5 Must-Have Tools That Should Be In Every Writer’s Toolkit

It’s no secret that writing a book is a monumental achievement for a reason. Beyond a deep understanding of story and writing mechanics, the sheer willpower that you need to craft a satisfying book is definitely non-negligible. That said, you needn’t go at it alone: a ton of useful resources exist on the Internet precisely to assist you in finishing your book.

Almond Press already covers many of the traditional must-need resources in some excellent posts (here’s an extensive catalog of writing competitions, for instance, and a great self-publishing guide)! So this post will dive into some modern apps that can really boost your writing experience. Without further ado, these are 5 tools that should go into every author’s toolkit.

Scrivener

While Microsoft Word is a perfectly serviceable word processor for most people, it’s not actually ideal for writers. And that’s for a pretty simple reason: Word (and the entire Microsoft Suite, as a matter of fact) was built for businessmen. In other words, people who needed a quick and dirty platform to write memos and reports.

So Word works perfectly for a certain subset of the population. For writers, though, Word is a bit of a clunky nightmare. What are all of these unnecessary buttons, for instance, and why do they exist? Why is the Table of Contents feature so hard to use when all you want to do is format this nonfiction book perfectly? And that’s not even to mention the total absence of professional typesetting options that Word offers to format a beautiful book.

But don’t fret too much! Into this vacuum stepped a few great options for writers. Scrivener is a pretty popular app that was built specifically for authors — it combines outlining, writing, and researching into one powerful platform. That said, it costs a pretty penny to use ($45), so if you’re after a more simple and no-frills writing app, give FocusWriter or WriteMonkey a whirl.

Note that these platforms won’t typeset your book or convert it to a publish-ready format, though. So if publishing is already on your mind, you can also check out the Reedsy Book Editor. Whichever one you choose, there’s a bunch of options out there, and you needn’t ever settle for Microsoft Word ever again.

Cofftivity

The brain is a fascinating and incredibly mighty organ. It can generate 12 to 25 watts of electricity on the regular, is capable of computing 10 to the 16th operations per second — and other times is weirdly only willing to write when there’s some sort of ambient noise around.

Not just any kind of ambient noise, either! Chairs squeaking, the murmur of peripheral conversations, and the steady drip of a coffee machine are generally optimal. To be more specific: the noise of a coffee shop is sometimes what can really get a writer’s mind going.

Luckily, I’ve got some good news for you: there’s an app for that. If you’re one of the many authors who finds that they can’t write unless they’re in a coffee shop, you might often be in despair because, well, you can’t situate yourself in a coffee shop all the time. So the solution is easy: you can bring the coffee shop to you. Cofftivity (my educated guess is that it’s a smush of “coffee” and “productivity”) can simulate a bunch of different atmospheres, from “Morning Murmur” to “Lunchtime” Lounge” and “University Undertones” to “Brazil Bistro.” And the best part is that this potential boost to your creativity is absolutely free to use.

Diffchecker

When authors start a book without a title in mind, they might casually name the file “Untitled-1” in their computers. As the story progresses, it’d just be common sense to call each draft “Untitled-2” and “Untitled-3” and so on and so forth until the exhausted writer ultimately arrives at the end of the book with “Untitled-222.” As you might imagine, that can become a nightmare when you’re editing your story to make it the best that it can be —  and frantically going back through your drafts to try to remember the difference between “Untitled-178” and “Untitled-179.”

That’s when Diffchecker can step into the picture. This app can scan two documents and check for any differences between them. Not to mention that its interface is intuitive and extremely simple to use. So the next time that you forget what changes you made on which draft, don’t waste time going through each document in your archives: just pop them into Diffchecker for an easy audit.

Diigo

A tool for knowledge and workflow management, Diigo might as well be called Pocket on crack. On its website, Diigo says that it offers a number of features, including (deep breath): an easy bookmarking system, tagging features, an outliner for research, virtual sticky notes, and the ability to share your research with group through a collaborative platform.

For authors in particular, Diigo is a godsend when it comes to researching books. Ever stumble upon a random piece of information that you nonchalantly think might be pertinent for your story? Chances are, you’ll promptly forget about it until a week afterward when you get to a certain spot in your book and wonder to yourself, “Where did I see it again?” Diigo is a pretty simple solution in these situations. 

But it’s also more than just an online bookmarker: it can annotate webpages for you and archive pages so that you can re-visit them whenever you want. In short, it’s a savior for any writer who’s feeling the weight of a million physical sticky notes scattered around the room — and you might find that it’ll improve your all-around browsing experience.

Cold Turkey

Speaking of browsing experiences, sometimes browsing just goes on for Too Long. This is a pretty unique problem for modern writers (Virginia Woolf, for instance, certainly never needed to deal with an ad about a great perfume that was sourced directly from New Zealand). Nowadays, there’s Twitter to check, a “Which Harry Potter Character Are You?” quiz on Buzzfeed that seems intriguing, a nifty new site that StumbleUpon is recommending that you check out right now, etc etc. The entire Internet basically exists to suck your attention away. Not exactly the ideal environment for some calm, stress-free, and productive writing.

That’s why one more important tool in every author’s toolkit is simply a distraction-killing tool. Some writing apps (such as FocusWriter, which I discussed in the first section of this piece) offer distraction-free interfaces on which you can write. But if you need to go one step beyond and actually block time-sucking websites, there’s also plenty of those apps to go around. I’d recommend Cold Turkey Blocker, but any one of them would do. Just make sure that you install it and actually use it in order to make the most of your writing time, so that you can produce an actual book by the end of it all. 

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Emmanuel Nataf

Co-founder at Reedsy
Emmanuel Nataf is a co-founder of Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. Emmanuel dedicates most of his time to building Reedsy’s product and is interested in how technology can transform cultural industries.
Emmanuel Nataf

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