Writing in this day and age requires computers. Yes, you can still write longhand or with typewriters, I’ve been known to do both myself, but if you’re writing for publication, word processors are a necessity. Fortunately, there are a number of great ones out there, some with incredibly helpful features. I’m only going to be talking about the software I have used myself but I’ll link to a few that I’ve heard good things about from some of my writer friends. I won’t put my personal stamp of approval on them because I don’t have any experience with them. It’s been a lot of years since I last used any Apple software so this list is all PC compatible. Sorry – we switched to PC after my Apple IIgs because the games were better for PC at the time.
Microsoft Word: While I’m not thrilled about the default format settings at all, Word is the easiest word processor. There might be frills and fancies you can use via Word but I’ll be perfectly honest, I just open the file, mess with the formatting, and put words down. I’ll use the spellcheck when I remember to and the edit function makes my life super easy. The best part about Word though is that it’s pretty universal. Every publisher I’ve worked with uses Word and edits and notes don’t always transition well to other universal programs. It is a simple, easy to use word processor program with a few bells and whistles and a good template library. I don’t like the default settings and it doesn’t want to accept my changes but that’s what templates are for! I don’t need a lot of bells and whistles to write. Sometimes they’re nice to have but I don’t outline, I keep my story bibles in spreadsheet form (usually), and too many whistles makes me want to play instead of work.
Open Office: I haven’t used this one in a while but before I was able to get Word, my budget meant that it was Open Office all the way. It’s budget friendly, full of all the same basic features of Word, can be tweaked to recognize all the edit/notes from a Word file, and is excellent if you’re working with someone with entirely different software systems. It’s pretty simple to use and figure out the features of and, like Word, has an excellent template selection. The defaults for Open Office were perfect when I was using it but it’s been about 6 years since I was a regular Open Office user.
yWriter: I was just telling someone about this one and redownloaded it myself. Years ago, I used this for all my zero drafts because it has a few features that the other software options don’t (or if they do, they aren’t nearly as user-friendly and I don’t know where they are). This writing software has some very specific bells and whistles that can be incredibly useful. Character profiles, chapter and scene dividers, easily accessible location notes, a daily word count function (very helpful for NaNoWriMo), a synopsis report (if you do description by chapter anyway), and item notes. The way it’s designed keeps all the information at hand when you’re working on the project. I tend to keep my series bible in my head but with the memory issues I’ve been having, I find myself looking up things more and more. Using yWriter, all of that information is right at hand. Another nice bit is that because it’s divided by scene, you can move scenes around if it fits somewhere else better or you find yourself restructuring your time line. No cut or paste or copy, just a simple move. This is the software I’ll be using for my zero draft this NaNoWriMo.
Google Docs: This one I haven’t used much except during the beta process – it makes it so easy to share files and comments about those files. It does require being online but it functions like Microsoft Word but it’s online and you can access it from any capable device without issue.
Grammarly: I am a comma killer. I can’t help it. Of course, I’m lucky if I remember to use spell check at all. Grammarly is nice because it just works while I’m working and I don’t even really have to think about it.
Scrivener: I haven’t used this but I’ve heard good things about it and I have writer friends who’ve recommended it in the past. This one seems especially useful for people who use extensive outlines.
FocusWriter: I haven’t used this. It seems like it would be very useful for someone who is easily distracted.
If you’ve got a favorite software that I haven’t listed, please share it!