Some Software to Help Us Writers Stay Organized

Speaking from experience, writers tend to be messy people.  We print things out, pile them up, rip them apart, scratch them up with pens and highlighters, and try to bring everything together again in the end.  This can happen on computers, of course, too.  My desktop is a melee of information, full of documents, folders, presentations, and the like.  

I need something to keep me sane, and I don’t want to lose my work in piles and with names I forget so that I can’t search for them on my Mac.

The following pieces of software can organize the writing life.  Now, here’s my disclaimer: I do not get money for mentioning these products.  Full Sail does not endorse these products.  These are simply recommendations I have.  I’m sure that I’m only skimming the surface, too, but this might jump-start your own search that works for your specific needs.

That said, here goes:

For saving your writing, I suggest Scrivener, Evernote, Celtx, and Dropbox.  Dropbox serves as a place to drop your work for sharing with others or even with yourself from a different machine.  Dropbox eliminates the need to carry around a thumb drive filled with your work.

Evernote lets someone make lists, copy emails, snag Webpages, insert pictures, and so forth for projects, work, and life in general.  I’m currently using it and its sister, Skitch, which allows you to essentially take a screenshot and draw and write all over it, to take notes for an essay I’m writing.  I take a picture of the page from a book (and also one of the copyright page for future reference), and I circle, underline, and write notes on the most important parts.  Then, this gets saved to Evernote.

Scrivener and Celtx are actually used as guides for the writing itself.  You can save your work in both, though.  Scrivener allows you to break your project up into chapters or sections and bring in media to use as your research.  Celtx is geared more toward screenwriting and storyboarding, and it can be used for a work-in-progress.

For collaboration, Dropbox works great, and so does a shared Evernote folder, as well as Google Docs, on which I’m drafting this post.  Also, Titanpad is a cool answer.  

In Titanpad, each collaborator on a document gets assigned a color, and the collaborative team can type at the same time with each person’s color showing who contributed what.  This could be great for writing poems in the round (where each person contributes a line), a research project, or just about anything else that is co-written.

I just learned about Adobe Buzzword, too, which is free collaborative software that is hosted online.  You turn your Word file into a PDF and share with others.  You can video conference or share work simultaneously.  It also allows you to see the evolution of a document–nothing is lost.

Last, there are the basics: WriteRoom and Word.

WriteRoom blocks off your computer’s “noise”–the Internet, other applications, those folders glaring at you from the desktop–and envelopes you in a room of nothing but your typing.  When I have used this in the past, the enforced discipline was wonderful, but I didn’t have many options as far as formatting went.

Last, there’s the mainstay: Microsoft Word.  This, I believe, is the standard in the writing industry.  Word files are accepted by nearly every literary journal with online submissions.  Word allows you the control to format your files as you want, even taking away the need for certain screenwriting programs (though Celtx is free).  To really appreciate and understand word, you’ve got to get into the heart of it, working with the settings yourself until you have everything just the way you want it.

As for cost, well, I’ll leave that to you to figure out.  Most of these programs or applications have a free base level or offer a free trial.  There’s even a free version of Word online.  Whether you purchase one of these products is up to your own needs and situation.

If you have any applications to suggest, too, please do so, by all means.

Enjoy, and write happy!

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About Em-dash Lady

Em-dash Lady enjoys creative writing most of all, but her interests include art forms from music to writing to visual art to indie films and so forth. She's especially interested in how the art forms influence each other and blend together. She's a creative writing teacher and writer who mostly writes memoir and poetry about her favorite activity, watching TV. I would say I'm kidding, but I'm not. Naps are also her favorite. Too many favorites to count! Enjoy following Em-dash Lady as she figures out how she fits in the ever-evolving world of art.
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