Word has developed a bit of a bad rep when it comes to writers, but I love it! All my shorter writing projects – this blog post included – are drafted on Word. When it comes to longer manuscripts, I prefer Microsoft for formatting and editing tasks. Formatting is fantastic on Word! If you take the time to use ‘headings’ to mark each of your chapters, you can then create document maps and a table of contents without any difficultly. You can also add headers and footers which is really handy if you’re printing out more than one version. And then you have editing! Not all my beta readers and editors have Scrivener and all that ‘by hand’ stuff proves to be extremely difficult if one of you have terrible handwriting. Word allows you to track changes, add comments and compare documents side by side. It may be difficult to write full manuscripts on Word (unless you’re a linear writer) but I couldn’t handle my edits without Word!
Scrivener is an entire writers room in one app. Instead of having to switch through documents and shuffle between hardcopies printed out and highlighted, Scrivener gives you a research area where you can keep all your background material – images, PDF files, notes, fragmented ideas etc. – and can continue to refer to it when you’re planning and writing. It also gives you your very own virtual corkboard for the project on which you throw together your structure using index cards. You can shuffle these around whenever you want without having to copy and paste a single thing. There’s also an outlining feature which lets you to organise what’s in each section, label draft you’re on at that particular moment (to do, first, final etc.), the word count for each document and so much more. Of all its functions, there are two that stand out for me: the composition mode, which is basically a full screen editing that blocks everything else happening in the background do you don’t get distracted, and the project targets tool, which allows you to set the word count for your final manuscript, add in a deadline, select the days you want to write on, and Scrivener will set you a session target to hit each day. It’s brilliant for staying on track with your writing!
When another writer recommended I use Google Docs, I laughed. When you have software like Scrivener out there, why on earth would I use Google?! Where do I start? Google Docs saves everything automatically; it gives you access to previous versions; it has a full screen mode so you can write distraction free; there’s an offline mode so you can write even when you have no internet connection; you can export in several different formats; you can collaborate with other writers easily; you can use the dictionary while you’re writing; you can dictate what you want written; you can sync up Google Draw and brainstorm visually to accompany your document… Seriously, the list is endless! What’s even more fascinating is that your readers can watch you write! Share a link on your social media and people can watch the words appear as you type them AND they can interact with you via the ‘chat’ option.
I never realised how many times I used the word ‘that’ unnecessarily until I got myself an account with ProWritingAid. It’s indispensable when it comes to self-editing your work. There are three versions of the software and which to get depends on your needs. If you write short pieces, I recommend sticking to the free version which allows you to edit 500 words at a time online. If you’re looking to edit a novel, the Premium edition takes away your word limit and is desktop friendly – just download the app, drag in your document (it works with Word, Google Documents and Scrivener) and let the software do its thing. If you’re an editor, Premium+ adds on a plagiarism checker for an extra $5 per year. Be careful though! Sometimes what the software thinks is correct may not work with what you’re writing.
Everyone should be open to learning more about their craft, whether they’re writers or photographers, musicians or interior decorators. Creative Live, an education platform that broadcasts live classes around the world, is the perfect resource to do just that. Open a free account with them, tell them what your interests are and they’ll suggest classes for you to join. The best part? The majority of their classes are free! They’ve also got a brilliant series called ‘Between the Lines’ running at the moment where sixteen best-selling authors, including Margaret Atwood and John Grisham, discuss their careers, their books and the art of writing.