Can writing apps improve your writing?
Although they can’t write for you, they can get you organized and smooth the writing process. A big benefit: the best apps can increase your motivation, while cutting down on procrastination.
A few months ago, our writers’ group chatted about writing apps. We all had our favorites. However, some apps were widely popular, with many writers enthusiastic about them.
A tip before we discuss the apps… Field test an app (especially if it’s expensive) before you buy.
Writing apps: test an app before you buy
I just opened my Mac’s Launchpad. It’s littered with apps I bought with high hopes and no longer use.
Several I discarded because they moved to a subscription pricing model. Those monthly or yearly subscriptions add up; if I didn’t use an app every day, I looked for alternatives.
Here are our group’s favorites.
1. Scrivener: a clear favorite app for long projects (Mac/ Windows)
When I went back to the Mac in 2005 after years of using Window machines, Scrivener caught my eye. I loved it from the start. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, if you’re an author, give Scrivener a try.
One of my author friends, who’s a ghostwriter, said she couldn’t imagine writing a book without Scrivener. She says she “writes in chunks”, so I asked her to explain.
From her email response:
“I’m always busy, working on up to four books at any one time. I can’t afford to procrastinate! My deadlines mean that I have daily word count…
“So, I write whatever pops into my mind. With fiction, perhaps it’s a scene from the first couple of chapters. Or I might add to a scene. Or I’ll write an ending.
“With nonfiction, I research as I write, and I chunk my nonfiction just as I do my fiction… I start anywhere, and keep going.”
Your writing process is unique; if you write at book length, Scrivener makes it easy. You can move documents around the project file at will.
When you’re editing, you can use snapshots to save the state of a document before you edit, or use you can use Scrivener’s wonderful Collections to gather documents together:
You can create as many Collections as you like. Occasionally I save a search as a Collection, but mainly I create Collections whenever I think they’ll be useful, either when I’m working on the first draft, or later, when I’m editing the novel.
A tip: I know Scrivener has a learning curve. If you find the app challenging, do persevere. Don’t think of it as a word processor—don’t worry about formatting; that happens later, automatically. Like Ulysses, Scrivener is magic, and not only for writing. When you finish writing, Scrivener will take your words and turn them into a print book, an EPUB, a PDF, an MS Word doc—or other formats, all within a few easy clicks.
2. Ulysses: loved for short and long projects (Mac, iOS)
One of my writing buddies now writes on her iPad because Ulysses has become her most useful app. She uses it for blogging and for writing content for her freelance clients.
“I adore Ulysses, because I never have to concern myself with formatting. I can send documents to MS Word, to PDF, or to HTML at a click.
“By using Ulysses’ groups, I can organize my work in any way I choose. I have groups for each of the blogs for which I write as well as for each client.
“Ulysses makes organizing my work simple.”
I use Ulysses for blogging. This post started life in Ulysses; I published it to the blog with a couple of clicks.
3. Lucidspark: mind maps and more (browser)
Lucidspark is a mind managing app, but it’s also much more. Perfect for collaborations, it calls itself a virtual whiteboard.
Our group members use it for brainstorming, outlining, and for collaboration. I haven’t used it, but I’ll try it out soon, because so many in our group find it useful.
4. OmniOutliner: outlining made simple (and pretty) (Mac and iOS)
Even if you’re not into outlining, OmniOutliner is a wonderful tool. I use it not only for writing, but also to to keep track of my client interactions, because it moves files seamlessly between apps and machines.
An outline might start as a mind map on my tablet. When I’m ready, I can export the map to OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language), then open it in OmniOutliner on my Mac. Once I’ve finished working with it in OmniOutliner, I can export the document to OPML again, then open the OPML file in Scrivener.
Rather than opening as a simple outline in Scrivener, the OmniOutliner OPML creates both folders and documents from the outline. It’s a big time saver. With a few clicks, I can create numerous documents in Scrivener and start writing.
Writing apps can save you time and enhance your creativity
If you haven’t tried the above writing apps, use them with confidence to organize (and improve) your writing.
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