Thursday, April 8, 2010

Writing Tools

 As a writer I often find it easy to come up with a scene I want to write, but no clear idea of where to go with it either before or after the scene. What is the overall story the scene fits within? I also tried working with various software programs, although I only considered a few affordable.
I really like "Power Structure", it's a well thought out writing program, of an outlining sort, with a lot of options. I also like "Story Weaver", somewhat similar to Power Structure in my mind, but more storytelling oriented. I could never get off the ground, though, with either of them. Both good programs, but neither really fit with what I wanted. Another person may try either one and find it a perfect fit. So it goes. You can look at both programs at
Once upon a time I owned a Tandy Color Computer, cool machine. It actually had a very fast processor for the time. Most of my early plays were written on that Coco and the Telewriter-64 word processor. One other thing about the Coco that I liked was a little card-file program that was part of an office-suite that ran on the OS9 platform (sort of like Windows). It was a very simple card-file, had visual tabbed cards, you could enter info on individual cards on screen, sort them and search them in any way whatsoever. After I switched to the PC clones and Windows, I searched in vain for similar file program that was free, or cheap, and as easy to use. No luck.
Recently I've found a few free tools that address these issues very well. The first is yWriter5, a free program that really fits the way my mind works for writing a story/novel/play whatever. (Okay, it's not really formatted for plays, but it's not really a problem.) I really like the way it works. Check it out.  The programmer is also an author, his website is full of very good, simple information and advice for writing, including the next item on this list.
Second, I found another free brainstorming tool. Many of us have seen the method called clustering, or bubbles, much like the flow charts we used to use in programming. Freemind is another easy and free program to do the bubble diagrams, and use them for outlining. There is also a custom file for adapting the Freemind program for outlining a book. Contact me and I can get it to you.
Third. I found my card file, of sorts. TiddlyWikiWrite is a very simple, customized, program that gives you an offline website on your computer that makes a page for each thing you want to work on, whether it be a full story, an idea, a list of names, a journal, anything. Each page is unique, totally search-able, and you can assign keywords to streamline finding it again. It is very easy to set up however you want it. Lisa Janice Cohen is an author who took the basic TiddlyWiki program and customized it. Find it at her website.
Lastly, maybe the best tool I've found could be the Tarot.  Now, I've collected Tarot cards for many years. I love the art work, I knew next to nothing about actually reading the cards. My association with Cat Dancing has changed that. I've become much more selective on the collecting, but I'm learning to read them now. The cards lend themselves quite well in many ways in jump starting stories, building characters, generating back story, and just about every other facet of storytelling. I had already started using the cards in plotting a couple of stories, and a book I am reading just now, "Tarot for Writers" by Corinne Kenner, augments that process. What's even better, adding the Tarot works very well with the yWriter5 and other programs I mentioned above. There is no such thing as "writer's block" when you can grab the deck of Tarot cards for instant inspiration.
I'll talk more about my own method of using Tarot cards another time. In the meantime, give the tools above a try!


  1. I wanted to put in a pointer for some free software I found. It's called Celtx and was designed for the film industry, but has had a lot of adaptation to various other theatrical projects. It runs across platforms (Mac, Windows, Linux, etc.). You can find it at