Saturday, July 08, 2006

Software Tools for Writers

One of my desires is to get back involved with fictional writing; short stories, a novel, etc. That is one of the primary reasons that I got started blogging in the first place. I wanted to rediscover my writer's groove.

As you can tell from the frequently long and detailed posts, once I get in stride, I click along pretty fast.

I haven't started formatting my story, but some strong character and plot ideas are starting to gel. I can actually see some of the places and people I want to write about, and hear their conversations. That's a Good Sign (TM)!

One of the things I have been doing lately is collecting tidbits of useful software tools and links for writers. I'd love to imagine I would be like Larry McMurtry, hammering away at an old manual typewriter, or J.K.Rowling, scribbling down chapters on a pad in a restaurant. However, I understand the power technology can have helping writers stay organized and easing the editing process.

Here is a collection that I have begun to put together. While these are offered primarily for "traditional" writing compositions--short stories, novels, longer non-fiction works--fellow bloggers might find them useful for enhancing their blogging works as well.

(Mostly) Freeware Writing Tool Software Solutions:

yWriter: Free novel writing software. Helps you to organize your novel, sort chapters, do summaries, save progress logs, detail characters, goals and conflicts. Really clever piece of work.

RoughDraft - Freeware word processor designed by a writer to help with writing.

Liquid Story Binder - $$ word processor designed for writers and poets. This program has a very slick and polished look. It contains a "binder" to manage the project, image handling, notations, chapter outlining, story boarding, timeline management views, and a simple writing window. I'm defineately downloading and trying this one out. Looks like it might qualify for a Valca purchase!

Dark Room - Free, simple little program. Lets you do basic text writing in green font against a black background. Distraction free.

AbiWord - This free word processing program is very similar to Microsoft Word. I know quite a few "geeks" who swear by this little beauty. It is actually a really polished, full-featured program. Good for those of us who still have Office 97 installed on our home PC's and just can't bear to spring for the latest Microsoft Office suite. We are aspiring writers, you know! If you are so poor you can't even afford to have a laptop and want to take your writing projects with you, get a USB drive and stick Portable AbiWord on it. Write where you go!

Open Office and Portable Open Office. I don't think I need to say anything else. Go get it.

Scribus - This is a free open-source multi-platform application for professional page layouts. It is really nicely done and a great alternative to Microsoft Publisher (though not quite up to Adobe PageMaker comparison yet).

The Sage - This is a free standalone English Dictionary and Thesaurus software application. Why? Don't most word processing programs have that built in? Doesn't the web work for looking up words? Well, yes...but you can keep this little guy on your USB stick as well, great for traveling and when the Net is down. Also, the features, depth of information, wild card searching and cross linking make this application leaps beyond anything embedded in a word processing program. Definitely a must-have for any writer or blogger.

Tips for Writers - Linkage:

Lifehacker - writing posts and Lifehacker - Jumpstart your writing tips The Lifehacker blog continues to provide me a wealth of inspiration for both writing and living life. A daily must-stop location on my web-travels.

Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing - I keep re-reading this thing and get a new lesson each time I do.

Judith Kelman's Writers' Room - A great stop for aspiring authors full of advice and tips and the business of being a writer and getting published.

WritersDigest - The web face of a perennial periodical publication for writers. Tools, resources, contests, forums, the links go on and on!

William Strunk Jr's classic, The Elements of Style - Archived on Published in 1918. Old school writing rules at their best! (The web-site is kinda pop-up ad'ish so set you popup blockers to "destroy" first.)

See you at the keys,


Jim Thompson said...

Nice post, Claus...

"I'd love to imagine I would be like Larry McMurtry, hammering away at an old manual typewriter, or J.K.Rowling, scribbling down chapters on a pad in a restaurant."

How about Neal Stephenson, who wrote the 2,500 pages (guesstimate) of his Baroque Cycle in longhand with a fountain pen? You'd think a guy hip enough to write In the Beginning Was the Command Line would use some kind of computer to write, especially a project spanning three 800+ page volumes. But NO... "Stay away from my house you freak!"

I love Elmore Leonard's advice, except for number 3: "Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue." Never? NEVER? Not even "replied" or "asked"? I could easily see myself writing "swore", "shouted", or "called". "John cupped his hands around his mouth and called back to his brother 'Throw down the lantern!'" I think many of these verbs are purely descriptive and perfectly fine.

Then again, what the hell do I know, writing about such things in the middle of the night?

Anonymous said...

Hm, there are also some niche tools for writers at English online utilities.

Claus said...

Nice link.

Thanks for sharing!