The thoughts and work of Sam Witt

The Write Tools

There are way too many writing tools on the market. One of my guilty pleasures is loading up on these digital ink wells and experimenting with their functionality for days at a time to see how they’ll fit into my workflow. If you added up all the hours I’ve procrastinated under the guise of testing writing apps, you’d end up with time enough to write an entire novel. Maybe even a series of novels, if they were short and trashy with lots of nudity and explosions.
To help you avoid the tedious, time-sucking task of selecting the best writing apps I’ve put together the following list. I know these are the best, because they’re what I use every day.

  1. ia Writer (iPad and Mac). This isn’t a super-fancy text editor, but it does some very important things. First, it syncs with Dropbox. Second, it allows me to work seamlessly on my iPad or Macbook Air. Third, it blocks out the distractions of font selection, screen color, line spacing, or any of that other fancy formatting jazz that can prevent you from the Serious Business of banging out words with your monkey fists. It looks nice, has a useful soft keyboard, and won’t get in your way. Plus, it’s cheap – for $10 you can get a useful, pretty text editor on both your Mac and your iPad.  I use ia Writer for all my actual writing. It’s fast and clean and won’t get in my way. You don’t need anything else.
  2. Scrivener (Mac and Windows). I don’t do any real writing in Scrivener, but I do use it for final edits and assembling finished works for export to ePub and Kindle formats. Scrivener is inexpensive ($45), but packed to the gills with features that writers of all stripes will love. It has powerful outlining and organizational tools, and every time I open it I’m tempted to tinker with its shiny knobs, buttons, and levers. It is so tempting to my inner geek that I cannot use it to actually write, which is why it gets relegated to editing and production work. That’s a personal failing on my part — if you aren’t prone to losing hours fiddling around with your software, then Scrivener is probably the only tool you need.
  3. Index Card (iPad). Years of painful pantsing made it very clear to me that I require the structure of a good outline if I’m going to write anything worth reading. Before the iPad, I did all of my outlining with the help of index cards, onto which I would scribble my fevered scene concepts. That system worked, but it was slow, the cards had limited space, and if someone at the coffee shop bumped my stack of cards off the table it was a serious pain in the ass to get them back in order.  Index Card gives me all of the functionality and flexibility of physical note cards, with none of the drawbacks. The killer feature, for me, is the ability to group your note cards into neat little bundles – if you’re used to writing your outlines by novel section, this is super useful.

So that’s it – you do not need any other tools to get your writing on. You may want them, but don’t make the same mistake that I did. Pick tools that do what you need (outline, text editing, assembly) and stick with them.
Otherwise, you risk turning your Great American Novel into the Great Internet App review.

About Sam

I am the author of the popular Pitchfork County series of horror novels. I also write a newsletter with great reading suggestions and free fiction.