9 Best Writing Apps for Your Phone
These days, you can do almost everything on your phone or tablet. How does that scale with writing a novel?
With these apps, I looked specifically at the drafting phase of novelling. Of course, you can find apps to help with brainstorming, planning, and editing as well—but drafting creates a unique challenge.
Even the biggest smartphones come with comparatively small screens. Most interfaces feel clunky or difficult to maneuver, making the task of writing large blocks of text that much harder. Other considerations that come to mind include syncing, the ability to work on the same draft both from your phone and from your laptop and bring it with you on the go; as well as phone functionality.
Some of the apps below are for both iOS and Android. In other cases, I tried to find an alternative. Currently, iOS leads the competition both in variety and quality of apps, but you can find the essentials for every operating system.
One disclaimer before we get started: my favorite writing app on my phone is not actually a writing app as well. It’s a note-taking dictation app called Speechnotes that I use to dictate chapters before emailing them to myself and pasting them into a document on my computer. You might find that the app that works best for you isn’t one that tops the list either—try things out and explore!
Top Nine Writing Apps
Compatibility: Universal, but syncing limited to Apple products
Scrivener is the grandfather of all writing apps, and it still continues to hold the standard with its variety of features, incredible flexibility and ease of use. Many consider it hands-down the best writing software on the market, and it’s absolutely worth the look.
Scrivener can help you plan, track research, mark edits, and draft among other things. The app includes limited syncing for Apple users as well so that you can work on the same projects at home or on the go across different devices.
Android alternative: JotterPad
While Scrivener focuses on providing as many features as possible, Ulysses is the other way around. Its streamlined, minimalistic interface provides a pleasant escape if you’re wanting something compact and open and that won’t look too crowded on your phone screen.
Ulysses uses a lot of shortcuts to make things easier, balancing an attractive layout with easy navigation and a simplicity that makes other apps jealous.
iA Writer has a similar minimalist interface to Ulysses but a few more features, including a focus mode that highlights the sentence you are currently writing and a set of editing tools that can help you critique your style.
This software is available for Apple and Universal products, though it comes with a lower price tag option for PC and Android users. In addition to writing and editing, it is easy to export your work to a number of formats, which makes it easier when you want to switch to working on a larger screen.
Android alternative: Novelist
If you’re a fan of margin notes, stickies, and visual aids, Storyist might be the writing software on the go for you. Storyist was built with novel writing in mind and has a host of tools to help you stay organized throughout the writing process.
While it includes many of the same features as Scrivener, the looser and more casual interface might make it more attractive and comfortable to work with without the risk of distracting yourself from your writing.
Android alternative: Pluot
Squibler was not designed as a novel-specific app. It has unlimited flexibility and can work for planning, plotting, or coordinating with others for a bigger project or anthology.
That being said, it has options, ideas, templates and resources for novels and other creative projects—so it can be a good place to dive in if you do many different kinds of writing and want a single app to rule them all. While it is largely marketed as an app by professionals, for professionals, you can expect a deluxe experience if you plan to use it to coordinate with other writers, which is pretty nifty for something you can keep in your pocket.
Sometimes it’s best to stick with something basic and familiar, and many of today’s most successful authors don’t use anything fancy to write at all.
These old-school word processors have their limitations. You won’t find a character development chart or a plotting template, and you might have to go through some extra steps to leave a note on a part of your writing you’ll want to visit later. But you know what you’re getting before you start, and the app will come ready made with all your favorite basics.
Android alternative: Pure Writer
Bear is primarily a note-taking app, but it’s such a solid and detailed note-taking app that it functions as a word processor on its own.
The key word that describes Bear is “flexibility.” You can sort and tag notes, link them together as chapters of a book, encrypt, customize and dictate your notes so that you can write whatever you want, your way, whenever it’s convenient.
Living Writer is comparable to Scrivener, but it has a few more bells and whistles to keep you active. In addition to an additional dark mode for aesthetics, Living Writer has templates for a variety of popular plot structures, word count goals, NaNoWriMo integration, and cloud-based storage so that you can work on any device without missing a beat.
Does Living Writer replace Scrivener completely? Not really. Scrivener is better established and stores your writing locally without need for an Internet connection. The subscription requirement of Living Writer might also be a turn-off for some, but in the end it’s simply a different program that will appeal to different people.
Android alternative: Writer Plus (Write On the Go)
Writing Shed was designed for people who have multiple projects—whether poems, short stories, or novels. It creates alternate versions of files easily if you want to edit on your phone and also allows you to track submissions of shorter work.
While it isn’t as fancy as some of the apps on this list, it can be a good way to streamline your work if you find you have many projects to juggle at the same time.
What’s your favorite writing app? As always, you can sign up to share in the comments section below. You can also click on the blue button to join my Facebook group for self-publishing fiction writers.