Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Writing Aids

More Conversation about Aids for Writers . . .

Writing Aids The first post in this conversation series was on Monday, July 30th; and, we had three folks comment about which writing aids they use—from Germany, Jamaica, and Australia—all accomplished authors—three glimpses into writers’ routines…

First, Germany:

“I usually write on my laptop nowadays. When I started as a writer I scribbled on paper, but I gave that up as it’s simply too much work to transfer the text into a digital version; although, this process was a step in revision. But, I still make notes on paper, mostly because I still haven’t found the best way to organize notes. Evernote is alright for keeping track on revisions, though.

“I try not to sit at my desk when writing, which means I have to get up when I want to look up words in my printed (!) dictionary and thesaurus. I return to my desk when the revision stage starts, and then I have my dictionary close at hand. I prefer the printed and the online version, the app is uncomfortable to use.

“I have some books about writing. Some are useful, some not (to me). I believe in learning by examples, therefore I read a lot, and in learning by doing, therefore I write. It does seem to work for me ;-) “

And, here’s Jamaica:

“I’m not going to dwell on what I used to do decades ago, which is writing by hand… Once I was introduced to Wattpad, I was ‘re-hooked’ to writing—then I discovered Scrivener. It is now indispensable to me, it helps me organize my writing, and makes navigating and locating old scenes for cross-referencing and consistency very easy. There is so much more it helps with, but that was the immediate takeaway when I started using it: keeping track of all my scenes…

“Then there’s the Grammarly plugin. I particularly like the fact it explains why something might be wrong, and thus I learn from my mistakes. I use the free version and wait for when they offer discounts to subscribe to the full capabilities for 3 months when I need to.
“Another app I plan to subscribe to, when I’ve completed my novel and am ready to do some serious editing and revising, is the ProWritingAid editing tool. I tested its free 500 words-at-a-time limit editor, and its functionalities are impressive, starting from analyzing my writing. Actually, I won’t need to subscribe to Grammarly when I’m using this app.

“I might also try MasterWriter… perhaps… I came across it recently and am glancing at it out of the corner of my eye… It helps to expand the vocabulary.”

Now, Australia:

“I use Scrivener for writing the whole novel, sometimes Ulysses for short stuff ( a change is as good as a holiday); and, Inspiration, Tinderbox and Scapple for planning. I often use Dragon by Nuance for voice dictation—it could type up the Magna Carta without a mistake. I diffuse essential oils, listen to various tracks on iTunes. I meditate using Insight meditation app and I meet other writers in a virtual world to hang out together and talk about writing. They ‘aid’ me.

“I don’t like being disturbed by noise so I often wear a pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones, which block out all other noise, especially noisy televisions, even if you don’t pipe music through them. They are magical.

“If I ever win the lottery, I intend to get one of those cute little garden sheds where I can work far away from the bustle of the house and ignore everyone else… :-) “

Quite a variety of writing aids—from digital to tactile…

In case you wonder about my writing aids, check out the first post in this conversation


If you’re a writer, what do you use to help you get the words on the page…?

If you’re not a writer, but want to be, what aids do you think would help…?

If you have friends who write, do you know what they use as aids…?

And, you can share what writing aids you wish you had… :-)

All it takes is one comment to have this discussion continue…
If you don’t see a way to comment, try the link at the upper right of this post…

For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

Blog Conversation about Aids for Writers . . .

Writing Aids Our last conversation—How and Why Writers Write—ended on Friday, July 27th, because it received no comments. If you go to that last link you can access all 5 of the posts in that discussion…


Here we go, talking about aids for writers—actually, anything that helps a writer write :-)

If your a writer, you probably use at least a few writing aids; and, you’ve more than likely tried out even more…

If you know a writer, you may have seen many different aids—on their desk or in use…

I suppose it starts for most with a pencil and/or pen; then goes to a small cluster of instruments for getting the words down on the page; then, come the different notebooks; and………

I came across a humorous yet edifying article entitled, Stationery Packing List for a Writer’s Conference. Worth reading…

Then, come the book-aids: dictionaries, thesauri, encyclopedias, even books about “how” to write (though, many writers will say there are no “rules”; but, my favorite fiction author does have a short list… And, her most famous rule is,“Follow no rule off a cliff”).

And, there must be writers who’ve started their craft on computers of various types (plus, on Wattpad, most of the folks write on their phones…)… Then, there are all the various digital aids for writing…

Long before I even thought I was a writer, I spent hour after hour inside encyclopedias, swiftly moving on to novels…

Many authors consider the act of reading a major aid to learning their craft—reading the kind of writing you want to do; and, if you’re not sure what you want to write, reading “everything”…

And, if the writer is a self-publisher, there are whatever aids that process necessitates…

Personally, I’ve gone through the stage of trying out scads of digital aids during my “apprenticeship”; but nearly all of them have slipped into the fog of the past…

Now, I read, a lot; and, I have an app on my computer that has 4 dictionaries and 2 thesauri; plus, every so often, I check the Etymology dictionary

Finally, I do all my composition in a simple .rtf word processor, use Google Docs if I need something like a Word.doc format; and Calibre for various e-book formats…


What writing aids do you use…?

And, if your not a writer, what do any writers you know use…?

Plus, if you can’t yet call yourself a writer, what aids are you using to become a writer…?

But, please don’t feel like no one would want to know which aids you (or, a friend) may use to help with writing—sharing it in the comments could, very well, help another writer………
If you don’t see a way to comment, try the link at the upper right of this post…

For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

13 Awesome Writers’ Resources

Lots of people visit blogs but not all of them dig deep into past posts.

Things like the Top Tags widget in the left side-bar can definitely help but it still means looking through lots of posts

Using the Search Box in the upper right corner can help, too, and you get to choose the words; but, again, there all those posts to read.

Of course, I try to write posts that are interesting to read but why not pull the resource links into one post?

OK, thanks, I think I’ll do that :-)

I won’t be pulling all the links from all the posts though, ’cause searching can have its own benefits

Check these out:

Writing Links & Links for Writers ~ Writers’ Resources on The Web and More

Great Writers Inspire ~ Learning from The Past

Free Software for Writers

The Elements of Style

Common Errors in English Usage

How to Use English Punctuation Correctly

Article Formatter

20 Ways to Kill Your Writer’s Block Forever

Writing And Publishing Resources

Story-Language Software

Easy Street Prompts

Visual Writing Prompts

Creative Writing Prompts

Also, scrolling down the left side-bar will expose you to a few more Awesome Writing Resources

I’d love it if you share some of your favorite Writing Resources in the Comments :-)
Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
* Google Author Page

The Best Writing Software *Ever* ?

I’ve used a tremendous number of software tools (and other aids) for writing.

Check out these two past posts to see just a few of them:

Free Software for Writers
Free Resources for Writers

I now have a piece of software that certainly seems like it could be the ONLY one I need.

Big, bold, brave statement, eh?

The name of this Miracle is Scrivener.

There’s a 30-day free trial and the full program costs $40—if that seems like too much, you are clearly unaware of how useful this software is and you’ll need to go sell something you hardly ever use so you can afford to buy Scrivener :-)

The best overall description of Scrivener’s awesome useability is this quote from their site:

“Designed to be extremely adaptable, Scrivener has a range of tools that can be utilised or ignored to suit the way different writers work. Thus, while some may prefer to meticulously plot and plan their draft in the outliner before even the first sentence takes shape, Scrivener can be equally useful as an organisational tool for those who write first and order their output after.”

Write first—Organize laterit enables me to think about structure after the chaos of writing the first draft.”

Try that using Microsoft Word and you’ll end up in the loony bin :-)

You may want to see more about Scrivener’s Features

There is a video at the bottom of this post but I want to introduce it with just a very few excerpts from Scrivener’s Testimonial Page:

“After years of suffering with Microsoft Word, I’ve finally found a program that makes it easy for me to write the way I want to write! I’ll never go back.”


“There was a point about one month into my first using Scrivener when I realized just how much it had changed how I worked, how much easier the task had become, and I just started crying in relief. I had no idea how much of the story I was stringing together in my head, trying to keep a whole universe balanced while I worked, not until Scrivener helped me lay it out across a binder. The key for me was being able to compose scene by scene and move them around as needed, to skip whole sections of story or include them only as notes without having to use an additional document or paper notebook to keep the mess straight.

“Since using Scrivener I write much faster, and now years into use of the program I’m creating custom templates and labels, getting wicked with keywords, and in general writing smarter as well as faster. It helps me professionally as well: I keep my correspondence with my publisher in the binder, right beneath the research notes I use to double-check information during copy edits. I’ve also been able to customize exports of drafts for beta readers and for professional formatting in a way I could never have done with Microsoft Word.

“I could write without Scrivener, yes, but I’d never choose to do so. Thanks for making my life so much easier and helping me make my stories stronger.”


“I began writing my book as a single MS Word document and very quickly got into trouble. Spanning fifty years and having a complicated timeline, my draft began to tie itself in knots. Me being me, I persisted with a bad idea and, consequently, sank into even deeper trouble. While I was casting around for mind-mapping software—in the hope that I could draw myself some pictures—I stumbled across Scrivener.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you. I copied my existing text into Scrivener, pulled it apart, made liberal use of the fantastic corkboard and, finally, I could ‘see’. Without Scrivener I would still be staring at a gridlock of unhappy words and eating too many biscuits. Not only was Scrivener great for my writing, it was good for my health too.”


“I have bought, and been disappointed, by nearly every writing tool available… Each one would have a unique feature that I loved, but would be lacking in some other regard, so I found myself moving projects in and out of different pieces of software as I wanted certain tools. But then I stumbled over the Literature & Latte site and my world changed. Scrivener is simultaneously the most featured and flexible writing tool I’ve ever used. Within fifteen minutes of launching it, I was in love.”


“After reading a glowing review of Scrivener last year, I saw the potential to hugely ease the challenge of collecting and organizing book scenes, notes, and ideas, and moving them around my manuscripts. Well, I downloaded the free trial and dug into it, and must say that I was totally blown away by how effective, intuitive, and productive it is.

“Think of Scrivener as a corkboard where you can organize and search all your text clips and ideas at will — then compile them from a single window into a final Word (or other word-processing) manuscript when you are done. For me the program’s biggest “Eureka” feature is the ability to readily clip and paste between chapters, seeing and changing each of them separately while at the same time concurrently modifying the whole. I also like the ability to easily compare and combine drafts of the same chapter via a single window.

“I long ago imported my current book projects and am having a blast making them happen at rates many times faster than what I could do before. And the online forum support has been terrific. Wish I’d had this program to write my first five books!”


And, if you need a more in-depth, intimate view of how various writers use Scrivener, try exploring these Case Studies


So, on to the video about this Amazing software—but, first, please don’t worry if you can’t read the names of all the buttons and features shown in the video—Scrivener is all about Relaxing & Writing, Intuitively—sit back and just be aware of the Ease of use and the Miraculous Flow you can achieve with this Remarkable piece of work :-)

 Please note that the discount mentioned in this video was offered to ScreenCastsOnline viewers
and has long since expired—sorry!
Also, they show downloading Scrivener to a Mac and using it there but it’s nearly the same and just as easy on a PC :-)

Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
* Google Author Page

More Writing Prompts . . .

Some folks feel “Writing Prompts” is an overused phrase, suggesting “Self-Assignments” is a “nicer” way to indicate that many writers need a jolt to get over the dark depression called “Writer’s Block”.

Back in March, I had a post here called All Kinds of Writing Prompts . . . in which I said:

“Prompting can come from more than a word or two. It may be a sentence heard or read, an article or essay, or even a complete book that Prompts the writer to take things in their own literary direction

There’s a fascinating site referenced in that post that has full stories that can be used to get the creative writer moving.

One response to that post is worth replicating here:

“I have blocks on rare occasions, but they’re never lacks of ideas so much as a lack of inspiration to work on the ones I have. All a prompt is going to do is add another idea to not write about to the list — lol”

Perhaps that writer needs more “Reason To Write”—more confidence in their ability to say things that are valuable to others

Of course, a writer doesn’t have to imagine they suffer from writer’s block to use writing prompts; and, the wide world outside the writer’s cave has a plethora of prompts—moving, breathing, blooming, careening prompts

But, I do understand the situation, most deeply and personally, of a writer who would rather stay in the cave and reach out electronically.


Even though it’s easy enough to put “writing prompts” into Google and become deluged with options, here are a few of my Picks:

Easy Street Prompts — with picture and video prompts plus random words.

Visual Writing Prompts — which isn’t actually only visual and could be considered to have “plot prompts” or even “I Dare You to Write” Prompts.

writing prompts — is a wonderful collection of words and images, creativiely juxtaposed and offered by a teacher who has a Wish List on Amazon for their students <<< you can buy books for the kids :-)

The Time Is Now — from one of my Best Friend’s favorite Sites, Poets & Writers—with Poetry, Fiction, and Creative Non-Fiction Prompts; plus, a side-bar with various writers’ methods of inspiration.

Creative Writing Prompts — is a real grab-bag of highly-varied prompts.

Have any favorite writing prompt spaces or techniques?

Do, please, share them in the Comments :-)
Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
* Google Author Page

%d bloggers like this: