While you are planning and outlining your writing you might want to try note-taking tools to capture thoughts, quotes and resources, and to play with structure. EverNote allows you to capture notes as text, or photos, and has a plug-in to your browser so you can automatically save from web pages. WorkFlowy enables you to put together nested lists (of chapters, sections, characters, tasks). I love the mobile app that allows me to work on these lists in meetings. For the less linearly-inclined there is Spiderscribe that keeps your notes in mind maps.
For the actual writing, you can use your favourite word processor, but you might want to try tools like Scrivener or Writer’s Blocks that are designed for more heavy-weight writing. These tools help you to keep track of large and complex writing projects with outlining and overviews and allow you to easily move text around to re-structure a large manuscript. Scrivener also gives you the tools to output your work as an e-book. If you want to write an e-book, but don’t want the full power (and cost) of Scrivener, try Sigil, a free and open-source e-book editor.
If you struggle to just get the words out, try WriteorDie which uses a game-like format with rewards and punishments to make you write. You set a target for, say, 1000 words and then you have to keep typing until you reach it. It’s a great tool for doing initial free-writing about your topic. I use it for the first draft of blog posts. And if you are easily distractible, try some of the tools that declutter your desktop, taking away all the social media notifications so that it’s just you and the text, and possibly a soothing background image and soundtrack. FocusWriter and OmmWriter are worth a try.
For academic writers taking the time to build up a database of references in a good reference manager will pay off in the long run, making it easy to find and format references and taking your productivity to dean-pleasing heights. Mendeley and Zotero are both free (for basic functionality) and store your references in the cloud so that they are easy to access. Both have tools to automatically index your database, making it quick and easy to add items.
Do you have favourite software tools for writers? Share them here.
I am running a writing retreat next week and have been putting together lists of my favourite writing tools to share. I thought I’d share them here too.
“The Sense of Style” by Steven Pinker, subtitled “The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century” is a book about why writing matters, what makes writing good, and how to navigate unsettling changes in language with style, without being stuffy about correctness.
“The Book on Writing” by Paula LaRocque is a great guide to writing simply and for clarity.
“Keys for Writers” by Ann Raimes and Susan Miller-Cochran is a (costly) reference text for academic writers. It covers the writing process, using resources and referencing, technical aspects of language and a very helpful guide to how the grammar of different languages impact on expression in English. The international edition is available through Exclusive Books (not Amazon).
Refseek is a great source of reference web sites. Think of it like the reference section in a library. It has a guide to online dictionaries, including general dictionaries and those for specialist terms like medical, computer and financial terms. The site also gives links to other reference works, such as style and grammar guides.
Visuwords is a really fun graphical dictionary where you enter a word and related words pop up around it. Try it! Good for really understanding all the nuances of any particular word and identifying possible ambiguities.
Urban dictionary is a great way to while away a boring meeting or seminar. Words are defined by the users of the site so there is nothing official about them, but it gives great insight into how words are actually used. You can submit your own definitions too, so get creative!
There is nothing like good writers for advice on writing. Here is one of my favourites, Ursula K Le Guin, on Rules of Writing. Explore her site for more or hunt for your favourite author online and let them excite you about the possibilities of words.
What resources inspire you to play with words? Share your favourites here.
Update: Applications for this position are now closed. Thanks to all who responded.
We’re hiring! Please point anyone at this ad who you think would make a great first impression for Better.
Are you able to bring people together, put them at their ease and make them feel loved and cared for? Do you want to work in a relaxed happy space, for between 20 and 40 hours a week, surrounded by creative people?
Better is (soon to be) a shared space for artists, writers, crafters and other creative people. We are looking for a receptionist to greet people, make them happy, manage memberships, sell items from our kiosk, arrange events, and keep the place organised. Please explore this blog to learn more about Better.
What we want from you:
- A sunny, outgoing disposition
- An ability to work well with people
- A good memory for names and faces
- The ability to connect and introduce people
- A good telephone manner
- Great organisational skills
- Computer skills – spreadsheets, word processor, e-mail
And optionally (nice, but not essential):
- Any retail experience
- Events organising experience
We can offer R50 per hour, with a bonus each month that the company exceeds monthly targets. Starting date will be 01 October 2016 (if all goes to plan).
To apply, send a CV and a cover letter saying why you would like to work for Better to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put “Better Receptionist” in the subject line and apply before 21 August 2016.
We will only contact short-listed candidates. If we don’t find the right person, we won’t appoint anyone.