Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Gadget Goodies 13 – Writing Geekery 2

Last week, we talked about some of the foundational underpinnings to writing technology.  We’ll talk some more about that.  Along with some additions.  The writer is, at the core a communicator.  That’s something that needs to be considered in the equation.

First, something that might have been better said at the beginning of this series.  Everything I say in this series is unabashedly and unapologetically subjective.  And that’s as it should be.  If we talk to enough writers, we discover that the combination of how each writes, where, and what tools are used is very personal to each.  With that said, let’s review last week’s software.

We talked about the benefits of having an outline.  My personal choice on what to use for that was based on a combination of cost, ease of use, and portability.  And my particular preference to use an outline.  Remember.  I said that writing was personal.  If we think about it, writers used some variation of pen and parchment or paper through most of history.  Probably little outlining and lots of writing, scratching out, rewriting.  It makes me wonder if they would have been better writers if they had the story form planned out by software?  Or are we, perhaps, worse writers because we turn part of our creative vision over to technology?  Something to think about.

In much the same way, Scrivener is rapidly becoming the tool of choice for many I respect as being serious about the quality of their writing output.  I mentioned, last time, that Scrivener doesn’t have the simple elegance that I said I was looking for.  Overall, that’s true in a way.  But remember that it’s a piece of software I’m very much learning.  More so than being at a point of comfortably using it.  What I’m discovering is that each piece of it is simple in handling what it does.  That’s one part of Scrivener’s elegance.  The other is that it meshes all the separate parts together in a way the unifies the writing process.  There have been others that have done parts of it, but none memorable enough for me to remember the names of the software.  As I try out Scrivener, I’m getting more to the point of determining it will be one of my regular tools for longer writing.

Again, we can’t forget that all this technology is an aid, not  a writing solution.  Great software won’t help the bad writer churn out a novel for the generations.  It may turn bad writing to something closer to mediocre, but never from one extreme of quality to the other.  The right tools allow us to put things together in an organized way.  But it’s still up to us to write well.  No matter what we use to put our writing on paper or screen, we still have to give the tools the quality input that will create quality output.

There’s one other tool I want to mention.  Evernote.  We did a pretty thorough review in Gadget Goodies 6, here:  Evernote is kind of like Scrivener in that it’s a Swiss Army knife kind of solution.  But Evernote deals with resources, well beyond just writing.  I have a notebook full of clipped recipes I want to try. 

Some of what Evernote does for gathering resources for a writing project overlaps some of what Scrivener does.  But Scrivener originated on the Mac and that’s its most full fledged version.  The Windows version is working on being a close second.  The linux version of Scrivener is an early beta, far behind the other two.  On the other hand, while features vary with the platform, Evernote is native on just about every platform available.  Evernote syncs to its own cloud, which means that it syncs to every device I have it installed on.  And, if there’s no native app, there is web access.  So, what makes Evernote indispensible as a writing tool?

The thing that most will think of is keeping resources, writing snippets, and quotes for later use.  And they’re all good uses.  But there’s one more that, for me, is compelling.  I’m no longer chained to my computer desk.  By using Evernote, I can have an idea to add to a project and not have to wait till I’m home to document it.  I can open Evernote on my phone or tablet and make sure I put the idea in place.  We’ve all had those moments where an exciting idea came to mind and, when we were ready to write it down, much of it was gone.  That no longer has to be a problem.

I’ve been told that the actual writing components of Scrivener are text files.  So are the files created by Evernote’s editor.  Which means I can transfer files between the two or copy and paste between the two.  The actual writing process then becomes portable on my phone or tablet.  There are shorter periods where mind and psyche need to be realigned with the writing thinking process.  And there are more free times when I can be doing actual writing instead of just waiting for some event to occur.  That’s efficient and powerful.

I’m finding that, like Scrivener, there are parts of Evernote that I haven’t explored much, yet.  One is Evernote’s built in editor.  It has some basic extra functions that make it a close second to my favorite blogging tool, Windows Live Writer.  There is some rudimentary formatting tools and it does word counts.  It appears I can write a whole post on my tablet and do a copy and paste into my blog’s editor for some final tweaking for formatting and labels, and publish from there.  It’s something I have to experiment with, but that’s another example of Evernote allowing me the freedom to be away from my computer and still be productive.

Again, these are things that work for me or have the potential to work for me.  What works for you may be different.  And, if I write poorly, they won’t make me a better writer.  Or, if I don’t put the time into the writing project, none of the tools will be of any use.  I still have to put the blood, sweat, and tears into actual writing for any of these tools to benefit me.

What are your favorite writing tools?  And how do they benefit what you do?

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