Sharpen Your Tools

wrenchesIMHO, you do not need every new app or word processing program ever developed to write for a living. It is not the tools you use, it is the words you write. However, as writing is primarily a solitary occupation, anything that can help streamline the creative process is worth a look. I have found the following helpful – some are available free, some cost – for inspiration, organization, catching pesky mistakes, and writing more efficiently (descriptions come direct from the owner’s web sites). In any event, useful tools to have in your toolbox should include:

A web-based project management system like AceProject – with Gantt charts, time tracking, calendars, document management, project tracking, expense and project cost tracking. Excellent for tracking time use for one or more projects.

An idea-generator like StumbleUpon that let’s you discover new and interesting stuff on the Web. “Tell us what you like, and we’ll introduce you to amazing web pages, videos, photos and more that you wouldn’t have found on your own.” Excellent for new ideas, and as a research tool.

A powerful manuscript editor like StyleWriter — “the World’s Largest Style and Usage checker” — that plugs directly into all versions of Microsoft Word. StyleWriter searches for thousands of writing faults, including complex words, jargon and abstract words, wordy phrases, hidden verbs, passive verbs, clichés and long sentences. It then pops up advice showing you how to edit each sentence. Using StyleWriter typically cuts 25 percent of the words from the document and removes the stale writing habits so common in organizational writing. It’s just like having a professional editor sit down next to you and highlight all of your writing problems in your document. Paid only.

A one-click English thesaurus and dictionary like WordWeb for Windows that can look up words in almost any program. It works off-line, but can also look up words in web references such as the Wikipedia encyclopedia. Features of the free version include definitions and synonyms, related words, audio pronunciations, text pronunciations, root words, and synonym sets.

An intuitive word processor like yWriter from Spacejock Software which breaks your novel into chapters and scenes, helping you keep track of your work while leaving your mind free to create. It will not write your novel for you, suggest plot ideas or perform creative tasks of any kind. yWriter was designed by an author, not a salesman! I am using yWriter to write a mystery novel and finding it really helpful, especially for character development.


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