This article is an edited repost from the archives. Most of the information from last year is still relevant, but I’ve added some new resources and video links as well.

In the last week, I’ve had a ton of messages asking me about the technology I use to plot and write my books. My absolute favorite way to plot and write is longhand. But as a working writer, that’s not fast enough. So I thought I’d give a brief review of the systems I use. But while I love these systems, there are a ton more apps out there that other writers swear by. Many of the programs I’ve listed below are ones I have used for years. And while I’m always interested in learning new and shiny programs, I don’t have the time right now. 

Note: This list of tech is specifically for crafting novels. I do use other systems like Trello, Excel, and Canva to help run other aspects of my business but this list is just for writing. And, while I’ve added links to this post, I am NOT selling these programs. If you decide you want to purchase any of these, please search the internet for coupon codes. There are ALWAYS coupon codes available for these systems. Some of the coupons can save you hundreds of dollars!


Microsoft Word 365: My editor and agent expect my manuscripts to be submitted in Word. I write on multiple machines, sometimes in different places other than home, and I keep some of my manuscripts in a cloud to ensure I am always working on the most recent version. Although I do download and save my work every night. Then I email the manuscript to myself so there’s always a copy on my email provider’s server. But this program can get expensive so make sure to check the internet, and other writing organizations, for coupon codes.

Scrivener: I’m not even sure how to describe Scrivener. It’s part word processor, part indexer, part visual editor, and part story & plot designer. Imagine taking all of your writing notes (sticky notes, journal pages, jottings on napkins) and placing them in Scrivener so you can keep track of everything! You can build book worlds, develop character and setting sheets, and break down your manuscript into the smallest scene that can be moved around on a virtual bulletin board. It is a complicated program and takes some time to learn, but it’s worth the time. I’ve been using it for years so there are updates that I’m not even aware of yet! But after writing over 11 novels on Scrivener, I can’t imagine using any other program. Although, having said that, when my trad books are done and ready to submit, I reformat the book in Word 365 for my editor and agent. If It’s an indie book, I’ll move it to Word 365 before uploading it to Vellum (noted below). In Word, I’m able to strip out extra, hidden formatting that makes it easier to use Vellum. But the more I learn about Vellum, the less I need to take that extra step.

Abbie Emmons, over on YouTube, has a great playlist on how to personalize Scrivener and how to use it to get ready for NaNo. Here’s the link to her YT playlist. But I’m warning you–this will suck up hours of your time! I especially love the video on how to change your Scrivener aesthetic to match your current WIP.

Plottr: Plottr is a visual planner and outlining tool that helps you plan out your story. There are timelines, character and setting sheets, and scene builders. I’ve been using this program for about a year and the more I use it, the more I like about it. There’s also a free YouTube channel with tutorials so you can check out the program and how to use it. This software is for visual learners. So if you’re a hardcore journal scribbler, this may not work for you. There’s also an ability to create a story bible. I’ve been keeping my story bible in Scrivener but I may move it over to Plottr in the next few months. 

Vanessa Keir has a great YouTube video on using Plottr to plan your NaNiWriMo project. And the Plottr YouTube Channel keeps adding videos on how to plan and structure your current WIP.

ProWritingAid: This is a grammar checker and style editor software. You just dump your manuscript into the editor and it evaluates your writing and tells you everything you’ve done wrong. What I like most about this software is that it helps me identify reused phrases and word echoes. It also evaluates your writing style and gives you ideas to improve readability. This is an AI program, but it’s not perfect. It is not a replacement for proof reading or copy editing.

Grammarly: This is another AI-based grammar checker and style editor software similar to ProWritingAid. There’s a free level and sometimes I’ll use it if I’m struggling with how to structure a particular sentence. Grammarly, ProWritingAid, and Google Docs all use proprietary AI systems and I’m always struck at how differently they evaluate my writing. I do love the more advanced version of Grammarly, but you have to pay for it. And since I use a coupon code for PWA, I can’t justify paying for two similar systems. But if I ever drop ProWritingAid, I’ll pick up Grammarly. It’s just as good.

Adobe Acrobat Pro: My publisher uses Adobe Acrobat Pro for both copyedits and final galley proofs. While I hate paying the monthly fee, the software does make it very easy to read through the final versions of the manuscript (which, I believe, are designed with InDesign). For my indie books, I’ve yet to run into an editor who works with Adobe. But if you’re a trad author, or hope to become one, you may have to sign up. Luckily you can sign up month-to-month so during the months I’m drafting and revising, I turn it off. It’s easy to turn back on once I receive a final version of the manuscript. 

Vellum: I use this software to format my indie books and get them ready to upload to vendors like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It even has an option to load up paperback versions to KDP and IngramSpark. But if you’re not using it to publish right away, you don’t have to pay for it. I’ve used the free version of this software to read through early versions of my book because sometimes reading drafts in a book-style format helps me see grammatical errors and pacing issues.

Reedsy: I am just learning about Reedsy and their free formatters (similar to Vellum) and AI manuscript checking programs (similar to ProWritingAid). While it doesn’t offer all of the fancy things Vellum does (like adding images on title pages), it’s super easy to use and it’s free!

Google Docs: This is a free word processor that works great, and is cheaper than Word 365. But I don’t use it to write. I use it as a free spell check because their AI system is different from Scrivener, Word, and ProWritingAid. I just upload the finished draft into a google doc and then run the spell check. You’ll be amazed at what the other AI programs have missed! 

Aeon Timeline: I used to use this visual editor to help lay out my books in the Deadly Force series but I recently switched to Plottr. Aeon Timeline is a beautiful app and offers a ton of options but it’s just too complicated for me. I’d rather spend my time writing. But if you are working on a large series, like a space opera or a huge epic fantasy series, this may work really well for you. It’s at least worth checking out. 

A Note on Story Bibles: These software programs are for planning, plotting, and writing. But Scrivener, Aeon Timeline, and Plottr can also be used to build story bibles which is especially useful if you’re writing a series. A story/series bible is crucial if you’re writing a long series with a large world, like in the sci fi or fantasy genres. I’ll be honest–these all work okay as series bibles but I’ve yet to find a software that can be a plotting/planning tool and offer a full Wiki experience. I’ve seen videos that the productivity tool Notion can do this, but that seems super complicated as well. So I’m using what I have… until the next shiny app comes knocking on my inbox!

While I don’t use Trello as an outlining tool (it’s more of a Kanban-type productivity tool), I do love this YouTube video by Megan Tennant on how to use Trello as a WIP outlining tool.

Two of my favorite author YouTubers also have great playlists for videos about NaNoWriMo, including the technology they use when crafting and editing their stories.

Here is Bethany Atazadeh’s Playlist and here is Sarra Cannon’s Playlist.

I hope this information helps and I can’t wait to hear about your journey on the other side of NaNoWriMo!


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