Friday, January 27, 2012

Writing Software

After writing two novels in Word, I’d become more than a little annoyed with the program. It gets clunky and cumbersome, and with longer documents, it's prone to crashing. The only other option I'd found was Pages for Mac users. It has some great features that I love, but lacks a comments or revision mode, which is vital to a writer's life.

I’d long ago resigned myself to the fact that, like it or not, I’d always have to use Word. But then I went to the January Writer’s Residency at Seton Hill and found a few programs that have made my writing life so much more efficient and enjoyable.

The first one is Scrivener. It’s a fantastic writing program that allows you to break up your writing into chunks (even as small as scenes) within one project. You can also have notes on the side of your screen! There’s an outlining option and easy to create note cards in bulletin board view--which I found helpful in planning my new work-in-progress. It even has character sketch templates! Scrivener blew me away. Totally worth the $45 price tag.

The other thing that seems to slowly drain my writing time is the internet. I’ll write a paragraph, and then check my email. Write another one, and then check my Facebook. Write another one, and then check Twitter. You get the picture. This Residency, someone mentioned Freedom. It kills your internet for a set number of minutes. The only way to cancel it is to re-boot your computer. It’s an instant distraction killer. I got it bundled with Anti-Social, which does the same thing but only for certain websites. So, if you’re like me and write with an internet radio station playing, like Pandora, this might be a better tool.

The last program I heard about at Residency was You can download a desktop version or use a free one via the web. You set a number of words you want to write and a time frame in which you want them completed. Should you slow down or stop typing entirely, the screen fades to red and the program starts making annoying noises (babies crying, horns honking, etc.). The only way to make it stop is to start typing again. They have a few different settings, one of which is called “kamikaze.” If you fail to start typing after the warning, the program actually starts deleting your words! I don’t know that I’m brave enough to try that, but I’m thinking about trying it on one of the more forgiving setting.

Have you found any other helpful programs? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!


  1. Thanks for sharing these resources, Aileen! They sound very intriguing. I must admit I've tried Scrivener and it seems pretty complicated. :( Maybe I should give it another try.
    I also hate MSWord,
    so, I'm always on the lookout for alternatives.
    Good luck!

  2. Lesley, I found Scrivener's video tutorials to be very helpful! <-- That one is an overview of the program and it's functions. But there are others that go into more depth about various tools within the program. Maybe watch this one and if it helps, give it another try. :)