A fan via Facebook message writes:
What tools do you use to write?
There are a lot of people who want tools, gadgets, and apps to test out or play with while writing. Sometimes it lends a false sense of productivity, or an excuse NOT to write, but they can be useful.
Do you use Scrivener? LitLift? Jotterpad at all? Open Office? Have you tried Sunrise Calendar? Do you use a calendar at all? What dictionary and thesaurus do you use? Is there a certain website you use to research (Quora, Wiki, or just ask friends?), or a particular style reference? Do you use Word Counter’s website, or just keep the count in Scrivener? I use Jotterpad on my phone when I’m in bed or away from a PC, but not everyone does.
I agree with the questioner — having too many tools, gadgets, and apps can give you a false sense of productivity, and actually become a crutch. For me, I keep it simple, and put everything into one tool.
That tool is Scrivener.
I don’t use a calendar for writing because I keep notes, either directly into Scrivener, and I write on a daily basis. If you do want a reminder to write every day, set an alarm on your mobile phone that has a note, “time to write.”
Writing for me is something I do on my laptop. I don’t use an app when I’m out and about, because when I’m out, I want to be engaged in my surroundings. If I’m at a café, I want to be enjoying my tea and biscuits, and taking in my reading or visiting with a friend. If I go to a bookstore, I will bring my laptop with me, but I don’t always use it for writing.
I like to write at home, by myself, where I can focus on my craft without distraction. I find extraneous tools to cause a major distraction. So, every morning, I sit down, boot up my laptop, derp around the internet for a bit, then settle down and write in Scrivener. I can format the way I want, keep my research there, and organize my chapters just the way I like them. Scrivener has formatting for graphic novels, screenplays, short stories, and novels. So I can do what I want!
For a dictionary and thesaurus, I just highlight a word I want and right click on it in Scrivener, and it brings me to thesaurus.com, and I can look up definitions there just by clicking on the ‘dictionary’ tab. If I’m not happy with the results insofar as definitions, I will consult both Merriam-Webster and Oxford English Dictionary. OED is great for word origins and when using British English, and Merriam-Webster is great for American English (yes, that’s a real thing, thank you Noah Webster).
When I need to do research, I will start with trying to find videos on YouTube. From there, it will help me develop questions and areas for further research. If I can’t find what I want or need, I’ll head over to Quora where a large number of experts share their knowledge and opinions. After that, it’s off to asking people I know what they think and know about certain subjects. After all that, I typically have a general understanding of the subject, and from there, it’s my own mistakes and/or poetic license.
My word counts come directly from Scrivener, although sometimes I like to check with Word Counter just to see if it differs.
I think that whatever tools work for you, you should use and explore. The only caveat I would give, however, is not to let your tools control you. YOU control your tools. The moment your organizational tools stop helping you organize and get your writing done is the moment you need to start trashing those tools and go back to basics.
Most importantly, keep it simple, and keep your focus on your creative craft.
Because that’s what matters.