Apps for Writers

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Scraps of paperFor the longest time I lived my life surrounded by scraps of paper. Whenever a thought would come into my head I would scribble it down using the back of receipts, napkins, and even the back of my hand. I then progressed to notebooks and still take one everywhere to this day. I say one, what I actually mean is over a dozen in various bags, in the car, and around the house. When I want to find a thought, an idea or a scene I’ve scribbled it can sometimes take me ages to find it.

Then I started using notes on my phone. This helped a bit, but I still found myself actually hand-writing anything of length because whilst the phone keyboard is great for knocking out tweets it’s a little tedious for anything beyond the length of a Limerick. I still have the problem of multiple things on multiple mediums and never easily accessible at the right time.

I finally started to investigate apps for writers. There are a multitude out there with various features and strengths and weaknesses. After reading what other writers thought I finally settled for Scrivener and began working through the tutorial.

Not being the most patient of people I kept wanting to jump ahead so created a blank template alongside the tutorial and began playing around with it as I went. I did the shortened version of the tutorial but can always refer back to it for more info if I need to.

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What is it about writing apps that make them so useful and appealing to us writers?

1. You can use the app across all your devices

This is providing you have the same operating system on each, so as an Apple fangirl it works perfectly for me with my iPhone, iPad and Mac Book. I only had to buy Scrivener once, and have downloaded it on all my devices. Then, using Dropbox, I can access everything I have saved wherever I am with any of the three devices. Brilliant!

2. Scrivener allows you to use multi media

The files and folders you create within a given project can be everything from plain text to videos. If you saw a  picture of someone who looks like your character you can add it in the research file. If you watched a video on a location in your book, again it can be added easily. If you have a random thought while waiting at a bus stop you can add it to the binder from your phone within seconds and come back to it later while sipping on a large coffee in front of your laptop. Everything is there and it’s easy to find.

3. Templates

First there is the main template – manuscript, e-book, poem, screenplay etc. There are plenty to choose from and you can also create your own. Then there are the templates within the binder itself.

There are two main templates that come in a manuscript – the character outline and the location description. However you can make templates of your own (I recently made myself an editorial calendar for this blog using the table format), and you can import templates that other Scrivener fans from across the globe have created. You can also copy and paste other templates from other mediums such as Google Docs. The list is endless in terms of the types of templates and files you can create and then use again and again.

4. Compiling

I don’t know about you but when I write my first draft I sometimes find that I need to add scenes, delete scenes, and move scenes around. If I work from just one text file this can be a laborious task. If I write from a series of separate chapter files I can get confused when it comes to putting it all together and formatting it properly. The good news with Scrivener is that it does it all for you. You just click and drag everything into the order you want it to go in and then Scrivener collates and formats it for you. Amazing!

As I’ve only been using Scrivener for a few months I still have loads to learn about it. What nifty tools have you found? Do you use a different app? Are you a paper purist or a tech embracer, or something in between? Tell us what you think!

6 responses to “Apps for Writers”

  1. Nan Pokerwinski Avatar

    I’ve been playing around with Scrivener, too, with the same approach as you: working through the tutorial while trying it out myself. I love being able to keep text, notes, images, etc. all in one place. I plan to use it for all my longer projects and maybe even some of the shorter ones.

    1. oliviamccabeauthor Avatar

      Hi Nan, I originally bought it for my novel writing but have found it equally handy for my blog as well. At this rate I might even add letters and correspondence too!

  2. Jayce Avatar

    Just a note: Scrivener specifically prefers using Dropbox because you DO NOT have to use the same type of device. I have the app and PC and Mac desktop versions. I use Scrivener on my iPad, iPhone, MacBook Pro, and Dell desktop and they sync across all devices.

    1. oliviamccabeauthor Avatar

      Thanks for clarifying that Jace. Even better!

  3. Maxwell Ivey Avatar

    Hello; I loved your review of Scribbner. I’m not sure if I’m ready to try using it myself. I’m a blind apple user, and this doesn’t prevent me using most of their apps including third party creations; but I’m a bit of a technophobe. I’m usually one of if not the last person to actual start using a new device, app, system, website, etc. Still you made a compelling argument. I currently write my books in small text files and then depend on the help of my talented friend and editor Lorraine Reguly to help me move it all around and then make it look amazing. Wishing you all the best, Max

    1. oliviamccabeauthor Avatar

      Hi Max, good to hear from you. I can’t speak with authority on Scrivener but I would imagine that if it can work alongside whatever screen reader you use then it would be a fantastic tool for you. It collates everything into a manuscript for you in a format publishers prefer. Having everything in one place makes it much easier to find all my notes as well. It’s not the only app that does all this but it seems to have the best reviews. Good luck with it if you try and do let me know how you get on. Liv

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