How To Be A Better Writer With These Tools!

Man writingI write a lot and well, I've never considered myself a great writer. I hate outlining and my spelling has never been one of my top skill! But this month, I'm going to reveal some of the top tools I use to write.

The Basics

I grew up using a pen and paper to write; the only problem is I could never read what I wrote, my penmanship was worse then my spelling! As soon as I could, I switched to a typewriter and life was much easier, except that spelling problem. I was thrilled when the personal computers came along with programs like “Wordstar” that you could type into and they would produce a clean copy on your dot-matrix printer! I guess, now I'm starting to show my age, these old tools have been gone for decades!

So, what are the basic tools I use? Well, for starters, I use BBEdit on my Mac as the most basic text editor. It includes spell-check and basic formatting, but it's as simple as it gets. The next step up is MS Word™ or one of the equivalents (Open Office). This allows a lot of formatting options along with a basic grammar checker to remind you that it should be “they're” and not “there.” These two tools will give you a great start on writing for yourself, family, and close friends.

Next, is a couple of programs that go beyond the basics. The first is what I write my web pages in, including this blog and that is “Dreamweaver.” It's a program that has been around for years and is now part of the Adobe creative cloud suite. It handles HTML really well and includes an editor, so you don't need to know how to code in HTML.

The second program that is beyond the basics is Adobe's “In Design.” This program has been around since the 1980s in many different forms. Its main use is in laying out the printed page. I use this to format most of my ebooks.

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Scrivner is a complete writing package. It includes organizational tools, research tools, notes, and pretty much anything else you need as a writer. In Scrivner, everything is laid out in a binder. It has a section for your manuscript, another for your research, a corkboard if that's the way you work and is very customizable. You can put notecards on the corkboard and then rearrange them as you wish, and the changes will be reflected in the binder. You can fill the corkboard with chapters, scenes, plot points, really anything you like. And each “index card” on the corkboard can become another corkboard, or a text document.

Scrivner can then create your output in any format you like. If you're going to an editor, you can do double space and marks between your scenes or chapters. If you're going to a self-publisher, you can “compile” your manuscript straight into their needed format. The compiler, the way Scrivner outputs your manuscript, is one of the most powerful features of the program! There are books and courses just to learn how best to use that!

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Grammarly is one of my favorite tools! Sure, it does spell check and it makes sure you use the proper form of a word, but it also checks a lot of the other grammar rules you learned early in school! It reminds me not to end a sentence with a preposition, even though I ignore that one a lot. It suggests where to place or eliminate commas. It does love the “Oxford” comma, you know the one that goes before “and” or “or,” but it also allows you to ignore it. I run almost everything I write through this tool and if it's posted online, it has been checked! It has a plug-in or extension for most browsers that allows you to link the tool to the text fields in browsers!

Now, I don't accept everything it suggests, but I do love the fact that it keeps me thinking about my writing.

Other Tools

These two above tools are what I use most for the actual act of writing. Scrivner keeps my structure, and Grammarly keeps my syntax. There are other tools I use more for research and storage. The first, of course, is Google, you can find links to almost anything you want. But, what do you do with all of those links? If you're on your main computer and you use Scrivner, you can put them into your “Research” folder, but what if you're out and only have your phone? That's where Evernote comes in handy! You can keep your notes organized by subject or project.

I also use Microsoft OneNote to keep information in. I use OneNote more for taking notes and not for outside research. For example, if I'm attending a webinar, I'll use OneNote for all the notes, but, if I'm doing online research on the same subject, I'll use Evernote to keep all the links in.

Finally, I also use Dropbox. This is another online storage service and it is integrated with Scrivner so I can access my Scrivner projects on both my computer and my tablet. Dropbox is different from Evernote in that Dropbox saves documents that are created with a different application and Evernote you can create your document right in the Evernote app.

In Closing…

The list of tools you can use to write is huge! Google “Writing Tools” and see a list of sites you can visit! But, the best tool you have is your own mind and memory! If you're writing for your own enjoyment, a journal is your best friend! (And I'll be writing about journaling soon.)

Do you have a favorite tool to use to write? Let me know in the comments! Do you need help with your writing? Let me know and I can help!

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