These online tools help you organize, focus, and most importantly, write.
With the growth of cloud technology and AI software, it’s become easier than ever to write a book online. Authors of all experience levels are increasingly turning to these tools to make the writing process fast and organized.
Whether you’re learning how to write a nonfiction book for the first time, or have published works under your belt, these online writing tools can help you craft a stellar manuscript.
Writing Tools the Experts Use
Online Documents and Storage
Storing your documents in the cloud rather than just your local computer presents many advantages. For one thing, you won’t lose all your work if your computer is damaged or stolen. Additionally, if you’re collaborating with a coauthor, online storage allows either of you to access the most updated version of the materials at any time.
Here are three solid options to write a book online and store it in the cloud.
Google Docs/Google Drive
If you have a Google account, Google Docs offers robust word processing features and saves to the cloud in real-time. You can write your entire manuscript in Docs from start to finish without opening a word processor on your personal computer. Your Google account will offer 15 GB of storage for free before you need to upgrade.
You can also back up existing documents on your computer to Google Drive if you prefer to have updated copies in both places.
Google Docs makes it easy to collaborate with a coauthor or editor if they have a Google account. Sharing is easy, and the editing feature allows both parties to easily keep track of changes and comments.
However, sharing on Google Docs is less convenient if your collaborators don’t have Gmail themselves.
If you work on Microsoft programs and have a Microsoft account, OneDrive may be the tool for you. It offers more word processing features than Google Docs, albeit less free storage. The difference in storage space will likely matter more to authors who collect large amounts of research consisting of large file types.
OneDrive’s big advantage is fast document syncing between the cloud and your personal computer. Speedier syncing means a faster workflow for you.
OneDrive is also a good option if your coauthor, beta reader, or editor doesn’t have Gmail.
The popular cloud collaboration program Dropbox launched Dropbox Paper a few years ago. Dropbox Paper has a word processing feature that lets you create new documents within DropBox, although it’s still certainly geared more toward project collaboration than it is toward lone writers.
DropBox Paper has fun features, like automatically creating a table of contents in any new document, and it comes with templates or the option to start a document as a blank slate. You can even upload existing .docx or .txt files and convert them to the Dropbox Paper file type.
Dropbox Paper offers the classic ease of collaboration that Dropbox users have come to expect, and it’s a solid option if you have multiple authors or editors who need to work on a document in real time and keep careful track of edits.
Tools for Notetaking
As you write your nonfiction book, you probably take a lot of notes. You may reference articles, web sites, photos, or videos. You may even need to make quick sketches.
The good news for those who want to write a book online is that today’s cloud technology lets you keep all of these materials in one place. This ensures you won’t lose things and that you can keep even large writing projects organized.
Writers who have an abundance of research may find Evernote helpful. Evernote is an overall organization system for notes, information, to-do lists, and thoughts throughout the day. It certainly offers the most features of any note-taking platform, with the tradeoff of a higher price tag.
In Evernote, you can save typed or handwritten notes, images, documents, lists, and can attach files and articles that you need to reference later. Because Evernote syncs its notes to all your devices, you can access your notes offline. That might come in handy if you need to block out the internet for focused writing time.
Evernote lets you tag notes for easy searching, and it has a “search” feature that will search typed text or handwritten notes. You also get to build your own organization system and choose how notes are displayed—or, if that sounds overwhelming, choose an Evernote organizational template.
Notes for Apple
Diehard Mac users will be happy to note that Apple’s version of notetaking software also lets you save notes, lists, articles, photos, and sketches in the cloud, and also searches both typed and handwritten text. It works on any Apple device, making it a convenient choice for Apple users.
You can pin certain notes for quick access, which helps to keep next steps top-of-mind as you research and write. That feature also cuts down on overwhelm for those who prefer to focus on just one or two tasks at a time.
Apple Notes lets you “lock” notes for extra privacy, which may come in handy if you’re writing about sensitive information.
Scrivener is more than a word processing tool. It’s a project management tool for writers. It allows you to outline your book, organize characters and timelines, storyboard ideas, and then actually write the draft.
In Scrivener, you’ll find templates for nonfiction books, fiction, scriptwriting, poetry, lyrics, and all other project formats. Your final draft can be exported for a publisher, or published in an online format for ebook readers.
Scrivener is reasonably priced, making it a great all-in-one program for writing project management.
Writing Coaches Online
So you know where you’ll keep your research and notes, where you’ll save your manuscript, and which software will keep you organized. But what about guidance on the writing process itself?
Do you know how to write a nonfiction book? Do you understand what makes a stellar book and how to get it in front of readers?
This is the need The Book Professor® aims to meet. There’s a program for every writer, whether you want to work alone, in a group, or one-on-one with an editor.
Are you an extremely disciplined, highly motivated writer who just needs some “how-to” instructions on writing a nonfiction book? Try The Book Professor’s self-directed writing course. Its curriculum will guide you through the three stages of writing a nonfiction book.
The success of the self-directed course depends on how well you can motivate yourself when working alone.
Executive Group MASTERMIND Class
Maybe you need the companionship of other writers and the accountability of an editor to keep you on task. If so, you can find the same how-to material for writing in the format of a virtual “class.”
The Executive Group MASTERMIND will group you with a handful of fellow writers under the direction of a trained writing coach. Together, you’ll journey through the three stages of writing a nonfiction book.
Groups meet virtually once per week. Otherwise, you complete coursework on your own schedule—so long as you finish the writing assignments on deadline.
1-2-1 Personal Coaching
Do you want your project to have ongoing, focused direction from an editor? For a deep-dive into making your manuscript shine, try a one-on-one coaching experience.
Like the group and self-directed options, you learn about the three stages of writing and follow a writing schedule, but you also get one-on-one calls with a professional editor who will give your book undivided attention.
Tools to Improve Focus
Every author, no matter how disciplined, struggles with distraction.
Luckily, online tools abound to keep you from clicking into social media or checking the weather when you’re supposed to be typing.
Yep, it’s just what it sounds like: a program to help writers focus.
Focuswriter gives you a word processing page with a background wallpaper that blocks out the rest of the screen. You can’t see your computer’s clock, can’t see notifications, and won’t see a menu on the word processing page unless you scroll your cursor to the top of the screen. Even the spell check feature is optional.
You can set time or wordcount goals and immerse yourself in the work of writing. Focuswriter can even blur out lines you’ve already written, so you won’t get distracted by backing up to read your last few sentences.
This program works best for the drafting stage of your manuscript rather than the editing stage. It doesn’t pack all the word processing power of, say, Microsoft Word, or even Google Docs. But for pounding out a page without a backward glance, it will get the job done.
Write or Die
Write or Die performs the same service for writers—reducing distraction—in a more intense way. If you’re up for serious motivation in your rough draft phase, give it a try.
Like Focuswriter, Write or Die lets you set wordcount or timer goals. The difference is that you can set consequences for failing to stay on task.
If you pause too long in writing while the timer is still going, or before you’ve hit your wordcount, consequences might range from a reminder message to keep typing, an unpleasant noise to jolt you out of your thoughts, or even your written text beginning to delete itself. You can adjust your “grace period” to define how long you’re allowed to pause from typing.
This option isn’t for everyone—if timers give you hives, try more relaxing motivation—but for some authors, it works wonders to get those first ideas onto paper by deadline.
Speech to Text Programs
Speech to text programs enable you to write at the speed of your own speech. If you aren’t a fast typer, this may be a less frustrating method to compose your first draft.
We recommend these as top options.
Otter.oi listens to and transcribes as you narrate your book, and then allows you to search the resulting transcription for keywords. It even jumps to that part of the recording if you need to listen to that section again for clarity.
This is an especially strong tool if you’re interviewing multiple people for your book project. Otter.oi can provide speaker ID for conversations involving several speakers.
You can either record in real time or feed an existing recording into Otter to get the transcript.
Dragon software is flexible. It switches easily between typing and talk-to-text mode for writers who prefer to move between the two features. Conversely, it works well for those who want to stay in voice mode even for other tasks.
Dragon allows you to work with voice commands on your computer and, if you have browser extensions installed, even surf the web without switching back to typing.
You can choose from several versions of Dragon software, some geared toward individuals and some toward groups. The best for the average nonfiction author is probably Dragon Naturally Speaking. It works in many programs like Microsoft Word and Scrivener.
Spelling and Grammar Tools
Grammarly catches your mistakes and suggests improvements to make your writing crisp and clean.
The free version of Grammarly will catch your typos: misspellings, grammar mistakes, and punctuation errors. The Premium version will help hone your professional authorial voice, suggesting ways to improve clarity, tone, and word choice.
And yes, you can “teach” Grammarly new words if your manuscript includes an uncommon name or frequent slang.
The one downside to Grammarly is that, although it works well in Chrome, it doesn’t work on Google Docs—a major shortfall if you’re an author who hangs out in Google’s cloud.
If Grammarly focuses on technical details like spelling, grammar, and other mistakes, Hemmingway Editor offers you advice exclusively on the flow and readability of your sentences. It suggests when you need to split up complex sentences, when you’ve used too much passive voice or too many adverbs, where you could use simpler words, and many other things that authors should be aware of.