Monday, April 28, 2014

New Writing Tools for a New Series

I've been working on a new book for the last few weeks, and I've also been using some new tools to write it. I wrote the last couple of books using Scrivener for Windows, and I found it to be a substantial improvement over writing in Microsoft Word. The most significant advantage to me was the ability to use the index card view to organize the scenes and move them from chapter to chapter by dragging and dropping. A close second is the ability to keep all the reference material right in the workspace. While writing in Scrivener, I continued my normal practice of sending my last three days' work to a PDF file which I then read and marked up with a stylus on my wife's iPad.

Before I finished Bluewater Stalker, I bought an iPad of my own, as my use of my wife's iPad was beginning to interfere with her work. As I was thinking about the current Work In Progess, I began using three inexpensive iPad apps to capture my ideas. These were Drafts, a text editor; Phraseology, a companion app that provides some useful statistics and editing tools; and Terminology, a dictionary and thesaurus that integrates with the other two.

Drafts provides an uncluttered space for writing, with no distractions such as formatting and font choices. It also opens with blinding speed when you tap its icon, so it's immediately ready for your thoughts. Once you have some text that you want to polish, with a single touch you can send it to Phraseology.

Phraseology analyzes the text and provides several statistics as well as some handy editing tools. For example, Phraseology will categorize parts of speech with the frequency of use for each. I tend to overuse certain words, and this is a great way to catch myself. If you touch one of your overused words, you can see a listing of its occurrences in context. Touch an occurrence that you'd like to replace, and you can send it to the Terminology app, where you'll find a definition and a list of alternative words and phrases. Touch your choice, and it replaces the offending word in either Drafts or Phraseology. I also use this to make sure that I haven't overindulged my penchant for adverbs and adjectives. 

Phraseology computes the three most common indexes of reading difficulty, which is a big help in cleaning up my work. To assist in that sort of polishing, it provides word count by sentence or paragraph, with the ability to reorder sentences and paragraphs by touching and dragging – no selecting required. 

I've forgotten what I paid for this trio. They're sold individually by the same developer, and I think all three together cost less than $10. 

As I progressed to actually writing this next book, I went searching for an iPad app that would sync with Scrivener, as I had become hooked on writing on the iPad. I discovered that Scrivener for iPad has long been promised, but after several years, there's no delivery date. However, I found an app called Storyist, which mimics those functions of Scrivener that I find most useful. For $9.99 I decided to try it. 

I've written 30,000 words in two weeks using Storyist, and I don't miss Scrivener, nor do I miss working on the PC. The iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard is the ideal writing environment for me. Because it only has one application visible at a time, I don't get tempted to go check my book sales or my email when I hit a snag in my writing. My productivity, measured in words written per hour, has increased by about 30 percent, and though the screen is smaller than the one on my notebook PC, it's easier on my eyes because it's so crisp. 

I still send my last few days' work to a PDF file every evening, but instead of just reading it and marking it up, I use another inexpensive iPad app called PDF Expert. This app offers text-to-speech conversion as well as supporting handwritten notes with a stylus. It's amazing how many more typos I catch when I hear the mistakes as well as seeing them. I'm eager to finish this book and get it in the hands of my editing team to see if it turns out to be a cleaner manuscript than my others.

Look for Love for Sail early this summer; Connie's not a patient woman.


Lisa Jey Davis said...

Those are great tips! I don't own an iPad, but now I want to try some of these for my MAC! :) THANKS!

Anonymous said...

Holy cow - it sounds like you really found the style that works best for you. It's funny, I've heard scrivener is great, but my brain is so full with work, kids and writing and social media that I'll admit, I'm a little scared of trying to learn something new right now with regards to the "written word." My Word program right now works for me just fine, but I know one day soon I'll give Scrivener a try. Thanks for the reminder.

Bob Nailor said...

Sounds like you found the Holy Grail for writing. I'd like to give it a whirl but I fear my old eyes can't handle a smaller screen. In fact, I have a 21" monitor attached to my laptop and I endure the laptop screen only when on the road. BTW, I like the new cover better than the older 'sketch' sailboat. G'luck.

Anonymous said...

I am impressed. These are great tips. If I can figure out how to reblog from blogger to Wordpress, I would like to share this. I like the new cover too.

Note to Bob~The iPad is easier for me than my laptop because with a touch I can adust the font size as I read. Not sure about typing. Do you know, Charles?


Scott Bury said...

Great summary, Bud. I have the trial version of Scrivener, but maybe I'll get Storyist. I've been looking for something that I can use on my iPad. Pages is good, but maybe a little too much for writing drafts.

Charles Dougherty said...

Thanks, Lisa. I have Scrivener for Windows, but they have a Mac version, and a great 30 day free trial. I think Storyist also has a Mac version. I'm not sure about the others; they may only be for iPad.

Charles Dougherty said...

There's a little learning curve on Scrivener. Word is great; I wrote with it for years. I just like the ease of reorganizing work that comes with Scrivener (and Storyist, on the iPad.)

Charles Dougherty said...

Thanks for the cover feedback, Bob. I've already got another version, similar to the one above. Maybe I'll settle on one before I finish the book.

My eyesight is terrible right now; I think I'm headed for cataract surgery when I get back to the States this summer. I wish I had room for a big monitor on the boat. I actually switched to the iPad because it has a much clearer, brighter screen and doesn't tire my eyes as quickly, although it's smaller than the 13 inch notebook screen.

Charles Dougherty said...

I'm flattered that you want to reblog it, Onisha. If I can help somehow, let me know.

Thanks for the cover feedback; I'm still looking ...

And yes, the font size is easy to adjust in all the iPad apps that I mentioned.

Charles Dougherty said...

Thanks, Scott. I thought Pages was okay, but it didn't give me the ability to shuffle scenes around that I'd gotten used to having in Scrivener. If I work on another book on the PC, I'll definitely go back to Scrivener.

My favorite for drafts on the iPad is "Drafts" with the two companion apps I mentioned, but they work best for shorter pieces. They're quick and easy to use. I sometimes write a scene there and move it to Storyist later if I'm in a hurry to catch a fleeting thought.

Unknown said...

Very interesting collection of apps. I used Scrivner for the 1st draft of my current book, but I know I haven't used anywhere near its full potential. I may have to check some of these out as well.

Charles Dougherty said...

I like Scrivener. It's more robust than Storyist.. Of course, that's not a fair comparison; Scrivener's on my PC and Storyist is on my iPad. That no doubt accounts for some of the difference. I hope Scrivener eventually delivers on their promise of an iPad version. I didn't really appreciate Scrivener until I'd written the second book in it. I still move to Word for the final editing and formatting, mostly because I'm familiar with how to do it. I'll do the same with Storyist. Storyist on the iPad is great for distraction free writing, but it doesn't offer the ease of editing that Scrivener or Word have. The search function, for example is sort of primitive. It's a bargain for the price, though.

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