Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Writing Tools

5 “Power Tools” for Writers


Do you write?

Writing Tools

Image Courtesy of Julie Elliott-Abshire ~ http://www.freeimages.com/profile/je1196

Anything—Business reports, Letters, Novels, Poems, Technical Manuals, Recipes, Short Stories?

Well, PC World shared reviews of 5 writing tools and I bet you could use at least one of them…

Let’s take a look (there’s more info at that last link):

Quip — Android, iOS, desktop browser; free

“…lets you create documents and share them with a group of collaborators, who can then make edits and chat about the file in question….offline editing…changes are synced between your various devices.”

Editorial — iOS; $7

“…edit plain text documents….create ‘workflows’, which allow you to automate actions within the app (such as copying and/or pasting all of the text), and support for Markdown, a tool that converts plain text to HTML.”

Penultimate — iPad; free

This is one of Evernote‘s tools — “…jot your thoughts down by hand….turns your iPad into a notebook and, if you have the artistic skills and a stylus, a sketchbook as well….offers impressive syncing features…integrates with your calendar and location…”

Phraseology — iPad; $3

“…examines the words you use when you write and highlights various parts of your text…you can easily spot words and phrases you may have overused…” — Also — “…where you land on various readability scales…” — And — “…allows you to move paragraphs and sentences…”

WriteRight — iPad; $1

“…a plain text editor and offers support for Markdown…highlight words or phrases you might like to change, and WriteRight will suggest synonyms, antonyms, or phrases you can substitute.”

Also, check out these two past posts for more writing tools:

The Best Writing Software *Ever* ?

Free Software for Writers . . .
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The Noble Typewriter


I was the only boy in my grade school typewriting class.

Typewriter

Image courtesy of andrew eldridge ~ http://www.freeimages.com/profile/andreweld

I wish my memory were better so I could determine if I wanted to be a writer way back then…

But, what else is a typewriter for?

Ever use one?

I also used a slide rule for math when I was in nuclear training in the Navy.

I guess I’m on the older side of young :-)

Returning to typewriters, did you know they’d been conceived of as early as 1714—check out this typewriter history page {lots of cool pictures}…

And, you can still buy a typewriter on Amazon :-)

Also, you can convert a typewriter into a keyboard for your computer.

From the site: “Our USB Typewriter circuitry can transform your old manual typewriter into a retro-futuristic marvel. Use a gorgeous vintage typewriter as the computer keyboard for your Mac or PC, or type with ink-on-paper while electronically recording your keystrokes! The USB Typewriter also makes an outstanding keyboard dock for your iPad or tablet PC.”

Plus, from a fascinating historical piece in The New Yorker, there’s this:

“Many of the early inventors of the typewriter thought that what they were inventing was a prosthetic device for the blind. Why would ordinary writers need a writing machine? They had pens.”

I’ll leave you to contemplate this obsolescent technology with a video of some very modern kids confronting a typewriter :-)


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14 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

BestsellerBound Forums

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 :-)
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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.”

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“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.”

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“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.”

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“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.”

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“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!”

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

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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 :-)


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Free Software for Writers . . .


There’s almost too much software for writers.

And, there’s certainly enough free software that, if a writer can afford a computer and at least temporary connection to the Internet, they can be well supplied with writing tools.

I have 10 free programs on my computer that I use at different times for different jobs. Most are PC-only :-(

First is FreePlane.

This is a mind-mapping tool—sometimes called concept-mapping or information-mapping.

It’s much easier to show you a screenshot then describe what it does (all those word-tags can have images or files attached to them, too):

Another organizational tool is TreePad. This program is a Personal Information Manager, Organizer, Database, and Word Processor—though I feel word processing is easier in other programs. Here’s a screenshot:

Next come the Word Processors.

WriteMonkey: A stripped-down, zen-like program that gets all the bells & whistles out of the way and lets you commune with the words. Here’s a screenshot (the colors can be easily changed):

Jarte: Based on WordPad but much faster and with expanded features. This is for .rtf & .txt files.

RoughDraft: Similar to Jarte in that it handles .rtf & .txt files but also has an on-screen file manager and can have a whole slew of files open at the same time. Here’s a screenshot:

And, the last Word Processor, which is actually a Full Office Suite, LibreOffice. This program has all the bells & whistles that Microsoft Office has and doesn’t cost a penny; plus, you can save files as Word .docs

Now, for some tools to help with words themselves and editing.

WordWeb is a dictionary and thesaurus that sits in your taskbar and can be activated by highlighting a word (in most any program or on a web page) and using the hotkeys—instant definitions, synonyms, and spell checking.

WordNet could be thought of as a thesaurus but what a thesaurus! This program is so high-level I feel compelled to quote the site:

“WordNet® is a large lexical database of English. Nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs are grouped into sets of cognitive synonyms (synsets), each expressing a distinct concept. Synsets are interlinked by means of conceptual-semantic and lexical relations.”

Then, there’s SmartEdit. You put text into it and it shows you the dialog tags, clichés, repeated words and phrases, adverbs, and any monitored words you enter into the program. Here’s a screenshot:

The last free program on my computer, which I’m still experimenting with, is AutoHotkey. Basically, you could automate the opening of all the programs I just listed with single keystrokes. It does a whole lot more:

  • Automate almost anything by sending keystrokes and mouse clicks. You can write a mouse or keyboard macro by hand or use the macro recorder.
  • Create hotkeys for keyboard, joystick, and mouse. Virtually any key, button, or combination can become a hotkey.
  • Expand abbreviations as you type them. For example, typing “btw” can automatically produce “by the way”.
  • Create custom data-entry forms, user interfaces, and menu bars.
  • Remap keys and buttons on your keyboard, joystick, and mouse.
  • Respond to signals from hand-held remote controls via the WinLIRC client script.
  • Run existing AutoIt v2 scripts and enhance them with new capabilities.
  • Convert any script into an EXE file that can be run on computers that don’t have AutoHotkey installed.

So

Those are my programs. What’s on Your computer :-)
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