If you want to write a book, you might be looking for free book writing software. But what’s the best software to write a novel?
You have many choices now for book writing programs specifically designed for the long task ahead of you.
Writing software for novelists includes tools and features that will help you organize and manage the individual elements of your manuscript.
For new authors, you can choose from many free novel writing software programs to get you started on your book.
You need the right tools to write a book
Many new writers and authors start out using a word processor such as Microsoft Word, iA Writer, or Google Docs.
But word processors are not the best software to write a book because they are not designed to help you with a long creative writing project.
If you plan to write fiction or nonfiction, you might consider dedicated novel writing software.
Word processing, spreadsheets, email managers, and a desktop publisher are for business and administration.
They are not the best programs for creative thinkers and the book writing process.
These tools are tools primarily designed to write a letter, a business proposal, or a report.
What are the alternatives to using word processing software?
You want to write a book or a novel, and there is plenty of free book writing software for beginners.
You can choose between software programs you can install on your computer or online apps you use in a browser.
A good book writing app will help you manage your writing project.
Dedicated book writing programs will assist you a lot with your research notes, file management, event tracking, character development, and, of course, your writing.
Take a look at the many choices you have for your new book project.
Choose the best book writing software
“I want to write a book.”
Okay, then, let’s get you started with the best writing apps for the job of writing a novel.
When you decide to write a book, you want a writing program designed for the task.
Look in an app store for a distraction-free writing program (yes, no social media!).
You want to be able to stay focused and concentrate all your energy on writing your book.
There are a lot of paid writing software packages available for authors.
But, some, like Ulysses, Vellum, and even Word, can all cost you a lot of money.
Are you a book writer and just starting on your project of writing your book?
Then there are many free writing software alternatives and editing software that you can try.
There is always a short learning curve when you start using new software programs.
It’s better to spend your time and not your money when you learn how to use a new writing program.
But the applications in this article are easy to learn how to use and set up for writing your new book.
What you need in free book writing software and apps
Writing a book is a long-term project.
That’s why a non-fiction or fiction writer needs software specifically designed for the task.
The main feature of a good book writing program is that you can write chapter by chapter. Some offer scene-by-scene and also track your story development.
Writing a novel is a step-by-step process. A good writing program will allow you to write in these stages.
You also want to keep notes about your characters, events, and, if possible, mind maps and record a timeline.
An auto-save function is also advisable. It will keep your manuscript stored and saved securely.
Also, check if you can save your work on a cloud drive. Google Drive, Dropbox, or iCloud are good options for extra backup security.
Another feature that is important to many writers is to have a distraction-free mode.
Or at least one that reduces the clutter on your screen while you write in a text editor. Sometimes, a plain text editor is all you need.
It takes a long time to write a book
Books are long-form writing. Working on one huge, long lump of text in one document is cumbersome. It is also prone to file and save errors.
It really is an unsafe way to write a book. The chances of something going wrong technically are very high. This is especially true with Word.
Apps for writing books are usually for desktops. But sometimes a phone app is available.
But some offer an iPad iOS app that can be a great option when you are traveling or want to get out of the house.
When you try the book writing software and online apps below and start writing, you will immediately notice the difference.
You will understand why writing a book needs a totally different approach.
Let’s get you started on the right foot but with software at the right price tag. Free.
Here is a selection of nine web-based and open-source free book writing software, programs, apps, and tools.
There are also details later in the article about four free trial writing software programs, especially suited to more experienced authors.
9 Free book writing programs
My list of free apps and software for writing books is provided as a resource guide only.
It is certainly not a recommendation or review of any of the programs on the list. If I have reviewed a program, there is a link to my full review.
As with most free applications, there will be some limitations or drawbacks.
However, in my testing of the apps below, there are some that offer quite useful features for free.
You can investigate the free options below, but you will need to decide which one may work best for you and your writing needs.
1. Novlr (Free)
Novlr is a free novel writing app that helps you get your story out of your head and onto the page.
It’s got all the features you need to stay organized, motivated, and productive without all the clutter.
You can break your novel into chapters, take notes, track your word count, and set goals.
With the free version, you can export to docx or share your chapters or full manuscript.
Novlr also has a distraction-free mode that helps you focus on your writing. You can also choose dark mode if you prefer.
If you’re looking for a simple, effective way to write your novel, then Novlr is definitely worth trying.
The free plan offers all the essential tools to write a book.
2. yWriter (Free)
I have to include yWriter because it was developed by a writer, Simon Haynes.
He explains the reason for going to all the trouble to create this software, and it should resonate with many writers.
“I really struggled with my first novel. I wrote slabs of text into a big word processor file, and I just couldn’t make sense of the whole thing at once. No real overview, no easy jumping from scene to scene, nothing.”
It is a great explanation of why word processors are not designed for writing fiction.
The key feature of yWriter is that it breaks book writing into chapters and scenes. When writing a book, this is a must-have feature.
It also comes with the ability to build characters and locations.
3. Manuskript (Free)
Manuskript is a feature-rich book writing tool.
It has an outliner, word count, and distraction-free mode. It also has a novel assistant to help you. With it, you can develop characters using the snowflake method.
You can also keep track of notes about your characters, the plot, events, and places in your story.
These tools will certainly help improve your writing.
It is well worth a try for a new author.
4. Sigil (Free)
Sigil is open-source, free software that is well-regarded for producing e-books in epub format.
In this respect, it is similar to, if not even better than Calibre.
It has multiple views, including book view, code view, and preview, as well as a WYSIWYG editor.
It also has a Table of Contents generator with multi-level heading support.
There is a metadata editor as well as a spell check with default and user dictionaries.
It also supports the import of EPUB and HTML files, images, and style sheets.
5. Reedsy Book Editor (Free)
The Reedsy book editor is a great free online writing tool for authors.
You can write, format, and export your book to epub for ebooks and pdf for print books.
If you have already started writing your book, you can import a Word docx file.
It’s easy to add images and endnotes, and the program also helps you create your table of contents and copyright pages.
Unlike a word processor, the Reedsy editor organizes your book in sections, so it’s easy to navigate to chapters or other parts of your manuscript.
It is a fully featured online editor that has all the tools you need to write and format your book ready for publishing.
6. Wavemaker (Free)
Wavemaker Novel Writing is a free web app, so you can use it on any device.
You can organize your story using timelines, use planning boards, and it even has a snowflake tool.
Like many other apps, it comes with a dark mode option and distraction-free writing.
Another plus is that even though it is a free app, it doesn’t contain ads.
It has a helpful getting started page, plus plenty of video guides to help you learn how to get the most from the app.
7. Bibisco (Free)
Bibisco is open-source software. It is specifically designed for writing a novel.
It has all the elements you will need. These include character development and tracking.
There are chapter and scene organization as well as note-taking.
Everything you need to write a novel in one free software package. Bibisco is available for Mac, Windows, and Linux.
8. Focus Writer (Free)
FocusWriter has one key attribute. It is about total distraction-free writing.
It has many options you need to set things up for your writing your book.
But it has a hide-away user interface that lets you concentrate on the one big thing you want to do. Stay focused and write.
Forget about menus, toolbars, drag and drop or copy and paste with this app.
There is all focus mode with nothing between you and your words.
It is very user-friendly, free, and available for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X.
9. Shaxpir (Free and Premium)
For a dedicated book or novel writing app, Shaxpir really packs a lot into its free version.
With the Manuscript Builder, you can use drag-and-drop tools to rearrange any part of your manuscript.
You can move and change the order of scenes or chapters, so you can work on structures that work for you.
It’s easy to set up writing goals and track your progress. You can also make specific notes about your characters, places, and events.
There is also the facility to add your margin comments as well as collect any concept art.
It also comes with its own in-built spellchecker.
For free software designed for writing books, Shaxpir offers you a huge range of features.
It is available for PC and Mac users with an option for cloud access.
3 Free trial book writing software programs
1. Scrivener (Free Trial)
I have to include Scrivener on my list.
Scrivener is well-known as the best book writing software program for screenwriters and authors.
It comes with a corkboard, an outliner, side-by-side viewing, word count targets, and a full-screen editor.
There are also print, export, and publishing tools. It has everything a writer could possibly need.
Scrivener is a top-quality premium book writing program. It has everything you will need from the first to the final draft.
However, there is a 30-day free trial period offered by Scrivener.
But it is counted by the days that you use the software. If you use it every second or third day, your trial period will last for 60 days or more.
Scrivener is available to download for both PC and Mac.
2. The Novel Factory (Free trial)
The big feature of The Novel Factory is the Roadmap.
It puts together tested techniques from leading novelists.
It breaks down writing a novel into small tasks so beginners can learn the craft of writing.
The Locations tab allows you to take down details for your locations.
It includes multiple images to help your inspiration. It helps you to consider all of the senses in your descriptions to build an immersive story world.
In the Characters tab, you can see your characters in an overview. Or you can open each one to see all the details.
These include the introduction, basic information, your questionnaire, viewpoint synopsis, as well as your history and notes.
Once you’ve written your long synopsis, you have the option to automatically generate scenes directly from it.
Adjust where each scene breaks, and all your scenes will be created automatically. Then you can get on with writing your first draft.
Unlike some other book writing tools, the Novel Factory doesn’t need hours of learning. It’s intuitive from the very first time you open it.
The Novel Factory is available in an online version that works with all operating systems. There is also a desktop version for PC only.
3. Ulysses (Free trial)
Ulysses is a Mac and Apple-only application.
It works with a unified library that holds everything you’ll ever write a book.
The features are designed to manage writing projects of any size or ambition. You can write notes, blog posts, or a whole novel.
It has all the tools you need for writing, with the main focus on getting the words down.
Ulysses can export to PDF and Word files as well as ebooks. All totally formatted and styled. You can also export to HTML for use anywhere on the web.
You can even publish to WordPress and Medium from within the app.
Everything is just a click away, with on-the-fly switching of styles and a live preview built right in.
Ulysses operates and syncs on Mac, iPhone, and iPad. It is the ideal writing software for Apple users.
There are lots of choices in the list of free book writing software, programs, and apps above.
I’m sure you’ll find that at least one of these free novel writing software programs and apps will help you write and publish better.
Some will help you overcome writer’s block and be more organized no matter what your writing style is.
You should also use an efficient and reliable online grammar checker.
The Hemingway Editor is a good free choice. It will keep your use of adverbs, passive voice, and repeated words under control.
Then you are going to be writing more and better every day.
Forget about office applications that are designed for administrative tasks.
Learn how to write a book with tools specifically designed for creative writing and maximizing your writing time.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are many fine premium apps that come highly recommended.
But they are often more suited to professional writers, content writers, and writing blog posts.
You don’t need to make a big investment in book writing software for novels.
If you are just getting started moving away from Word and Google Docs, there are many free choices.
Try a few of these free writing apps and see which one works best for you. They can all help you write a better book or novel.
It might not turn you into a bestselling author overnight. But you never know, do you?
Related reading: 10 Free Book Publishing Software And Tools For Self-Publishing