There is no one piece of software that is going to write your book for you. But there may be certain programs that you find help you organize your thinking process or plot your book out better than others. There are going to be programs you are going to need when sending out your manuscript to an editor — most editors in this industry use Word, so while you can send them an RTF file, your program may or may not be able to handle their changes when they send it back to you.
Don’t forget that sometimes writing on a regular pad of paper may work for you too — you don’t have to spend thousands on a computer to write.
If you’re going to be sending your work out to professional editors, they use Microsoft Word® — because it has a feature called Track Changes that literally lets you and your editor see the changes they suggest and you make.
WORD TIP! One of the things people complain about with Word is that Word is harder to move whole scenes around compared to Scrivener®. But most people don’t realize that it is possible to highlight an entire scene with one click in Word and move it easily too. This method also allows you to keep track of the scenes you’ve written similar to the listing you’ll notice on the left side of Scrivener and WriteWayPro™. I wrote a couple blog posts about how to make keeping track of your scenes or chapters easier here (most recent/updated version) and here. (original post but it has a good description that still applies.)
The main problem people have with Word is its cost — especially since Microsoft has joined the ranks of those offering the programs on a subscription basis. If you can get ahold of an older copy — 2007 or 2010 — grab it, though nowadays people have realized how valuable they are and you can end up paying a lot for them too.
ALTERNATIVES TO MICROSOFT WORD
Open Office™ which is a free program that is very similar to Word. (Available for both Windows and Mac)
If you have an Apple® computer, you may prefer Pages® for writing, but you will still end up having to use Word when sending to your editor.
Scrivener by Literature and Latte.
Scrivener is a program that has templates that sets up your doc based on whether you’re writing poetry or short stories, screen plays or novels. It allows you to store your research such as webpage information and images in the document, and create character studies.
It also has a feature that shows your scenes as notecards on a corkboard which can make it easier for visual plotters.
Scrivener can also set up a manuscript and format it for loading to sites if you’re self publishing. This can save you some money in hiring a formatter, but be aware there is quite a heavy learning curve to this program. L&L have a lot of videos and tutorials on their site (and on YouTube) that you can turn to for help, and there are often online courses available.
You can download Scrivener for a trial period — and one of the beauties of it, is you get 30 days of actual use. So if you use it for two days and then don’t write for three days, those three days don’t count toward your trial period. There are versions both for Apple and Windows systems, though there are slight differences between the two.
To get a full version costs $40 US. BUT if you wait until October, there is generally a sale for those participating in NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) where you can get it for about $25. (They have other sales throughout the year too. I usually post them on my FB page when I see them come up.)
Similar to Scrivener is WriteWayPro — it’s very similar to Scrivener, (I believe it was originally created when Scrivener was only available for Macs.) Again there’s a 30 day trial, and the registration for a full version is $35 US.
I have no affiliation with any of these programs, I am not getting any sort of payment for listing them here, but I have used all of them, and know they can work well for writing.