Taking Inventory


I stopped the other day to consider how many different pieces of software I’ve loaded on my computer. To my count, I had more than 20 pieces of software which I’d loaded strictly to facilitate writing. Care to see what I came up with?

  1. Microsoft Word 2010
  2. Microsoft Word 2007
  3. Microsoft Word 2003
  4. Microsoft Word 2002
  5. Corel WordPerfect X4
  6. OpenOffice Write 3.0
  7. Rough Draft 3.0
  8. Liquid Story Binder XE 4.62
  9. yWriter 4
  10. yWriter 5
  11. PageFour 1.70
  12. Celtx
  13. Text Block Writer 1.17
  14. WriteMonkey 9.71
  15. Momentum Writer 2.0
  16. Q10
  17. DarkRoom
  18. JDarkRoom
  19. KeyNote
  20. Text Tree
  21. Final Draft 8

In my opinion, this created a problem I didn’t have before. I simply had too many choices.

I had a comment exchange with someone here about this just the other day. I stubbornly asserted how much I hate having insufficient choices in life. Take, as my wife and I often do, salad dressings for an example. At one time, there were so many brands and varieties of salad dressings the choices became overwhelming. Every brand offered its version of the multitude of flavors, an entire aisle in grocery stores where I grew up became dedicated to salad dressings. And if you cruised over by the produce, there’d be a few more, higher-end brands kept in with the wide variety of lettuce available, too.

Now? Well, there are still several brands, and there are about six varieties of each. There’s Italian, Ranch (and sometimes Ranch is now subtly divided into its own hair-fine splinters, such as bacon, peppercorn and buttermilk), Thousand Island, Green Goddess (if you’re lucky), Bleu Cheese (sometimes), Catalina (sometimes), French maybe. Oh, and creamy Italian, which is like Italian but more opaque and phlegmy. And there will be a wide bank of salad dressings in the aisle where they’re kept, but it’s not what it seems; there are only the six or seven major brands and their few types, but now there arranged in four or five different dispenser sizes and methods. So is there choice?

Not as much as it seems, even if we get overwhelmed looking at it all.

What happens to me is, I sit down to write and the first thing I have to do is decide which software to use to do the writing. Am I going to use one of the freeware items? Well, I’m not a huge fan of the plain text files and lack of formatting, so I probably won’t use those – but I really like the full-screen, distraction-free writing environment they afford. Well, one of my other word processors will offer something like that too. Oh, but this one is the ONLY one to offer typewriter scrolling, and I really like that feature. Oh, but it’s not going to let me format anything, so back to the drawing board.

Well, I better use one of the packages I’ve paid for. I mean, I did pay for them. I better get the mileage out of them, make them worth my cost. Oh, man, but I really don’t like that aspect or this procedure. And that one’s just flat-out too smart for me. How the hell should I know what the goal, conflict and objective are of this scene? And why doesn’t this one let me write scenes at all?  This one lets me write in scenes but I have to create a chapter first. WTF with that?! Why can’t I just write all the scenes and then put them into the chapters I want later?

This one’s more of an index card system for organizing the project, you know, getting all the scenes in the right spot. But do I use this to write the book or just the synopsis? Or the outline? Or …? Hm.

Well, I love Word, I really do, but … do I use this one, or that one? This one’s going to expire eventually, I should get busy using that one. And this one is similar but not quite as cool, though still pretty cool. And this one’s not current anymore but I have it, it’s here. That one actually works a little better, it’s more stable than the newer one. Or should I use OpenOffice to support free, open-source software? Even though it’s as clumsy and slow and cumbersome as a blue whale in a wading pool? *Sigh*

Decisions.

Meanwhile, my fingers haven’t touched the keyboard yet.

So, over the weekend, I decided to dump some stuff from my system. I dumped all but two of the text editors. I kept the typewriter-scrolling text editor to do free writing and writing exercises with. If I don’t use the other two in the next two months they’ll be removed too.

I’m keeping everything I’ve paid for and I’ve pared down to only two version of MS Word, and the newer is a beta so when it expires, if I can’t afford to buy it I’ll just use next version down, which is functional and waiting for me to use it. The others are gone, removed without remorse or regret.

Final Draft is something I haven’t had time to experiment with; I’m going to give it a similar time frame. If I don’t use it in the next couple of months it’s gone. Liquid Story Binder and PageFour I own so they’re here to stay, no matter what. I’ll figure something out with those regardless of what else goes on.

In doing all this, I’m hoping I made steps forward in getting to a position where I can just write. I still have to decide what software to use when I sit down to write – which ain’t all that often, frankly – but now I only have to choose between the Ranch, Thousand Island and French. It’s a lot less overwhelming.

I hope.

How ‘bout you? What’s your favorite tool for your trade or hobby?

-JDT-

All original content © 2010 DarcKnyt
ALL rights reserved.

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6 thoughts on “Taking Inventory

  1. Dude, you need some games. Get NetHack. It’s a free game but it’s the best game.

    I don’t know … an online game? I think you discussed those yesterday on your blog. I thought we agreed they suck.

  2. Dang, that’s a lot of software. I would like to have the new version of Word, or maybe 2007. I have 2003. I also have Corel Word Perfect, and I like it a tad bit better than Word, but since Word is the standard, that’s what I use. You’re right about Open Office. That sucker is SLOW.

    OpenOffice is a freakin’ CHORE just to launch, never mind write in. I’ve never been able to get past that. You can download betas of the new Word from Microsoft; they’re all good with that. It will expire, but you can at least play with it before you decide if you want to drop a few C-notes on it. I LOVE it, but 2007’s pretty neat too.

    I too wish yWriter had the ability to make scenes without chapters. What I ended up doing was just to use a chapter per scene, knowing I’d be doing the finishing work in Word. It was quite unwieldy, though, and I don’t think I’ll be doing that again.

    I did something similar when I tried to use it; but I had no idea how to write in scenes then. Now that I do, and there are instructions for using Liquid Story Binder that way, I’m going to try that. LSB lets me use Word as the editor. Much more fun than using the editor which comes with them.

    Talking to my brother last night, I finally realized what kind of writer I am. Maybe that knowledge will help me choose the right program for me. I’m like you in that I’d like something aesthetically more pleasing than the freeware that’s out there now. I’d also like the program to be flexible enough to tailor it to my outline style.

    Hope you share what kind of writer you are when you’re ready, I’m interested to hear. And the freeware out there doesn’t really fit us all the way, does it? But LSB is VERY powerful and flexible; it can be used for 30 days for free, no limitations, and the download is small. You should check it out and see if it’s to your liking. A LOT cheaper than Word, great outlining/sequencing tools, and even a place for a music playlist to set the writing mood. 🙂

    • Every time you mention a program I’ll go try it out, so I’m sure I tried LSB. I can’t remember what put me off, but for some reason it didn’t catch on with me. May have been the price tag for the full program, I can’t remember.

      Maybe; it’s like $46. And there’s a lot to it, but once you get used to the interface, it’s teh awesome.

  3. Wow, I guess I’m too simple. I don’t do choosing well, so I would never allow myself that many choices. I have yWriter, but never really used it because I’m not sure I understand the advantages to using a program like that.

    I use Word for everything. I just make a folder for each novel project and create separate files for scene lists, character studies, notes, etc. I type my novel as one big file. If need be, I’ll cut and paste each chapter to its own file.

    Plenty of writers say to do it just that way, Linda. Maybe I’m not simple enough? 🙂

  4. LOL, I’m a big fan of paper. I use whatever is easily at hand and opens quickly before the ideas flee. 🙂

    I have to do that too. I use whatever I can most quickly reach to get the raw idea out of my head, then I hone it using a variety of methods. Now, all I have to do is write … 😉

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