Tools

Writing Tools

Many writers struggle with tools of the trade. I have put this basic guide together to provide some help along the way, when choosing which tools to adopt, and which to ignore. I hope that you find it useful.

So let’s start with the basics. Whether you write short stories, novels, poetry, plays or lyrics, you need to decide on a method to record your thoughts. The first option is paper.

Most writers will use lined notebooks for this. The spiral-bound type allows unrestricted page-turning and the useful option of tearing out pages without destroying the spine.

As for writing implements, some will use pencil (propelling or otherwise) while most will probably opt for ballpoint or gel pens. Some of the more recent pen technologies allow smooth fast movement across the page and quick-drying ink (useful for those that are  left-handed!) Use of fountain pens these days is rare. (Though not as rare as a quill!)

The great majority of people today have easy access to some form of computer. This can be of great help to writers when used correctly. One of the features of using a computer is that your work can be saved and backed up. This is often a double-edged sword though, as a reliance on technology, without careful assessment of the risks, can lead to the total loss of your work. Particularly, hard disk failure or a virus attack can be catastrophic.

So let’s look at the different technology available through computer devices, remembering that it is 2017, and things will probably be much different in another five years. I will start with desktop computers.

Desktop computers are becoming less common each year now, as more people ditch these in favor of portable technology. However, if you tend to write in one particular room only, these can still be the ideal solution. The first thing to consider is what kind of operating system your computer runs. In most cases, this will be Microsoft Windows. Anything from XP to Windows 10 is fine for writing, though be aware that virus protection is now limited for XP – so upgrade if you can. Windows provides the greatest range of writing software, and much of this is free.  Other operating systems in popular use are Apple IOS and Linux.

Laptops come in many varieties, and you need to be aware of some desirable features when selecting one. Key features are battery life, weight, connectivity (WiFi) and keyboard (size. layout and quality – try typing something before you buy.)

Notebooks are small, neat, laptops, though these have now been mostly replaced with netbooks. More or less the same thing, but better connectivity.

Tablets can be used for writing, though these usually have no form of physical keyboard. A touch screen allows typing, though this is only good for short writing sessions and it is quite slow and can be inaccurate. A better option, if this is your chosen device, is to enable something like google speech, so that you can simply speak and the tablet will write for you. However, you do need to have a decent internet connection for this to work well.

Smart mobile phones are similar, though the screens are too small to type much other than tweets. as with the tablets, I advise you use the microphone if you need to type more than a couple of short sentences.

 

Below is a list of the better software that I have come across. Note that the list is not exhaustive.

Writing software list:

 


Microsoft Word (any version)

Platform: Windows only

Paid: Yes. Various prices, Usually part of  Office package, but available standalone. Student & corporate discounts.

Most people have access and some experience of Word. It is actually a desktop publishing package (DTP) and is capable of a wide variety of tasks, however, though it is probably the most widely used and popular, it is not really ideal for writers. For one thing, there are just too many distractions. Secondly, it can be a nightmare to get the TOC function to do what you want. Because it is such a large and comprehensive program, it uses lots of resource and can be quite slow on older computers. Having said all of that, though, I do recommend it simply because there is little or no learning curve for most new writers. Additionally, if you intend to publish, most of the major publishing houses expect to be sent manuscripts in MS Word. You might however want to look at some of the alternatives that are available.


Scrivener

Platform: Windows and IOS (There is also an experimental version for Linux)

Paid: Yes.

I have put this in next, because it is my favorite writing software, so be warned – I am biased.

 


Writer (Part of OpenOffice)

Platform: Linux, Windows and IOS

Paid: Free.

As stated above, this is free. It is part of the Apache Open Office suite, and works on Linux and Windows. Like Word, it is also a DTP, though it is more focused on writing.

 


 

Article by Mac Whiteley © 2017