Writer’s Digital Toolbox #1

Writers have a wealth of digital tools available to them. During a Zoominar Sunday morning, five of us discussed a tool that was demoed in a conference a few of us attended on Saturday. Two purchased the product, a third person already uses it.

That led to discussing the tools we have versus the ones we actually use and how we work with them. Turns out, how we each use the same tool differs. I’ve also noticed this in online forums and list discussions.

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Below, I briefly discuss the 3 tools—one each for writing, revising, and plotting—that we talked about. We may even do some sessions for ourselves in the future where we share how we’re using a specific tool, what we find most useful, and what isn’t working for us. Our hope is to nurture and expand our craft.

Scrivener

I have written with Scrivener since around 2014-2015 yet haven’t scratched the surface of its many features. I work with what I need at the time and learn other features as I need them, or when I hear enough about one to realize it would be useful to me. Others plunge in and take courses to learn all the features at once, although fewer actually use them all afterwards. There are other writing programs out there, too, but Scrivener meets my needs and lets me write (and learn additional features) in a way that my brain likes. With its Windows v3 now out, I plan to delve more into its features to ramp up how fully I use it to write my stories.

Pro Writing Aid

For years I’ve basically ignored other programs that promise to make one a better writer, relying on dictionary, thesaurus, and grammar sites to aid me. This November, however, I looked more closely into Pro Writing Aid (PWA) and bought a lifetime subscription. It was well worth the money and has even helped me curb a bad writing habit that my critique groups had pointed out on many occasions. While some of my colleagues are using Grammarly, another very useful tool, I prefer the convenience of more tools in the single PWA product.

However, after I’m well into the story—more than halfway through usually—I step back from it and review where it began, how it’s flowing, and where it’s going.

CAM

What I discovered in that Sunday morning discussion, however, is that I’m using PWA a little differently and in a way that may help others strike a balance between “following the rules” (making their writing distinctive, clear, and engaging to readers) while maintaining their own voice and style. By opening up the summary report in a new browser tab, I compare each individual report and suggestions against the graph of the same report in the summary tab. Sometimes enough is enough, and I don’t need to make further changes, regardless of the point-by-point suggestions. Overall, in that section my use of whatever is in that category (idioms, transitions, sentence length or variety, grammar, passive voice, etc.) is under control.

Plottr

I do not plan/plot my writing in advance. Some stories begin with a vague idea. Others begin with an opening sentence that grabbed me and forced me to write it down. And sometimes there is a prompt or announced theme that gets me started. However, after I’m well into the story—more than halfway through usually—I step back from it and review where it began, how it’s flowing, and where it’s going.

That’s why Saturday’s demo on Plottr hooked me. I’d heard of it and know writers who use it to carefully plot their short stories and novels before they begin writing. I’d always disregarded it because I don’t plot in advance.

The demo showed how wrong my thinking was, although I will admit that another tool with the same purpose might not interest me as much. What I zeroed in on was the flexibility and customization possibilities and how those would help me to track the timeline and work backstory into my current work in progress (WIP).

For future manuscripts, I plan to use it to develop my characters’ main attributes, flaws, and strengths; create timelines; and maintain a balance of twists, reversals, and moments of danger. As I use it, I’m sure my use of various components will expand, just as I’ve done with Scrivener. Even a non-plotter like me—I prefer to call myself an organic writer—can use and benefit from a plotting tool, although I will be using it a little differently than many others.

Do You Have a Favorite Writing, Revision, and/or Plotting Tool?

Let us know in the comments below!

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