Constructing a writing process that works for you is a challenging affair. Here are 24 resources that will help you craft a functional strategy for planning, completing, and selling your novel.
1. Evernote + Web Clipper (Basic — Free): With Evernote Basic, you get 60 MB a month of new content. This includes notes, clipped web pages, images, and PDFs, which you can sync across two devices. Install on your computer and then download the app for your phone or tablet to take your notes on the go.
Clipping full articles can quickly eat up your storage so I recommend bookmarking longer posts or only saving important excerpts. You can also organize your notes and clipped content into notebooks and use tags to streamline searchability.
2. Microsoft OneNote (Free): While Evernote is great for gathering information, OneNote is my preferred tool for organizing it into an easy to reference format.
OneNote also uses notebooks, which are divided into sections. You can then add as many pages and sub-pages to each section as you want.
Before starting my current project, I had to develop a unique fantasy setting. This included a new magic system, geography, races, cultures, etc. OneNote was the perfect tool for compiling all this information into a setting guide that I can go back and reference as I write.
3. Pinterest: If you’re working on a fiction novel you may find it helpful to create a vision board for your books, regions, cultures, and main characters. I found this especially useful when describing architecture, topography, and clothing within my story.
4. Scrivener (Free Trial then $45/license): Scrivener is a feature-rich app for writers. You can research, plan, outline, and write all in the same place. The ability to write your novel in smaller, more manageable sections and then piece them together is where Scrivener shines. The cork board, which stores each section as a movable index card, also makes reviewing and rearranging your structure a breeze.
5. The Novel Factory (Free Trial then $39.99/license): The Novel Factory is another comprehensive writing app that allows you to keep your reference materials and writing in one place.
While it can take awhile to learn how to use Scrivener’s many features, The Novel Factory presents a more straightforward alternative with an easy to follow, step-by-step guide built into the app.
Dedicated character and location tabs make The Novel Factory especially ideal for fiction writers. They’ve also made it easy to export to Richtext, Word, and even Scrivener if you decide to move there to finish your work.
6. Fool Proof Outline: A No-Nonsense System for Productive Brainstorming, Outlining, & Drafting Novels (Fool Proof Writer Book 1) by Christopher Downing: I found this book very helpful for getting acquainted with Scrivener as the author has included in-depth outline templates that you can import right into the app. You don’t need the book to use the templates, but it expands on each of the sections and helps with plot and character development. All and all, this is a useful guide for new authors or individuals trying out Scrivener for the first time.
7. Google Drive (free w/Google Account): Google Drive is a great file storage option…except when it’s not. Google gives you an insane amount of free space which you can sync across as many devices as your heart desires. Documents and spreadsheets are easy to use, if not as feature robust as the Microsoft Office Suite.
I’ve been a fan of Drive since it launched back in 2012 but it’s not without its faults. In the last six years, I’ve experienced five instances where I lost hours of work (including the most recent version of my novel outline) due to a mysterious syncing error. Drive has trouble switching between Google accounts and you may open a document to discover your previous session’s work lost because Google decided that you didn’t have permission to edit that file.
All and all, Drive is still great for creating, storing, and collaborating on documents. But, you should always keep a second backup of your work.
8. Dropbox (free version includes 2.75 GB): Dropbox is a storage app designed for file sharing and team collaboration. After downloading, you can store files in your Dropbox which are automatically backed up in the cloud.
The main focus of Dropbox used to be storage and backup, but with the addition of Dropbox Paper, they’ve moved closer to a Google Drive model. Paper allows you to create documents and write and edit them in real-time with a team. I have not tried out this new feature but it might prove a useful alternative to Drive.
9. Zapier (free w/paid upgrades): Zapier is an automation tool that allows you to set up Zaps, if/then triggers that you can create between different apps. For example, paranoid after the recent loss of my outline, I have set up the following Zaps:
- Copy new Dropbox files to Google Drive
- Create new notes on OneNote for new Dropbox files
This allows me to save my outline and chapters in Dropbox and automatically have them backed up to Drive and OneNote.
With the free version, you can have up to 5 zaps at a time with 100 tasks completed per month.
10. Google Calendar (free w/Google account): Block off research and writing time on your calendar and then stick to it.
11. Wunderlist (free w/paid upgrades): Wunderlist is my preferred task-list tool. You can create lists, add tasks to them, and then create sub-tasks within each task. Lists can be grouped into folders, you can set reminders, and even create recurring tasks, making Wunderlist the standout to-do app.
12. Strides App (free w/paid upgrades): Strides is a goal and habit tracking app. It’s easy to setup and use and includes useful motivators, such as goal streaks, milestones, and target dates.
I have a daily “Book Work” goal that I check off whenever I stick to my schedule. The app gamifies your writing habit, bringing added satisfaction the longer you keep your streak going. If that sort of thing appeals to you, it can be a great motivation tool both for writing and other goals.
13. Hemingway Editor (free for web browser or $19.99 for the desktop app): A straightforward writing app that evaluates the readability of your writing. It tracks things such as adverbs, passive voice, and difficult sentences, helping writers create work that is easier to digest. I used it to write this article.
14. Grammarly (free w/paid upgrades): Grammarly detects spelling, grammar, punctuation, and style mistakes. It catches problems that other word processors miss and is invaluable for cleaning up your work before sending it to a professional editor. I run all my work through Hemingway first and then check it again in Grammarly.
15. Buffer (free w/paid upgrades): Buffer allows you to schedule cross-platform social media updates. Use it in your desktop browser or download the mobile app. You can also take advantage of the built-in analytics tools to see what types of posts are working better than others.
16. Bitly (free w/paid upgrades): Bitly is a link shortener, which is useful for posts where word count is an issue or if you want to make a long URL more appealing. By using link tracking Bitly also provides limited analytics. Buffer automatically shortens links for scheduled posts but Bitly is good for situations beyond social media updates.
17. Hubspot Academy (free w/some paid options): Hubspot offers several free marketing certification programs. Examples included email marketing, inbound marketing, and content marketing. These are great primers for anyone who is new to the marketing scene.
Podcasts are one of the most valuable resources I’ve found for self-publishing. Drawing from trial and error and guest interviews, the following podcasts offer a wealth of tips and strategies for self-publishing success:
For added novel-writing wisdom, I recommend checking out the following writing blogs:
21. Nicole Bianchi
22. Jeff Goins
24. Vivien Reis