Writing has been a big part of my life for a very long time. I’ve been writing lyrics since the late 90s and various short and long-form stories since before that. It is not just something that helps me deal with the things inside my head and heart, but also something I’ve come to enjoy. It is a method of escape for me, where I can develop worlds that exist outside of the problems I face.
When it comes to writing, there isn’t a lot that I can suggest for tools. For the most part, what you write is going to come out of your own head. Your thoughts, experiences, research, and ideas are going to be the greatest tools you have available. Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, short stories or novels, poetry or one-liners, you will be the one generating the content.
That said, there are a few tools that can help you out.
Word Processors (aka, things to type in)
Obviously, you will need to write down the words you plan to, well, write. If you don’t intend to do this with a pencil and paper, you’ll likely use a computer or mobile device. I have a few to suggest, and all are free.
The king of word processors, Microsoft Word is generally the first thing people think of when it comes to writing documents. I use it heavily, both for writing lyrics and stories. It is a very powerful tool that is available in multiple formats: Windows, macOS, Android, and through your browser.
The browser version is more limited than the installable versions for Windows and macOS, but it has enough of the basic tools that most people can get by with it. Plus, given that it connects directly to your OneDrive account, you’ll be able to store copies in the cloud. This is great in case your device crashes.
If you want the installable version for Windows or macOS, you’ll need to pay for the Microsoft Office365 service. It’s a subscription service, but it comes with most of the Microsoft Office suite and even a 1TB version of OneDrive. If you’re making music, I highly recommend storing copies of your songs and instrumentals in OneDrive. Again, if your computer crashes, you’ll have a backup.
Microsoft Word features built-in spell checking and grammar checking. Many people prefer grammar checking in Microsoft Word over that of third-party services like Grammarly. Over the past month or so, I’ve been leaning in that direction myself.
OpenWriter / LibreWriter
OpenWriter and its variant LibreWriter are both free word processors. OpenWriter is available for Windows and macOS, while LibreWriter is available for Linux.
While both of these are packed with features and very similar to Microsoft Word, they are also much uglier than Microsoft Word. That said, I heavily use LibreWriter for Ubuntu Linux. It features a built-in spell checker, but no grammar checking. This is unfortunate, but something I can get around by running things through other tools to double-check against.
No matter what kind of writing you are doing, either of these tools should do the job.
By now, many of you have likely heard of Grammarly. They are a free service that checks your spelling and grammar to help prevent mistakes in your writing. What you may not know is that they also offer an editor as part of their service.
The Grammarly editor is available through your web browser and as a Windows download. It is fairly barebones compared to Microsoft Word and OpenWriter, with very limited features. For instance, there is no ability to categorize your content into folders. Instead, all of your documents are lumped together. This can make it difficult to find things after you’ve amassed years of documents. Formatting tools are also very limited, but if all you’re trying to do is write a story or lyrics, this shouldn’t be a problem.
As you write, it will offer suggestions to you on ways that you can improve what you’re writing. If you get a paid account, Grammarly will give you even more suggestions, most of which I’ve found are not very good.
Recently, I’ve had it make tons of suggestions that completely change the meaning of the sentences. This is a big reason why I’ve been leaning more toward Microsoft Word for grammar assistance, and why I will likely not renew my paid Grammarly account next year.
That said, if you just need basic grammar checking, Grammarly is worth checking out. Just make sure to check the suggestions before applying them.
Why is Google Docs at the bottom of this list? Well, because I don’t use Google Docs anymore. I have an account, but I haven’t written anything in it for years. There are a couple of reasons for this, most notably because I’ve found I prefer other tools, Microsoft Word being the main one.
However, if you do prefer to use Google Docs, it is available through your browser on Windows, macOS, and Linux. It offers many of the same features as the browser version of Microsoft Word, including automatic file saving to Google Drive.
Other tools for writers
I mentioned at the start that you are the most important part of the writing process. This is true, but there are a few other tools you may want to check out.
Thesaurus.com – Start using other words than the ones you constantly write.
OneNote – A great tool from Microsoft for note-taking. This can help you stay organized when you’re writing longer content.
Diane Callahan – This woman is a very good resource for help with writing long-form content. She has several videos to help you become a better writer.
Thunderstorm background noise – I find thunderstorms very helpful when trying to concentrate or sleep. I actually use these every night while sleeping.