Writing a Novel on the iPhone

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I have a family and a full-time job. I do not have a lot of time to write. Some days, I don’t have any time at all. Those days make me very sad. A few months ago, I was distressed to find them becoming more and more numerous. So I got creative. I have half an hour for lunch, and I have an iPhone. Surely, I thought, there is a way to use my phone to get some writing done, and I was pleasantly surprised to find how easy it actually is:

You need an app for remote storage and an app for word processing. I use Dropbox and Quickoffice (This isn’t a commercial for either app, or the iPhone for that matter. This is what works for me. There are other apps and phones out there that may work better for you.) The apps I use are fairly easy to install, and they are (mostly) compatible with one another. You also need to install Dropbox on your computer. Then it’s just a matter of moving files into your Dropbox folder, opening Quickoffice on your phone, and navigating to the files.

I’ve spent many a happy lunchtime editing my novel since then, and I’ve come to discover the advantages and disadvantages of writing on the iPhone.


There is really only one advantage, but it’s a major one. I have access to my novel from anywhere. As mentioned I can do edits on my lunch (half-)hour. If I get an idea, I don’t have to hope I remember it until I get to a computer or rummage for the pen and notebook I don’t carry with me. I can just pull out the phone and make a note or make a change to the manuscript itself. If I happen to run into an agent or publisher who thinks I’m brilliant and wants to read the full manuscript (It could happen.) I can just send it from my phone.


Depending on the size of the document you’re working with, you’ll probably need to be connected to a wireless network. Going strictly 3G can be painfully slow.

Sometimes Dropbox and Quickoffice don’t play well together. Random “validation errors” make for a grumpy writer.

Fat Finger Syndrome. The keyboard in Quickoffice is very small. My fingers are not. Sometimes this causes problems. Sometimes autocorrect exacerbates these problems. On occasion, hilarity ensues. Too bad I’m not writing humor. Also, any significant cutting and pasting is impossible. It’s easier to delete sentences and retype them instead of trying to move them.

Okay, this one may just apply to me, but so far, I haven’t been able to  figure out a way to insert special characters, meaning I have to remember to go back and add acute accents and cedillas and hačeks (See what I did there?). A minor inconvenience, but an inconvenience nonetheless. A bigger problem would be that there are no curly quotes. Going back to change those is a pain.

In conclusion, while a person could write an entire novel on an iPhone, I wouldn’t recommend it. For me, however, it is a really great way to sneak some writing into my day. And that’s worth a lot right now.

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