Writing is hard.
No matter how skilled, no matter how long you’ve been writing, it never gets easy.
But, at the same time, it’s one of the most important skills anyone can have. Especially when you’re growing a business and looking for freelance work.
And no, being good at writing doesn’t just matter for freelance writers.
Do you sell your product or service or post on social media or need to communicate with others?
You need to write.
In this post, we’re going to share the best writing tools out there. These are the tools you can use starting today to start a daily writing practice, improve your writing skills, and become a writer.
And if you’re interested in turning your writing into a freelance business? These tools will help with that too.
Ready to dig in?
Essential Writing Tools for Getting Started
These writing tools have one purpose: getting you to sit down and write. Some of them are free, others will be paid, but all of them have legions of devoted fans.
When I was deep into my daily writing practice this was the best writing tool I could find. It’s super simple with a clean user interface. I created a quarterly writing goal as a story and then each day would be a chapter. You can also set up a daily word count goal.
If you’re into crafting stories or working on your book, Blank Page is a perfect tool to help you get started. You can set up outlines and chapters for every story. Plus you can export everything to Word.
750 Words is another tool to help you write every day. Inside it, you can write, set a goal, and track your progress all in one place. It has a setup that’s pretty user friendly. I like how you can visually see what days you’ve managed to write and what days you’ve missed.
750 words are approximately 3 pages, so it’s a reasonable goal to work towards as you start writing consistently. A lot of people get started with this tool.
Write or Die
When I first got into content writing and wanted to bang out drafts more quickly, I loved using Write or Die. At my best, I was able to get 500 words out in just around 15 minutes, and I credit this tool for helping me to stop overthinking and just start writing.
Basically, you set a word limit, a time limit, and if you want a consequence, reward, or stimulus, and then you’re off to the races. If you don’t hit your word count at the time limit, the app will let you know (loudly).
This is a relatively new tool on the scene and kinda cool. A lot of people get stuck with their writing because they edit along the way. The common conventional wisdom is to write first and edit later. However, this is much easier said than done.
If you find yourself getting caught up with this, try Ilys. It only allows you to see one word at a time as you type. Then when you hit your word count, it finally lets you see everything you’ve written.
If you get too distracted by all sorts of buttons on the side of your writing tool and just want to write, check out FocusWriter. Its whole purpose is to give you nothing but a blank screen with zero distractions.
That’s not to say it doesn’t have any of the bells and whistles that some of the other tools do, it does. You can still set a word count, daily goals, and spell check. It even translates into 20 languages.
Fair warning, it has a bit of learning curve. But, once you get into it, it becomes an indispensable writing tool that many authors I know use for formatting and organizing their books and projects.
For a slightly more user-friendly but less powerful experience when compared to Scrivner, many authors turn to Reedsy. This is probably the favorite Scrivener alternative out there since it has many of the features and is free.
Reedsy helps with the formatting and conversion of documents. You can export your manuscript directly to ePub and Kindle ready formats with just a few clicks of a button.
This one is obvious. A lot of people don’t think about using Google Docs for a writing practice, but it makes sense. Google Docs is a free writing tool. It’s also easy to use and can be accessed from pretty much everywhere.
Start by creating a folder to organize your writing. Star it so it will always be at the top of your GDocs, so every time you open it, your folder is staring you in the face.
Tools to Improve Writing
These tools can help you improve your actual writing skills, and if you’re anything like me, grammar and spelling can be an issue.
While as Anne Lamott says “write shitty first drafts” these writing tools can help make your subsequent drafts substantially less crappy over the long run.
I love Grammarly. Period. It is a vital tool for me. I use to all day long and honestly, I don’t know how I’d function without it now.
Use the free Chrome extension and you’ll be able to dramatically improve your writing right away. Basically, the extension looks at everything you write, from blog posts to emails to social media, and lets you know any basic grammar and spelling mistakes.
Plus, it sends me a cool newsletter each week reminding me of how smart I am. Who doesn’t love a little ego boost?
If you have a tendency to toss around lots of big words and complex sentences (I’m looking at myself here) then you’ll love a tool like Readability Grader.
It’s super simple to use, just copy your text into the box and click check. You’ll see exactly how easy your content is to read, and it will help you simplify what you write.
We can’t all afford an editor to check our writing right from the jump.
But Correctica helps you get part way there. All you need to do is send your doc to their email address, and a few minutes later, poof you’ve got all your errors highlighted. Use it the first ten times for free, or you can pay $30 a year for unlimited checks.
Another popular tool that corrects grammar and spelling in a really clean and visual way is the Hemmingway App. You can either write using the app or copy your content and it will tell you what needs improving (recognize that section from above?). Plus, it gives you a readability score and a word count all in one place.
If there’s one thing I started noticing as I began to pay attention to my writing, it was that I made a lot of the same mistakes over and over (and over) again.
While tools like the Hemingway App and Grammarly have helped remove my excessive use of commas and passive voice a tool like WordCounter can help you track your most frequently used words and checks for overuse.
For an all in one writing tool, you are hard pressed to go wrong with something like ProWritingAid. It combines some of the best features from some of the most popular tools like Grammarly and Hemingway and gives them to you in one clean interface.
It also gives you up to 20 reports to check your writing. So it’s flexible enough to be used for anything from blogging to business writing to manuscripts.
Tools for Writing Prompts
Ok, so we’ve got the tools we can write stuff in, and we’ve got the tools to check the writing you do come up with. Now, we come to the hardest part…writing stuff that makes sense.
Creative and fiction writers can struggle with this so try some of these tools which can help get your creative writing juices flowing.
Lots of people need help getting motivated to write. This is especially true if you don’t have a pile of brilliant ideas or topics to cover, or if you want to start exploring creative writing and storytelling.
Daily Page helps you by sending you an email every single day, at the time you request, with a writing prompt. This is a great way to get into daily writing.
Prompts is an iPhone app that was created to get you writing. Rather than just giving you a story or a sentence to start, it actually uses a complex algorithm to help guide you through your writing, offering advice and making suggestions as you go. Plus, it also keeps track of your writing habits, so you can keep tabs on your daily goals.
Writer’s Digest is a site geared towards helping aspiring writers. So, it shouldn’t come as a big shock that they have hundreds of different writing prompts on the site for you to check out.
You can either sign up for their newsletter and get a full book of prompts or go to their prompts site and get a new one every week.
If you’ve always wanted to become a better storyteller but never knew where to start, this could be a great writing tool for you.
Plot Generator helps you out by randomizing the bare bones of a plot for you, giving you things like character names, attributes, and location. Then it leaves you to work your magic to fill in the holes.
Miscellaneous Writing Tools
Some tools don’t fit neatly into one category, but they’re still useful. Here are a few.
Twords has a lot of features of many of the writing tools above, but one very cool feature stood out, it gives you a ‘gentle nudge’ when you’ve been absent to get your writing back on track. Think of it as a digital accountability tool for writers.
CoSchedule Headline Analyzer
If your headlines are boring then no one is going to want to read your blog posts. That’s an ancient copywriting prophesy, but true. I use this writing tool to come up with headline ideas for every post I write.
Hubspot’s Blog Idea Generator
Sometimes it can be tough coming up with blog post ideas. Hubspot has created a fun little tool that aims to get you out of the funk. All you do is insert a few nouns, and they will do the rest. Are they all perfect? Nope, but they might spark a few topics for you.
Books on Writing
There’s an axiom you’ll see as you get more and more into writing.
Basically, it goes like this:
If you want to be a better writer, read more.
Well, you never have to tell me twice when it comes to reading. Jokes aside, this is true. You will absolutely become a better writer by not just reading amazing writers, but also books on writing.
Don’t think that just because these are books, they don’t count as writing tools too.
There are plenty of amazing books out there that can help you get better at writing, here are a few of my favorites.
On Writing by Stephen King
Everyone knows Stephen King. When he’s not busy scaring the bejesus out of you with some of his classics (I couldn’t sleep for days after deciding to read Misery during homeroom in junior high), you’ve got to be amazed by his writing output and ability.
His book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft blends his unconventional life story and invaluable writing tips and advice.
Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
Since I create a lot of B2B marketing content in my freelance business, I’ve always paid attention to what goes on over at Marketing Profs. When I saw that head Prof Ann Handley had a book about writing, I grabbed it right away.
I’d consider her book, Everybody Writes, essential reading for anyone who is looking to learn how to write amazing content for the online world.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
I never expected to fall in love with this book, but it didn’t take long before I couldn’t put it down.
In Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life Anne Lamott manages to weave her own biography with these incredible little gems about how to tell stories and write better. This is one of the few books I’ve seen that every single person I know who has read it, recommends it.
Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
This one might be an odd choice, but I just recently got Save the Cat, and am loving every page of it.
In it, Blake Synder uses his years of movie scriptwriting experience to tell you exactly how to craft a story that people will love. While it’s written as an instructional book for budding screenwriters, anyone who wants to be a better storyteller should pick this one up.
Getting into a Writing Mindset
Hopefully, these writing tools are going to help you get into the practice of creating content a lot more often.
That’s one part.
The other is keeping the mindset going. Because there are going to be days where you’d rather throw your laptop out the window instead of write.
Here are a few tips to help you make writing a part of your schedule.
You don’t need to start with 1,000 words. In fact, don’t do that. Start with the smallest number of words that will get you writing and then up the ante every month. Maybe it’s 100 words or 250 words. It doesn’t matter what number you start with, just write.
Remove the Pressure
While consistency is key, being a freelancer is stressful enough so don’t add piles of it on to your life. If you miss a day, you miss it, just make it up, it’s fine.
Set a Schedule
On the days I wake up and bang out my words, they flow much more easily. On the days where I have it weighing on me all day, I can sit staring at a blank page. So understand when during the course of your day your brain is best wired to write.
Some of Your Words Will Suck
No matter how amazing of a writer you are, every word you write isn’t going to be usable. Don’t go in expecting you’ll be able to write something and it will all be awesome. You won’t. It’s ok.
Alright, got those tips down? Let’s look at some of the tools.
And If You Really want to Go All In?
And if you’re ready to take all of these tools and really go all in on your writing practice, then you might consider doing a daily blog for a set period of time.
When I got out of the habit of writing on a regular basis, I said I’m going to write everyday for a month. I told everyone I knew I was going to do it, for accountability, and it’s been incredible for both my creativity and building the habit.
Here are the posts from my daily blog experiment.
Ok, enough procrastinating.
I’ve given you a bunch of different writing tools that are going to help kick your butt into gear and get you to start writing. There is no better time than right now.
It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to just build a daily writing practice or you want to make a serious run at being a B2B writer, getting into the mode of writing a lot is always a good thing.
What are you doing to build your writing habit? Comment below and let me know what writing tools you’ve found that have made it stick, I’d love to hear more about them.
Note: this post has been updated as of May 2018 for accuracy.