Write Aids

By Joe Moore

Wouldn’t it be great if we could download a software program, input some general ideas about a book we want to write, click compose, and an 80k-word manuscript magically appears? That’s certainly the Holy Grail of writers everywhere. Let the application do the heavy lifting while we just sit back and think up more great ideas. As of today, that software program doesn’t exist.

Still, writers are always looking for a shortcut. A tool that can take some of the pain away. A tool that can make the journey through the 3-act novel a bit easier. There are some programs that can help, even just a little.

Granted, the only tools needed to write a novel are a sharp pencil and a pad of paper. And some writers still use that method while others have gone on to word processors like MS Word. I prefer the latter since I can’t read my own writing.

But for those who seek a little bit of help to assist in the process, I’ve assembled a list of applications that might. I’ve never tried any of them and endorse none. But if one Zoner out there benefits from one of these, then my work here is done.

Probably the most popular program for novelists is Scrivener. Bestselling novels have been written with it and those who use it love it. You can test drive it for free.

After Scrivener comes smaller programs that focus on particular aspects of the writing process. Here’s a list. Hope you find that magic bullet in the list somewhere.

Note Everything. The ultimate note pad.

Write or Die 2. Helps to eliminate writer’s block.

yWriter5. Helps you to plan your novel.

Diaro. Advanced diary application.

Writer Pro. Professional writing suite.

FocusWriter. Gets rid of all distractions so you can concentrate on writing.

Writer. Helps you focus on your writing.

Hemingway. Helps you write bold and clear.

wikidPad. Helps you to link your ideas.

Wise Mapping. Online mind mapping tool.

MindNode. More mind mapping.

TreeSheets. Powerful note taking app.

Bubbl.us. Brainstorm or create a map for your ideas.

Sigil. EPUB editor.

Vizual Einstein. Visually develop a project.

The Writers Store. Complete source for writing software and other stuff.

There are tons more out there. You can find them with a simple Google search. So, fellow Zoners, do you use any writer aids or are all you writing tools in your head? Any programs to recommend?


Coming this spring: THE SHIELD by Sholes & Moore
Einstein got it wrong!


How the dog park rescued my writing

A while ago, I was struggling with my writing. It required a huge effort to come up with fresh plot twists and characters–everything I produced seemed oddly familiar, a rehash of something I’d written in the past. My “boys in the back room” kept betraying me, throwing up the same old-same old. No matter how hard I worked, the results sounded suspiciously close to something I’d already written. I briefly considered suing myself for plagiarism.

In desperation, I took a few weeks off from writing. During that respite I adopted a new puppy (a Lab/Shepherd mix named MacGregor, aka “Little Mac”). Little Mac is 50 pounds of energy with the attention span of a toddler (read: none). To save my sanity, he and I started spending lots of hours at our local dog park. There, Little Mac gets to run around with other dogs, and hopefully work off some of that insane puppy energy.

At the dog park, casual conversation flows easily between strangers. The most taciturn curmudgeon will usually melt into smiles when you compliment his canine buddy.

Stereotypes break down quickly as you watch people with their dogs. Young guys who are covered with tattoos and dressed like gang bangers often turn out to be the politest people at the park, with the best-behaved dogs.

I usually sit on a bench at the dog park, so my conversations are limited to the people who choose to sit beside me. I’ve met some incredible characters this way. Recently my bench partners included: a self-described ex-hippie jazz man who teaches music in the inner city; an Air Force officer who is between engagements in the Middle East; a woman who casually mentioned that she communicates with animals and (human) spirits.

Humans reveal a lot about themselves in the way they handle their dogs. Our park is divided into two areas, one for puppies and small dogs, the other for large dogs. Little Mac quickly outgrew the small-dog side of the fence, so we roll with the big hounds. Some humans seem fretful and anxious with their dogs, while others are completely oblivious to anything that’s going on. I get along best with the medium-energy humans–they tend to have the best-behaved dogs, perhaps not surprisingly.

After a few weeks of observing people and canines at the park, I came back to writing with a renewed energy. Maybe the outings didn’t have anything to do with it–maybe I just needed a break. But I find that my new routine is helping me recharge my imagination.

Have you ever needed to take a complete break from writing? Did you find anything that helped you revive  your muse?