Let’s Talk Tools

IMG_8820Have you ever walked through an art store? All those lovely paints and markers, brushes and canvases! Writers definitely got the short end of stick when it came to tools of the trade.

A writer’s supply list looks pretty much like this:

1. Computer

2. …


Of course, we manage to pad out our writer identities with fountain pens, Moleskine notebooks, manual typewriters, and copies of Strunk & White, but on an everyday basis, there’s not a whole lot that separates a writer’s material needs from an accountant’s…although, even accountants get those nifty ledger books.

Enter software. I have two apps, made just for writers, that I use on a daily basis. One of them runs on my laptop, the other on my phone.

Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 2.34.48 PMIf you’ve spent any time at all out and about in the writing community, you’ve probably already heard of  Scrivener. It’s a “content generation tool” designed specifically for large-scale writing projects. It’s been years since I wrote a novel in anything but Scrivener, because it’s brilliant at keeping a mind-numbing amount of text neatly organized and accessible. Scrivener’s word count and project target tools help me stay on track with my daily goals. Its ability to keep track of my various notes, photos, and research links is icing on the cake. Plus, it makes me feel more special than Pages or Microsoft Word. I like feeling special.

IMG_8823The second app I use every single day is WordTracker for iOS. WordTracker is a time- and word count-tracking app. Press a big green button when you start writing each day, enter your word count when you finish, and WordTracker generates a host of statistics about your writing habits. It’s not a perfect app. I really wish it allowed negative word counts, for those days when revision ends up meaning more subtraction than addition. I also wish it allowed me to enter times and word counts manually when I realize I forgot to hit the button or I didn’t have my phone with me. Overall, though, I love knowing that I’ve put 160 hours of writing time into my current novel. Or that I average 432 words an hour, but that I once wrote 2300 words in that amount of time. The statistics give me a sense of accomplishment above and beyond just seeing my page count grow and my characters come to life. WordTracker makes the work I put in quantifiable. Take that, accountants!

I’ll confess, sometimes I still wish writing came with all the trappings of oil painting or sculpture, but at least we do have some tools that are just for us. Besides your computer, what do you use every day? What do you keep around just because it makes you feel like a writer?