Writing software can help you provide a distraction-free writing environment, a collaborative writing environment, or a highly-structured writing environment. Many writing tools can also be used to format your book by exporting it formats like PDF and EPUB.
IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER
Draft is a writing, editing, collaboration, and publishing tool you access online using your browser. Each contributor’s changes show up in different colors, with “accept” and “reject” options. You can mark major revisions, find and revert to previous versions, import docs from Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive, and publish directly to places like WordPress, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and even MailChimp. They’ve provided a handy Chrome extension that lets you turn any text area on the web into something you can write and edit with Draft. You can even hire a human editor via the program.
Draft makes it clear what changes have been made and lets you collaborate with many others in the cloud.
You can email a document to your Draft account and create a simple presentation, then select segments of writing and the “simplify” robot catches common words and duplicate words and attempts to detect and delete unimportant sentences. More features include an audio-video transcription tool, analytics, and a website builder tool. “Hemingway Mode” provides distraction-free writing.
Draft is free, but donations unlock more benefits.
Google docs is a word processor in the cloud and works great for sharing and collaboration. I use it to collaborate with my author-clients. We can work on marketing plans and other tasks at the same time or separately. I like Google spreadsheets (we use it to figure out the schedule for the SF Writers Conference), and forms (which I use to ask questions to my mailing list). Free.
Hemingway is a distraction-free writing tool that displays a row of formatting elements across the top for bold, italics, bulleting, numbering, headings, and links. Slide it from WRITE mode into EDIT and you’ll get a clean, visual take on what might be wrong with your writing. The word and character counters are also very handy.
With the $10 desktop app for Mac and Windows you can import and export your text to Word, and export as HTML or Markdown language for your blogging platform, WordPress, or CMS files.
Some people like to write and edit in Hemingway and then import them into a tool called StackEdit, a browser-based Markdown editor, though you could easily use any of the other tools I’ve already mentioned.
The browser-based version is free. The desktop app for Mac and Windows costs $10.
Microsoft Word is the most popular program for writing, designing and formatting a book interior. Over the years it has evolved from a simple word processing application to a sophisticated page layout program.
To format a book interior, you’ll need to learn about Word Styles. Styles automate character, section, and paragraph formatting. This is how Word “programs” your document to display your book correctly in all the ebook reading devices.
When you work in Word to format your book, it’s essential that you use Styles instead of line and paragraph breaks, spaces and tabs.
I wrote a how-to guide about this. Download it free at Smashwords with code EC55D. (One of the reasons I like Smashwords is that they have the ability to discount and offer freebies with coupon codes. See more about them in Book Aggregation & Distribution.
$149.99 or $69..9/yr. Get book design templates for Word at http://bit.ly/interiorbdt.
OpenOffice is a free, open-source version of Word that works on Windows, Max, and Linux.
Ulysses for Mac
Ulysses is a writing environment for Mac, iPhone, and iPad. Its pleasant, focused writing experience, combined with document management, synchronization between devices, and export to PDF, EPUB, and DOC, make Ulysses popular with iOS users. $39.99/yr
Scrivener is one of my favorite book creation tools. It’s a desktop writing and organization app with an amazing feature set that can help you develop stories and books. I use it to organize and write blog posts and articles, too. You can export your book to many formats. And import your Scrivener doc into Vellum for final formatting.
Vellum is advanced software and requires some patience with the learning curve.
$45 desktop application with a 30-day free trial.
The WriteMonkey folks describe their free Windows desktop app as “zenware” for writers. Like Hemingway and Draft, WriteMonkey offers a stripped-down, distraction-free writing environment. You can customize your background, font, and what you see in the toolbar, such as word count, with a progress bar and the current time.
More advanced features are available as well, such as the ability to manage separate chapter files in a book-length work using a “Jumps” feature.
You write in simple text, formatting using Markdown language or the Textile markup language if you like. You can export to HTML and upload it to the web as a page or a blog post.
WriteMonkey is supported by donations. Your donation gives you access to many plugins that are available separately.
yWriter is a free word processor for Windows with a beta for iOS. It was created by an author and programmer. It breaks your novel into chapters and scenes, helping you keep track of your work while leaving your mind free to create.