The Best Tools for Writing

Guest Post by Rowena Portch 

Love to write but don’t quite know where to start? I have a few suggestions for you that may kick your imagination into a whole new gear. There are two primary tools that I use to write my novels: The Marshall Plan, and Scrivener.

Evan Marshall, literary agent, writer, and all around wealth of information, has produced one of the most valuable tools I have ever encountered in my 30 years of writing. His novel writing software, now available for both Mac and PC, is a good tool, but I got the most information out his book, The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing. That book has everything you need to structure your story and develop your characters. He also informs you how to determine the appropriate length for your novel, the turning points, viewpoint character, and section structure for your specific genre.

Scrivener is a time-tested novel writing software that was originally developed for the Mac, but there is a PC version as well. This is a very robust tool that enables you to write anything from essays, reports, novels, instructional manuals, and technical books. It offers you the tools but there is very little guidance on how to structure your story or your characters.

Because I’m a bit lazy, and don’t want to deal with two software applications, this is what I do. I use the information that Evan Marshall discloses in his book and then create appropriate templates in Scrivener. So, by the time I’m done, I have a character template that I use to create fabulous multi-dimensional characters, and two scene sketch templates: one for action scenes, another for reaction scenes. The order in which the scenes come into play depends upon the type of novel you’re writing and its length. Marshall’s book explains all that.

What I love most about Scrivener is that it enables you to easily drag images, PDF files, Web links, and pretty much anything else you might use for research, places and characters. For example, I’m writing a novel that takes place in Scotland. Some of my scenes occur in an Irish Pub. I found one that that appealed to me, and then added images of that pub, directions on how to get there, and a map of its location right into the program. So, as I’m writing, I can quickly access that information without having to leave my writing page.

Scrivener is also DropBox enabled. DropBox is a free service that enables you to update your files on the Web. Think of it as a hard drive in cyberspace that you can access from any device. Because I am an avid Apple fan, I’m able to access my current novel files on my iPhone, iPad, and my MacBook Pro. Scrivener is working on an iPad application that is due to be out this year. I’m eagerly awaiting its release. For now, I use Write2, a DropBox enabled text editor to modify my files when I’m not at home. The process for using DropBox is a whole other subject, so I will reserve that for a later article if any of you are interested.

Some writers like to use the Marshall Novel Writing software to develop their story, and then use Scrivener to write the story. This works, just not for me. I like having everything in front of me while I work. Scrivener costs around $40 (, while The Marshall Novel Writing software costs around $149.00 and comes with a slew of valuable information ( Happy writing! 

Rowena Portch, author of the Spirian Saga, ( has been writing and editing professionally for over 30 years. After losing her sight to Retinitis Pigmentosa, she has had to stop editing but continues to write and mentor other writers. Her publishing company, Aeon Enterprises (, specializes in helping authors achieve their potential.

Posted on July 19, 2012, in Publicity & Writing. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Great post. I use Scrivener and was flipping through the Marshall Plan book for help on plotting. I'm a pantster. Maybe I'll try your method and create templates in Scrivener. Any tips on how to set those up? Thanks.

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