literary magazine. Aside from writing, Danielle has an unabiding love for all marine life and the outdoors. She loves taking long hikes with her husband and cooking delicious meals in the kitchen.


7 Responses

  1. I’ve used most mediums and am settling into Scrivener for its organising- and outlining-capabilities. A pretty weird thing to say since I’m mostly a pantser myself. Anyway, I explored this exact topic just two days ago myself, and I’ve found that many writers concern themselves much more on the tools rather than the actual work. Loved this. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Exactly! I’ve definitely fallen into the trap of starting to look into tools to use to help me get words on a page. Every time I do, I find that there’s an easier and often times cheaper solution to my problem.

      Do you like Scrivener? I’ve come back to that one a few times but don’t have a good enough excuse to buy the program.

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