3 Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Writing App

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Writing apps are something of a double-edged sword. On one hand, they can hugely improve your creative output; on the other hand, messing around with apps can be a real distraction from the actual task of writing. To help you achieve the first effect rather than the latter, here are three crucial questions to ask yourself when deciding which writing app to use!

1. What do I need the most help with?

It sounds obvious, but this is by far the most important question to consider: what do you need from your writing app of choice? Try to distinguish between “want” and “need” in your mind — you might want a fancy writing app with tons of capabilities, but if you already struggle to stay focused while writing, then what you need is an app that more or less simulates the blank page.

In other words, consider your biggest goals at this stage. If your main objective is to write more efficiently, stick to a simple app like Calmly Writer, FocusWriter, or even Google Docs. If you need help organizing the various elements of your story, try an app like Plottr or Scrivener which has character cards, plotting features, and story structure templates to keep you on track.

And if you need to see your chapters divided and formatted to keep them straight in your head — or indeed, if you're almost finished writing your book and getting ready to typeset and publish it — you can't go wrong with a professional formatting app like Vellum, Atticus, or the Reedsy Book Editor (that last option is currently free!).

2. Where and how do I like to write?

Once you've narrowed down your essential need(s) for a writing app, it's time to think about logistical concerns. That is, where and how — meaning, in what physical setting, on what device, and in what other relevant context — do you like to write?

For example, if you take public transport and you often work on the train, you'll need an app that works on your phone (or tablet) and which can function offline, for when you go underground and/or out of data range. Or if you mainly work from buzzy coffee shops and you rely on your own music or podcasts to stay focused, you'll need an app that doesn't overheat your laptop while Spotify or Apple Music is running at the same time.

This might require a bit of testing to get right, but basically, just factor in all the environmental, atmospheric, and convenience-based aspects of your current writing routine to find an app that's a natural fit. You might also think about parts of your routine you wish to change, and how an app could facilitate this — just make sure you're being realistic about what you (and your app) can actually do.

3. Will I be sharing this work with others?

Lastly, you'll want to think about sharing your work — whether throughout the writing process, after you're finished drafting, or both. Certainly most writing apps will allow you to export your work and email it, but if you have frequent beta readers or editors, a collab-friendly app will streamline everything and save you the pain of sifting through multiple copies yourself.

Google Docs and the aforementioned RBE are particularly good for writers who want to share and collaborate. That said, it's really up to you how to balance the various needs of your own writing life! Having asked yourself these three key questions, you should be well equipped to choose the perfect writing app and enter a new age of enhanced creativity and productivity.

Rose Atkinson-Carter is a writer with Reedsy, advising authors on all things publishing, from how to self-publish a book to choosing the best creative writing classes. She lives in London.