A Drift of Quills for May 2017
With May’s debut, we Quills come to you once again, this time with our thoughts on our favorite tools for writing.
First up this time, is Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies. What have you for us today, Robin?
There are so incredibly many tools for a writer to use today. (Not like in the Old Days, when it was pen and paper, a set of encyclopedias if you were lucky, and the library!) What a wonderfully rich age we live in!
Find out more.
Next is P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse. What's on your mind today, Parker?
Today our writing group asked about favorite writing tools. I puzzled over the question while I cleaned out my pockets for the day. Old notes, a to-do list, a pen, a tattered emergency twenty, and there--a tiny thumb drive.
That is probably my favorite tool as a writer.
Find out more on Parker's website.
And now, for my thoughts . . .
As I’m sure my fellow Quills have regaled you with their ready wit and humor, I will, for my part, dig in with the mundane. :)
Unlike some authors, I actually can imagine what it would have been like to write a piece of any length before the day of word processing programs, and the ability to find information through the Internet with a few simple keystrokes. You see, I did something of that nature when I wrote a law review article in my second year of law school . . . a while back . . . As I recall, it ran about 60 pages, to which was added another 25 or so in citations. Following the rules set out in The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, every comma, every semicolon, every space, had to be “just so.” (It takes a second book just to figure out how The Bluebook works.)
I recall typing that law review article on a typewriter that had a limited amount of “memory”—likely a couple of pages at a time. I paid a fortune for that thing, as it was quite advanced for its day. Still, for making most changes, I had to engage in good old-fashioned cut-and-paste efforts. That is, I printed the document, and literally cut and re-pieced (taped) things together. Of course, a work of that length needs more than one edit. I don’t recall how many times I had to re-type that article, but I know I wouldn’t want to do that again. Fortunately, it was not long later that word processing became the way of things. Of course, personal computers were still rather young and so, one was ever concerned that all her work might suddenly “disappear.” (Yes, that really did happen—although fortunately, not for me!) Oh, how far we’ve come . . .
Today, the tools at the disposal of we writers are many and varied. Of course, the most obvious for me, is my desktop MAC with its big screen (oh, and I do love it!). Once that is in place, the next tool is the Internet. When I write, I keep one window open to a search engine so that I can look up, in seconds, what in earlier days I may have had to make note of, and then go to a library to research. The issue could be the name for something, a grammar rule, or otherwise. (The power of the tools young people seem to take for granted these days (as they’ve never lived in a world without them), is incredible!)
The next most obvious tool is, of course, a good word processing program. Sometimes I use Word, and sometimes, Scrivener. There are things I quite like about Scrivener, such as the ability to keep notes in the same document, and my character list and research information at my fingertips. Even so, to get the most out of this tool, I should probably go through all of the training once again . . . Unfortunately, that takes time, and time is always hard to come by.
Next come the fine-tuning tools. One of my favorites is Visual Thesaurus at www.VisualThesaurus.com. Access to this service comes at a price—which, fortunately, is quite low. Of course, you can always look up a word or two without a subscription, but as I always keep a window open on my desktop for this, I pay the $20 a year.
I love how, when I put a word into the look-up box, a separate window opens and things “pop” into view, ultimately ending up with something that looks like this pic. Hit any of those words, and you get another window for it.
Interesting, don't you agree?
So, what do you think? What are your favorite writing tools? What tools are you dying to tell me about that I might put into use?