10 best iOS writing apps for would-be authors everywhere

Our compendium of the best writing apps for iPad and iPhone

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Many of us would like to write a book. But unless you're a genius (or you have low standards) you need to plan your story before you dive into its imaginary world.

That's why more than half of the apps we've mentioned here deal with the literary underpinnings of your book: defining your characters, planning pertinent plot points, describing locations, even picking out the motivating factors that drive your hero forward, like fixations, frustrations and phobias.

We'll also show you how you can make a significant saving on two leading reference works that ought to be found on every writer's virtual bookshelf.

Writing is something we all have to do at some point in our lives, and even if your scripting efforts centre more on notes for the milkman than chapters and verse for the masses, you'll find an app here to meet your needs.

1. A Novel Idea

A Novel Idea

Break down the writing process into manageable chunks and it isn't so daunting

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

The most successful stories - from War and Peace to A Christmas Carol to those tales about that Harry Potter fella - use fairly similar plot and character arcs. Key developments happen in a recognised order, and they build to a resolution through a series of mini climaxes.

Plotting your book along similar lines with a tool like A Novel Idea should make for a stronger story and more fulfilling conclusion.

Here, you work through the screens in whichever order you choose, entering character names and backstory, location descriptions, scene developments, and even random ideas, and they'll all be corralled inside an overall novel container. You can store several novels inside the app at once, if you're fortunate enough to have more than idea on the go.

What's really clever, though, and makes it more than an untidy tub of ideas, is the way the various parts all link together. So, describe half a dozen locations in the Locations tab and they'll populate the menus in the Scene tab screens, ready for dropping straight in. This saves time and will keep everything uniform throughout your novel plan.

We'll admit that it's slightly clumsy about saving each step before you head back to the overview screen, but otherwise it's an effective way to break down a daunting task into manageable, less threatening chunks. A £1.99 In-App- Purchase enables Dropbox syncing, scene writing and export to iTunes.

2. Contour

Contour

A professional film-plotting tool that has much to offer to novelists, too

Price: £5.49 / $7.99
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

Contour has a dedicated following on the Mac where it's long been used to plot movie scripts, but that doesn't mean it isn't ripe for outlining novels, too.

It starts with four simple questions: who is your main character, what do they want to accomplish, who (or what) is trying to hamper their progress, and what would happen if they didn't succeed? Simple. Those four questions define your story from beginning to end.

What follows consists of a series of obstacles and triumphs that see your hero progress to the point where the strands of your book are resolved in the final chapter. Contour breaks down your story into three acts and shows you how to structure each one, guides you through the process of developing your character through the orphan, wanderer, warrior and martyr phases that characterise every successful story arc, and makes it easy to identify weak points in your plot.

If you still don't quite understand what you ought to be doing, it includes the underlying plots to 17 blockbusters, including Up, The Incredibles and Slumdog Millionaire, so you can learn from the pros. It's expensive compared to A Novel Idea, but well worth it if you're serious about writing.