Sunday, 15 March 2015

I'm an app addict. I'm always looking for a better tool. That being said, I thought I'd share a quick and dirty guide to the apps I find invaluable as a writer. No affiliate links here, just gushing.

Scrivener (Mac and Windows: I have both). Price: $40 Windows, $45 Mac, and frequently discounted (e.g. for various Nanowrimo events).

This gets pride of place, because... what can I say that hasn't been said before? Moving from word processors into a custom-built writing app is a revelation. Structuring, outlining, editing, making notes, compiling into an ebook... There is absolutely no part of writing that Scrivener doesn't make easier. It's incredibly rich in features, each feature well thought out.

My first books (treating Elves as second writing-wise), I used it more tentatively, and it was still a miracle. From Fairies onward, I've made much heavier use of its features. I love writing with my outline, scene synopsis and guiding notes visible, in particular.

Distraction-free writing? Phooey. I like it all there. There's a mode if you like that kind of thing, though.

If only I'd had it when I was working on my thesis.

Calibre (Mac and Windows) Price: Donationware

Calibre more than earned its donation. Once I've compiled an ebook, I load it into Scrivener at the touch of a button and look at it in its viewer. If I see changes to be made, it's back to Scrivener. If not, I send it, at the touch of a button, to my kindle and my editor's email.

Googledocs (Any platforms). Price: Free (or your soul)

This is what I use to write on the go. It doesn't matter if it's my Nexus, my iPad or even my phone--it all syncs seamlessly, for future dropping into Scrivener.

A Novel Idea (iOS). Price: Freemium (the paid version was less than $4)

This is my brainstorming app of choice. Nothing like lolling back with a tablet, coming up with ideas. A Novel Idea has places for characters, scenes, ideas, books... and best of all, they can be linked and cross-referenced to your heart's delight. I love this.

Celtx Index Cards (Android and iOS). Price: Free

I haven't found anything as purpose built as A Novel Idea for Android. The Index Cards application belonging to screenwriting app Celtx is the best alternative I've found. Being a Scrivener fan, I'm used to plotting in index cards, and they are easy to reorder and colour codable, and Celtx plays nice with Scrivener. Nice (and free!) little app.

Contour (iOS, Windows and Mac) Price: $10 for iOS, $40 Mac and Win

I started using Contour while plotting Mermaids. My God, I love it. I'd bought it on an impulse, thinking I was wasting $10 on something I would play with and never seriously use. I was a pantser, after all. I was wrong.

Contour is a screenwriting planning app based on a proprietary system. It guides you, through questions and fields, through an extensive planning process aimed at a tightly structured work. By the time you've worked through the starting questions, you should know if your concept is going to fly, or if you need to go back and do more work. There is a detailed manual, and more information is available at a touch.

I've read a lot of craft books talking about the four act structure. Nothing ever made it all click into place like Contour. Planning through it is challenging and joyful, and means I've gone into Mermaids knowing what each scene is going to achieve and what it's place is in the overall structure. Pegasi and Elves had structure imposed on them afterwards, with a lot of time consuming rewriting. This time, I know my structure going in.

It's a great feeling


Eleanor Beresford is the author of the Scholars and Sorcery series of LGBT YA fantasy novels. Find out more here.

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