Once upon a time, you would gather a ream of paper and prepare to write a book. Sit down in a comfy chair looking out at your garden as the sun shone through your office window. You would carefully place a piece of blank paper into your typewriter, position it in the right spot, adjust and start writing.
For over 100 years, that’s how writers wrote their manuscripts.
But, things have changed, it’s 2021.
You no longer need to bang away at noisy keys, probably waking the neighbors, or getting your fingers dirty with ink, leaving a trail wherever you go (inky fingers 🙂 ).
Now, you can turn on your computer, go online and write to your heart’s content.
Like everything else, you have choices. Not only am I going to show you free online writing apps to get your manuscript out of your head and into reality, but also, online editing tools, title generators and tools to jump start your muse with content ideas.
Let’s start at the beginning. You cannot write, if you have nothing to write about.
Story Idea Generator Apps
This fun tool can come up with thousands of different ideas and plots for a story, script, or character. All you have to do is enter in a few variables and watch as it gives you a full story for you to work with. Use this as an idea generator. This plot generator will not write your story for you, but boy can you come up with some good ideas. If you are having writers block, check out the Plot Generator, writer’s block killer.
–> Other Story generators
The Story Starter is a fun tool that generates random lines to give you ideas for starting your story. Used by all kinds of creative writers, Story Starter has generated more than 215½ trillion ideas for that all-important first line. 
A Writer’s Digest e-book, The Writing Prompt Boot Camp gives you two weeks worth (plus a couple) of first sentences to start off your story and get your imagination flowing. The idea is to work on one story per day.
A web page with 346 writing prompts to get you going. Just hover over a number to see the prompt. Prompts come in the form of first lines, story ideas and exercises.
Along the same lines as other creativity prompts, Imagination Prompt Generator provides you with half sentences, questions and exercises to get your ideas flowing and your fingers moving. Just hit the virtual button to the right of the prompt box for the next idea.
Character Name Generator Apps
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
You know what Juliet, there is a lot to a name. The name we choose in our stories take on a certain significance as the story moves along.
Readers judge everything and they will judge your character based on the character’s actions. You can use this to either throw the reader off, or add interest to a character.
If you have a seemingly “normal” (what is normal anyway) town, and a new comer is introduced to the town with a very exotic and different name, how do the locals “judge” this character, and better yet, how does the reader judge this new character.
Names are powerful, but sometimes finding the ‘perfect’ name for a character can be akin to a hang nail that keeps getting stuck in your socks when you try to put them on, causing you annoying pain.
See if these character name generators can help you find a perfect name for your innocent, or down right mischievous character.
Character Name Generators
Fantasy Name Generators
Sci-Fi Title Generators
- Pulp Sci-fi Title-O-Tron (<-this one is just plain fun)
Horror Name Generators
- Seventh Sanctum’s Evil Names (Character names)
Romance Title Generators
Mystery Novel Title Generators
Non-Fiction Title Generators
Dedicated Writing Apps
These apps all help you put pen to paper, in the digital sense.
I Write my books in Google Docs if I am not using a word processor like Microsoft Word or Libre-Office.
Any writer who has written any type of long form content knows (and probably still feels) the despair of losing thousands of words of work.
It’s devastating. The words never come back the way you wrote it the first time. It may turn out better or worse, but never the same.
With google drive, all your work is saved in the cloud, in real time.
Benefits of Google Drive To Authors
- All of your changes are automatically saved as you type.
- Easily collaborate with another writer. Both writers can add to the same document, from different places and everything is updated and shown in real time. You can figuratively finish each other’s sentences.
- Work anywhere. Google documents can use used on your computer, a tablet or your phone. If you have to wait for your daughter at swim practice, you can take out your phone and add to your manuscript from your smartphone.
If you get distracted easily, draft might be a great alternative to using google drive. Draft is an online writing app where you can write without distractions. No buttons to play with, just you and the screen. Plus, it comes with cool benefits.
- VERSION CONTROL save different versions of your work, that you can always come back to. If you are collaborating with someone, each person has their own version of the document, and each person and accept or deny any and all changes.
- Import documents and files from other cloud services – if you’ve kept notes all over the cloud, like dropbox, evernote, or google drive, you can easily import all your notes into draft.
Plus so much more. Draft is pretty awesome. Check it out.
yWriter is a word processor which breaks your novel into chapters and scenes, helping you keep track of your work while leaving your mind free to create. It will not write your novel for you, suggest plot ideas or perform creative tasks of any kind.
yWriter is free to download and use, but you’re encouraged to register your copy if you find it useful.
(Although yWriter was designed for novels, enterprising users have created their own translation files to customize the program to work with plays, non-fiction and even sermons.)
- Organize your novel using a project.
- Add chapters to the project.
- Add scenes, characters, items and locations.
- Display the word count for every file in the project, along with a total.
- Saves a log file every day, showing words per file and the total. (Tracks your progress)
- Saves automatic backups at user-specified intervals.
- Allows multiple scenes within chapters
- Viewpoint character, goal, conflict and outcome fields for each scene.
- Multiple characters per scene.
- Storyboard view, a visual layout of your work.
- Re-order scenes within chapters.
- Drag and drop of chapters, scenes, characters, items and locations.
- Automatic chapter renumbering.
- … And many more
Everything related to your project is in one place.
Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allow you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.
Keep all of your background material—images, PDF files, movies, web pages, sound files—right inside Scrivener.
Once you’re ready to go, control everything from how footnotes, headers and footers appear to fine-tuning the formatting of each level of your draft—or keep it simple by choosing from one of Scrivener’s convenient presets. Print a novel using standard manuscript formatting. Export your finished document to a wide variety of file formats, including Microsoft Word, RTF, PDF and HTML.
Additional Writing Apps
Answer several questions and this online tool will help you estimate how long it will take for you to write your book. This is super helpful for when you’re planning out your writing project. The calculator takes into account how many days you can set aside to write, how many hours each day, how many pages you usually write in an hour, and the average length of books in the genre you are writing. 
Evernote is my go-to app for creating quick to-do lists, jotting down notes, and writing up blog post ideas. It even lets you take audio notes! With the Evernote Web Clipper extension, you can clip articles from across the web and save them into Evernote for quick reference while working on projects. Best of all, Evernote instantly syncs across any computer or smartphone you use. 
Writing Music Apps
If you like to have ambient noise in the background during your writing sessions, you’re going to love this website. Hipster Sound is an ambient noise generator that recreates the sounds of cafes. It helps you stay focused and improve your productivity, even on those days when you can’t make it to your local coffee shop.
Music designed for the brain to enhance focus, relaxation, meditation, naps and sleep within 10 – 15 minutes of use.
Writing Focus Apps
Our will is strong, but sometimes, social media is stronger. The ping of a new comment on facebook can derail your daily writing goals and turn you into lotus eaters, who happily spend their time, wasting time. But, with the following distraction free apps, you can reign in the lack of focus and exceed your daily writing goals.
Anti-Social is a timed Chrome plug-in that allows you block the social media features on websites, such as comments as well as Facebook, Twitter and other icons. The idea is to increase productivity by removing social distractions. Works for most sites.
A Chrome extension that lets you block those distracting websites that keep you from making progress with your work, especially handy if you’re slaving away on a thesis. You can choose which sites to block, whether to block them partially or completely, when you want the blocking to start and how long you want it to last.
Cold Turkey helps you improve your productivity by blocking websites, preventing you from becoming distracted and forcing you to concentrate on your work. The more advanced version also lets you block applications, time your breaks, create exceptions, and more.
OS: Windows 7–10; Mac version is on the way
Price: Basic – Free; Pro – One-time price of $19
LeechBlock is a Mozilla add-on that lets you choose when and which sites to block in order to eliminate distractions and maximize your productivity. It allows you to block as many as six sets of sites and to set specific times and time limits as well as passwords.
Browser: Mozilla Firefox
Price: Free – $5.00 suggested contribution
The Pomodoro Technique for Writers
Getting to the end of a large writing project comes in stages, like you know, grief. It begins with motivation and vigor, and usually ends with unkempt hair, piles of undone laundry and a empty wandering look in your eyes as you walk around dazed and confused.
Writing a book is a big deal and it comes with emotional and mental stretching. Learning how to ‘manage’ your time when writing a book can streamline your process, help you stay focused and motivated and can actually help you get more done in less time.
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s.The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks.
That’s all there is to it. Simple.
Here’s how to do it:
- Make a list of tasks (maybe word count) that can be accomplished in 25 minutes)
- Set the timer (For 25 minutes)
- Do the task
- When the time is up (25 minutes) – stop.
Rest for 5 – 10 minutes
Do another 25 minute sprint.
Once that next 25 minute sprint is over. – stop
Do this for up to 4 sessions (That would be 100 minutes – 1 hour 40 minutes)
Then take a longer break. Maybe take a walk.
This technique helps you stay focused on the task at hand. It helps you check things off your list and helps you keep your sanity.
Here are online apps to help with the pomodoro technique.
Tomato Timer is based on the pomodoro technique (“pomodoro” is Italian for “tomato”) devised by Francesco Cirillo, a student who used a tomato-shaped timer to increase his productivity. TomatoTimer is a simple web-based timer that operates by the 25-minute work / 5-minute break rule. The idea is to do this four times and then take a longer break.
The most flexible and visually appealing of the online tomato timers, MARINARATIMER lets you choose from among three timer possibilities: the classic pomodoro technique, a simple kitchen timer that lets you determine your own length of time, and a custom timer that allows you to name and set your times for different goals and workflows.
Writer’s block is something that writers of all experience levels encounter. Some grapple with it more than others. One of its biggest causes is excessive self-censorship or self-criticism. One of the best ways to overcome writer’s block is to do free-writing. Write something – write anything – for at least 10 minutes. This loosens up the writing ‘muscle’.
A large part of becoming a productive and more confident writer is also practice. 750 words is a free online tool that helps you work your way up to writing 750 words per day. It’s a distraction-free writing environment, and you can view a breakdown of how often you’ve reached your word count target and other useful and interesting statistics. Use it either for free-writing or for reaching your daily word count targets
I love to use dictation software when writing a book. It serves two purposes. It helps you write you book, without actually typing. Technology has come a long way and voice recognition software is really good at hearing and understanding your voice.
You could easily get to your daily word count by speaking your book while software turns your words into text, then you can edit it later.
Another benefit of dictation apps, is having the computer read your work back to you. This is invaluable when editing your own work
There’s no better way to catch spelling and grammar mistakes than hearing your words read back to you.
Here are some dictation apps for authors
You can type and edit by speaking in Google Docs or in Google Slides speaker notes
Dragon speech recognition software is better than ever. Talk and your words appear on the screen. Say commands and your computer obeys. Dragon is 3x faster than typing and it’s 99% accurate. Master Dragon right out of the box, and start experiencing big productivity gains immediately.
Dictation accurately transcribes your speech to text in real time. You can add paragraphs, punctuation marks, and even smileys using voice commands. Dictation uses Google Speech Recognition to transcribe your spoken words into text. It stores the converted text in your browser locally and no data is uploaded anywhere
Dictation uses Google Speech Recognition engine that transcribes voice is more than 100 languages.
Editing a book project is quite involved, and 100% necessary if you want to produce professional quality work. If you want readers to understand what you are saying, you need to follow general grammar and spelling rules. Here are some apps to help.
The Hemingway Editor evaluates a piece of writing for clarity and simplicity. It calculates readability and highlights adverbs, passive voice, and dull, complicated words. This is an excellent web application for learning how to write effectively.
Grammarly is a proofreading tool that helps you spot grammatical errors, typos, and awkward sentences. Download the web extension and Grammarly will correct anything written in a web browser (yes, even your Tweets and Facebook updates). Though I don’t rely on Grammarly alone for my proofreading needs, it is a fast and efficient tool that I highly recommend
In his six rules for writing, George Orwell advised, “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.” The Cliche Finder highlights cliches in your text so you can avoid overused expressions in your writing
This web application helps you improve your writing by measuring the readability of your text. A readability score tells you roughly what level of education someone would need in order to read your piece of text easily. Find out how easy your writing is to read.
LanguageTool is an open-source proofreading tool for over twenty languages, including all different versions of English. It claims to do a more thorough job than a regular spell-checker when it comes to editing your work.
Downloadable for LibreOffice, OpenOffice, or for your desktop/laptop. Browsers: Firefox, Chrome
Writing Reference Guides
APA style is the writing and reference style devised by the American Psychological Association and used in the social sciences. The official site, apastyle.org, offers free basic tutorials as well as more comprehensive products (books, online courses) for sale.
The Chicago Manual of Style is a comprehensive style guide developed by the University of Chicago and widely used in American publishing. The website’s online resource allows you to look up all kinds of issues, from fine points on grammar to referencing styles. Also available in hardcover.
Online Dictionary and Thesaurus
WordWeb is a customizable, downloadable dictionary and thesaurus as well as a word and term finder. It can also provide you with a list of references and sites where you can find the word you’re looking for.
One of many US-English online dictionaries, Dictionary.com lets you easily toggle over to Thesaurus.com as well as to its simple translation tool. Along with definitions sourced from well-known dictionaries, the dictionary page provides a list of synonyms, an alternate section for UK-English definitions, information on the word’s history and etymology, examples of modern usage, and an audio pronunciation tool.
Similar to Dictionary.com, the Merriam Webster online dictionary gives you audio pronunciation, definitions, word etymology, usage examples, and related words and phrases as well as rhyming words, first known use and more.
The Free Dictionary gives you easy access to a variety of tools, including a thesaurus; legal, medical, and financial dictionaries; acronyms; idioms; an encyclopedia; Wikipedia; and the Free Library, with links to a variety of online resources and literature from different fields. The dictionary has many of the same features as the other online dictionaries, and then some.
Cambridge Dictionaries Online lets you toggle back and forth between UK/international English and US English. It also provides a grammar resource, a free translator, a blog on English-language issues and developments, a word of the day, new word posts and dictionary apps.
Like Cambridge Dictionaries Online, Oxford Dictionaries lets you toggle back and forth between British/international and US English. It also features a grammar resource, synonyms, a word of the day, a blog, word lists, word origins, forums, games, quizzes, and challenges – all in the name of spreading their passion for language.
I love using power thesaurus. I use it multiple times per week. Having a thesaurus handy is a life saver when writing. All you have to do is enter a word and you can find the synonyms or antonyms of a word. Power Thesaurus is a free, fast, comprehensive and easy-to-follow online thesaurus dictionary for writers
Acronym Finder allows you plug in acronyms and abbreviations to discover their meaning. The results will show possible meanings from six major categories: IT, Science and Medicine, Military and Government, Organisations and Schools, Business and Finance, and Slang and Pop Culture.
MediLexicon provides users with links to a medical dictionary, medical abbreviations, information on drugs, medical news, medical and surgical equipment, and miscellaneous medical information on such categories as hospitals, medical associations and pharmaceutical firms.
BusinessDictionary.com provides you with definitions from a variety of business subjects, from finance and management to IT and economic politics, to name just a few. Potentially useful not only for writers in these fields but also for fiction authors and screenwriters who need to understand their subject matter.
Stumped for a rhyme? RhymeZone lets you plug in a word and then provides you with a list of rhyming options. Also gives links to Shakespeare’s plays, poems and other writings, an online forum, and several dictionaries and research tools such as Wikipedia.
Autocrit analyses and makes suggestions for improving your writing. Especially designed for fiction writers, its different subscription packages offer various levels of convenience in terms of how many words you can analyse at one time and how many features the package includes.
These writing apps will help you write your book. Check them out. Have I missed any? Let me know in the comments.
“The 80 Best Tools for Writers in 2016 – Global English Editing.” 26 Apr. 2016, https://geediting.com/the-top-online-tools-for-writers-in-2016/.
 “Book Writing Online – 10 Effective Tools | Now Novel.” https://www.nownovel.com/blog/book-writing-online-10-tools/.
 “20 of the Best Free Online Tools for Writers – The Writing Cooperative.” 7 Aug. 2017, https://writingcooperative.com/20-fantastic-free-online-tools-for-writers-36abffa293b5.