Writing Software from the Technologically Impaired

Yes, from the technologically impaired, not for the technologically impaired, so I can’t help you with your computer problems. And, I’m not saying that whoever wrote the software was technologically impaired, only the person writing this post. So, if you’re like me, and don’t consider yourself particularly savvy with computers and software, why use a writing program? Because it will make you a better writer.

Here are my experiences with a couple of programs out there:

Snowflake:

This is a great organizational tool that takes you step by step through writing a well-developed novel. It’s also a great help as you try to figure out those synopses. It starts you with a brief paragraph description of your novel then has you expand the book summary into five plot-point paragraphs. That expansion continues until you end up at a page where you write out the key points for individual scenes. It also has a character page with a multitude of questions to help develop your characters’ personalities and quirks. I used the software for about eight months, and though I found it helpful, I felt like I was moving back and forth from one screen to another and it didn’t seem to make my writing much easier than having multiple files in Word. It’s a great outlining tool, so it would serve a lot of writers very well. You can check it out at : http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/info/snowflake_pro/

Scrivener:

I use a pc and had heard about scrivener from mac users for years. When scrivener came out with a pc version I had to try it. There’s a learning curve and I still haven’t figured out how to do maximize the program’s capabilities. But if you buy this, I highly suggest you take the time to go through the tutorial, probably more than once. This, and updated versions, will probably be my writing program for life. I don’t have to go into files or bounce back and forth between screens. My color-coded outline runs along the left side of my screen, including a section for research, characters, places, or anything else I might want. Along the right side of my screen I can choose to see notes related to specific files, including pictures and alternating notes pertaining to my whole novel, or just the chapter I’m working on. My writing screen itself can be split, so I can be writing in one screen, need information from one of my research files, and open up another screen right next to where I’m writing. The only time I have to leave the program is when I go to the internet or books to do research, but when I find what I need, I can place files into my scrivener program and have them on hand for later use. The only drawback so far is that the spell-check/auto-correct doesn’t seem to be as good as Word, and when I’m working without an internet connection I don’t have any type of dictionary or thesaurus. Since I rarely write under those circumstances, and when I do I just put in a triple-x and move on, I don’t find this a difficulty. I highly recommend this program. You can find it for Mac or pc at: https://www.literatureandlatte.com/

Dragon Naturally Speaking:

I like typing and haven’t used this yet, though I hear great things. I’d probably be a lot thinner if I took this hiking instead of sitting on my butt at a keyboard. If you can learn to tell a story this way, or if you prefer telling your stories rather than the slower process of typing, this might be the software for you. Since I don’t actually use it, I’m going to quote my friend, Dale Stinson, on its many uses and advantages:

“Seven years ago, I decided to write a science-fiction novel. One big problem, I never learned to type. When I tried to type something down, the thought evaporated as I was concentrating on the letters on the keyboard. The next day, I bought Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 4. Initial training of the software took over an hour. During the first eight hours of use, dictation accuracy increased from 85% to almost 95%. Two years later, I purchased DNS- 7 Preferred which came bundled with a digital voice recorder. Theoretically, you could dictate into the recorder, plug it into your computer and magically have your dictation transcribed. It was a huge disappointment, I was lucky if I achieved 75% accuracy. BUT, dictating directly to the computer was a vast improvement over version 4. Within the first day of use, I’d achieved 98% accuracy most of the time. Two years ago I upgraded to DNS-10 Preferred. It was literally a quantum leap forward in usability. I regularly achieve 99% + accuracy with a new software.
PROS: Editing has been made easier by having the software read what I’ve written in a computer voice while I follow the written words on the screen. When I hear the voice say something that doesn’t sound right, I can make a correction while it continues reading. It’s very easy to put down a tremendous number of words during a four-hour writing session, speaking stream of consciousness can do that.
CONS: The software never misspells a word, but it often misunderstands a word. For example: Names. There are many names that can be spelled different ways. Kathy and Cathy are an example. I’ve tried using the name I preferred, “Cathy” multiple times on the same page. Sometimes it would come up Cathy other times it would come up Kathy. After correcting by voice two or three times, it continued making the same mistake. The software also tries to guess what you’re trying to say, it’s often wrong.
In seven years, I’ve “written” close to 3 million words using Voice Recognition Technology. Without it, I would’ve never been able to start writing.” You can learn more about it here: http://www.nuance.com/dragon/index.htm

Editing Software:

There are also editing programs available. I’ve tried a few of these, but since I write science fiction and fantasy, usually using a lot of made-up words, I find most of these more tedious than helpful. I’ve heard great things though. If you’re interested, here are a couple off the top of the search engine. Some I’ve tried, others I haven’t:

http://www.autocrit.com/

http://fictionfixer.com/

I’d love to hear your experiences with writing or editing software. What works, what doesn’t, and why?

2 responses on “Writing Software from the Technologically Impaired

  1. Sarah Wynde

    Fiction fixer is insanely expensive. Over $300 for something that runs your work through a comparison with best-sellers to tell you how to be more like them. Do you really want to spend that kind of money to learn to write like EL James? Not to mention all the other bestsellers that are on the bestseller list because the author wrote a couple good books twenty years ago and now has great name recognition.

    prowritingaid.com is a free (and uglier) version of autocrit. I’ve found it useful. It doesn’t substitute for an editor at all, but it’s a good way to see patterns in your writing. And free is a nice price.
    Sarah Wynde recently posted..Random Thoughts on a Random Monday

  2. Frank Morin

    I use a PC, and I’m excited to try Scrivener. Right now I write in Word, with multiple other word and excel supplemental files. I also have a Wiki I created using WikiDPad for one of my novels, and found that very helpful.

    I do have Dragon, but haven’t used it enough to be productive. The problem is I hate dictating all the punctuation. I still plan to work on this more, but so far it’s in the very early stages for me.

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