The Tools We Use, Part III

In the last few days, I’ve seen a few queries about what tools we writers use to create our “Great American Novels.”

As with most choices, it really depends on the writer. Some writers pen out their entire story by hand, then transcribe it to the computer later. Others are lost without a keyboard of some kind or another. Me, I’m somewhere in the middle.

I have a notebook that lives in my car (no, I don’t try to write and drive), and one in my backpack. I keep these items handy for the times I’m hit with inspiration but can’t get to the computer. I’ll jot down a few notes to jog my memory later and let the idea continue to percolate in my subconscious.

For the most part, I sit at my keyboard and type my thoughts into MS Word. Why do I use Word? Well, for one, I’m familiar with how it works. I’ve been using it as a professional, so I don’t have to learn how to use it. MS WordPad would probably work just as well for me but doesn’t offer as many features like MS Word—call me spoiled.

I don’t limit myself to just using a word processing program. Typing out a story or blog post in Word is Step 1 of my process. After I finish writing what’s on my mind, I walk away from the keyboard for a while, then come back and read what I wrote, and make a few editorial changes. When I’m satisfied with the text, I move on to Step 2—Grammarly.

Grammarly isn’t the be-all, end-all of grammar assistance programs, but it does have a place in my repertoire because I like some of the features it offers. I like the goal-setting menu that lets me define the type of text I am writing. I will be upfront and tell you I subscribe to Grammarly, so some of the features I describe might not be available in the free version.

Grammarly Goal Setting pop-up, showing default selections.
(C) 2019, JJ Shaun

I won’t say that the grammar suggestions are a hundred percent accurate, they aren’t. What I do like is that depending on the tone I want to set for the piece, the application will make suggestions to strengthen the verbiage. If I don’t like the selections given, I can always go to either the thesaurus that I can access from Word, or to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary and thesaurus.

The other neat thing about Grammarly is that I can have the application run a plagiarism check. With so many people writing and copyrighting their work these days, you can’t be too careful about checking. Again, I’m not sure I agree with everything that pops up as “possible plagiarism” could really be considered plagiarism, mostly because some of the hits I’ve received are fairly common expressions. I change those phrases anyway, why invite trouble—even inadvertently.

That’s the last stage when writing a blog post. Stories, on the other hand, go a step further.

Grammarly Side Bar Pane with comments about the content of this blog post.
(C) 2019, JJ Shaun

As noted in The Tools We Use: Part II, I purchased Scrivener a few months back. I’ve been uploading my fiction into the application since then and made some headway toward getting it organized.

When I participated in NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago, I saved the files by date so that I could tell what day I wrote what piece. I didn’t necessarily write the story start to finish. In the middle of all that brainstorming, I came up with a backstory piece for one of my characters, then went back and worked on the main storyline again. This was all based on a story I adapted from a short script I wrote while at university.

After I imported the original text, I was able to use the bulletin board interface to rearrange the virtual notecards. The notecards are linked to the text files, That made it easy to look at the text and decide to what chapter the content belonged. After making a short note on each “card,” it was merely a matter of dragging the cards into new positions on the board.

Scrivener Corkboard with the beginning of my novel.
(C) 2019, JJ Shaun

I don’t know much about other writers’ habits, so I can’t speak to what they use for their process. I do know that in my professional life, we use a myriad of authoring tools to get the job done, so I imagine that some other writers also use multiple applications.

MS Word, Grammarly, Scrivener. Those are the tools this writer uses to create her “Great American Novel.” What tools do you use?

P.S. I turn into a Biker at midnight on the 30th and will be on vacation for the next two weeks. The annual Biker Pilgrimage to Sturgis, SD is upon us. That means the usual Sunday posts will be delayed by a day or two because I’ll be on the bike getting the Biker Smile, complete with bugs in the teeth.

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