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Writing Process & Programs > writing methods / tools

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message 1: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Jorgens | 4 comments In the old days of computers you couldn’t have more than one program open at a time. Now with more RAM and speed you can have many. Also we have many more appliances to work on in different settings: laptops, tablets, and smart phones. My laptop is a Macbook Air with a 13” screen that isn’t heavy because 95% of my writing is actually done with the computer on my lap. Hot and heavy won’t cut it.
the iphone and ipad let me jot down and share ideas anywhere, any time. Much more efficient.

Here are the five things that I have open:

Simplenote for jotting down ideas and information. The magic is that everything I put in turns up on all three platforms so that notes are always available. I like Notebook but found it unreliable and occasionally lost work.

Word for an outline in outline format. My way of working always requires an outline that evolves as the manuscript evolves. My memory just isn’t good enough to remember the sequence of things, the transitions from chapter to chapter, etc. I can change the order of chapters by simply dragging and dropping.

Word for the working draft. The search feature is crucial. It lets me instantly find any word or a phrase or sentence or chapter that I want to modify.

Any browser to let me google history, and details about anything else I need.

Google maps lets me visualize things without actually having to go there.

I would be interested to hear about how others work.


message 2: by Timothy (new)

Timothy Skilton | 17 comments I'm not yet published, but a few tools I've discovered have certainly helped my productivity. First, I walk a lot and use Dragon Anywhere to dictate stories, well chapters, into a very rough form that gets saved to the cloud. After I clean it up, I run it through WriteLab, which is quite helpful in rooting out a lot of my poorer writing bits. After I polish it a little, I run it through Natural Reader to hear how it sounds and to get a feeling for the flow of it. Of course, I am also using the tools that you mentioned, for the same reasons, but these three have really aided my productivity, both in quantity and quality.


message 3: by Tom (new)

Tom Busk | 1 comments Word for the working draft(s), save deleted sections in a seperate doc.
Excel for the plot outline- added pages for "cast list", POV tracker, calendar and notes.
Web browser usually open- use Evernote for saving research.
Everything is saved in Dropbox.


message 4: by J.N. (new)

J.N. Bedout (jndebedout) | 115 comments Wacky as this might sound, I find Visio very helpful for plotting. I can color-code each plot line and move blocks around as needed. (It helps that I have a Visio license, too...) There are plenty of stencils to choose from as well.


message 5: by Loren (new)

Loren Killdeer (lorenkilldeer) I want to add this page: snazzymaps.com

Pretty much like Google Maps, but it lets you add your own additions for you novel. For example, if your story happens in a real place, and you want to visualise where every character lives, you can use this page to mark your characters houses. You can save your maps and return there everytime you need!

I hate drawing maps, so I used a map of a town the size I imagined my town would be, which is a real town, changed the name, put everyone houses (it was needed for the plot) and saved it.

I find it really useful! I hope it saves someones time too.


message 6: by Martin (new)

Martin Wilsey | 447 comments Here are my most common tools:

Scrivener
MSWord
Grammarly

Google for images, maps, facts, research.
GIMP for covers and images.


message 7: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (last edited Oct 09, 2017 08:13AM) (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4310 comments Mod
Well... I'm writing right now. Currently I have my MSWord open, two documents. One is my manuscript, the other filled with sketchy notes about how tall the corn is at each farm in my story on any given day and other such exciting information.

Firefox is up so I can check on Support for Indie authors now and then and other things completely unrelated to my writing. Occasionally I'll look up how a wheelchair was made in the 1930s or some such thing so I can justify having the Internet open. Hey - I did some research!

I have my Windows Media Player open. Music helps me focus. Currently it's playing Riders On The Storm by The Doors. This may be the most important tool I have, aside from my fingers and my brain.

The fourth most important is coffee. Today I'm drinking something called Oktoberfest that I picked up in the Amana Colonies a week ago. It has hints of apple and caramel in it. I'm drinking it from a Cheech & Chong mug - which is maybe the fifth most important tool. Without it, I'd have a puddle of coffee or I'd have to hold the coffee in my hand, which makes typing nearly impossible.

True story.


message 8: by J.J. (last edited Oct 09, 2017 12:14PM) (new)

J.J. Jorgens | 4 comments J.N. wrote: "Wacky as this might sound, I find Visio very helpful for plotting. I can color-code each plot line and move blocks around as needed. (It helps that I have a Visio license, too...) There are plenty ..."
Inspiration is good too if you like to drag ideas around in the form of thought balloons.


message 9: by Mary Ellen (last edited Oct 09, 2017 09:08AM) (new)

Mary Ellen Woods (maryellen_woods) | 48 comments Planning - Aeon timeline, trying out Beemgee, Scrivener corkboard, Airtable for organization and soooo much more

Research - beyond the obvious internet...Discover Books (cheap source of former library books), Internet Archives for primary sources, my collection of Civil War books

Writing - Scrivener, period (also organizes, saves research...)

Editing - ProWritingAid (wayyyy better than Grammarly) , Hemingway app, Multiple grammar books and websites

Sanity & inspiration (which can be opposing forces) - coffee, chocolate, alcohol, Civil War reenactments, not necessarily in any order


message 10: by Ian (last edited Oct 09, 2017 10:24AM) (new)

Ian Bott (iansbott) | 263 comments J.N. wrote: "Wacky as this might sound, I find Visio very helpful for plotting. I can color-code each plot line and move blocks around as needed. (It helps that I have a Visio license, too...) There are plenty ..."

I use Visio a lot at work and can see exactly how this would be a good tool for plotting out events, causal connections etc. and mapping to a timeline. However I don't have Visio at home. I make do with Excel for that purpose - rows down the page show time, columns show the main story threads/POVs, and I add text and color to blocks of cells to show key events. Variations on the theme handle history timelines, and scene lists.

MS Word for writing - drafts through to final text - with separate documents open for setting and character details.

As others have mentioned, browser for *ahem* research. No really! Important to know how to kill silently, or how far away from a small nuke you need to be to survive. Agreed that Google Maps is a brilliant research tool, but I don't think the Street View van has yet achieved space flight :(

On top of that, I always keep a time tracking spreadsheet open so I can keep tabs on genuinely productive time - surfing the interwebs does not count!

Back to the drawing theme that started this post, I don't have Visio but I do use iDraw a lot for maps, plans of buildings and other setting details so I can get a mental handle on the physical space.

Oh, and often iTunes and headphones to lock myself into my private head space. A scary place to be ...


message 11: by Micah (last edited Oct 09, 2017 11:49AM) (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments Scrivener. Pretty much for everything.

I used to use Word exclusively, but Scrivener's ability to store it all in project form, re-arrange or split scenes/chapters easily, and back up projects with the stroke of a few keys pretty much trumps everything else I used to use.

If I find research stuff online, I dump it to a file and import it to my Scrivener project.

Writing/editing/plotting/character creation/world building ... all done in Scrivener.

I haven't finished a project in it yet, though, so I haven't compiled a document in any format. So until I try that and see how well the eBook turns out, I am using Notepad++ to format eBooks in html. I suspect I'll end up compiling eBooks in Scrivener and then still creating html files by hand ... but time will tell.


message 12: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Jorgens | 4 comments Does anyone know of tools like ProWritingAid that work in Spanish?


message 13: by B.A. (new)

B.A. A. Mealer | 843 comments Where do I start? Laptop, Kindle for my research books are givens. I use NaturalReader, Scrivener, Google Chrome to save work, Google Maps, a white board and postits for plotting. pen and paper for rough draft, several dictionaries and thesauruses, and MS Word, Adobe reader and Photoshop. I'm sure I forgot something, but I work on multiple things, so use different programs for different projects.


message 14: by Richard (new)

Richard Roux | 7 comments Typically, the tools I use are:
-my laptop
-Google Chrome to do research and save sources
-MS Word to write
-MS Excel (depending on the project)
-Google Earth
-A Variety of reference books


message 15: by Angela (new)

Angela Joseph | 132 comments Loren wrote: "I want to add this page: snazzymaps.com

Pretty much like Google Maps, but it lets you add your own additions for you novel. For example, if your story happens in a real place, and you want to vis..."

I've used Google Maps but never heard of snazzymaps. I need to check it out, especially as I've never visited this place I'm writing about. Thanks for sharing this.


message 16: by Michael (new)

Michael P. Dunn (wordboy1) | 86 comments Compared to others, my tools are very basic...spiral notebooks for first drafts, MSWord, black and red pens (black for first drafts, red for editing), and coffee...lots and lots of coffee.


message 17: by Magnus (new)

Magnus Stanke (magnus_stanke) | 173 comments Michael wrote: "Compared to others, my tools are very basic...spiral notebooks for first drafts, MSWord, black and red pens (black for first drafts, red for editing), and coffee...lots and lots of coffee."

haha, I was just going to say the same thing. My first drafts are all hand-written on paper (with an old-fashioned fountain pen, of course) in long hand...


message 18: by Pamela (new)

Pamela Harju (pamelaharju) | 81 comments Word, Excel, OneNote and Google Chrome for me. I don't plan anything on paper or screen, only in my head. I use OneNote to scribble down bits of dialogue and other stuff I must not forget when the time comes.
Oh, and iTunes. Nothing happens without music. I also like to be different and drink tea instead of coffee.


message 19: by Roxanne (new)

Roxanne Bland (roxanne2) | 102 comments I don't have any "tools" to speak of. I have my thesaurus and my dictionary. If there's a question for which I don't have an answer, I google it. I might bookmark the page for later use, depending on whether I think I might need that information again, or if it has other useful information to impart that I think I might need later. Otherwise, it's just plunking myself before the computer and plowing through.


message 20: by A. (new)

A. Jr. | 14 comments Martin wrote: "Here are my most common tools:

Scrivener
MSWord
Grammarly

Google for images, maps, facts, research.
GIMP for covers and images."


Thanks for mentioning Scrivener. I checked it out and there was even a discount. Downloaded it and put all my notes and info in there. I was using Word so I was able to import my docs. This is so much better. And the Compose screen really helps me concentrate - just having only the doc on the screen. Every writer should check it out.


message 21: by Noor (new)

Noor Al-Shanti | 147 comments Wow... I guess my writing is pretty low tech compared to everyone. I have never even heard of the majority of those tools you all shared, but some of them sound very useful, so I will have to check them out.

I use Word to type the story and if I need to do some thinking or organizing I go back to the good ol' pencil and paper to get my thoughts down.

I will sometimes have google open so I can do some light research, but this often gets me on long research sessions that end with me having wasted my writing time, lol.

Oh yes, and baby name websites.


message 22: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) Noor wrote: "Wow... I guess my writing is pretty low tech compared to everyone. I have never even heard of the majority of those tools you all shared, but some of them sound very useful, so I will have to check..."

You're not alone. I use Word for my writing. I don't access websites on my laptop other than kdp, and other publishing necessary sites, so I keep my phone/tablet handy as a research/thesaurus/note jotting/time wasting device.


message 23: by Roger (new)

Roger Cave | 14 comments I must admit, I tend top sketch the plot out in a small notebook, refining bits as I go along, and making notes of the traits of the characters, for example.

Then it's into MS Word, and I've been playing with a sample of Ginger to assist with some of the clean up.


message 24: by Jane (new)

Jane Jago | 888 comments I write in Pages
Research in google and the library
Have many notebooks
Also use google docs for collaborative writing
Save all to iCloud


message 25: by C.B. Matson (last edited Oct 30, 2017 12:05PM) (new)

C.B. Matson | 143 comments Just finished 130k novel on Scriv, my first experience w/ that program. Reaction: Meh... try one more, maybe get used to it, maybe dump it.

Scriv's graphic corkboard is nice for visualization, and the auto-backup is wonderful. But MS Word 365 is so powerful, it does everything Scriv can do, IF you know which buttons to push (not an easy learning curve).

Lit an' Latt should add a powerful grammer checker and a decent spell-check/dictionary to Scriv. That might tip the scales.

Anyone else use Calibre for making mobi files? Works good for converting formats too. Aaand, it's free!!


message 26: by Paul (last edited Nov 27, 2017 03:48PM) (new)

Paul Caruso (pjcaruso) | 2 comments I have just started using Scrivener 3, and I am very much enjoying its flexibility and organizational opportunities.

Being able to have my research, pictures, notes, character & place descriptions and my manuscript in front of me at the same time is enormously convenient.

I’m interested in the iOS version, but have not used it yet.

Dragon for dictation.


message 27: by Joanna (new)

Joanna Elm | 6 comments Absolutely adore Scrivener. The ease with which you can move between chapters without having to open and close out of new windows or tabs alone makes it worth "the price of admission."
Then there's the snapshot feature for revised drafts, and the cork board view and just too many other great features to mention here. It is a bit of a steep learning curve, but there are video online courses and Gwen Hernandez's great book Scrivener for Dummies.
I back up with Dropbox and have Scrivener installed on my ipad and iphone as well as my laptop so I always have my manuscript with me.


message 28: by V.A. (new)

V.A. Trafton I'm old school pen and paper.


message 29: by Don (new)

Don Alesi Christina wrote: "Noor wrote: "Wow... I guess my writing is pretty low tech compared to everyone. I have never even heard of the majority of those tools you all shared, but some of them sound very useful, so I will ..."

Microsoft word low tech? Wow! In high school almost all papers were written in cursive until senior year. When we had to type a paper, we lost points for spelling.

My first computer was in the Army in 1985. That's when I learned to type. I use word now for my writing. I think my hunt and peck method of typing allows me to slow down and think. I will hire an editor for my second book. Great topic.


message 30: by Lori (new)

Lori Beasley-Holmes (loribeasleybradley) | 16 comments I too am low tech! I graduated high school in 1976. Really didn't start using a computer until the late 90s. Had a stroke in '09 and began writing on a laptop in 2013. My daughter had published using Createspace and I did the same in '14. I was always an avid reader, but after the stroke, I could not. Weird brain stuff, according to the doctor, but when I began writing, it reprogrammed my brain and I found I could enjoy reading novels again! I've continued to write, but I'd like to learn Scrivner. Unfortunately, I'm a technophobe at heart!


message 31: by Melva (new)

Melva Henderson | 8 comments Lori wrote: "I too am low tech! I graduated high school in 1976. Really didn't start using a computer until the late 90s. Had a stroke in '09 and began writing on a laptop in 2013. My daughter had published usi..."

I am also low tech! I began writing in spiral binders with pen and pencil, my first tech instrument was an electric typewriter with 200k memory, then my first computer in the early 90s, with 290 megabytes of memory in DOS. I now write on a laptop using MSWord, and that's as high tech as I can muster I'm afraid, teaching old dogs new tricks and all of that! LOL!


message 32: by B.A. (new)

B.A. A. Mealer | 843 comments I just found a new tool for those who may be interested. It's called Novel Factory. You can use it to block out a book very easily. (four hours for the one I've been planning as a second in a series.) It follows the Snowflake method of writing and is very easy to use. I was trying to justify the cost but decided Scrivener would have to do or MS word for now. It if was a subscription, I'd probably do it.


message 33: by Hester (new)

Hester Maree | 4 comments Tried out yWriter which was supposed to be ultra simple for outlining, but find it unresponsive and confusing, even after following utube videos, or maybe it's just techno-unsavvy me. Has anyone tried it?


message 34: by Ken (new)

Ken (kendoyle) | 364 comments Hester wrote: "Tried out yWriter which was supposed to be ultra simple for outlining, but find it unresponsive and confusing, even after following utube videos, or maybe it's just techno-unsavvy me. Has anyone tr..."

I did, some years ago, but I much prefer Scrivener.


message 35: by Lori (new)

Lori Beasley-Holmes (loribeasleybradley) | 16 comments I just downloaded the trial version of Novel Factory and will give it a try. It looks interesting and I like using Snowflake for story ideas. I'm a bit of a technophobe and have always avoided these things. Old dogs, new tricks, and all that rot.


message 36: by Nascha (new)

Nascha (najstar125) | 6 comments I was using Word and had a myriad of folders for each writing project saved on my computer. I have discovered Scrivener in the last few months and I find it to be life-changing.

I have switched to this program because I can combine everything in one project file and I can add or delete chapters with ease etc.

It was a little intimidating at first but I watched a few videos on YouTube including their own tutorial video and it has been amazing! I will be writing all of my future projects with Scrivener.


message 37: by Kim (new)

Kim Walton (kimwalton) | 2 comments I love Ms Word, and Evernote. oh yeah and desktop grammarly, can't live without it. I just installed dragon home edition, so that's a work in progress for now.


message 38: by Robert (new)

Robert Edward | 42 comments I guess I'm pretty basic. I use OneNote for my outline (which is very terse), a page on character backgrounds, another page for the worldbuilding/backstory, and one where I keep all the snippets of pages or paragraphs that I end up cutting (because you never know when the bad idea may become a good idea in another setting). Other than that, it's just MS Word for the actual writing, and an internet browser as needed.

Good question!


message 39: by Eliza (new)

Eliza Loveless (elizaloveless) | 29 comments When I sit down and write. I open two things: my word document and YouTube. It may sound wacky, but I find a video of nothing but rain sounds and play it in the background. The sound of rain really helps stimulate my creativity.


message 40: by Ken (new)

Ken (kendoyle) | 364 comments Eliza wrote: "The sound of rain really helps stimulate my creativity...."
This was one of the reasons I considered moving to the Oregon coast a few years ago. Your method sounds much cheaper, however :)


Sam (Rescue Dog Mom, Writer, Hugger) (sammydogs) | 968 comments Eliza wrote: "When I sit down and write. I open two things: my word document and YouTube. It may sound wacky, but I find a video of nothing but rain sounds and play it in the background. The sound of rain really..."

Wonderful idea, Eliza! Thank you! I'll need to find one of rolling ocean waves to both calm my nerves and inspire me. Hugs


message 42: by Lori (new)

Lori Beasley-Holmes (loribeasleybradley) | 16 comments Kim wrote: "I love Ms Word, and Evernote. oh yeah and desktop grammarly, can't live without it. I just installed dragon home edition, so that's a work in progress for now."

I purchased Novel Factory, but I think I got ripped off. I paid the 39.99 and they said the activation code would be sent to my email. It never was. I've found something called Dabble that looks interesting, however. It has windows for plotting, character development, and chapters. It is very easy for this confirmed technophobe to use and they have several very interesting upcoming features on their website. There is also an interactive help window. It saves to the cloud. I spent the day plotting a story and look forward to begin writing tomorrow.


message 43: by Marisa (new)

Marisa Ferraro | 3 comments My tools are very simple. I prefer the basics. I start with pen and paper for first drafts, planning, plotting etc. Then its Word all the way.


message 44: by Don (new)

Don Alesi It may sound a bit crazy, but I try to write about things that happen in my life. For instance, if I am kayaking, I may ask myself if there is short story I can write and submit to a magazine. It causes me to take a second look at things and gather in more details.


message 45: by Lionelson (new)

Lionelson N.Y. | 31 comments For digital tools, I use an online platform to write my stories so I can write or edit on the go. I use Google Docs, so now it's synced between my phone and laptop. As for keeping notes and ideas, I use Google Keep. Also to sync between laptop and phone.

I do this because I tend to be lazy when I'm away from my work desk. Being able to edit in my phone ensures I keep doing something.


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