The Best Novel Writing Software of 2019
So, you’ve just started writing a novel — which means you’re figuring things out as you go. You probably have a flock of Google Docs to wrangle, you’re always scribbling on napkins, and you have no idea where anything is. If this scenario sounds familiar, there’s one thing you need: some good ol’-fashioned (well, more like new-fashioned) novel writing software.
Luckily for you, we’ve come up with this list of the best, most affordable pieces of novel writing software in 2019. All of these will not only keep you organized, but also inspire you to keep writing till the very last page. And best of all, some programs cost nothing at all! In the spirit of thriftiness, let's start with your options.
Reedsy Book Editor
💰 Price tag: Free software!
✅ Features: Format as you write, export files that are ready for instant distribution, track changes, choose between "classic" or "romance" themes
Taking into account the fact that we created the Reedsy Book Editor (RBE), we'll admit this novel writing software holds a special place in our hearts. But it's not just ownership pride — we genuinely believe this tool can add a lot of value and assistance to the process of writing a book.
Some authors like a software with lots of bells and whistles — tools to help you research, structure, and outline. Other writers prefer completely minimal softwares — free from too many functionalities that mostly just distract.
The RBE offers a happy medium between those two poles. While it definitely has more features than a blank piece of paper, its functions are super user-friendly and geared at one goal: allowing you to write and format a beautiful book. The RBE was built to be a book production tool that typesets as you write, turning your manuscript into a fully-formatted book or ebook that meets industry standards — and that can compete with traditionally published books that have been professionally formatted.
In the "Writing Mode," you can insert chapter breaks, scene breaks, images, and end notes. You can view previous versions of your manuscript, in case you removed a passage you now want to re-add. When you've reached the milestone of a completed book (congratulations!), you can export a distribution-ready EPUB, Mobi, or PDF file.
💰 Price tag: Free software!
✅ Features: Easily navigable dashboard, drag-and-drop chapters, collaborative editing, multiple layout preview options, publication setup
FastPencil is essentially Google Docs for the professional (or aspiring professional) author. This online platform cannot be downloaded and is therefore only usable if you have WiFi. However, the boon of its nonexistent price tag more-or-less makes up for the inconvenience of not being able to work on planes, at your grandparents’ house, or in Green Bank, West Virginia.
FastPencil’s clean and simple interface allows users to set up a writing project, invite collaborators (such as editors and proofreaders), and communicate entirely through the app if they wish. Two people can also upload mutually accessible “Assets” for reference during the writing process, and create “Tasks” for each other to be completed. Remember PalmPilots and other personal digital assistants for organization and planning? FastPencil is like a twenty-first-century, writing-oriented version of that.
Once your book is done, you can preview it in various modes, with distinct layout templates for different genres — such as “Business,” “Memoir,” and “Dragon” (designed for young adult fiction). These templates are pretty basic, but they will help you get a clearer idea of what your published book should look like.
Finally, you can export your manuscript under “Publication Setup.” Keep in mind, though, that this file will download as a ZIP, and you’ll still need to convert it to an EPUB or MOBI before uploading to Amazon and/or other ebook retailers.
💰 Price tag: Free software!
✅ Features: Pares chapters into individual scenes, scene labels for word count and scene status (e.g. complete or incomplete), designated tabs for characters, locations, and items, storyboard that can be viewed by character arc, work schedule tracker
Another great free writing software is yWriter, a Windows-only app that makes your project seem much more manageable by breaking it down into scenes within chapters. This allows you to work on just one scene at a time, rather than a whole block of lengthy chapter text. Plus, the labels at the top of each scene make it much easier to monitor your progress with that scene versus how much you still have to write.
Indeed, the yWriter interface is deceptively rudimentary, with tons of interesting features hiding in its toolbar. Besides the unique scene-by-scene structure, you can also keep track of characters, locations, and even items in different tabs. After you’ve written a few chapters, you can look at your Storyboard (under “Tools”) to see how your narrative is developing, and you can even generate a synopsis based on the notes you’ve made for each scene.
yWriter is particularly well-suited for the user who’s determined to keep not just their writing organized, but their work schedule as a whole: it records your daily work and tells you exactly how much you have to write to stay on track. Of course, writers who prefer a more loosey-goosey schedule may find this a bit controlling. But then again, if you’re an erratic writer who struggles to make progress because of your own lack of a routine, yWriter’s schedule function may be just the kick in the pants you need.
💰 Price tag: Free software (you can tip, though)!
✅ Features: A beautiful blank page for you to write your novel
FocusWriter isn’t novel-specific software per se, but it will help you rocket-boost your productivity. And of course, it's completely, permanently free — no limited-time trial, no payment with a warranty, no “premium upgrade” — so you may as well try it out!
This software is exactly what it sounds like: it helps you laser-focus your efforts onto writing, and nothing else. You can still format your novel and check your word count/daily goals via offscreen tools, but FocusWriter’s default state is simply a blank page. You can also use full-screen mode so the only thing you see is the page in front of you — just like writing IRL.
For authors who struggle to concentrate on their work more than anything else, FocusWriter is a dream come true. You might also consider combining it with an app blocker like Freedom, so you won’t be distracted by your phone either.
And that rounds off our section on free writing software! Now let's get into your options for paid programs.
💰 Price tag: $44.99 license fee, free 30-day trial
✅ Features: Corkboard planner with virtual index cards, planning templates, integrated outlining system, customizable full-screen interface, split-screen function, import and export capabilities
Scrivener is one of the most storied (no pun intended) programs in use today, having been beta’d by NaNoWriMo writers over a decade ago. It markets itself as a “typewriter, ring-binder, and scrapbook all in one,” and it certainly comprises plenty of helpful features. But Scrivener’s biggest benefit is the freedom it enables: with so many modes of organization that you can arrange to your heart’s desire, the program lets you write however works best for you.
With Scrivener, you can do as much or as little planning as you want, so you don’t feel pressured to stay within certain constraints. You can shuffle your notes, outlines, and even chapters around wherever you need. It also has one of the most generous trial periods on offer — you can use it free for 30 days, but they don’t have to be consecutive. So if you only opened the Scrivener app every other day, your trial would technically last for 60 days rather than 30. (And when you do decide to pull the trigger, there are almost always discounts to be found.)
The only potential catch with Scrivener is that some authors might find it a little too liberating; it doesn’t provide much novel-specific instruction, as some other programs do. But it’s still an excellent organizational tool with a great interface. Whether or not you choose Scrivener just depends on how much guidance you feel you need.
💰 Price tag: $39.99 license fee, free 60-day trial
✅ Features: Comprehensive “Roadmap” that walks you through the parts of a novel, straightforward layout with separate tabs for outline, characters, locations, etc., automatic progress tracking
This program is ideal for those who want a bit of hand-holding as they embark on their writing journey. Novel Factory helps writers gradually develop all the necessary components of a novel: first its skeleton, then characters, scenery, conflict, POV, and so on. And their guiding Roadmap does not skimp on details! Each section breaks down a specific element, and includes examples and exercises to demonstrate how they apply within a novel.
Again, this piece of novel writing software works best for beginners, or anyone getting back into fiction writing after a very long hiatus. However, it’s also good for writers who know they need rigorous structure to succeed — “plotters” rather than “pantsers." Novel Factory equips you with everything you could ever want, structurally speaking, and filling in its templates should give you a very clear sense of where your novel is headed.
The Novel Factory interface is pretty basic, and the templates do serve more as accompaniment to the Roadmap, rather than the other way around. But if you want to create a detailed blueprint for your novel, Novel Factory might be the software for you. It’s currently built for Windows, but Mac users can use extracting software, or the online Novel Factory app (found under "Desktop Version" here).
💰 Price tag: $29.99 license fee with 30-day warranty
✅ Features: Customized templates for your novel’s genre and story, storyboard “visualizer” and chapter organizer, in-program search engine for research, animated readback, dictation, and textual analytics
NewNovelist software’s greatest strengths are processing and evaluation. You input what your book will be about, and NewNovelist generates a template based on that info. You start writing your novel, and NewNovelist analyzes the content for proportional word count and reading level. Indeed, of all the software on this list, NewNovelist probably has the most technically advanced features. It even lets you dictate your story when you get tired of typing!
This program also includes the standard lineup of organizational assets you get with most novel writing software: outlining, storyboarding, character profiles, etc. But it’s the cool techy stuff that makes it stand out. Perhaps the most brilliant feature on here is the built-in search engine, which allows you to research as you write without leaving the platform — so that you (hopefully) don’t get too distracted from the task at hand.
Though it may not be as sleek as other programs (mostly due to the sheer abundance of features), NewNovelist is an incredible tool for authors whose first priority is sound literary construction. For interested parties, note that NewNovelist is another Windows-only program — but again, there are ways around that if you don’t have a PC.
💰 Price tag: $12/month or $99/year subscription options, free 7-day trial
✅ Features: Novel board for outlining chapters and scenes, various detailed templates, character profile sheets, research and image library sections
Novel Suite is one of the most streamlined programs out there for writers. Right off the bat, it has a color-coded welcome screen where you can easily navigate among the different modules: your novel board, word processor, writing templates page, character list, image library, and finally an area for your research. It’s perfect for writers who might be overwhelmed by more complex interfaces, but who still need to organize complex ideas.
As for Novel Suite’s actual modules, its writing templates are where the program really shines. Novel Suite includes six templates, full of specific questions and thoughtful tips to help you plan your novel. For example, the “Starting Out” template encourages writers to think about “the overall story journey” and “how to capture readers,” while still allowing for flexibility.
The subscription-only model will naturally deter some writers from this program. But it's worth giving the free trial a go — you might find that the writing templates alone are worth the price. Especially for those who find themselves frustrated with typical templates and wanting something more nuanced, Novel Suite definitely delivers the goods.
💰 Price tag: $10/month for the “basic” plan, $30/month for “professional,” $80/month for “elite,” or $1 for a two-week trial
✅ Features: Depends on the plan, but “professional” is considered full-use — entails genre filtering, an array of editing options for pacing, dialogue, “strong writing,” word choice, repetition, and direct comparisons to bestselling works
While other pieces of software help you organize, develop, and even self-edit your story, they don’t include the in-depth editorial functions and services that AutoCrit does. This is the program to use if you already have a decent-sized draft of your novel, or if you’re a micromanaging kind of writer who likes to edit meticulously as you go.
AutoCrit tests your work for all the factors above, and even individual elements within those factors. So for example, after selecting “word choice” as your focus area, AutoCrit then allows you to narrow it down even more: do you want to check for generic descriptions? Improve your sentence starters? Work on personal phrases? You can achieve all that and more with AutoCrit.
The program also boasts an appealing modern interface, and decent prices considering the range of editing possibilities. Some writers might be reluctant to shell out for an editing program — but those writers are probably blissfully unaware of how hard it is to self-edit. When you think of it that way, AutoCrit is an amazing service: it helps you edit your manuscript with the perspective of a professional, from the comfort of your own home.
💰 Price tag: Free demo (doesn’t save your work), $59.95 license fee
✅ Features: Front and back matter sections, chapter outlines, element sheets, wide range of editing tools including readability score and repetition finder
WriteItNow’s no-frills design facilitates that all-too-elusive endeavor for aspiring authors: to simply write. Its interface is pretty basic, with a toolbar at the top for quick access to any section of your planning and a sidebar to keep track of the actual writing. But don’t let its minimalism deceive you: WriteItNow also offers a variety of unique resources, especially for editing your novel.
After you’ve written a chapter or two with WriteItNow, not only can you check things like spelling and word count, you can also run editorial “Critiques” via the Editor Tools tab. The program will point out any repetitive phrases, unnecessary “padding” words, and even clichés you might have used — helping you polish your writing in the same way a third-party copy editor might.
Another one-of-a-kind feature in WriteItNow is the automatic “Create Idea” function. You can select a character and a type of idea — in a maneuver reminiscent of choosing personality traits on The Sims — and the program will spit out creative prompts. It might be something you can integrate into your story, or a thought exercise to flesh out your characters.
This program may also seem a bit on the pricey side — however, the license fee does cover both Mac and PC versions of the software. In any case, WriteItNow absolutely lives up to its name in terms of helping writers get their work done, and you can’t put a price on that.
For book formatting software, check out this post on Vellum.
No novel writing software is actually magic — that is, none of it's going to write your novel for you. But with the right tools to lend you some structure, focus, and a dash of inspiration, you might just be able to get ‘er done all by yourself.
Ever tried using writing software? Tell us about it in the comments below!