If you've been around The Write Practice long, you'll have noticed we've recently talked a lot about which book writing software you should use. While I'm a strong believer in “use whatever works for you,” I'm also a strong believer in Scrivener.

Best Book Writing Software: The 6 Documents You Always Need Open As a Writer

So today, instead of giving you more reasons why I think you should use Scrivener (because there have already been plenty…) I'm going to tell you which tabs/notes you'll want to create and have open while you're writing.

Side note, if you don't use Scrivener, you'll want to have these as separate documents or pages on Word or Google Docs or Evernote (or whichever book writing software you use).

And if you're not sure what book writing software to use, or you're looking for more great tools to help you write better and faster, check out this list of our Top 10 Pieces of Software for Writers.

6 Essential Documents for Writers

Here are the six tabs, documents, or pages you'll need open all the time if you want to really get your writing done.

1. To Do List

I LOVE lists. It's most likely because I'm a goal-oriented human and love being able to check things off as finished.

This works incredibly well for my writing as well. I have certain projects that I want to make headway on and I give myself specific, measurable goals to cross off.

For creative writing, I try to stick with time limits instead of word counts since the writing is so unpredictable. For projects and nonfiction, I break them up into sections and work on each part specifically. Here's an example from my To Do List today:

2. Distraction Bucket

I wasn't the originator of the “bucket method,” but I've adapted it for writing and it has been a lifesaver.

Here's the problem: We're all writers, but we are also all humans. That means that while we've committed time and energy to writing, life can often get in the way. Before I used the “bucket” I would gaze out the window and think of all the important things in my life that weren't writing.

The “bucket method” is almost exactly what is sounds like. It's a note in your project labeled “BUCKET” that you dump all your important but not relevant thoughts into. These aren't necessarily action items that go into a to-do list but rather things that keep distracting you from your writing.

A few recent examples for me:

  • Money
  • Friendships and Relationships
  • Spirituality

With each item you put into your bucket, also write a few sentences to go along with it that will help you temporarily let go of the thought so you can focus on your writing.

3. Words to Use

Writers love words. I love words. I hope you love words, too.

In the event that you love words, I propose that you need an entire note devoted to good words. These are words you might want to include in future writing or words that you like to use often in your everyday writing. It's a simple list that you can pull up when you're stuck or looking for inspiration. They don't need to make sense or be in any particular order.

Here are a few of mine:

4. Darlings

You've heard this famous writing advice from Stephen King and William Faulkner and retold in thousands of other places (including here).

When you kill your darlings, aka those sentences you love that get in the way, you don't have to delete them forever. You just need a place to put them.

5. Musings

Musings is one of my favorite notes to have open. The writing you put in here can be anything; the only requirement is that it's dreamy. When you're staring off into space, because all writers do, you'll see the glint in the window and the ray of sun poking through the dusty shade and you'll have to write about it. These are what I call musings.

Keep a page open to write your dreamy, deep pieces that might help get your creative juices flowing again.

6. The Piece You're Actually Writing

Oh, how could we almost forget this one? You're sitting down to write something specific most days. A short story? A novel? A series of poems?

Well, have this open too. Or you won't really get anything done. We wouldn't want that.

Writer, Write

You might have noticed a theme here: all these documents are meant to remove distractions and preserve inspiration so you can write. If you find one of these documents is getting in your way, get rid of it! Or if you need a place to record something not mentioned on this list, create it.

It's your workspace, your thoughts, your book writing software, your imagination. Organize it in the way that works for you.

And if you do nothing else, do this one thing:

Writer, write!

What pages or notes do you keep open while writing? Which of these are you going to try? Let us know in the comments.


Today, spend the first fifteen minutes of your writing time creating and organizing pages or notes like these to remove distractions and set yourself up for success. When you're done, share your favorite notes. I'm especially looking forward to seeing what you have on your “words” note.

In the comments below, share your words, darlings, musings, to-do's, distractions, or even the actual piece you're working on. And don't forget to leave feedback for your fellow writers—let's all inspire each other!

Kellie McGann is the founder of Write a Better Book . She partners with leaders to help tell their stories in book form.

On the weekends, she writes poetry and prose.

She contributes to The Write Practice every other Wednesday.

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