Essential Apps for Writers

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Part of being successful as a writer is finding a routine that works for you. Over the past several years, I’ve developed my own personal writing process. TLDR—I couldn’t do it without a whole bunch of apps. Some of the ones I use are intended for writers, while others just happen to be helpful when you’re struggling to get your story down on paper. Here’s a shortlist of my favorites.

Story Planner: I fucking love this app. It’s a simple and intuitive but incredibly comprehensive story planning tool, as the name suggests. You can plan your characters, plot, themes, setting. You can plan pretty much everything, and track your progress along the way. I tend to be all over the place with organizing my writing, and this app makes it a lot easier to get all my literary ducks in a row.

Lists for Writers: This unassuming little app is a Godsend when you’re struggling for inspiration, especially deciding on the details of a story. There are loooooonng lists of things like names and personality traits, plot ideas, even words and idioms for when you know what you want to say but not how to say it. These lists have saved me so many times—you can kind of get a story together just exploring the app. It’s addicting.

Mind Node: Allows you to make mind maps (thought webs) very quickly. I find it helpful as far as beginning to flesh out an idea. It’s relational storyboarding—you can start with a single thought, and see what grows from it.

Living Writer: Living Writer is a great alternative to the complicated, expensive (but popular) story planning app Scrivener. Living Writer lets you plan every aspect of your story and offers many other features to help you get inspired then turn that inspiration into a story. It’s $10 a month, but totally worth it in my opinion. You can plan and organize characters, settings, plot, and every other dimension of a story down to the smallest detail. You can use it to design cover art. My favorite feature Living Writer offers is several plot templates that help you structure your story—this is extremely useful for me, since plot is the element of fiction I struggle with most. It’s great having a template to help with pacing. Living Writer is also Cloud based, constantly backing up your work, and allows you to collaborate with other writers. In summary, there’s almost nothing Living Writer can’t do.

Werdsmith: Less impressive (but still great) version of Living Writer and Scrivener. There’s a little more to it than that, but that’s the gist of it. Werdsmith bills itself as a “portable writer’s studio” and that’s a pretty accurate description. You can plot, write, format, and completely organize a novel, in addition to features like progress tracking and templates that allow for different types of projects. And
unlike Scrivener and Living Writer, Werdsmith is free.

Writing Challenge: Writing prompt app with a unique approach. You begin a story off of a single prompt, and as you write, the app gives you more prompts to incorporate into your story. You might be told to use a particular word, or include a certain object. It’s the ultimate exercise in free writing—great for getting creative juices flowing and possibly starting a story.

Fiverr and Upwork: As mentioned in my post on making money writing, these are both essentially huge job board sites for freelancers. You can find any kind of writing job on here, including creative / fiction ghostwriting. Creating a profile and portfolio is relatively easy. Many of the jobs don’t pay particularly well, but it’s a good place to start.

Evernote: Organizing information is incredibly important as a writer, and this app allows you to do just that. Evernote is a note taking app, but it’s really much more than that; Evernote helps you make sure that everything is where it belongs. You can easily clip and save articles and images from the web, upload and organize files, scan documents, and then combine these things into a single note if you want. I find it very helpful in organizing research and planning a story.

Creative Writer: Especially great for poets and musicians. Creative Writer is essentially
a “word suggestion” app to help fight writer’s block—very helpful when you don’t know where to start. As you type, even before you type anything, the app gives you a large bank of words to choose from. Select one, then another, then another…you get the idea. Creative Writer basically does half the work for you. They also have different themed “packs” of words, like lyrics, romance, and food. Both useful and super fun.

Day One: I think that in order to create great characters, you have to kind of be obsessed with them. Get to know them a little too well. One of my favorite ways to do this is write a journal from my character’s perspective. Day One is a journal app—a really good journal app—that I find helpful when I’m trying to really get inside a character’s head. You can create multiple journals, add pictures, and organize everything easily.

Facetune: Getting to know your characters too well, round two. Facetune is an app for photoshopping, so well designed that absolutely zero skill is required to make yourself look ten times better than you actually look. I don’t advise doing this excessively on social media because then people will be disappointed when they meet you, but that’s aside the point and I actually use the app for a whole different purpose. Even though I think writers often place too much emphasis on characters’ physical descriptions, I definitely like to be able to really picture my characters before I write them. Start with a photo of a friend, celebrity, or random person, then change up their features, hair color, body type, etc. It’s just another exercise to get to know your characters, and it’s also kind of fun in a slightly creepy way.

Canva: Canva is a free design app that allows you to create just about any type of graphic you want. There’s a huge number of templates to choose from, and a large library of stock photos available for use. Very helpful for blogging, cover art…anything visual. It’s super easy and flexible.

Pinterest: Pinterest is quite popular and most people know what it is, so I hesitated to include it on this list; but I thought it would be worth it to share HOW I use Pinterest as a writer. I literally don’t know what I’d do without it. For anyone who doesn’t know, Pinterest is essentially a virtual scrapbook, that allows you to save images and links from all over the internet and organize them in “boards” (folders). I use it for saving writing tips, mood boarding for setting and character development, deciding how a character looks (search character inspiration insert broad description and thousands of aesthetic photos of people will show up), finding prompts when I need inspiration—the possibilities are genuinely limitless.

Word Palette:
Another solid stream of consciousness, inspiration inducing word suggestion app. Similar to Creative Writer.

Hemingway: This is the only app on this list not available on IOS, although there is an online mobile version. I thought I’d include it because it’s one of my favorites. Hemingway is a free word processor that allows you to do a bunch of cool stuff Microsoft doesn’t—it’ll tell you if your sentences are too long, or if you’re using too many adverbs. It doesn’t just check grammar. Hemingway helps you actually write better.

I use all of the aforementioned apps constantly, but ultimately all my writing gets saved in Google Docs. I find it to be much, much better than MS Word or other desktop word processors. Google automatically saves your stuff online, second by second. It also allows multiple people to collaborate and write in one document simultaneously.

All of the apps on this list are best when used in combination—most of them are very good about transferring writing to other apps and backing things up, so they’re easy to integrate into your routine. One key to good writing is simply having the right tools. Get it down to a science and you’re halfway there. ✍️