By Sarah Maher

It has been said that everyone has a novel inside them and a lot of us have, at some point in our lives, courted the idea of putting pen to paper and creating a bestseller. As those of us who have ever tried will testify though, writing a novel is difficult. Perhaps this is why we find stories of authors fighting against the odds to follow their dreams so inspiring, such as that of Helen Keller who was left both deaf and blind after an illness in infancy and yet completed her first autobiography by the age of 22. Or that of Charles Dickens who fought to escape a life of drudgery working in a shoe-blacking factory at the age of 12 to bring us characters such as Ebenezer Scrooge and Oliver Twist.

Fortunately for us, the world has changed much since Dickensian times. Nowadays there are far fewer obstacles blocking the road to the realisation of our dreams, whether via the traditional route or through self-publishing. Advances in technology mean that it is now easier than ever to plan, develop and complete that inner novel. The following list contains applications which have been designed to not only provide some brain lubrication at the ideas stage, but also to outline and plot your novel. Now, if only they could help us make the bestsellers lists too.

Forest: Stay Focused

One of the most difficult tasks for any new writer is to gain and keep focus. In this modern world, we are constantly being distracted by our mobiles, whether to check social media, emails, or texts, and this can make getting started on your novel very difficult. Forest: Stay Focused enhances productivity by discouraging you from accessing other apps on your phone while it is active. As you work on another device, the Forest app will grow digital trees which will die when you try to access other apps from your mobile. A cute feature of this app allows you to collect coins for trees planted which you can exchange to grow trees in real life. Available on Android and iOS. Also works as a browser extension for your PC.

Lists for Writers

Lists for Writers offers exactly what it says on the tin, lists of items to help you generate new storylines and ideas. As well as helping you to develop character traits and names, this app also provides lists of locations for settings, action verbs and adjectives, as well as a host of other lists just waiting to be discovered. Keep your ideas fresh and exciting every time. Available on Android and iOS.

Character Generator: Develop your story characters

Character Generator provides you with prompts on character traits to help you create your own characters as well as offering a roll-the-dice feature which will automatically generate your characters for you. Suggested challenges allow you to think about what your character is made of and how they will react in certain situations, while weekly writing challenges allow you to get the creative juices flowing and share your work with other writers. Available on Android.

The free version of this app allows you to record your ideas and transcribes them for you. Excellent for those with a busy lifestyle, this app saves you the time spent writing ideas down, and offers handy playback features. An essential app for every budding writer, this tool is also useful for students and anyone who wishes to create notes for presentations. As well as dictating your own ideas, Otter allows you to import/export files to be transcribed. With up to 600 minutes per month offered on the free plan, and 6,000 on the premium version (currently €9.99 monthly), this app packs serious punch and value for money. Available on iOS, Android and via your web browser.


Scrivener is built on the concept of a digital ringbinder, allowing you to organise and structure your writing. As well as offering you a fuss-free interface, its many features (such as template creation and a digital corkboard) makes this a real powerhouse of an app. Scrivener not only simplifies your writing process but also provides you with the tools you need to export your masterpiece in a range of different formats, including Kindle and Epub. Thought your usual word processor had all that you needed? Think again. Built for and available on MacOS, Windows, and iOS.

Getting started on a novel is tough, but regardless of where you are in the novel planning stages, these apps can all make the creative process run a little smoother. Remember, the novel that only exists inside you is never going to make it to the bestseller lists, so why not give these apps a try and share your story with the world!

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