A Writer’s Best Friend: My Favourite Writing Tools

Today’s been a bit of a write-off (ha) in terms of story progression due to a rare hangover, so if I wasn’t going to be productive, I thought I might perhaps share with you a couple of the tools that I use for my writing instead.

For many years I relied upon good ol’ fashioned Microsoft Word for word processing, which I think is what most children of my generation were taught to use at school for absolutely everything from essays to short stories. Unfortunately, the thing about Microsoft Word is:

  • You cannot buy it individually and have to buy it as part of Microsoft’s Office suite with a load of superlative software like Excel, Outlook/OneNote and Publisher.
  • It’s bloody expensive, currently retailing on the official website at $149.99 for a one-time purchase, or alternatively you can shell out $69.99-$99.99 on an annual subscription for more products you won’t use and a household license.
  • It has far too many functions.
  • It’s far too distracting to write on.

So, here are a couple of alternatives (besides your bog standard pen and paper of course) that I have discovered work wonders for me and my productivity.

Please note that this post is not being sponsored by anyone and all my views are entirely my own. I’m just wishing to share the love!

Scrivener

I think many writers of today will agree that Literature & Latte Ltd’s Scrivener is a writer’s best friend. Whilst initially quite daunting with an absolutely massive tutorial to read through the first time you open it, you get to grips with it pretty quickly and now I cannot live without it. Scrivener doesn’t just let you store your words, it also:

  • Stores absolutely everything you can possibly think of about your novel in one place including your research notes, maps and inspirational images so you can quickly jump from one to the other at a click of a button.
  • Allows you assign labels to your writing e.g. ‘Chapter’, ‘Scene’, ‘To Do’, ‘In Progress’, ‘First Draft’ so you can keep track of what you’re doing.
  • Provides a tree-view of your work so you can move bits of your stories around and drill-down into scenes within chapters within parts with ease.
  • Also provides a ‘corkboard’ view that does exactly the same thing if you prefer, with index cards for synopses or images.
  • Provides you with templates for designing characters, places and settings.
  • Lets you store all kinds of media related to your story, including images and music files.
  • Has an excellent distraction-free writing option called Composition Mode which removes all functions from the screen except for a blank page and your text.
  • Will compile your novel for you when you are finished.
  • Syncs with iOS so you can work on your project anywhere (the iOS app is sold separately to the main product; I personally don’t use it)

Scrivener Screenshot

Now for the bad news: Scrivener is not free, retailing at approximately £36-£41 depending on whether you’re a Mac or Windows user. However, I cannot stress enough what excellent value for money this program is and it comes with a generous household license, meaning you can download it on multiple computers that are using the same platform.

Worth noting: even if you do not take part in NaNoWriMo, you should sign up anyway because Scrivener are one of their sponsors and sometimes do extremely generous promotional deals for NaNoWriMo participants (I ended up paying just £29.61 for the Mac version off the back of one such deal).

If I woke up one day and Scrivener had disappeared from my computer, I think I would go into meltdown. Buy it!

http://literatureandlatte.com/

Evernote

Evernote screenshotThis handy iOS app is essentially the equivalent of carrying an extremely swish notebook around on your phone. I actually use Evernote for so many things other than my writing, including to-do lists, wish-lists, recipe storage, gym programs and reminders to myself. Most importantly though, I do use it for writing on the go. Whether it be jotting down an idea that’s come to me on the train, or writing out a scene that I just can’t get out of my head on my lunch break, Evernote is always there for me! It also has a great sharing function that I use with my writing partner, K.F. Goodacre whereby if we quickly need the other’s opinion on something, we just drop it in our ‘Feedback Wanted’ folder, sync up, and pick up. You never have to save anything either as it constantly syncing to the cloud. No more computer-crashing-before-you-could-save-your-file panic! Plus, because it’s cloud-based, you can view the contents of Evernote on all your devices and it’s cross-platform between Mac and PC. Yay!

Evernote is a partly-free subscription service with 3 tiers you can choose from depending on your needs:

  • Tier 1 – Basic (free): 2 devices and 60 MB (if you’re using Evernote for writing only this more than enough, so you could install Evernote on your phone and have it sync to your computer at home).
  • Tier 2 – Plus (£29.99/y): unlimited devices, 1 GB storage, access to customer support (I use this one because like I said, I use Evernote for everything, not just my writing).
  • Tier 3 – Premium (£49.99/y): unlimited devices, 10GB storage, access to customer support, PDF editing and lots more (not worth getting unless you’re running a business!).

https://evernote.com/

And, last but not least…

OmmWriter Dana II

By far my absolute favourite way to write is using the beautiful, completely distraction-free text processor, OmmWriter.

OmmWriter

It is essentially a stand-alone, more advanced version of Composition Mode in Scrivener, that fills the whole screen and removes all distractions, including clocks, formatting options and the pesky internet. What you see in the screenshot above is pretty much all there is to it. You get a text box  which you can drag around the page and make as small or as large as you want. You then get the option to change a very limited number of things to tailor your writing experience:

  1. Font style (4 options – I use option 1)
  2. Font size (4 options – I use option 3)
  3. Background colour/image (8 options – I use option 5)
  4. Background music/sound (8 options incl. mute – I use option 2)
  5. Keystroke sounds (8 options incl. mute – I use option 1)
  6. Save/load up a .txt or .omm file

And that’s it! The text box disappears and you just let the beautiful colours, music and sounds wash over and clear your mind completely for a distraction-free writing experience. Ah, bliss!

OmmWriter Example

I have never been more productive than when I started writing with OmmWriter; it just makes it so pleasant to write and easy to become completely and utterly engrossed in your work. Like Scrivener and Evernote, I cannot live without it.

The creators of OmmWriter have a ‘pay what you want’ pricing structure, meaning that you can get OmmWriter for free, but you probably should at least pay the minimum price of $5.11 (like I did) because it’s such a gorgeous piece of software; the developers deserve every penny.

http://www.ommwriter.com/en/

That’s all for now! I hope you will check some of these out if you were not aware of them already and that they help you as much as they have helped me. What do you guys use to write on? Do you disagree with some of my choices or have you some of your own to share?

Happy writing,

S.E. Berrow

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