My Top Five Novel Writing Tools And Apps

My Top Five Novel Writing Tools And AppsReaders seem to like it when I give them a peek into my writing process. For that reason, this month I’ve compiled a list of my top five novel writing tools and apps for anyone who is interested in the writing tools I use on a daily basis.

IMO, any top 5 list of story writing tools had better cover both hardware and software tools for writers. Let’s start with the hardware, kicking this list off with my fave…

1. Desktop Keyboard

For serious writing sessions, I use a hardwired Das Keyboard Model S with Cherry MX Blue mechanical switches. For me, it has the perfect click feel and responsiveness, with zero ghosting, no key repeat issues, and no need to change batteries or charge it before I write.

2. Laptop

Not counting the keyboard above that I use with my desktop, my Macbook Air is my lone luxury purchase for writing.

For years I was a diehard Windows PC user, building my own machines to my preferred specs and fine tuning the OS as I saw fit. Then I bought a used Macbook for the sole purpose of using Vellum book formatting software, and I fell in love with the simplicity and usability of the Apple ecosystem.

Yes, I know Mac users have a rep for being bougie tech snobs. But since making the switch, I have yet to lose a day’s work to a software crash or an inconvenient update. That alone is enough to make me an Apple advocate for life.

3. Travel Keyboards

My Top Choice: My top choice for a travel keyboard has to be my Ziyou Lang Mechanical Keyboard, which features nice, clicky keys, anti-ghosting, and an exceptionally long battery life. I love it so much that I purchased a back-up for when my current daily driver dies.

Unfortunately, this keyboard is no longer available, which is a damned shame. The company makes other similar keyboards, but none with that convenient slot for propping up your iPad or iPhone. After my back-up dies I suppose I’ll be looking for a replacement. Let’s hope that never happens.

1st Runner-Up: When I’m not using my iPad with the Ziyou Lang mechanical keyboard, I keep my tablet in a Logitech Slimfolio Keyboard Case. That way I can simply slip it in my backpack or messenger bag and start writing no matter where I am, without having to lug around my laptop.

The keyboard isn’t the best, but it’s comparable to the chiclet keys on my Macbook Air with almost no ghosting or repeated strokes, even when I’m typing at mach speed.

The only downside to the Logitech Slimfolio is the power source, two CR2032 watch batteries. CR2032 batteries are fairly easy to find, and they supposedly last up to four years in the device, but I’d much rather that it ran on AAA batteries or an internal rechargeable power setup.

2nd Runner-Up: Although it doesn’t hold a candle to the Ziyou Lang for typing speed, comfort, and performance, I keep one of these cheap Macally Bluetooth keyboards in my truck. That’s because I don’t want to store a more expensive mechanical Bluetooth keyboard (or my iPad) where it could get damaged or stolen.

When I need to do some writing on the go, I pull it out of the case I purchased for it, pop my phone in the slot, and get to work. It’s an inexpensive, solid piece of gear, albeit with a slight keyboard ghosting issue on some devices.

4. Writing Apps

I am a huge fan of Ulysses for writing at home and on the go. I’ve used it since before they went to a subscription model, and I continue to use it today. In my opinion it is the perfect alternative to bloated writing apps like Scrivener (which I simply detest).

As well, I use Byword when I’m writing on my phone. It provides me with the same sort of distraction-free writing environment as Ulysses, yet I don’t have to open up all my files via iCloud to use it. If you’re looking for an alternative to Ulysses, this is it.

5. Collaborative Writing Apps & Tools

While some think Google Docs is the ultimate collaborative writing tool, I beg to differ. Although it is both free and ubiquitous, it’s also clunky and it doesn’t handle large docs well.

That’s why I’ve taken to using Dabble when I’m working on collaborative writing projects. Dabble is a cloud-based app that’ll do just about anything you need it to do when it comes to novel writing.

While I’m no fan of the interface, once you get the hang of it the app is fairly easy to use. And, it does make collaborating on projects a breeze.

By the way, if you write on the road a lot a cloud-based app like Dabble might be worth considering. I personally tend toward paranoia when it comes to accessing iCloud via hotel and airport Wifi systems, even when I’m using a decent VPN.

Yet with Dabble you’re only accessing the app itself, so your data exposure is minimized when using it. So long as you download and back up your work locally each time you use it, it’ll take some of the risk out of writing while traveling.

Or, you could simply create a Word doc and write on your local hard drive instead. There’s something to be said for the simplest method when it comes to maintaining comsec, after all. šŸ˜‰

Other Miscellaneous Novel Writing Tools & Apps

After I wrote this post, I realized I’d neglected to mention a few other useful tools, devices, and apps that I use on a daily basis during my writing sessions.Ā 

After my cancer diagnosis, we sold our old house and moved to a much smaller place so I’d have less to keep up with overall. That meant giving up my beloved office, and it also meant I’d have to deal with the challenges of writing thousands of words a day without a dedicated writing space for quiet and privacy.

The good news? It’s not like I haven’t done this before. Thankfully, I already know plenty of tricks for making writing in a shared space a bearable experience.

Yes, you can get up and write before anyone else is awake, and you can bug out to the local coffee shop as well. But, that’s not always convenient, so you’d better have back-up plans for those days when getting up at zero-dark-thirty or splitting to the local HortonBucks isn’t in the cards.

So, here are the tools I use that allow me to write no matter who might be around or what’s going on in the house at the time.

Noise Cancelling Headphones – An author who writes in public places or in shared spaces simply cannot get by without a decent pair of noise cancelling headphones. I’m too cheap to drop $300+ on a pair of Bose Quiet Comfort Headphones, so when my old pair died I was up the creek without a paddle.Ā 

Then I stumbled across these Anker Soundcore Q20s on the ‘Zon, and after reading the reviews I took a chance. Thankfully, I was not disappointed. They connect to my iPhone or iPad easily via Bluetooth, the sound quality is excellent, and the noise cancelling feature works extremely well.

Honestly, for the price these things can’t be beat. And bonus… they fit comfortably over my big ol’ Charlie Brown head without smashing my ears into pale, blood-starved pancakes.

White Noise Machine – A good white noise machine is essential for drowning out exterior noises. This is especially true if you live in an apartment or condo, or in a home in a modern neighborhood with neighbors that are “in your lap” close.

For such a purpose I’ve used this Dohm Classic White Noise Machine for years, and it’s a champ that just keeps on ticking. Turn it up on high and you’ll be hard pressed to hear the boomer next door mowing at 7:00 am on Sunday morning, or the young couple on the other side arguing because their IRL relationship is nothing like the blissed out perfection they post on Instagram every day.

(Here’s a tip… place your white noise machine close by and use it in conjunction with your noise cancelling headphones. You’ll create a cone of silence that’s almost good enough for Agent 86 and The Chief.)

Lap Desk – Sharing writing spaces often means writing in odd places. That also means you might need a big, beefy lap desk that gives you room to work. After trying several, I use a large Lapgear Lap Desk that can hold up to a 17-inch laptop. It gives me plenty of room to work, while being light enough so it’s not a bother during long writing sessions.

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There you have it, my top five list of novel writing tools and apps for authors. Feel free to respond with your own fave tools and apps in the comments, as I’d love to hear about what you’re using to craft your own stories.

2 Comments

  1. Joy Kennedy on July 19, 2023 at 9:29 am

    Thanks for the info. I enjoy reading about the process but I’m no writer. Esp thanks for the recommendation of the noise canceling headphones. Due to illness I’m EXTREMELY sensitive to outside stimuli. I take ear plugs to movies etc. OMG, do I need these ?. I use white noise app all the time. Again, thanks and much love!

    • M.D. Massey on August 7, 2023 at 4:34 pm

      I get the noise sensitivity thing, for sure. The headphones I mentioned are the best low-budget model I’ve used. Hope it helps.

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