Authors are not immune to procrastination, nor to distraction. To write a book requires dedication and a consistent writing schedule, but any author will tell you that the kind of focus needed to finish something as long as a book doesn't come naturally. It's a skill that they have developed over time through continued practice.

With as many distractions as we have online today, it's no wonder that there are countless digital tools cropping up, claiming to make this daunting process easier. Whether that's a tool that bars you from certain websites or a program that turns the process of writing a book into a game, you could end up spending quite a bit of money on apps to keep you focused.

In the end, no app will write your book for you. But, depending on what challenges you most as a writer, online tools may be able to help. Most importantly, moving past those initial hurdles will help you get in the habit of writing regularly. Here are 5 (mostly) free apps and tools to help you finish your manuscript.

For Research - Evernote

Evernote is an app that allows you to organize your resources from wherever you are. Did you read a web article that you'd like to reference later? Maybe you took a picture of a whiteboard brainstorm. Evernote can accomodate almost any format - photos, PDFs, webpages - while also allowing you to create new notes directly in the app. The best part? You can connect it across devices, so that if an idea comes to you while you're on the train in the morning, you can jot it down on your phone and have it available on your desktop when it's time to start writing.

For Concentration - OmmWriter

This is the only tool I've included that costs money, and it's simply because it's such a unique experience. There are many tools out there that also help block out distractions through music, simple backdrops, or old-fashioned typing sounds. But these elements, as OmmWriter combines them, complement each other in a way that makes the writing experience incredibly immersive. Not to mention the fact that the app only works in full-screen mode, so authors aren't able to be tempted by other online distractions.

For Interviewing - oTranscribe

Non-fiction books often rely on interviews with experts to help demonstrate a point. oTranscribe is a tool that makes the task of transcription a little less tedious. It isn't fancy (and it doesn't do the work for you), but by uploading your audio file to it, you're able to avoid switching between windows. It also allows you to slow the file down to match your typing speed and even add time stamps that will bring you back to a specific moment in the recording.

For Collaboration - Google Drive

Why mess with something that works? Google Drive is an incredibly powerful tool that almost all of us have at our disposal and have probably already used. If you have multiple people working on a file at once, perhaps adding in research or ghostwriting portions of the book, Google Drive makes it easy. And similar to Evernote, it's compatible with multiple devices, so you can add content from anywhere, whenever inspiration strikes.

For Editing - Word Counter

When it comes to editing your manuscript, it's best to leave that task to fellow humans. No tool or app will be able to substitute for the value a seasoned editor provides. That said, one tool that may be helpful either during or after the writing process is Word Counter. All this tool does is let you know the most commonly used words in your manuscript. We all have a tendency to fall into patterns when we write, but repeating a certain word can become especially tedious in something as long as a book. If one or two words are used exponentially more often than others in your manuscript, it may be worth going back to see if you could swap in some synonyms, especially for descriptive adjectives and adverbs. For example, if you see the word "obviously" high on your list, your tone may be coming off a bit condescending or your readers may be wondering why they're reading if the takeaways from your book are obvious.

Whatever tools you opt to use to help finish your manuscript, remember that the point of them is to make your writing more efficient. If it takes too long to figure out how to use them or if you get bogged down in trying to eliminate repetitive words, ditch the app and move on. Remember that your goal is a finished manuscript, not a perfect one.

Published on: Jul 6, 2017