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The Ultimate Guide to Book Writing Setup: Tools for Your World-Changing Story

Every world-changing book started with a regular ol’ person sitting down with some regular ol’ tools of the trade and actually writing it. Taking the step from “I have an idea!” to “I wrote the first chapter!” is, I’ve found, the BIGGEST step. And that’s why your book writing setup is SO important.

And I don’t want you to get stuck in that in-between space where you never get started. So let’s get started with the right tools!

So today, we’re diving into the digital toolbox that’ll help you turn that brilliant idea of yours into a manuscript that’ll make readers say, “Wow, this book just changed my life!”

Let’s get you setup to write so that every day going forward, you feel excited and empowered to get the words down… not overwhelmed and frustrated with your book writing setup.

What to Focus On to Get Setup to Write a Book

There are just 3 areas you should look at before you get started, for the easiest and most enjoyable book writing setup.

You’re welcome to take my recommendations or choose something totally different! While the tools you choose don’t make the writer, they can sure make the book writing setup a whole lot easier, and that makes your writing easier too! And I’ve tried a LOT of tools and resources to save you the time.

Writing Software

This is where you’ll write your book. Now some folks will just open up Microsoft Word or Google Docs and call it a day, but neither of these were designed for writing. I know that sounds strange! You can use either of those, but I find that they cause more frustration than anything. Here are some better options:

  • Scrivener: The Swiss Army knife of writing software. It does everything but make your coffee… and, unfortunately, sync easily. This has been my writing software of choice since 2013, but its fatal flaw remains the same, over a decade on:

    You really have to be happy writing only from one device with Scrivener. It does not have a good, reliable syncing feature so you can’t start on a laptop and pickup later on your phone, tablet or desktop. (Yes, there are workarounds, but I find them to be stifling and ultimately untenable.) I do really love that Scrivener is a one-time payment, not a subscription.

    I still love Scrivener, and ​I heartily recommend it​ if you’ll only be writing from one device!
  • Dabble: This is my current workhorse because it’s almost as good as Scrivener, but it’s cloud-based, so I can pick-up where I left off on any device and keep writing. Scrivener is more feature-rich, but Dabble is a close second, and if being able to (easily!) write from multiple locations and devices is important to you, I recommend it instead.

    Dabble is subscription-based, but does have a lifetime purchase option. If you’d like to ​try Dabble, you can get $20 off​ with this link.
  • Ulysses: Perfect for minimalists! Ulysses has the best mobile app and it WOULD be my favorite if I had the option to write in rich text rather than markup…or if the markup would at least disappear in the editor after writing it. I find that exporting often still has markup (e.g., _emphasis_ rather than emphasis) and gets in my way when I’m writing and exporting.

    Ulysses, if you’re listening, please give me this option! You would be my #1 if you did!

    Ulysses is only for Apple products—Mac, iPhone, and iPad, but it’s also very affordable! If you like the minimalist option and want good syncing between devices, and the best-of-the-bunch mobile app (iPhone only right now), ​Ulysses​ is the one!

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Idea Organization + Research Management

This is how you’ll keep things easy and organized—critical for bringing ideas together into cohesive, readable, transformative books. If you want a book that makes an impact, you have to PLAN for impact, and that means you can’t just wing it.

All good books are thoughtfully planned before they’re written.

That’s why having the right book writing setup is crucial for bringing ideas together into cohesive, readable, transformative books.

Plus, when you’re writing nonfiction (and even fiction!), managing your sources and properly citing them is not only a good CYA, it’s vital for building trust with your readers. And that’s why I built the Book Map.

  • The Book Map: The Book Map is hands-down the best option out there. I’m not just saying this because it’s my baby; when I tell ya I tried EVERYTHING before making my own, I mean I tried EVERYTHING. And nothing comes close to The Book Map in terms of ease of use, organization, completeness, and most importantly, making the planning and writing phase EASY. It’s like a GPS for your book journey, helping you navigate from messy idea to masterful manuscript in a paint-by-numbers-easy kinda way.
Nonfiction Book Map by Holly Ostrout - The BEST tool for organizing your ideas and writing your nonfiction book!

You can get a discount on the Book Map + Book Mapping Course just for being a newsletter subscriber. Use the form below to subscribe to my weekly newsletter and get 10% off.



Or you could ​read more about it over here​.

Grammar & Style Checker

Editing your manuscript is a multi-step process. At minimum, you’ll want to do a first pass edit yourself to read for clarity, completion, and to make sure your ideas actually got across; then you’ll want to do a second round edit yourself with a good editing software to look for typos, spelling and grammar issues, and voice and style issues. This will save you a lot of money when you hire your copy editor.

  • ProWritingAid: I don’t mess with anything except ProWritingAid. Full stop. It’s the absolute best and it’s affordable. I have a lifetime license and I recommend it for everyone, too, but if you think you’ll only need it once or twice, a monthly subscription is totally worth it. Don’t bother with the free trial. It’s very limited and the paid version IS worth it. Here’s a link to ​get 20% off a lifetime purchase (worth it!) or one month of a subscription​.
  • If you’re on a budget, you can get started with Google Docs or Microsoft Word’s spelling and grammar checking, but you WILL need to get PWA (or equivalent) at some point. They just aren’t strong enough for a full check.

Check Out: How to Write a Nonfiction Book Readers Can’t Put Down (Easy!)

Check Out: The Ultimate Guide to Quickly & Easily Outlining Your Novel

Don’t Overthink It!

Now, here’s the deal: just like we talked about choosing your TODAY topic, I want you to choose your TODAY tools for your book writing setup.

Because if you don’t set yourself up for success NOW, you’ll forever be stuck in the “I’ll start writing when I have the perfect setup” loop.

Go through each category and choose ONE tool that resonates with you. Start setting it up. Download that software, create that account, whatever it takes. You’ll be so glad you got this all sorted out now when you start writing.

Remember, the best tool is the one you’ll actually use. So pick what feels right for you and start writing that world-changing book!

Reach out if you have any trouble!

Let’s change some lives,

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Holly

PS — 🩵 When it feels right, here are 3 ways I can help you turn the page:

  1. The Book Map. Imagine having a GPS for your book-writing journey, guiding you from “I think I have an idea!” all the way to “OMG, I did it! I wrote a book!” That’s what the Book Map can do for you. It’s a supercharged roadmap for your writing journey. It’s not just about outlining chapters; it’s about diving deep into what you want to say and the best way to say it, ensuring every word pulls its weight. You’re not just writing a book; you’re crafting a masterpiece that feels as if it almost writes itself. Ready to make your book dream a reality? Let’s Book Map it!
  2. One-to-One Book Coaching. I have a vision of changing the world one book at a time, by teaching world-changers to create a book in a gentler, more effective way. A way that takes both you and your reader on a profound journey. I see a future where we build trust in our words, worlds, and work with our books, and where the world becomes a better place because of the books we write. My commitment is to bring to life books—fiction and nonfiction—founded on integrity. I’ll bring the map, and you’ll take us on the journey. If you’re ready to change the world with your book, your quest awaits. Apply for a free discovery call here. It takes 3 minutes.
  3. Listen to the Podcast. The Book Coach Chronicles: A podcast for writers of books, people who want to be writers of books, and y’all in the back who’ve been thinking about it but don’t yet consider yourself a writer. Listen on AppleSpotify, or Everywhere Else.

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Holly Ostrout is a book coach with a vision of changing the world one book at a time, by teaching big-idea entrepreneurs, coaches, speakers, and authors to create a book in a gentler, more effective way. A way that takes both you and your reader on a profound journey.
Holly Ostrout

Hi I’m Holly. If you’re going to change the world with your book, fiction or nonfiction, I can help you do it.

I'm a book coach for high-achieving, creative coaches, consultants, service providers, speakers, and authors who want to build a sustainable business around their book—whether that’s fiction or nonfiction.

I help you share your wisdom, ideas, and gifts by writing & publishing a life-changing book that helps you streamline your business, bring in more money, and change more lives.

I believe books are the most important human invention. And yours can change the world.

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Joyful, Easy Writing Can Be Yours​

Find that magical zone when the words flow like honey + everything you want to say comes across in perfect harmony. Write your book joyfully + easily with this Writing Ritual Tracker & keep the flow with my helpful newsletter.

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Joyful, Easy Writing Can Be Yours

Writing Ritual Tracker from Books & Alchemy

Find that magical zone when the words flow like honey + everything you want to say comes across in perfect harmony. Write your book joyfully + easily with this Writing Ritual Tracker & keep the flow with my helpful newsletter.

Mockup of The Writing Ritual Creator from Holly Ostrout
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If You Want to Change the World with Your Book, You've Got to Write It.

Find that magical zone when the words flow like honey + everything you want to say comes across in perfect harmony. Write your book joyfully + easily with this Writing Ritual Creator & keep the flow with my helpful newsletter.