Writing a book for your business can be a great strategy for any entrepreneur – especially those in fields where success depends on authority and professional credibility. It’s worth putting in the time and effort, even though it may be challenging at times.
But just because it’s challenging at times, that doesn’t mean it has to be challenging all the time. That’s why I’ve put together this list of writing tools. By using them, you can focus on getting your book written – without having to deal with many of the distractions and challenges that often accompany the process.
Some of history’s greatest writers used nothing more than a pen and bound notebook for writing. Of course, they didn’t have access to the technology available to you and me. While the basic tools of the trade are still quite simple, there are options that can make writing easier. Here they are.
1. Text editors – getting your words onto “paper”
The number one job of your text editor is to give you a place to type your words. For that, there are countless tools that can do the job. Here are three that might work for you – and how to use them most effectively for writing your business book.
The industry standard for writing and editing your manuscript is Microsoft Word. While Word is an incredibly powerful and full-featured word processor, it’s best to stick to the basics. Choose an easy-to-read font like Times New Roman 12pt, and don’t use any fancy formatting. Stick to the pre-set styles when formatting your chapter headings (Heading 1) and subtopic headings (Heading 2). And don’t try to make things look pretty. Formatting will happen during the publishing phase in a different tool, and any extra formatting added during the writing process will mean more work for your book designer to undo.
If you don’t have a copy of Microsoft Word, Google Docs is a free, cloud-based word processing tool that’s pretty similar to Word. Most publishers will still expect your manuscript to be submitted as a Word file, so once it’s ready to submit, export it from Google Docs as a Word (.docx) file. Do this by going to File, then Download, then Microsoft Word (.docx) in the Google Docs menu.
Another word processor popular among many writers is Scrivener. It’s purpose-built for authors and provides a complete system for managing not just the text of your manuscript, but also supporting information and assets like notes, research, metadata, and more. It has a bit of a learning curve, so if you think you’re likely to write only a single book, it may not be worth spending the time to figure it out. If, however, you expect to be doing a good deal of writing in the future, you might want to check it out. Publishers will still expect a Word document, but, it’s easy to export your Scrivener document to a Word file. So there’s no need to sweat it.
2. Headphones – creating a little writing cocoon
A good pair of headphones are a godsend when trying to block out distractions and write uninterrupted. The brand doesn’t matter much (unless you geek out on audio gear), but consider splurging for noise-cancelling headphones – and for the wireless feature, so you can set some focus-inducing music playing from your phone and then stow it away so you’re less tempted to pick it back up.
3. Brain.fm – getting your brain into the zone
Speaking of focus-inducing music, I got turned onto Brain.fm – and now I use it almost daily. Brain.fm uses a science-based approach to create what they call “functional music” that is optimized to help you focus. From my experience, either their science is solid…or the placebo effect is strong.
4. Website blockers – keeping distractions at bay
Also in the spirit of focus, there are a number of website blockers on the market that allow you to block access to distracting websites, apps, or the internet at large for a fixed period of time – so you’ll be forced to write instead of procrastinating by searching for dash-cam compilation videos on YouTube. Freedom.to is my favourite of these, and it works on Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android, in case you thought you could skirt around it with a burner phone.
5. Dictation tools – supercharging your word count
Some people speak more quickly than they can type and are quite comfortable dictating their first draft rather than typing it. If this sounds like you, a good dictation tool could be the difference between pecking away at forty words per minute (the approximate average for non-professional typists) and achieving a blazing 150 words per minute (the pace that most people speak at).
Here are a couple dictation tools you might want to try out.
Dragon speech recognition software
The leader in voice-to-text speech recognition for as long as I can remember, Dragon Speech Recognition is an alternative text input source you can use to dictate directly into your text editor. You can also record your words using a recording device (like your phone) and then upload it for transcription.
Rev transcription service
An alternative to Dragon is Rev.com. Rev offers crowd-sourced transcription at very reasonable per-minute rates. Just upload your audio or video file and your transcription will typically come back to you in less than a day.
6. Writing trackers – measuring progress
I strongly encourage you to track your writing sessions. That way, you’ll know what you’re putting out there – and how quickly. For me, I use a fairly simple spreadsheet to enter the date, start time, end time, and word-count for each writing session. If you use Scrivener, it’s got a built-in feature that tracks your writing stats automatically, which is very handy.
Need more tools and tips?
Check out Entrepreneur to Author: 5 STEPS to Writing and Publishing a Nonfiction Book That Builds Authority and Grows Your Business. The book includes access to a wealth of bonus resources, including an even more robust list of writing tools and my own writing tracker worksheet you can use to track your own writing.
Although none of these tools will write your book for you, they can make the process easier, more efficient, and a whole lot more fun.