Very rarely can a person sit down and compose an exquisite manuscript in complete isolation. An artist needs tools, and you need them, too.

This is the fourth installment in our series, “Seven Essential Strategies to Finish Your Manuscript in 2020.” Here are the previous three:

Essential Key #1: Remove Your Distractions

Essential Key #2: Practice Self-Discipline

Essential Key #3: Follow Your Body Rhythms

As a reminder, to help you hit your writing goal this year, our staff is offering free no-obligation consultations through the end of the year.

We normally charge $120 per hour, but through the end of the year, we’re discounting it by $120 per hour, which means it’s FREECan’t beat that going into the Christmas season.

Mike Klassen Schedule NOW

Larry Yoder Schedule NOW

Karen Bouchard Schedule NOW

So let’s jump in with some helpful tools to help you finish your manuscript in 2020.

My FAVORITE writing tool is Scrivener, a word processing program designed with authors in mind. Their tagline is “Typewriter. Ring-binder. Scrapbook. Everything you need to craft your first draft.” That pretty much summarizes it for me. I use it for my first draft and then move the document into Word.

Nevertheless, it’s an AMAZING program. I love their:

  • Index cards that make it easy for me to outline/organize my manuscript.
  • Table of contents (TOC) sidebar that allows me to jump from chapter to chapter with ease. AND, I can change the chapter titles within the TOC.
  • Research area. Seriously, this is my favorite part. I can drag and drop documents and pdfs into this section. All my research is right there in front of me!

Scrivener is weak in their review function—but HEY!—they say it’s designed for the first draft, so no big deal.

Grammarly helps you compose bold, clear, mistake-free writing through their AI-powered writing assistant. They can provide basic editing automation not only for your manuscript, but your emails and social media as well. They also have a free Chrome add-on.

Illumify author SAY Yang, whose excellent book The Spineless Porcupine is releasing soon, works for them.

Reedsy seemingly sprang out of nowhere a few years ago. In some ways, they compete with Grammarly, but they also offer other services for writers that are unparalleled in the industry.

Through them you can find freelance editors and an assortment of writing tools like a directory of book promotion sites, book title generator, character name generator, writing exercises, and a list of writing contests. They also offer a blog which I subscribe to and read.

ProWritingAid works like Grammarly and plays the role of grammar and style checker. It easily integrates with MS Word/Outlook, Google Docs, Scrivener, Open Office, and Final Draft so you can edit wherever you write. They also have browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Edge and Safari.

HemingwayApp analyzes your writing and recommends alternatives to avoid lengthy or run-on sentences, wordy phrases, weak phrases, or passive verbs. It also tells you the grade level of your writing.

You do know that most books should be written on a sixth-grade reading level, right? I thought so.

Merriam Webster Dictionary is the standard dictionary in traditional publishing.

Online thesauruses (“thesauri”?) are everywhere on the Internet. My favorite is Rhymezone because it’s easy to navigate and it allows me to narrow my search to various forms of the same word (nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs). If you’re a poet, you’ll really like this because it offers a rhyming dictionary as well.

You also might want to check out PowerThesaurus.

Just for fun, here’s a list of 100 beautiful and ugly words. offers an online editor that analyzes your writing. What I like about them is that they will help you identify repeated and unnecessary words. For example, I tend to use the word “that” way too much.

The Chicago Manual of Style offers a free citation guide for your endnotes and bibliography. A one-year online subscription only runs $41 (less than $3.50 a month!).

Evernote is a note-taking app that works as landing place for random thoughts and ideas if you’re at work or on the go.

Marinara Timer offers customizable timers that remind you to take a break or get back to your writing.

Lest I forget, the ubiquitous Zoom has become a staple of society since covid snuck up on us six nine months ago. You can get a free account, which means they give you forty minutes of free Zoom time for every meeting. They’re great for coaching calls, and, they have a screen share function so you can work on a manuscript with your co-writer, coach, or editor.

Just so you know, Illumify used Zoom before Zoom was cool. We’ve been using them for our staff meetings for almost three years. I can’t imagine running Illumify without it!

Well, that’s all for today. Hopefully, at least one of these tools will help you reach your goal.

Happy writing!