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I am looking for a good writing software. I'm not talking about something to perform just grammar/spelling checks, like word, which is great, but not what I'm looking for. I'm looking for something more designed for writing a novel. I'd like it to be free.

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    Are you looking for a free product? A pay software? Are you a new writer or an experienced one? – JP Chapleau Jan 23 '18 at 21:16
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    I use Microsoft Word because of the grammar/spelling checks. I have used Scrivener to try to write, but it doesn't have the grammar/spelling checks. – NomadMaker Jan 23 '18 at 21:16
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    Welcome to Writers. Could you edit your question to add more details about what you're looking for and what you've already tried (so we know not to suggest what you've already found ineffective)? Also, if you have any requirements (like price), please include that information. – Monica Cellio Jan 24 '18 at 3:32
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    I second what @MonicaCellio says: what do you mean by "really designed for writing a novel"? What specific features do you need? If you specify that, it will make the question and the answers more helpful! – FraEnrico Jan 24 '18 at 10:48
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This is definitely a touching question considering how much time writers spend on their computers. There is Microsoft Word. I love Word, however writing in it is unorganized and messy. If you desperately needed a good spell checker, though, Word is the way to go. You can find it here.

I use Scrivener. Scrivener doesn't have the best editing tools, but it is made for writing and it is overall amazing. Organization is a breeze, full screen mode is awesome, and tons of tools are built in (including random name generation). You can find it here.

As a side note, if you are looking for something to jot down ideas, the same people that made Scrivener also made Scrapple. I personally haven't used it, but I will probably buy it sometime soon. I currently use OneNote (also part of Office). There is a free version. With a free mobile app, it is perfect for using when inspiration comes.

For editing, I use AutoCrit. It has advanced editing features that help find your writing style problems. It does not help much with grammar. It is based around style. AutoCrit does have a high monthly fee. I got it on sale for winning NaNoWriMo, but I think I pay for it anyways if I hadn't.

Lastly, if you are writing science fiction or fantasy you might need some wacky names. Here is a generator for that. While designed for business names, it works great for crazy names.

In summary, when I work I take notes in OneNote (and probably Scrapple sometime soon), write in Scrivener, and edit in AutoCrit. I use Word primarily as my middle man since I can't directly export from Scrivener to AutoCrit.

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Specialized Writing Software:

Specialized Screenwriting Software:

I can personally highly recommend all of the directly linked software (I don't now about the other screenwriting software listed on the Wikipedia page), and they are all often recommended by other writers (if they use specialized software at all and not MS Word, Open Office / Libre Office Writer, or a plain text editor). That is, to my knowledge this is the best software out there. Which one fits your personal needs best is something that you have to decide by studying the respective websites and testing the demo versions.


Papyrus Autor is a German software that has been around since 1992 and has become the most widely used writing software among German-speaking authors. Patchwork is a new software from Austria with the richest set of features among all writing software (all of which can be activated or deactivated according to personal needs, so they don't in fact overwhelm) which has been greeted with enthusiastic user reviews. Both come with the best available German spell and grammar check (from Duden, which otherwise is only available as a paid plugin for MS Word or InDesign) as well as with a style analysis devised by German author Andreas Eschbach (and described on his website). I added these two applications to the list for German users, of which there are plenty on this site. I'm not familiar with the English GUI of Papyrus Autor.

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I use something no-one has mentioned, LyX. It's designed for mathematicians and physicists to write documents full of TeX/LaTeX-typeset equations, which is how I happened upon it, but it's much more multi-purpose than that. It can be used to write scripts and, if you know what you're doing, novels. (I've used it for that purpose several times, but first it was how I wrote a PhD thesis.) It has a number of advantages over Word (but these might also be features of other options people have mentioned), such as:

  • Easy breakdown of document into parts, chapters, sections etc., be they numbered or unnumbered;
  • It works out how to position everything for you in a WYSIWYM, not WYSIWYG, format;
  • Ability to create invisible "notes".

But there are disadvantages:

  • You write a .lyx file but export from it to another format that can be read without LyX (LyX notes' contents won't show up);
  • The WYSIWYM format has some colour settings that, while having no effect on the output, can annoy you as the user unless you spend a few minutes changing them;
  • The document's settings may take a bit of customisation to look like a novel (I set the document class to Memoir; if you need any further help, look at the TeX SE).

I cannot speak for other programs, but there will be surprisingly long lists of pros and cons for everything, and ultimately the software is less important than your ideas.

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Personally, after trying (almost) everything, I ended up using Vim. Couldn't be happier with it. However, I can see why only coders use it for writing novels. There is a tremendous learning curve that makes even Scrivener look reasonable. So to the list above, I'd add Manuskript. It's an open source clone of Scrivener that focuses less on places to horde research and more on giving outlining tools to the user. When I last used it (November of '17) there wasn't much documentation to support it. I found it intuitive, but I imagine that might have more to do with my familiarity with Scrivener than the UI of Manuskript.

  • I was burned out using LaTex when I was young, so I never tried LyX. I will have to do this now, J.G. I would also like to thank dknestaut for the suggestion of Manuskript. I will have to try this as long as it isn't limited to the Mac. As for writing a novel in Vi, I think I'd rather use Emacs. I wonder if anybody has written a novel-writing add-on for Emacs... – NomadMaker Jan 26 '18 at 10:29
  • Hi! I tried downloading Manuskript, and I just ended up with a folder full of loads of different manuals etc, not an application! How can I download it properly, or write online? – Sasha Jan 31 '18 at 13:46
  • I tried Manuskript a while ago. It was buggy and the program would crash with some text losses. – Vitaly Sazanovich Feb 1 '18 at 13:40

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