Monday, April 11, 2016

Writing Tools Sell You Stuff

Flickr Credit: Melissa Maples
I wish there were lyrics to a great song about capitalism that I could use to start this post, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head, so it is to the point we go:

Writing tools exist to sell you stuff.

*gasp* HEATHER. Don’t reduce [my favorite writing tool] to a consumerist agenda! I wouldn’t be half the writer I am without [that writing tool] to help me!

Yes, yes, yes. We can all get a little protective and/or obsessive over our writing tools, and I get it. Whether it’s your favorite word processor or the place you connect with other writers, it’s yours. It means something to you, and that’s why you share and use it.

That’s okay. I’m not here to say that you should stop using writing tools or that being a better writer means not using writing tools. That would be kind of arrogant of me, I think.

At the same time, I want to talk about it. As writers, people pitch new programs and solutions and ideas to us all the time. They can be flashy, fun, elegant, and hopefully useful, too. But why are they useful? What needs do they meet in our lives? How do they impact what writing looks like in the digital age?

Let me look at a couple tools:

Scrivener Tell me if I’m wrong, but Scrivener compiles and organizes your writing-related files. The word processor keeps your manuscript close to your other WIP materials, and the features helps keep your ideas, plotline, inspirations, research, and the like all in one place for easy access, interpretation, and writing.

Need: to be organized and together
Impact: writers have greater control over the order of their novels and the materials that support it

Write or Die The goal of this app is to keep you writing no matter what. By selecting a system of reward or punishment it forces you to get to the end of writing your story.

Need: to write without stopping
Impact: writers can physically make themselves write (or suffer the consequences)

HemingwayApp I love using this app for my school papers because it checks for formal writing no-nos like long sentences, passive voice, and adverbs. It keeps things tight and specific.

Need: to create crisp prose
Impact: writers have a resource to help catch simple flaws in their writing

NaNoWriMo First, they’re offering the opportunity to do something hard within a solid time span. Second, they’re offering the community and support to help you get it done. It can be tough to sit down and write a book, but with a pre-set goal, time limit, community, and mentorship, it helps people get down to business and write.

Need: to challenge oneself and push through actually drafting a novel
Impact: writers can accomplish big and personal goals in a group setting

This Blog The idea of blogging sold me because it offered an opportunity to write on a schedule and where other people respond to the ideas I share. Though there’s a lot more to blogging than that, it does give me a balance of writing and interaction.

Need: to regularly practice writing for an audience
Impact: I contribute to a product both in terms of quality and quantity with opportunities for feedback I might not otherwise receive

Writers wouldn’t use these products if there wasn’t a need for them. I think there is a need, too—I use only three of these products (Write or Die, Hemingway, and this blog) but I know many writers who rely on Scrivener and NaNoWriMo to motivate themselves. Which is great!

At the same time, I also like doing this because as much as many other people love Scrivener, I also need to have the wisdom to know that if I owned Scrivener, I wouldn’t use it. I’m just that kind of person. It would gather dust on my hard drive while I relied on my own resources to write my book.

That said, ultimately writing tools are good because they help us become better writers. I want to remember why that is. They’re selling me this product for a reason… I’d better watch myself.

What writing tools do you often use? How do they impact you as a writer?


  1. That's a pretty interesting point, actually. I blog (obviously) and that really helps me to be more dedicated. Like I have a post that needs to go up in seven hours, and if it's not finished then people will notice and my blog will crash and burn. (Not really. But it helps to think along those lines sometimes.) I think it's also helped with me thinking about voice, because voice is usually something I've skimped on with my books and having to develop a voice for my blog (I don't talk exactly like I do on blog my in real life, to the relief of my family and friends) has helped me develop my characters' voices more. Or so I like to believe.

    I'm also doing Nano for the first time ever, and man, my word count has skyrocketed. Which is amazing and completely helpful.

    I agree, though. I think if I got Scrivener then I'd get distracted with all the shiny buttons or just not use it at all, and continue to do all my writing on my iPad with Pages. It's just not worth the money for me, but I know of people who swear by it.

    One of the writing tools that I really have to watch is Pinterest. I'll do up a board for most of my books and quite often it really helps with the atmosphere and setting of the MS, which is really helpful. But then I get distracted and spend more time looking for the perfect pictures of whatever than writing. So I have to watch it.

    Anyways, long comment, but whatever I suppose.

    1. It does help to think that the world depends upon you getting your blog post up, doesn't it? And I think that's true, too! We use different voices in different situations and this is a great place to practice all that.

      That is great! Keep up the good work. :)

      I knowwww. Like, good for those people, but some of us work better with stone tablets and chisels, for pete's sake. Just let us do it our way. XD

      Oh, yeah. I don't use Pinterest for writing tools specifically, but I totally know what you mean. I can spend way too much time on it and it is BLAH.

      Ah, long comments are always welcome! :D Thanks for leaving one as such, Victoria!

  2. This is an interesting (and economical) perspective. I don't use writing tools, and I think I agree that sometimes they're not worthwhile. Since everything I write is in a word doc, it doesn't really matter to me, but I did originally start our blog for writing practice. Which it is, in fact, very good for. And having a schedule forces me to write at least one post a week which is good I guess.

    1. Well... I'd argue that you have to use some. Word documents are technically writing tools. In my opinion, anyway. Also, I do think that having a blog is a great source of practice, so I have to nod my head there.

  3. I use Word I guess? and sometimes google docs. But I don't have a phone so no apps and I don't really write enough to need Scrivner. This is something so important to keep in mind when people are raving about whatever. Good to keep things in perspective. But I guess everyone is selling you stuff-- their personality, their friendship, and you just gotta accept it? Anyway, awesome post :) (I've come to expect that from you)

    1. Indeed, indeed. We aren't all able to be pineapple queens of the world. That is true, though. We are all kind of selling each other stuff, and we just have to accept it. (And thanks! That is so sweet of you to say. :) )


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