How to do Creative Writing with Computer Software
Guest Post by Irene Watson
Writing a book takes a great deal of organization and it’s easy to overlook details. Having a system to help you keep characters, plot, or research materials organized can make the writing process a lot easier. Several software programs are available to assist authors with the writing process.
Years ago, when computers first started to become household items, a computer commercial aired on television that depicted Charles Dickens saying, “If I’d had this computer, I could have written A Tale of Three Cities.”
No doubt about it, computers and word processing programs have made writing easier. We don’t have to flip around the pencil to erase. We don’t have to fight with runny whiteout or correction tapes. We don’t have to get out the scissors and cut and paste pages together to put paragraphs or scenes in the order we want. The list of how computers have made writing easier goes on and on.
But has technology made our writing better? Does writing in longhand provide a higher or lesser quality of writing? Truthfully, whatever writing atmosphere—notepad or computer—makes you feel most comfortable is going to allow you to produce your best writing. But having an organized system for writing will definitely help, and a system that gives you guidance and pointers is even better.
Different authors have different problems with writing, especially when it comes to writing fiction. Sometimes it’s coming up with good ideas, or creating realistic characters, and sometimes it’s keeping track of the details. Even in writing nonfiction, keeping track of all your resources and organizing your chapters can be difficult but necessary aspects of creating a successful book.
Writing software programs may be the answer if you struggle with any of these issues. Many writing software programs are on the market today, and depending on needs, different programs will suit different authors. Some programs are designed specifically for the creative writer of fiction and full-length novels while other programs help authors generate effective non-fiction articles and many provide resources for all genres.
Here are some of the various features of different writing software programs. I’ve pulled the list from the features of numerous programs available on the market today:
- Word Processing
- Brainstorming Features
- Structure Templates
- Organization Methods
- Writing Prompts
- Character Personality and Archetype Generators
- Character Name Databases
- Historical Period Details Databases
- Word Count
- Spell Checker
- Readability Assessment
- Drag scenes, chapters, events, and ideas to new locations
- View character relationships in web diagrams
- View story events in a timeline
- Visualize layout with a flexible Story Board
- Keep track of manuscript submissions
- Checklist reminders for:
Not starting with exposition
Having an opening scene that starts in the middle of the story
Beginnings, Middles, Ends (arranging scene order)
Dialogue and Plotting
Drama, Tension, Suspense
Exposition and Background
Point of View
Setting and Detail
Style and Tone
That all sounds great, doesn’t it? It’s like having your own personal writing tutor in the room with you while you write. I’m sure something in that list would be helpful to you.
Now that I’ve got you interested, you need to consider a few things before you purchase a writing software program. First, determine what you want the program to do for you. Some writers need help brainstorming, so character prompts that ask you what the hero’s motivation is, what the villain’s motivation is, etc. are helpful. Other authors want help remembering details so a form to fill out with characters’ hair color, eye color, height, and age is useful to go back to for easy reference—that way, Mary won’t have green eyes on page 17 and brown eyes on page 98. Once you know what you want the program to do for you, you’ll be better able to weed out which programs don’t have those features.
Next, I recommend you read reviews of the product. Visit the individual products’ websites, but also check out reviews at places such as Amazon. A great checklist that weighs the pros and cons for ten of the most popular writing software programs today can be found at:
Prices for writing software programs range anywhere from about $28 to $300. Remember that price is not always in relation to quality. Some of the less expensive programs may do everything you need, and if you’re not a really computer savvy person, you might want to start out using a simpler program to see whether you feel comfortable with it, it really will help your writing, or you’ll even actually use it.
Finally, before you buy a writing software program, here are a few things to look for:
- Make sure the program is compatible with your computer—check reviews for easy installation ability if you’re not a computer guru.
- Test the trial version. Not all programs have trial versions, but doesn’t it make sense to test it before you buy?
- Check for a money back guarantee.
- Write to the company to ask questions to see how quick you get a response. Failure to respond is a red flag not to buy.
No writing program can promise to teach you how to write or that it will help you create a bestseller, but just as using a computer is easier than a typewriter, it may save you time in organization and formatting, and it may also inspire you with new ideas and writing prompts you wouldn’t have considered. A writing software program will not make you the next William Shakespeare, and it doesn’t hurt to remember he never had such a program. There is no one right way to write a book, and only you can determine the method that is best for you.
Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.