Writing Software

Since my husband, Fahim, is a programmer as well as a writer, he writes software for me. 🙂 I use the following:

PlotCraft – keeps track of all the story ideas you get. Free.

WriteTrack – submission tracking software.  Free.

Amanuensis – word processing with tree view structure for organizing scenes, chapters, notes, etc. Free.

Agents / Publishers List – an online database of agents & publishers.  Searchable, filterable, plus anyone can add agents/publishers and add comments to existing ones to update information.  Free.

Word Counters – progress bar you can put on your blog or website.  You can set the units to words, hours, scenes, chapters, etc.  Free.

Word macro – marks adverbs, frequently used words, passive verbs, clichés, trouble words as you input, and so on.  Free.

As for software the husband didn’t write…

There’s yWriter written by Simon Haynes, Australian programmer and science fiction author.  yWriter is so worth checking out – it’s logical and intuitive and easy to use, as well as also being free.  It’s an excellent piece of software that’s happily used by a lot of writers.  🙂  Free.

I tried out Liquid Story Binder and hated it.  There’s a fairly steep learning curve to it, it’s not at all intuitive, and the various building blocks don’t work together.  It’s kind of like having one Lego piece, one Mechanix piece, a child’s hammer, a Pyrex dish, and a Raggedy Andy doll.  All useful in their own way, but they don’t work together to create anything useful, yet they’re put into one program that claims it can do everything.  From where I sit, it’s a piece of software written by programmers who’ve never actually written anything themselves, other than code, who think they know what the writing process is like, but are actually quite clueless.  But I really really hate it.  🙂 Not free.

I also use Microsoft Word.  With all the scenes/chapters properly labelled with heading 1, heading 2, and so on, with document map turned on, it’s easy to find what I’m looking for.  But more than that, I tag-team edit with my husband, so we use Track Changes so we can see what the other person changed, then accept or reject.  We use Track Changes extensively – we’re also editors for a local geek & gadget magazine – so Track Changes gets a huge workout from us. Not free, of course. 🙂

And if you’re into collaborative writing at all and need to share documents, I’d suggest Microsoft Groove.  Create a workspace, invite participants, and everyone who’s a member of that workspace can access the documents on it.  When one person makes changes to the document, it’s updated in everyone else’s space, too.  We use this extensively and it works beautifully. Also not free.

If you want a full-feature word processing program, go with OpenOffice Writer.  It’s a pretty useable and decent piece of software.  Free.

Then there’s KeyNote which is much more than a word processing program.  It’s really a knowledge management tool with a treeview structure.  Doesn’t have live spell checking, though.  Worth checking out. Free. 

What works for one writer doesn’t work for every other writer, so it really is a case of figuring out what works for the writer in question. Try these and other programs out and see what you think.

Please, let me know of any other writing software you know about. And one of these days, I’ll do a full review of as many of them as I can. Not all on the same day, of course. 🙂

More Writing Tools

Fahim’s finished setting up his Writing Resources page, so it’s now much easier to see all of his writing-related software in one place. One lovely addition is his MicroSoft Word macro.

Long story short, this macro can be used to find “adverbs, passive words, overly used words and cliches/misused words, and then highlights them in different colours. You can customize the word lists which are checked (or excluded in the case of adverbs) and the colours used to highlight for each category by editing the variables at the top of the script”.

If you have problems or questions about any of his software, go to his forums and post under the correct software section.

Spacejock Software is also worth looking at. Simon Haynes, the author of the software and the Hal Spacejock books (which are also entertaining books), has written yWriter (up to version 4), an incredibly useful novelist’s writing tool. I’ve used versions 2 and 3 (reviewed them for a magazine), and I liked both very much. Considering that he’s a programmer who’s also a writer, and it becomes a lot easier to see why the software works for other writers.

Simon also has other software, like Sonar, a manuscript tracking program, BookDB for tracking your library of books, and a whole lot more. His software is worth checking out, especially at his prices – free.

Writing Tools

Fahim’s been working on updating some of his writing-related software (all free) and tools (also all free). So, check ’em out if they sound like they’d be useful for you.

WriteTrack

A submission-tracking program – it helps you track your manuscript submissions, whether they’re submitted to a newspaper, magazine, agent, or publisher.

PlotCraft

A program to help you track your various plot, character, and world ideas, and whatever other types of ideas you have kicking around your brain. Fully customizable and completely useful.

Word Counters

Word counter graphs (although they can use other units, like scenes, chapters, hours, or whatever else you’d find useful) that you can post on your own website.

Agents / Publishers List

A database Fahim started when he was searching for agents and publishers for his novel. At this point, it’s populated mostly with agents and publishers who deal with science fiction, but anyone (who’s registered at the site, of course) can add additional agents and publishers. Registered users can also add comments to correct or update information for existing agents & publishers.

DNote – Beta

A database program similar to KeyNote or TreeDBNotes (but without the slimy bait & switch payment tactics TreeDBNotes uses) that stores your information in a tree / node structure. Immensely useful for storing all sorts of data. Can also be used for flash cards & word prompts.

Amanuensis

A word processing program designed specifically for story writers. Keep your chapters & scenes in a tree structure, keep notes on each chapter & scene, keep notes on your characters, locations, and more.

And of course, there’s…

Blog

A desktop application for writing up your blog entries and then posting to your blog, even if it’s using a WordPress or MovableType or other blogging platform on your domain. Also provides you with a backup of your blog entries on your local machine – handy in the event of a server failure.

If you have any problems with the software (bugs and whatnot) or have any feature suggestions, visit Fahim’s forum and post in the relevant section.

Free online writing courses

I encountered News University, a site which offers free writing courses, so of course I checked it out. Some looked useful to my specific needs – Get Me Rewrite: The Craft of Revision and The Writer’s Workbench: 50 Tools You Can Use for starters, although they have a few dozen to choose from – not all writing, mind you, and not all fiction writing, either. There are a few for journalists as well as other types of courses.

Hmm. I might have to take one – see how it goes. Any of you taken any of their courses? If so, please comment on it. What did you think of it? Was it useful? If so, how?

Do you print up your WIP?

I print mine up chapter by chapter. I also, after finishing the first draft, take it with me when I go out. I frequently have to wait five or fifteen minutes, or whatever, and I do some editing while I’m out. Did that this morning while I wait for the shuttle guy from the mechanics to drive me home while they’re working on my car. Got through about fifteen pages. Plus, as an added benefit, I don’t get so grouchy having to wait for people while I waste my time. And yes, I love working with colour pens. Stands out on the page easier. Better to see changes with.

I encountered a site that had a list of things to do on each draft – ie the different types of revisions that should be made. I further revised it to suit my writing style, and it results in 10 editing drafts. Lots of drafts, but at least by the end, I’ll know I’m done. But then, I’m also a list person.

If you plan on doing a lot of printing, consider a black and white laser printer instead. It’s much cheaper to buy toner than ink cartridges. The overall cost per printed page is far far far cheaper with a laser.

I may never completely let go of my anal-retentive cost-efficiency accounting side. 😀