There are approximately 927,833 writing tools out there to choose from, and the choice can be bewildering. I know, because I have been bewildered by the choice, and have spent quite a lot of money on stuff I no longer use.
I love it when people I follow share their tools and techniques, because it narrows down the choice and mitigates the option paralysis I find myself in.
So this week, I’m sharing a quick rundown of all the writing tools I use and a brief writeup of why I use them and where you can find them.
There are 31 tools and I’ve probably missed a few out. That might seem like a lot, but it’s not—because a bunch of these tools might, at first glance, seem unrelated to writing. But for me, they are.
This is not in any way a “you must have these tools or you will fail as an author” article; it’s simply what I use. You might find it useful—and if I’ve mentioned something you hate, that doesn’t mean either of us is wrong, and it definitely doesn’t mean you’re “broken”—it simply means it doesn’t work for you. You’ve probably got tools that work brilliantly for you, but that I absolutely can’t stand (hello Trello!) and that’s great!
My aim here is to help you find the tools that enable you to write your book as joyfully as possible.
Some of these tools are affiliate links, which means I get a little kickback if you buy through them. I’m only an affiliate to products I use and like, so you won’t catch me peddling any shit here.
This app blocks off all those distracting websites I start to slide towards when writing becomes less appealing: social media, Whatsapp, eBay, and a bunch of others I can’t resist. It works across all platforms and on a range of devices, and you can use it to block off the entire internet, if you wish.
Freedom also offers focus sounds and music, which is cool. I’ve only just noticed this while writing this article!
Cost: You can trial it for free, then:
- $159.99 forever (or $79.99 in July with code JUL2022—they often run sales)
Check out Freedom app here. (Affiliate link)
Bose Noise-cancelling headphones
One of the best investments in my own sanity this year has been my Bose QuietComfort 45 noise-cancelling headphones. They’re pricey but honestly I’d have paid twice as much and been just as delighted.
I cannot emphasise enough how much of a difference they’ve made. My brain cannot “just ignore” sounds, like barking dogs, lawnmowers, power tools, and chatter. I can’t filter it out; I hear everything and it drives me around the bend. I do not know why I waited for so long to buy them.
My go-to white noise is The Relaxed Guy on YouTube, who puts on hours of rain sounds without interruption from ads. He’s an angel.
When my fingers are itching to go to a distracting website, I pick up my fidget cube instead and have a play. It scratches that itch and I get my little dopamine fix without disappearing into a wormhole of nonsense for an hour.
It’s also transformed the way I watch videos, which I’ve always struggled with before. I cannot just sit there and watch someone imparting information; it’s not interesting enough for me. I need to be doing something. The fidget toy helps!
I used to have the Apple bluetooth keyboard, the small one—which is okay for travelling. But I was getting sore wrists, so I invested in a split keyboard, and it’s made a huge difference to my comfort and typing speed.
This is the model I bought: Logitech ERGO K860 Wireless Ergonomic Keyboard.
Rain Design mStand 360
I have a little metal stand for my Macbook Pro, which my husband appropriated from his office (nobody was using it). So it cost me none pounds. It’s great, because it raises the screen up to a comfortable viewing height.
Cost: from £59
Here’s a similar one—cheaper versions are available.
I’m constantly losing windows and apps, and I use several different programs at once when I’m writing. So I decided to invest in a second computer screen—and I am so glad I did. I really notice the difference in how long stuff takes me when I’m out and about and don’t have access to a second screen.
I chose a Dell, and had to buy an adaptor to make it fit the Macbook, but it was only a few extra quid.
The model I bought is the Dell SE2216H 21.5 Inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) Monitor. I’m not sure this is still available but similar models are for sale all over the place.
Cost: around £100
Seriously, keep lots of water nearby so you can stay hydrated. One of my main sources of feeling like shit is not eating or drinking enough.
I keep this handy for when I realise I’ve set into a kind of pretzel position and everything hurts. Time to get onto the mat and stretch out! Also a much-needed source of endorphins and dopamine. Move around—creativity boost!
Cost: from around £25
Planning + Writing Tools
My absolute favourite notebooks are Dingbats. I used to be a Moleskine fan, but Dingbats are better, in my opinion. They’re beautiful, with vegan leather covers and fun nature-based motifs, and the paper is stunning—thick, creamy, non-bleed and non-transparent. It comes in plain, lined, and dotted. I use the dotted and plain versions.
This is where I do all my planning, doodling, daily to-do lists, monthly plans, and a bunch of note-taking. If my notebook is handy, this is where my random ideas, thoughts, and questions go.
Cost: from £17.95
Get a stunning notebook here. (Affiliate link)
Pen—Pentel BL27-AX Energel BL27-A Roller Ball Pen (Medium) - Black
Obviously everyone has their favourite pens and pencils; this is mine. I always have a stash of them in my Cupboard of Doom, because running out would be A Disaster. They write beautifully and smoothly, feel like real ink but don’t smudge, and they’re great to click the tops off and on repeatedly like the most annoying person in the world.
Cost: £15.50 for 12
I use pencils for making notes in the margins of books and magazines I read. My friend gave me a tube of Drewdle coloured pencils, which I use to doodle notes and also to draw colourful snails on my office walls, around knots in the wood.
I use brush pens for my daily creativity journalling and sketching. My faves are Dingbats Atopen double-ended brush pens, and Brush Sign Pens.
Cost: £20.95 for 6 Atopens
Find Atopens here. (Affiliate link)
Oh my gosh. I’ve gone through so many productivity tools and apps and things that simply don’t work for me. I’ve been overwhelmed by Trello, Gingko, and other pieces of software, and been infuriated by having to stick different things together to make them make sense.
Until I found Notion. It perfectly suits my brain. Everything gets written in here—or at least starts out in here. I can use it to create products and templates. I can collaborate with my assistant, so I don’t have to play email tennis. And I know where everything is whenever I want it.
Cost: there’s a limited free version, or $4/mo personal pro, $8/mo team
iPhone Notes app
Comes with the iPhone, and houses many of my random thoughts, ideas, and brain farts. Also mediocre haiku. Love this because I can just grab my phone (or stop whatever doomscrolling I was doing), open Notes, and write shit down.
You can also use tags to easily and quickly find stuff you’ve written. If only I could remember to use tags more often.
iPhone Voice Notes
For those times when you can’t write or can’t be bothered to write, there’s voice notes! I can ramble into my phone and capture my ideas, and sometimes that’s better than writing them down because I can capture the chaosbrain at the same time. Then I can eamil them to myself, or listen back and transcribe.
Ooh Scrivener. I have a love/hate relationship with it. I hate that it’s incredibly dense and complicated and the user manual is approximately 4,397 pages long.
But I love that it’s such a beautiful word processer and organiser of ideas, chapters, sections, etc. It’s built by authors for authors, and you can tell.
Scrivener is much more powerful than anything I use it for—you can use it to format, export print and ebook-ready manuscripts, and do a ton of clever things with it. But I get very confused by all that.
For me, the value comes from the corkboard, ease of organising chapters and sections, summary cards, and tagging system. I can get a good sense of what my book will look and feel like on-screen, which is pretty tough to do. Then I use other programs to format it.
The other fab thing about Scrivener is that its free trial is for 30 real days of use, not 30 consecutive days. So you get to really try it out.
Cost: £47 (£39.95 for students or educational institutions)
Get your hands on Scrivener here. (Affiliate link)
This is another of my absolute favourite tools. It’s really designed to build a strong writing habit—based on Julia Cameron’s morning pages. The idea is that you write 750 words every day—every morning for me, if possible.
I use it to empty my brain of trash, to journal, and to draft out emails, articles, stories, and book chapters. Then I copy it to Notion or Scrivener or wherever I’m gathering my words.
Start Your Book Templates
Full disclosure—these are my products. I struggle massively with getting started and with finishing stuff, and I couldn’t find anything that worked for me, to help me write my nonfiction books.
So I made my own templates. There are 5 of them:
- Big Book Idea + Synopsis
- The Reader Journey
- Your Book on a Page
- The Chapter Planner
- Fun Writing Games
Cost: £49 each or all 5 for £199
Gather your templates here. Whenever I update them, I’ll email you to let you know—so you always get the best version.
Book: How the hell do you write a book?
I couldn’t find the right book to help me write my book when I first started out—so I wrote it. It takes you from your first idea, through writer’s mindset, getting clarity, planning reader journeys and outlines and chapters, what goes in the front and back, writing tips, publishing tips, and how to avoid looking like an amateur.
Moxie Calendar Prompts
I create a free daily prompt calendar each month, with thought-provoking, entertaining, or useful prompts designed to get you writing—even if only just for 5 minutes.
Nothing wonderful is ever created alone—find yourself a fantastic writing group, join it, and show up as often as you can, and especially when you don’t feel like it.
As it happens, I’ve created a fabulous group of wonderful weirdos. They’re such a smart bunch, Team Moxie has grown into more than simply a writing group. The combined wisdom and skills and experience is staggering, and everyone’s kindness and generosity bowls me over every single day.
Bit pricey, and I did wonder if it’d be just another piece of shiny tech I never use—but it’s not. I don’t use it as often as I thought I might, and not really for writing—but it’s fantastic for editing.
I don’t like printing out reams of paper for every edit, so I export PDF manuscripts or client work into reMarkable, then write my notes all over it. It’s not a substitute for physical stuff all over the floor and coloured post-its, but it’s great for some editing.
Also brilliant for trainings that come as PDFs. I can’t focus on on-screen PDFs and don’t like printing them, so this way I can load them onto the reMarkable, and write all over them, then file them on my hard drive.
This are invaluable for editing. I have them in many sizes, shapes, and colours and use them to mark places, and add notes for amendments or questions.
Such a useful tool to run writing through to catch typos and spelling mistakes. It’s brilliant if your budget can’t stretch to a professional proofreader.
Cost: Free (limited version) or £144/year
I love this tool. It’s kinda similar to Grammarly, but it does a little more—including doing a plagiarism check, which is invaluable. I sometimes worry that my wonderful paragraph is accidentally swiped from elsewhere (as I have the working memory of a gnat) but I can always just run it through and check it.
I snagged a great deal on a lifetime license a while ago, but it’s a worthwhile investment if you do a lot of writing and you put out a lot of your writing into the wild.
Cost: $20/mo, $79/year, $399/lifetime
Get ProWritingAid here. (Affilliate link)
I’ve already mentioned coloured pens for planning and creative endeavours in my notebooks, and they’re also indispensible for editing.
There’s nothing like a big red pen for underlining stuff I don’t like or that is a mistake; a green pen for underlining stuff I love (because then I can channel that in my further edits), and a blue pen for making notes about stuff that’s missing, or that I need to add. And pink for further research required.
Cost: £19.94 for 12 Pentel Sign Brush Marker Pens
Google docs are extremely useful when I’m working with clients on their manuscripts. We can track changes, see older versions, and add comments.
They’re also useful for working with Beta Readers—some people prefer a paper copy, some prefer a PDF, and some prefer a Google Docs version.
Cost: Free (or you can pay for storage on Google Drive)
Vellum is only available for Mac, unfortunately—but it’s my go-to tool for typesetting and laying out my own books (and occasionally client books). If you’re only planning on writing one book, it’s probably not worth the investment. But if you’re planning on writing a series, I highly recommend it. It’s excellent value.
There are other tools out there that format your book for you—Scrivener is one, but as I said, I find it super complicated. The Reedsy book formatter is apparently very good, but I haven’t used it. It’s worth a try though, because it’s free.
If your budget stretches though and definitely if your book is in any way complicated layout-wise, or has lots of pictures, I’d thoroughly recommend a professional typesetter. I’m planning on my next business book being a visual treat and that’s not something I’m capable of achieving, so I’ll probably be working with Toni Serofin, who you can find out more about here (also NERD ALERT I love her website URL, it cracks me up!). She’s brilliant.
Check out Vellum here. (Affiliate link)
If you’re familiar with InDesign, it may be worth investing in it because it’s where professional book typesetting tends to be done, by people who specialise.
You pay a monthly subscription, so if you’re just doing one book, it’s much more cost-effective—but only if you know what you’re doing. InDesign is great but it is a beast and it’s created for pros.
You can find out more about InDesign here.
IngramSpark is an indie-publishing platform that allows you to upload your PDF and ebook files, and then will distribute them throughout the world, to bricks and mortar stores, to Amazon, to online stores—and deal with the print on demand aspect, too.
It’s also a cracking source of information, how-tos, and news on the industry.
Cost: $49 for print + ebook (they have regular sales and currently there’s an offer to publish your book for free)
Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi)
This is more of an information resource than a tool, I suppose, but it’s brilliant. I am a certified provider with ALLi, which means I’m legit (of course!)—and you can find directories of professionals covering all aspects of writing, editing, and publishing.
They have a great podcast and blog, and run regular events and trainings. It’s well worth joining.
Cost: from £69/year depending on what you want to achieve
Join ALLi here. (Affilliate link)
Psst: did you know you can book a 60 minute session with me to bust any challenges you’re having writing your book? If you’re stuck and would like my help to get going on your book again, click the button below and book a slot.
Notes in the Margin
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