My Love Affair with Writing Tools

The following post appears concurrently on Philadelphia Writing Examiner.  I want to thank Cheryl Butler Stahl, author of Slices of Life: Memoir Writing, freelance writer and founder of Your Best Writing Group, for inviting me to contribute to her column.  Connect with Cheryl on Facebook and Twitter.

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Writers love their tools -- pens, paper, pencils, journals, notepads.  So it must follow that with advances in technology there are electronic tools and toys beneficial to writers.

Here I confess -- I'm easy prey for innovative software, especially when it comes to writing.  Recently, I've acquired some items I want to share with you.  You may have heard about them elsewhere, but here's my take on them.

It isn't that I don't love a moleskin journal, or a tiny leather-covered note pad in my purse along with a favorite pen for jotting quick notes.  What I have discovered is that there are many wonderful, time-saving items out there, and it's tempting to try them out.

My problem is:  I try them out, I love them, and then I want to tell someone else just how great they are!  So, here goes . . .

My first find and the one I've been using the longest, Scrivener.  Scrivener is similar to a word processing program, and it took a long time and lots of consideration to convince me it could be better than Microsoft Word, which I've used for decades now.  Not too long ago, my friend and fellow writer and blogger, Joe Bunting at The Write Practice dot com, shared his thoughts on Scrivener.  Joe's overview convinced me to give Scrivener a try.

Three things that stand out for my purposes in Scrivener are:  (1) ability to pull together ideas in one place; (2) organizing the manuscript; and (3) Scrivener motivates.  Let’s take a look at each of these in brief:

  • Gathering your ideas in one place is a time saver.  Previously, I would find snippets of information for a project and place them in a folder.  Next, I’d come across photos I might want to reference later and into another folder they would go.  And what about my research?  Yes, another folder.  Before long, I’d have so many folders storing project materials that it would take some time to locate something on occasion.  With Scrivener, this problem is solved.Scrivener allows you to store all these bits and pieces in one document – the configuration of the material doesn’t matter.  It can be a photo, text, links to research, whatever you need to be able to find quickly.
  • Do you end up with a Word document for each chapter?  With Scrivener, you no longer have to worry about separate documents.  Scrivener allows the writer to keep those chapters and subchapters separate but easily accessible.  If your book project is large, this is a time saver.
  • Lastly, do you struggle with staying motivatedBelieve it or not, Scrivener has helped me with that battle.  Scrivener has a tool that lets you set a word count goal for each section so that you have an ongoing tally of just how much you’ve accomplished.

A quick look at what Scrivener looks like on screen:

Scrivener is available as a download for PCs and MACs at Literature & Latte dot com.  Currently, Scrivener is relatively inexpensive ($45 for Mac, $40 for Windows).  And it comes with a great manual and tutorial.

Second in my lineup of new tools, EvernoteEvernote replaces all the documents where I save quotations, the folder in my email for blog items I want to read later or reference again, a stack of paper copies printed for reading later.  The beauty of this software is that it captures all those things for me in one place, and it does it all for FREE via my browser!  I refer to it as my online filing cabinet. A search feature is included and the use of tags makes it easy to categorize things for searching.  Folders (or notebooks) can be set up to further categorize  your materials.  I've not yet been disappointed with Evernote, the tutorials or finding help.  And I love the elephant!

Here are a couple of images showing how Evernote appears on your screen, depending on your operating system and personal setup:

Windows version

Windows version

Mac version

Mac version

And for those of you interested, Evernote has a phone app as well.  At Evernote dot com you will find all the other tools available for organizing your writing life.

Third and last, and my newest find, Mind42, a web-based mind mapping tool that I'm in love with.  Not artistically inclined, the thought of drawing a mind map has left me feeling awkward and somewhat faulty in my efforts.  Mind24 has taken all that away.  And it's free!

For me, the clarity of the design of the mappingin Mind42 was what won me over as I compared a variety of offerings:

Additionally, Mind42 is user friendly and an intuitive program to use.  So far, it hasn't disappointed me.

I checked out several other free mind mapping software, including:

  • FreeMind (I didn't find this user friendly and not well supported);
  • Bubbl.us (navigation seemed awkward); and
  • Mindomo (here again the process seemed awkward); and
  • Cayra (as nodes are added, images move around on the screen).

Don't hesitate to check out several as one that doesn't work for one individual may work expertly for another.

I realize there is lots of information packed into this article.  My hope is, if you’re interested in writing, that you’ll find something helpful highlighted here that enhances your writing life.

Happy writing!

Disclosure:  I am not an affiliate of any of the companies mentioned herein, nor was I asked by any of them to give a review of their product.  This is purely based on my own experiences and the desire to share them with you.  However, the FTC (yes, part of our government told me I must) requires me to let you know that I'm in no way being paid for anything written here nor do I receive anything if you buy any of the products above.  So long!

Images were taken from the web sites referenced for each piece of software discussed.