Writing Apps

With NaNoWriMo done and dusted for another year (keep meaning to blog about my latest NaNo adventure, I’ll get there in the end), a couple of days off, and diving head first into a head-clearing PWP Teen Wolf fic, I’ve started thinking about the tools I use to write and how I use them differently for different purposes.

For NaNo and all the long form stuff I ever write (and it feels a bit weird saying that now considering NaNo is the only long form thing I’ve written in close to a year) I always use Scrivener. It’s also the only computer software I justify paying for. Usually, if you can’t get it Open Source, it’s not worth having IMO, but Scrivener is actually that good. It didn’t break the bank (and I have a very small bank), it cost me US$40 (for the Windows version – it is originally a Mac app) and I won’t have to fork out again till they come out with another major release, the little updates won’t cost me anything.

Please, god, don't judge me on the quality of my prose if you can read it. Final scene of the NaNovel & laughably awful as per spec.

Final scene of the NaNovel & laughably awful as per spec, with the cover art in a split view.

Scrivener gives you the ability to outline in several different ways, you can store all your research including PDF’s, image files, even webpages right within the main project file, it has a full screen distraction free writing environment, real time word counts, ability to set targets for the project and the session, you can fuck about with your toolbars endlessly so you get everything you need and no buttons you don’t. You can toggle pretty much every bar on or off, have pretty formatting or no formatting at all, and two of my favourite features of all time in Scrivener are:

  1. Convert formatting to default text style
    OMG this feature is beyond awesome. I do a lot of writing on my phone, export the text and C+P it into Scrivener. No more faffing about fixing the formatting. A couple of clicks and it’s done for me :D
  2. Name Generator
    No more opening the browser and loading babynames.com when suddenly a new character walks into the scene, it’s all right there in the app! This is a comprehensive name generator with origin options out the wazoo, I made good use of the Ancient Roman option during NaNo, and there’s an Arthurian Legend option for those of you writing Merlin fic ;) It has name meanings as well, for those of you like me who like to match the name to the character in that way.

I say Scrivener is definitely worth the money if you write anything longer than a short story or one shot fanfic at all, ever, even if you only write something longer once a year in November it’s totally worth it, and if you write all the time (like I plan do be doing again now that my epic block of epicness is over). But, if you can’t justify the outlay, there is always yWriter. I used yWriter for my first NaNo back in ’09, and used it to write an epic (for me) 110k novel, and it’s free! You can do a lot of what you can do in Scrivener in yWriter, it’s got the basics, chapters, scenes, the ability to shift stuff around without having to rename a thousand files. It also has dedicated character profiles. It’s not as pretty as Scrivener, and it doesn’t have the ability to compile your epic document in a trillion different ways, but it’ll definitely do the job.

I mentioned up there that I do a lot of writing on my phone. I have an Android smartphone, and a fairly basic one at that. I like to lie in bed in the mornings when hubby is around to kid-wrangle and write up to 1k on my phone before I even get up. No distractions, plenty of coffee, snuggly warm bed, hubby’s stolen pillow behind me… *sigh* Bliss.

If I did all my writing in Google Docs, I’d use the Drive app and never need to export stuff to paste into Scrivener, but I have a love/hate relationship with Google Docs, also, if I am copy pasting from Docs, Docs messes up your formatting something chronic (so I don’t recommend doing that).

I prefer a simple text editor, something that allows me to export the stuff I’ve written for later pasting into my main writing file. I discovered Power Writer during November, and it’s been bloody awesome. It has formatting within the app, but I don’t bother with it. What I need from a Droid writing app is plain text, real time word count, and text export, and this has it all. When I’m ready to add it to Scrivener, I export the text to Google Drive and it appears in the Drive folder on my computer. Cut, paste, convert formatting (yay Scrivener!), and away I go again :D

It’s offline, so I can write while I’m waiting with the kid at the bus stop in the mornings without cutting into my limited data, too, something you can’t do with Google Docs/Drive.

Typing on your phone can be a challenge, of course, but there’s another app for Android that I swear by and it’s one of the few Droid apps I’ll pay for (weirdly, I’m more inclined to pay for a Droid app than I am a Windows app). You need a decent keyboard on a touch screen. I use Swiftkey and can pretty much touchtype in portrait on my little Droid. It costs a few bucks, but it also has a month long trial version and it’s full featured, so you can give it a bloody good test run to see if it’s indispensable or not.

Phew. I’m buggered. Epic blog post! I’m not done yet though. Please bear with me :)

Right now, I’m writing a Teen Wolf fic. Bit of an experiment, really, some PWP to see if I can actually do it. Not planning on anything epic, couple of thousand words or so perhaps. Don’t need Scrivener for this, no planning, just pantsing my way through some single scene smut. Could write it directly into Open Office Writer, but honestly, on my little netbook it takes a while to open, and I’m just doing a little bit a day, 1k tops, so there’s no need to have the file open all day either like I was doing during November.

Just like on my phone I want plain text, real time word count, and easy cut and paste.

What I do have open pretty much all day is my browser. I’m all about the Chrome apps, all about the pinned tabs, a window can be open constantly and be there when I need it but be almost invisible when I don’t. I have a bunch of Chrome writing apps in my browser, so I just kinda picked one at sort of random.

Laughably awful Teen Wolf smut in Pillarbox.

Laughably awful Teen Wolf smut in Pillarbox.

Pillarbox is doing the job nicely. It’s another offline app, my shit isn’t on some random server somewhere, it’s safely tucked away on my computer. It’s not a file either, it’s somewhere in my browser memory, so it’s a definite cut and paste job. I don’t have to be connected to the internet to use it, so when I go into that weird corner of my bedroom that hates the internet, I can still write. There’s the word count right there, I can even set a target – and it’s got a clock and a timer too! For short form stuff, or even for the days writing before cut and paste at the end of the session, it’s brilliant.

At the end of everything comes Open Office Writer.  This is what I use for my final edits (it’s got a New Zealand English dictionary) and the final formatting of stuff. It’s better than M$ Office, and it’s free. The addons are awesome, I have one that makes epub files, another that cleans up the stuff you’ve cut and pasted from apps like Google Docs that shove all sorts of rubbish that shouldn’t be there into the document.

*deep breath* Okay, I think I’m done. Thanks for listening to my ramble :)

If you’ve got any favourite writing or related apps, please share! I love new shiny things :D Oh, and if you’re iOS/Mac, too. Let’s be inclusive ;)


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