When you’re an aspiring writer (and not an independently wealthy one), sometimes you don’t have the budget for expensive tools. The thing to remember is: Just as sometimes a free checking account can actually be better than one where the bank nickles and dimes you to death, so a free writing tool might actually serve you better than one that costs a few hundred dollars. In other words, free doesn’t always mean cheap or low quality. Some of the people who create these tools are doing so out of motivations beyond cashing in on a particular piece of software. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Unfortunately, you need to be running the Mac operating system to use this app, but writers with Macs seem to love it. Winston is an app that simulates using an old-fashioned typewriter. It can even export your files into beautiful PDFs that look like typewritten manuscripts that have been scanned in. This is great for poets or any kind of writer who longs for the simplicity of the old days when everyone used a typewriter.
Not that long ago, word processing meant you were either paying for Microsoft Word or Apple Pages, or you were using an open source software such as LibreOfficeWriter. Now, you don’t even need the software. You can open just about any browser window and, as long as you have an internet connection, you can write in Google Docs. You can download your completed document in a number of file types, including plain text, rich text, Microsoft Word document (.docx), and PDF.
Why not just use Google Docs? There are several reasons. First, you may not have reliable internet access in the place where you write. Second, you may simply prefer a different solution. Open-source software such as OpenOffice gives you the opportunity to install word processing software onto your computer for free. The word processor in the OpenOffice suite is called Writer, and it, too, has the capability to save your files in a range of formats, including Microsoft Word format.
What About Screenwriting?
Screenwriters benefit from specialized software which intuitively formats the screenplay as the writer types. The availability of free versions tends to change, so you may want to search for open source–or free–screenwriting applications. Sometimes, previously free platforms switch to for-pay models, and others disappear completely. You might even benefit from a free version of paid software that allows you to use it for free, but creates a watermark in PDF exports.
I Need a Dictionary and a Thesaurus
Many writers argue that there’s nothing like the physical book when it comes to a dictionary and thesaurus. If you’re on a budget, you may be able to find these inexpensively at a thrift store. However, you can easily use the Google search engine to find definitions, synonyms, and antonyms for words. Let’s say you want to find the definition of the word onomatopoeia. In Google, you could type (without quotes): “definition of onomatopoeia.” Need a synonym instead? Type (again, without quotes): “synonym for onomatopoeia.”
A writer needs nothing more than a paper and pen. If the writer hopes to publish, a computer with a word processing program comes in handy, and a dictionary and a thesaurus help with the spelling, usage, and variety. However, there are many other free tools for writers available. Some writers swear by a tool called Evernote; it helps take notes while you’re doing research. It allows you to actually clip articles while you’re browsing the internet, save the articles, and organize them. This could be helpful for both fiction and non-fiction writers. Other writers like to harass technology to help with brainstorming (MindMeister, which has a free basic offering), outlining (WorkFlowy), and others.