The Best Book Writing Software: 15 Top Choices

If you're an author looking for the best book writing software apps, you've got plenty of great options.

I've written and published several books over the years. I'm also nerdy about writing software and have road-tested many different book writing apps

The good news is writers don't have to constrain themselves to Word.

You can choose from numerous writing applications for MacWindows and even mobile app options.

In fact, it's hard for an author to find the right book or novel writing tool.

Fear not.

This guide rounds up the key software programs that will help you become an author this year.

Just remember…

Looking for the best writing software should always come second to turning up and doing the work. 

Don't let your search for the perfect writing tool become a form of procrastination or writer's block!

BEST BOOK EDITING SOFTWARE
GRAMMARLY
  • Easy to use thanks to a great user interface
  • Features a powerful online grammar checker
  • Great writing insights
TRY GRAMMARLY →
PROWRITINGAID
  • Relatively accurate
  • Lots of nice features for self-editing
  • Suitable for fiction writers and Scrivener fans
TRY PROWRITINGAID →
SCRIVENER
  • Great for editing large manuscripts
  • Powerful writing and self-publishing features
  • Affordable
TRY SCRIVENER →

1. Scrivener

Scrivener is one of the top book writing software options on the market today. Writers developed this program specifically for writers. A “binder” view in Scrivener allows writers to break up their book into chapters and sections, reorganizing them with ease. 

You can also drag and drop individual sections or chapters within Scrivener, something that's comparably more complicated in Word. 

Scrivener presents a somewhat complicated and more clunky formatting setup compared to other tools in this guide; however, it's powerful and efficient once you figure it out. 

Scrivener
Scrivener

Writers can establish project targets including word counts and a status for each chapter. You can also use a focus mode and compile a manuscript for self-publishing. It syncs with Google Drive or Dropbox and includes a iOS version.

Use for: outlining, writing and editing any type of book.

Cost: $45

2. Living Writer

This is a newer type of book writing software and is accessible via a web browser. If you find Scrivener overwhelming and write a lot of fiction, this is a good book writing tool to consider.

Living Writer
Living Writer

It includes several templates for authors that will help you outline a story, novel or book faster. These include templates for:

  • The Hero's Journey
  • The 27 Chapter Method
  • The Seven Point Story
  • The Three Act Structure (my personal favorite).

Use for: outlines and writing a novel.

Cost: from $8 per month

3. Google Docs

Google Docs is a great word processor for editing, providing feedback and shifting the writing project's formatting. Google Docs is free, intuitive and does not require any added backups because all of the information is automatically stored on Google Drive.

Google Docs
Google Docs

Furthermore, Google Docs allows writers to collaborate with editors and beta readers.

With this free writing software platform, users can even watch changes take place in real time. Finally, the word processor can track changes in suggestion mode, which allows readers or editors to leave comments on a manuscript. 

If you really don't want to use Google Docs and need free book writing software, OpenOffice is a comparable alternative.

Use for: writing a book on the go.

Cost: free

4. Ulysses

This software is similar to Scrivener and is popular with authors. It supports a distraction-free writing environment. Basically, you're presented with a blank page, a flashing cursor and nothing else (menus, buttons, notifications).

And it enables users to arrange their writing using folders, tags and categories. It's not quite as complicated to use as Scrivener, however.

Ulysses writing app
Ulysses

Ulysses will compile and export your book into various formats and help you get it ready for self-publishing. Unlike Scrivener, it supports Markdown. It's available on iOS and Mac but not Windows.

I used Ulysses for several years to manage freelance writing projects and longer feature articles. It's like a cross between iA Writer, reviewed below, and Scrivener.

Use for: when you are working on a large project, as an alternative to Scrivener.

Cost: from $5.99 per month

5. Microsoft Word

Most writers learned how to use computers by playing around with Microsoft Word. To this day, Microsoft Word is still a popular writing platform. Microsoft Word is a basic word processing platform that provides numerous font styles, formatting options and stylistic features. 

Microsoft word
Microsoft word

Word also provides helpful editing features like a basic spell checker, grammar checker and even a “track changes” mode for writers who work with an editor. 

One of the biggest downsides of Word is that it becomes harder to work with the platform as the document gets longer. Microsoft Word is still a solid word processing and plain text option for writers.

Use for: when you have nothing else!

Cost: from $79.99

6. Vellum

While Scrivener and Microsoft Word can turn books into e-books, it's a little tricky to format them correctly. Vellum is the top option for creating gorgeous e-books from a manuscript.

Velum

 It will help you layout visually appealing print and Kindle e-books. The previewer lets writers see how their e-books will look on platforms such as:

  • Amazon Kindle
  • iPhone
  • Nook
  • Fire.

Furthermore, Vellum comes with customizable formatting options for your book or novel. For these reasons, Vellum is one of the top writing apps for e-book writers. I use it regularly.

Use for: preparing your book for self-publishing.

Cost: from $99.99

7. Grammarly

Grammarly is one of the top grammar checkers available today. The free version can highlight spelling errors, confusing prepositions and traditional grammatical mistakes. The premium version also helps writers identify passive voice issues, stylistic errors, repeated words and other writing issues. 

Grammarly
Grammarly

Whether you are writing a research paper, a novel, a short story or even a comic book, Grammarly is an essential tool for self-editing a book. It can also help mitigate inadvertent plagiarism.

Use for: grammar checking a book.

Cost: from $29.99

8. ProWritingAid

While no platform will ever replace an editor, ProWritingAid is a great grammar checker that can handle sentence structure, spelling and even stylistic shifts. ProWritingAid can help writers spot patterns that might be common in their work, thus improving and growing as a professional.

Editing a Scrivener book file in ProWritingAid
Editing a Scrivener book file in ProWritingAid

The free version is already outstanding. It can even be installed into a word processor. The paid version provides added support on vocabulary, style and sentence structure. These features make ProWritingAid one of the top grammar and spell check platforms available for helping writers meet their writing goals.

Use for: grammar checking a book, particularly fiction or with Scrivener.

Cost: from free to $25+ per month

9. Hemingway Editor

The Hemingway App is another outstanding self-editing tool. Ernest Hemingway way said, “Omit needless words.” This free book writing app will help you accomplish that and more while self-editing.

It is a grammar and writing style editing software that helps writers improve their sentences and clarify weak writing. This free software program checks readability.

Hemingway Editor
Hemingway Editor

After you've written a book chapter draft, paste it into the input box to check for lengthy and complex sentences. It will color-code your book chapter based on how easy or hard it is to read. 

This tool will identify unnecessary adverbs, instances of the passive voice and clunky sentence structure. Remember this free writing tool is not a replacement for a professional book editor.

I use it on book chapter drafts regularly.

Oh, and it's free.

Use for: self-editing your book.

Cost: free

10. YWriter

YWriter is an outstanding writing program that is free for writers to download. This word processor can help writers break the first draft of a novel into chapters and scenes. 

yWriter
YWriter

The program was designed for novel writing by providing plentiful stats and numerous tools for character and story development. 

This free book writing program has a brief learning curve. It doesn't offer either an Apple or Android app, and it also doesn’t provide screenwriting tools or templates. On the other hand, the benefits of YWriter far outweigh these drawbacks.

Use for: writing a novel.

Cost: from $11.95

11. iA Writer

iA Writer is a distraction-free writing app that helps writers focus on note-taking, outlines and plain text. It supports Markdown and allows users to export directly to WordPress and Medium. 

 iA Writer
iA Writer

(Markdown is a way of writing text for the web faster using hashtags, the asterisk and other symbols)

It is available for iPhoneiPad macOS and now Windows and Android. For those looking for a minimalistic writing experience, this tool is a good choice. 

While iA Writer does not have many features for organizing or arranging files via drag and drop, it includes basic formatting features such as underline, bold and italics. It also looks good on larger monitors and screens. 

The focus mode user interface highlights the specific line on which writers are working, helping them cancel out all background noise.

Use for: writing short chapters.

Cost: $29.99

12. Evernote

Evernote is an outliner and note-taking tool that provides writers with the ability to customize their notes for a book. 

While this app wasn't specifically designed for writers and is too clunky to write a book, it's useful for research, particularly if you write nonfiction. It's basically a supplementary tool for the writing process.

Evernote writing app
Evernote

With Evernote, you can tag and organize documents, interviews and other source material for your book. You can also upload an Evernote document as a PDF.  

It is supported on AndroidiOS and Windows. All content is stored and backed up to the cloud. 

Use for: researching your book.

Cost: from free to $5 per month

13. Dynalist

Dynalist is a useful tool for arranging ideas into lists and sub-lists and is available via a web browser. It also offers apps for MacWindowsAndroid and iOS

Dynalist - writing app
Dynalist

If you're the type of writer who likes to outline your work in advance, Dynalist is particularly useful. Think of it as a portable index card. I use it to create rough outlines for book chapters quickly. 

Then I either dictate my first draft using speech to text software or employ a dictation service like Rev. I refer to my outline rather than typing out my draft.

Use for: outlining a book.

Cost: from free to $9.99 per month

14. Pages

Pages is Apple‘s answer to Microsoft Word. I used Pages to write a 100,000 word manuscript. It's a pleasant and elegant writing app

Pages
Pages

However, it's not quite as powerful as Word. I also found it difficult to navigate my manuscript in Pages and eventually moved it to Scrivener.

That said, Pages is available on iOS for free and comes with your Mac. You can also sync a book manuscript to iCloud. 

Use for: writing a book on a Mac for free.

Cost: free

15. FocusWriter

Focus Writer is a popular distraction-free writing app. It's available for Windows and Mac. Like iA Writer, Ulysses and some other writing tools in this guide, it provides some useful tools for authors like a target word count

Focus Writer
Focus Writer

You can choose between themes including black text on a white screen and green text on a black screen like an old-skool computer. 

I write on a 27-inch iMac, and I found the app oddly overwhelming on a large screen. iA Writer just looked better. That said, this book writing tool is free, so authors can't go wrong.

Use for:  writing a first draft on a laptop.

Cost: free.

Find the Right Online Writing Tool

These are a few of the top creative writing and text editor tools available today for aspiring authors.

I gravitate toward IA Writer, ScrivenerGrammarly and ProWritingAid. I also use Dynalist and speech to text software. Each of these choices has its strengths and weaknesses.  

Your writing process is probably different from mine.

So consider the pros and cons of the writing tools in this guide and how they support your preferred writing style

Then start writing your next book.

Your journey toward becoming a best-selling author starts today.

Book Writing Software FAQs

What is the best book writing software for Mac?

Having written and published several books, I believe the best book writing software for a Mac is Scrivener. It enables writers and authors to manage large manuscripts and self-edit faster. It helps with preparing a book for self-publishing, and Apple Mac users can also try the Scrivener app for iOS.

Which Dragon software is best for writing a book?

Outlining a book using speech to text software is faster than novel writing via typing. I recommend using Dragon Professional Individual. You can also use Nuance Dragon Anywhere mobile app. Both versions will transcribe your words relatively accurately.

What is the best free software for writing a book?

If you want to write a book using free software, Google Docs is a good choice. It's available everywhere and will back up a draft safely to Google Drive. I particularly like Google Docs, as it will auto-generate an outline of your book if you format headings and sub-headings appropriately. Authors can use this outline in the left-hand sidebar to quickly navigate from one section in their book, manuscript or novel to the next.

How much do book writing software programs cost?

If money is an issue and you want free book writing software, use Google Docs or Open Office. If you have a small budget, invest in a dedicated minimalist writing app like iA Writer. These typically cost $10-$20. Word costs about $79, making it a more expensive choice. If you're more serious about becoming an author, buy Scrivener for $45. A Vellum license for $99 will also help.

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