Every profession has tools of the trade. Plumbers have it, carpenters do, and so do the surgeons and artists.
Writers do need tools too. But we never think of it that way.
For a long time, a pen and notebook were all you needed, to write.
When typewriters were invented, they were considered the only tool that a writer needed to write professionally.
When computers replaced the typewriters, writers were over the moon and reached heaven. Now they could make corrections on the go, write books directly on the keyboard and print several copies of their manuscript with the press of a button.
But that is where their investment in tools ended.
Unlike other professionals, we writers don’t like to invest money in tools. We like to do without than fork out a few hundred dollars or a regular subscription to produce our best work.
The next key to successful writing is having the right tools. Imagine a painter. Would he buy the cheap stuff to produce his masterpiece, or would he buy the artist-quality brushes and paint?
We might buy more gardening tools each year that we use a few times a year than the writing tools which we need every day.
As a writer and an artisan of the highest quality, you must find your tools. And you must master them.
There are 5 essential tools for writers.
1. Writing App
A writing app is the most important tool you will use all the time. I love Medium’s clean interface. Even though it has limited editing functionality, it still allows me to do all I need to do to write articles.
I also like Substack and use it to send my newsletter. It has recently added many more features to its interface.
For writing books, I used Reedsy’s Free Editor. It provides not only a clean interface but also formats and creates professional ePub (for publication) and print-ready files in seconds.
Other than these, there are many other apps that are useful for specific purposes.
If you are writing fiction, Scrivener is a popular application that allows the plotting, outlining, and formatting of a novel. It also provides templates for writing essays, recipe collections, screenplays, and comic books, making it a versatile application.
Whether you’re writing a blog post or a full-length novel, the seed of an idea doesn’t get too far without the ability to organize that idea into a cohesive piece of writing. That’s exactly what Ulysses allows you to do: organize your thoughts into a well-written work.
Ulysses boasts a slightly more clean and simple interface than Scrivener, so if ease of use is high on your priority list, Ulysses might be a better option for you.
In addition, Ulysses offers a very helpful WordPress and Medium integration, which bloggers love.
Reedsy Book Editor
Reedsy Book Editor is a free, online word processor that formats your book as you write. See your drafts automatically turn into a professional-looking, ready-to-publish manuscript — and allow this glimpse of your work as the final product to spur your motivation to write.
If you want a writing tool that takes care of formatting and conversion for you Reedsy Book Editor is it. And it is free.
If you need a tap on the shoulder to remind you to write your daily quota of words, then Draft is your tool. It will send you daily email reminders about your daily word count goals. So, if you want to build the habit of writing every day, Draft is the application for you.
It functions like Google Docs, allowing you to do track changes, collaborate via suggested edits, and make comments on the doc.
And it is FREE.
LibreOffice is an open-source application for people who want to use Microsoft without paying the premium price. LibreOffice is free.
And it’s compatible with all of the regular file types people are used to, such as .doc, .docx, .xls, .xlsx, .ppt, and .pptx files.
If you like a classic word processor and a free one, try it.
Mellel is for Mac users who want more than Mac’s inbuilt Pages app offers. From their website, “Mellel is the leading word processor for Mac. Powerful, flexible, and reliable, it will help you write your book, academic paper, or doctoral thesis — from outlining your ideas to a finished manuscript.”
Mellel is not free (and it’s only for Mac). It has more book-specific tools than traditional word processing — such as outlining and bibliography-making.
2. Editing Tools
Grammarly is subscription-based and does spellcheck, punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure. It’s spellcheck real-time assistance to improve a content’s clarity, cohesiveness, fluency, and vocabulary. Its most significant benefit is that it will plug in wherever you are writing.
ProWritingAid will proofread and spell-check your material for you, no matter where you’re writing. It will also offer suggestions to improve your overall language — outside of just grammatical technicalities. You can buy it with a one-off payment.
The difference between the two is that ProWriting Aid is tailored more towards fiction writers, while Grammarly is a slightly better fit for articles and essay writers.
Some writers swear by the Hemingway app. They claim that the application makes their writing concise and clear. It has several handy features, like a word counter and an automatic readability score. But its real use lies in making suggestions to your prose. It will highlight a complex sentence that’s hard to read and instances of passive voice, qualifiers, and adverbs.
If you want to avoid clichés like the plague, you can add Cliché Finder to your toolbox. And for free. It combs through your writing in search of clichés and then highlights them.
3. Notes Taking Tools
Taking notes and filing those in such a way that they are easily accessible when needed is the primary requirement of a writer. Good notes taking applications make the process seamless. Many writers struggle because they can’t remember the story or the case study or the perfect quote when they need it. A notes app solves that problem. There are several in the market.
Evernote is perhaps the most known of the lot. It lets you quickly jot down thoughts, record audio notes, and save online articles you’re hoping to reference, and it will sync all of this information across all of your Evernote-installed devices. It has a free version with basic functionality and a paid version for premium users.
Notion is a project management and note-taking software. It is an all-in-one workspace for your notes, tasks, and databases. Basically, it’s a tool that you can use to organize your thoughts, projects, and information. Mainly used by companies, Notion is basically a product management tool that combines all collaborative and management applications in one. Many writers find it useful during collaborative writing projects.
Obsidian is a powerful knowledge base on top of a local folder of plain text Markdown files. Its strength lies in its simplicity and offline nature. You always have access to your files (markdown) and don’t have to rely on the internet. Also, there is no security threat or data being lost or transferred to third parties.
Roam Research is easy to use as a word document or bulleted list, and as powerful for finding, collecting, and connecting related ideas as a graph database. It is my favorite notes taking app. I really like its daily diary and ability to connect thoughts.
Milanote is an easy-to-use creative writing app to organize your research, ideas, characters, and outline in one place. Designed particularly for novelists, it is suitable for plotters who prefer a flexible workspace to organize ideas and see a birds-eye view of how your story outline is coming together.
4. Newsletters Apps
As a writer, you need to build your reader base and communicate with them regularly. Newsletter Apps help you do exactly that. There are several newsletter apps in the market and all of them are fiddly and expensive.
MailChimp email marketing service for managing mailing lists and creating email marketing campaigns to send to customers. It was one of the first email marketing services and hence could grab a big share of the market for many years. It is fiddly and the most expensive of the lot. However, it offers much more in-depth analytics — especially with its Standard plan and above.
Convertkit is basically for creators and has better functionality and interface than MailChimp. But it is more expensive. Convetkit has great support and training for new users.
Mailerlite is the most affordable of the three. It offers a simple reporting dashboard, and usual metrics for email campaign activity, subscriber engagement, devices, popular links, click maps, and opens by location.
Substack is not a newsletter like the above three, but it is a newsletter writing platform. It allows writers to communicate whatever they have written to their readers with the click of a button. It has a beautiful interface and is free to use as long as you are sending free newsletters. Once you start charging for your newsletter, Substack start taking a cut. It makes sense to use Substack to stay intact with your reader base.
5. Speech To Text
There was a time when Dragon Naturally Speaking was the only speech-to- text application. Now there are several. My favorite is Otter.ai, which is in fact an application to transcribe meetings. It has 98% accuracy, better than any other speech-to- text application. It has a free plan available which is enough for your needs as a writer.
To Sum Up
Now you know what tools are available, you can choose which one is right for you.
Subscribe to my newsletter at A Whimsical Writer for more tips and motivation.