|Flickr Credit: Melissa Maples|
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.