I think I mentioned last week I have a hard time deciding what tool to use when I sit down to write. This isn’t always the case, but lately, more and more often I find myself staring at the screen, wondering what the heck software application to open and write in. You know, when I actually do the writing.
For features, it’s really hard to beat Liquid Story Binder XE. It does everything you can imagine, from mind maps to planners to sequences to note cards to construction of the manuscript. Amazing bit of software, designed for writers to immerse themselves in the writing. It even allows you to make playlists and download images and wallpaper to help set the tone and mood of your writing.
It can be used in a scene-based way, but it’s true nature is chapter-based. I don’t have a problem with that, but it really throws some people off, and some folks asked the developer to incorporate a method for easier scene writing processes (which he did, and there’s tutorial for it on their website, too). It’s really amazing, and sometimes it overwhelms me just a teeny bit. So I don’t always use it.
Next favorite is yWriter. It’s similar to LSBXE, but it’s actually scene-based. You have to have an initial chapter and then you can create as many scenes as you like in that chapter, but it’s mostly scene-based. It’s also very complex in how it provides details of the project. Is the scene action or reaction? There’s a place to set up almost every aspect of the scene you can imagine, including time elapsed, location, characters and items involved, etc. I ignore most of those powerful features – I’m not that smart. So I just use it as a lightweight word processor, include chapter- and scene-descriptions as appropriate, and then do the writing. Very cool.
But again, overwhelming sometimes. So I don’t always reach for it.
I also have one called Page Four, which is a tabbed software with the ability to keep “notebooks” and “pages” within the notebook. In this way, you can construct the project however you like. You can make each page a scene, or each page a chapter of multiple scenes, or whatever. But it’s all in a hierarchy of pages and notebooks. Not as feature rich as the aforementioned packages, but very cool and easy to use. Easy on the eyes, too. This was the first “writing” software I used, and I love it to this day. But it’s got a different way of outputting files, so I don’t have a lot in it, and nothing’s in it that resides in other software. It’s just not as easy to get to it as some of the others, I found.
And I use a myriad array of text editors and full-screen text editors, just to get things done. My preference is for those which allow font selection and reduction into a windowed mode. I don’t always like full-screen mode. So, I like Write Monkey and Dark Room best, but Q10’s pretty cool too.
In the end, though, the one I find I reach for more often than any other when I just want to crank something out and not fuss with it too much is Rough Draft 3.0. It’s a lightweight word processor with four different modes: screen writing, prose writing, stage/radio play writing, and normal mode. These have to do with how it handles the enter key and tabbing. I just use normal mode, personally. And it lets me just flow. If I want it, there’s a spell checker, but no grammar checking utilities. Nothing to get in the way of your words, your way, and no annoying green underline or red squiggles if you muck up something.
Once in a while I’ll use Word because of it’s more powerful spelling and grammar check utilities. But Rough Draft also runs from a thumb drive, and if you’ve known me for any length of time, you know I love me some thumb drive apps.
But man! I gotta find a way to just … decide and stick with one of them. The choice of tool takes longer than the writing, and sometimes stops me from getting to the writing.
What special tools, if any, do you ply in your hobby, craft or trade? Do you have a favorite thing you reach for before anything else to make the magic happen?