Whether it’s a calling, a passion, a way to make money — or some combination of all three, writing is a pretty rewarding way to spend your time, not that I’m biased.
But before you set out for your favorite cafe with a typewriter and a funky hat (neither of which are an actual requirement of the profession), hear this. There are actually several online tools that can help you get your career as a wordsmith off the ground — without spending a dime.
In this list, I’ve included 11 of my absolute favorite (and completely free) writing tools currently on the market. Whether you’re looking for a distraction-free writing platform, a way to save your ideas on-the-go, or a keen editing buddy — these freebies have something for every writer. Keep scrolling to find your new favorite free writing tool.
1. Google Docs
It isn’t glamorous, but it is free, and it certainly does get the job done. With plenty of free storage, and endless ways to organize your work into folders (and share it with other writers and editors), Google Docs is a must-have for any serious writer.
You can access Google Docs simply by signing in (or signing up) for a Gmail Account. From there, you can create new documents and folders, spreadsheets (which can be super helpful for tracking your taxable income), and so much more.
Think of Draft as an online, distraction-free word processor. With many of the same features as Google Docs, draft offers a cleaner, simpler interface. If you’re the type of person to become easily distracted while writing, you might want to give Draft a try.
One of the best things about this word processor is the automatic word-count tracker, which allows you to set up and easily track your daily word count goals.
Another great free tool for easily-distracted writers, FocusWriter answers the call with that perfect blank-page look, and no fussy settings or additional controls to get in the way.
Customize your background theme, set a timer or alarm and then get to work. Since this application is available via download rather than in a web browser, you’ll need to have one of its supported devices. Fortunately, FocusWriter is available on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux.
It doesn’t get any simpler than Sprinter, a one-window online writing platform that allows you to set a timer (or not) and just “free-write.” (Pun intended. The company is also behind Freewrite — a line of smart typewriters which will satisfy any writer’s aforementioned hipster-cafe fantasies).
Drafts can be saved and accessed through the company’s online platform, or copied and pasted into any word processor. Besides the timer and old school typeface (which is especially satisfying for some reason), this free platform also includes a real-time word count and “read-time” to help you determine the length of your current draft.
If you’re a new writer just looking to dip your big toe in and make a name for yourself, you might want to try using Medium. This blogging website offers clean distraction-free writing experience and also allows you to get your work in front of more people a lot faster than you would just by starting your own blog.
You can write and publish your work for free, and even submit it to publications within Medium (to get more eyes on your writing). Whenever I meet a new writer looking to get out there, I always recommend submitting to these publications. Not only do they make impressive samples to show to would-be clients, but it also teaches you a bit about how to cater your writing for certain audiences and platforms— an important skill if you want to get paid to write.
If you’re a highly visual kind of writer looking for an organizational tool more than a writing interface, then you might just want to try Milanote. It offers a great way to compile all your images, notes and anything else into one easy-to-use visual board.
Once you try Milanote, it’s easy to see how it would be helpful for larger projects like longer essays or books where you have lots of ideas and notes to keep track of. It could also be a useful brainstorming tool if you like making mood boards for your writing work.
Although Milanote has a paid version $9.99 per month, there’s also a free version which includes 100 notes, images or links, and unlimited shared boards with other users.
Although it’s not strictly a tool for writers, Evernote is a great application to know about. Similar to Milanote (but less mood-board-ish and more about note-taking), Evernote allows you to organize all of your notes and ideas in one place. I especially like Evernote for the way it syncs seamlessly across all devices.
Use it to make notes on the go, then open up the application on your laptop and dive back in, right where you left off. You can use the basic version of Evernote for free, or get a few more perks by paying $7.99 per month.
8. Hemingway Editor
If you’re looking for a free way to edit your work before submitting it to an editor, The Hemingway App is a great way to go. This free online tool allows you to paste your completed article or essay and get instant feedback on everything from grammar, to formatting, and even readability.
I especially like it for this last point, since the app stresses the use of simple language and short sentences, both of which will help improve your writing and make your editor’s life easier.
For writers in need of a bit of extra help with grammar, you might want to try Grammarly, which can be downloaded onto your device or used in the form of a browser extension. This free tool provides instant feedback on grammar as well as clarity, word variety and tone.
Some editors even require their freelance writers to use Grammarly when starting out, so if you’re not feeling 100% in your ability to draft up grammatically correct prose, this is a great place to start.
For longer bodies of work like novels and other books, this free downloadable word processor may prove invaluable. Combining a clean, distraction-free interface with loads of great organization tools — like the ability to break your work into scenes or chapters and find them again later — makes yWriter one of the best free writing tools on the market.
The best part about yWriter is that it was created by an author for authors. Offering some of the same functionality as paid tools like Scrivener, yWriter is a great one to get once your work starts reaching lengths in the thousands of words and organization becomes imperative.
11. Reedsy Book Editor
For the writer who already has a large body of work and is looking to edit it, consider trying Reedsy Book Editor. This platform offers more than just editing. It also has a huge network of freelance editors, designers, and publicists available to help you bring your manuscript up to speed, whether you’re sending it off to a literary agent or self-publishing.
While you will have to pay for advanced services, you can access the free formatting tools on their website, which allow you to format your manuscript as an epub or PDF, something you’ll need to do before publishing no matter how you choose to do it. Beyond these tools, the company also provides a variety of free online mini-courses for writers including a self-publishing course, a marketing course for published writers, and a course to help jumpstart your novel.
The Final Word
Writing isn’t easy, but when it comes to everything else — editing, formatting, and even publishing — there’s a free tool that can help. The best part about getting comfortable using these online tools is that you’ll actually become better at your craft by using them.
Platforms like Medium and Reedsy can help you better understand what it takes to get published, while Draft and FocusWriter may help boost your daily word count. Once you get in a groove, you may find you need these tools less and less, which is one clear way to measure your growth as a new writer.
Contributor Larissa Runkle specializes in finance, real estate and lifestyle topics. She is a regular contributor to The Penny Hoarder.