Whether it’s an essay for college, a report for work, or the epic novel that you’ve alway wanted to write, getting the words our of your head and down on paper - or on screen - can be hard work, especially in this day and age with so many distractions to deal with.
Fortunately, there’s a whole host of tech available to help make the process that bit easier, as this 'best writing software and gadgets for writers' list proves. It includes gadgets to help you get down your first draft, software to help block distractions, and tools to help you edit and improve your prose.
A decent notebook goes without saying, and Word and Google Docs are also no-brainers, but they’ll only go so far towards helping you reach the finish line, so below you'll find the best gadgets and software to help ease your path towards literary stardom.
The best writing software and gadgets for writers
1. Scrivener 3
It can be a little overwhelming at first, but there’s a reason Scrivener is the novelists tool of choice. It’s made by writers, for writers, so there’s a whole host of functionality here that will help you plan and organise your writing as you go.
Create folders for documents, track your progress and word-count, export into a dozen or so different formats and store your research alongside your writing. Best of all, you can get a free 30 day trial that actually gives you 30 days of usage - not just 30 days of ownership - before asking you to upgrade. Even then, the full license is very reasonably priced and well worth a buy.
reMarkable allows you to write and sketch on a screen that feels like paper. The e-ink display is easy on the eye and the included stylus really does feel different than writing on any other tablet, and yes, due to a fairly recent software updates, it does include OCR, so you can write away and convert to digital text later on.
The Remarkable 1 is a great, compact device for taking notes or sketching, and that screen is as close to writng or drawing on paper as you can get. It's a unique experience, and we can’t wait to try the much improved reMarkable 2.
The Freewrite is a bit bonkers, but its also kind of brilliant, too. It’s a full-size, tactile, keyboard with a small e-ink screen. It connects to your Wi-Fi, but only to upload and download files, so there’s no distractions, and there’s also no backspace key, either. Weird, right? But what you’re left with here is a device that’s designed to help you put down as many words, with as few distractions, as possible. That makes it pretty unique.
The original Freewrite is a bit of a beast and you’re unlikely to lug it down to the local coffee shop, so we’re glad to see they’ve recently launched a more portable Traveller edition. And yes, it's costly, but many users swear by it and that keyboard is a pleasure to write with.
4. Rocketbook Smart Reusable Notebook
Whiteboards are super useful writing aids, but they take up a load of wall space. A brilliant alternative is a reusable notebook. The Rocketbook is basically an A4 pad of re-usable pages that you can write on, then wipe clean.
The Rocketbook will also sync with Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote and more. It's not cheap, but it's a lot more environmentally friendly than using paper, and if you're not interested in archiving your notes for prosperity, it's a great way to loosen up your mind. It's basically a whiteboard you can take anywhere.
5. Livescribe 2GB Echo Smartpen
If you prefer to write long-hand but don’t fancy using a tablet, then the Livescribe might just be the perfect solution for you. It’s the best smartpen on the market right now, and does a fine job of capturing your hand-writing and turning it into digital text. This version also records audio - linking it to your text - that can be replayed just by tapping on your notes. It uses special paper to make all that work, so be aware that there's an additional cost there, but as far as smartpens go, the Echo is currently the best you can get.
How are you supposed to finish your masterpiece when you keep getting distracted? One way is to use a tool like Freedom, which allows you to block distracting websites and apps across your all of your devices. Simply tell it which sites and apps you need blocked, and Freedom takes care of the rest. It also includes scheduling functionality, so you can plan your distraction free writing time in advance.
Another writing tool created by writers, for writers, Novlr offers many of the tools Scrivener does, but in a much prettier package. Simplicity is key here, with a super-clean focus mode, day, evening and night modes, and - one area where it’s way ahead of Scrivener - the ability to access your work from just about any device.
There’s also a no commitment free trial available, after which prices start at $8.33 per month.
When it comes to editing your writing it’s best to get it off the screen so you can read it with fresh eyes. While that used to mean printing it out, now you can simply move it to a different screen! Send a word doc to your kindle email address and you can read your work, and make notes, with ease.
Of course, this method will work fine on any device that works with Kindle app, so you’re phone will do the job just fine, but to recreate the reading experience your audience wil have, a Kindle is perfect.
9. Hemingway App
Hemingway App is a free to use online tool that can help improve your writing. Paste in a block of text, and it will analyse your writing and make suggestions to increase readabiity.
The focus here is on simplifying your prose, removing weak phrases and getting rid of useless words. It's super simple to use and highly recommended if you're looking to reduce word count, without effecting the impact of your work.
10. Miracle Cube Timer
Writing in sprints is a great way to improve your productivity. There are plenty of online tools to use for this - Horo Timer is a great free tool for Mac owners - but a physical timer can sometimes prove more effective. Miracle Cube Timer is a simply little gadget that you can use to keep track of sprints. With set times of 5, 15, 30 and 60 minutes, it's a cheap and cheerful way to make sure you're giving your brain a break and keep focused on moving forwards and getting the words down on the page.
Alternatives are available, but Dropbox seems to be the cloud storage service that most writing tools and apps will happily sync with. Believe us, saving your fantasy epic in the cloud, rather than on your desktop or laptop, is going to be the smartest thing you ever do when your computer next decides to give up the ghost.
A basic plan is free, but the Plus plan for individuals, offering 2TB of storage, will set you back £7.99 pm.