I’ve been researching the writing software market for over a year. This is after seven years of writing consistently resulting in over a thousand posts and five books.
I’ve noticed there’s a strong commonality among writing software. That commonality is solving your grammar and aligning your writing style. I’m happy there are tools that do that, but they miss out on the biggest points of writing which I’ll explain later.
To really understand the current writing software market, let’s dive in.
Writing Software Tools that Exist
First, let’s understand who the major players are in the writing tool and writing software market:
None of these tools make their primary focus to help you become a better storyteller, write more empathetically, or practice your writing. Instead, they’re dialed-in on solving the granular problems that happen after you write your story. For example –
- Ensuring you don’t use “that” where you should use “who”
- Knowing how to publish your book
- Organizing your scenes better
- Having a place to store notes
All these things are important to writers, but it doesn’t help them write better. Millions of people use Grammarly, but these users are often no better at storytelling than they were before. It’s a different skill.
A skill that’s only learned through community feedback. I should know – I’ve written over 150 short stories. Many of which have gone viral leading to over 200 million views on my content just from these pieces.
I’ve learned you can have awful grammar and still write a better story than the person who’s been correcting their work with ProWritingAid and Grammarly for years. The reason is a story isn’t predicated on grammar. It’s predicated on providing a feeling to the reader whether that be happiness, loneliness, inspiration, or gratitude among many others.
The problem: There are so many feelings, yet so few writers who can provide them.
Even with over a million books self-published every year, it remains a mystery to most writers to how they can get their words read by readers.
The numbers don’t lie.
How many books stand out every year?
How many get shelved right away?
The number of books that become worth reading again over future years, and in some sense, create a legacy is less than 1/1000 of the books published every year.
What makes that “1” special.
It’s not the number of words in the novel.
It’s not the number of chapters in the book.
Or even category.
Today, there’s no writing software enabling that impact. It’s for a good reason: it’s hard to create. To do so, you must be an empathetic writer. That requires more than grammar. It requires practice with the right feedback.
That brings me to my next point.
Writing Software Should Guide Empathy
When I started as a writer, I made the mistake that many other writers do. I wrote articles for low-level publications on subjects I didn’t care much about. This didn’t help my writing career. I paid too much attention to views and shares rather than quality of writing.
As my career advanced, I wrote for high-level publications that wanted self-tested research and well-written copy in every post. That’s where I saw the difference. They didn’t want to pump out articles for the sake of having more click-bait content and better SEO. They wanted to create loyal readers. Readers who believed every piece of content was worth reading.
That required me to dig deep into understanding how I could deliver such content over and again. The truth is – it’s hard. It comes down to this idea that you must put yourself in your readers’ shoes.
There’s a famous quote by the poet, Robert Frost:
“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
For example, I’m writing this blog post passionately. When you’re reading it, I expect you to feel this passion. I can’t explain every reason you will, but I know you will. Because of this quote above has proven itself true in all my writing.
To know if you put yourself in your readers’ shoes, there’s one person who can tell you whether you did that successfully: your reader.
- Did they like your writing?
- Did they share your writing?
- Did they save it to read again later?
The main problem with most writing software is it doesn’t provide feedback on your writing from readers. You write and no one reads it whether that be on Facebook, Medium, or other platforms. It hurts.
Here’s the catch: You don’t need many readers to know whether what you’ve written is quality. You just need the right readers. The best are often empathetic individuals who consume related content.
For example, my primary audience who reads my content is founders. As long as I have a few high-level founders read my work and provide feedback, I’ll know whether my content pulls the right strings.
Sure, I may get great comments from people who work in other industries, but those aren’t the people I’m trying to reach. You have to keep yourself in check and ask, “Are the people who I want to reach engaging with my content in a meaningful way?”
Writing Software Should Have Community
This is why the subreddit “r/WritingPrompts” has over 13.5 million members. It’s one of the few places writers can get feedback on their work from people who are actually interested in providing it.
The only close resemblance to this is Wattpad. Yet, Wattpad has continued to struggle for many reasons, including lack of ability to monetize and define their product-market fit.
Wattpad was the closest writing software to getting it right. The part it hasn’t helped writers with – is with better onboarding, templates, and education. It also doesn’t place a strong focus on their editor leaving it underdeveloped and underwhelming.
A writing community is one of the hardest things to foster. After all, you’re competing against all the other writing communities. Most of all, you’re competing for an investment of time; in other words, their attention.
The answer lies in your ability to show you care about helping your community members participate. That you can provide value even when they don’t.
It lies in making the small investments that help them get rewarded by being in your community whether that’s through creating new friendships, social circles to review their work, and even providing the motivation to keep writing.
But there’s a catch-22.
Not every writer is the same. Some writers prefer delving into fantasy fiction. Others prefer romance novels. For me, I like writing technical documentation. There’s a huge range.
How do you foster community when there’s a vast difference between what writers write and read?
Writing Software Needs Personalization
It’s more than just the writing editor and templates that should be personalized to you. A writing software needs a community that’s personalized to you.
Neither has been done to a degree where the founders can say, “We provide a streamlined relevant experience for each writer who uses our platform.”
Writing software provides the same experience whether you’re interested in answering fantasy writing prompts or writing your biography. This doesn’t work in the modern age where we’re competing for attention. People expect to get what they want – when and where they want it. It’s our job to make that experience come true.
The best part: today’s technology enables this. It gives us the ability to segment writers based on their preferences leading to the perfect product experience.
Wix provides an example of how this can be done with their onboarding experience in three consecutive steps:
I click “Let’s Do It” and I see this screen below.
Each time I fill out an answer, it prompts me to answer another section detailing my background and intentions.
By the time you’re finished onboarding with Wix, the experience you’ll receive will be relevant to all your inputs. As a result, you’ll get what you want – when and where you want it. That’s a big reason today Wix is valued at over 4 billion dollars.
The closest thing we have in the writing software industry to personalization is the templates Scrivener provides once you download their software.
If that’s the best the writing industry can do, then there’s a lot of room for innovation. It’s a matter of having the patience and drive to see it through.
The Advantages of Writing
How websites get made will change over time whether that’s from WordPress to Wix or Wix to Webflow. There are innovative approaches that come out every year that save people time in building and designing a website.
On the other hand, the writing industry hasn’t changed. People have been writing for thousands of years with little change in sentence and grammar structure. In fact, most changes to sentence and grammar structure take many decades, and often, an entire century to finalize.
Moreover, changes to sentence and grammar structure don’t affect how people write a story worth reading. The same frameworks years ago whether that be developing a climax, creating anticipation, or simply capturing a reader’s imagination – still work today.
In industries like film, where movies go from black and white to color to 3D, it’s hard to anticipate what tools you’ll need for success. Cameras and video editing technology must evolve accordingly.
For the written word, it’s Kindle. A significant change in how readers consume books. The difference is it’s had little impact on how writers write books. I’d argue, it primarily affects the publishing process by making it easier. Going back to film – with 3D and color movies, it’s only made the editing process more complex. It seems in this ever-changing world that writing remains one of the few constant variables.
Newton’s first law of motion states that –
“An object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”
In further explanation of this law, physicians have found a strong correlation to the longer something is in a state, the longer it will continue to be in that state.
For video and film, the chances are there will be continued innovation that drastically changes the way video editors operate. Today, the video maker, Lumen5 can instantly turn a blog post into a video. I don’t think anyone saw that coming.
For writing, it’s less about changing writing. It’s more about making it easier to do the things writers already want whether that’s getting feedback on their work or enabling them to use writing templates that were once scattered about the internet. Then lastly, providing those things in a personalized manner.
Book Writing Vs. Practicing Writing
When I first started working on the writing software, Squibler, the idea was to help writers author books. I didn’t think it’d be bigger than that. As referenced in my previous writings, you’ll notice that’s indeed true.
With more research came more findings. The number of people interesting in learning “how to write a book” is much higher than those who want a “book writing software” (11K/month searches).
Writing prompts are essentially a way for writers to practice writing so they can one day write a book or short stories that get read. The keyword phrase “writing prompts” gets searched over 150,000 times/month. Google is telling us that people want to practice.
This means there’s a large market looking to get better at the writing process. They need to be educated on how to write a book and practice the processes such as answering writing prompts that will make writing a book easier.
The balance is personalizing a product to people who want to learn and improve their writing processes without excluding people who are ready to write their book.
This requires an in-depth understanding of a personalized onboarding flow, the variables that make writing practice enjoyable and habit-forming, and the nuances that make writing a book easier such as templates. Tie it all together seamlessly and you have the writing software this world needs.
My Solution is Squibler
I started Squibler with the idea to help writers author books. With more research as noted above, I realized the market is much bigger than writing books. It’s also about helping people become writers who have enough confidence to write books.
By focusing on community first through personalization, we’re taking a widely different approach than most companies in our space. The reason is most of these companies have chosen to monetize right away rather than create a freemium model with personalization that better supports the community.
The reason: making money faster is attractive.
But we’re in it for the long-run. To us, it’s more important to create a better product that solves bigger problems than us needing to make money. It’s about how we can help the world. Because everyone should learn to write stories that drive emotion, create a legacy, and get people to think differently. With a mission that big, you need a product that’s built with it from the start.