Keeping the Stories Straight: What tools do you use?

Which writing tools do you use? by Wendy Strain with photo by Escritorio
photo credit: Escritorio via photopin (license)

Now that we all have our lives fully organized so that we get all the important stuff done, it’s possible to focus down even further. If you’re anything like most of the writers I know, you are constantly coming up with new ideas to write about. Even before you’ve managed to finish the story you’re working on and the one after that, you have five more ideas occur to you. Then, when you sit down to write, they all jostle around in your brain for their turn in the spotlight. I shared with you a hint about how I handle this without yet having invested in a cloud-based system. To try to help you out a bit more, here are some of the techniques I use as well as some of the paid systems that have been highly recommended to me.

Dropbox

Dropbox will give you a certain amount of storage space for free and can be accessed from your PC, tablet and cell phone. You can organize everything in folders just like you would on your PC. You can even nest folders inside of folders if you want for better organization. I usually have a folder for each major story and then folders inside those for research notes, related flash stories, and drafted scenes.

Microsoft OneNote

This is a program that usually comes as part of the Microsoft Office suite. It’s essentially an electronic binder system. You can make as many binders as you want and put as many folders as you want within each binder — reminds me of being back in high school without all the weight. The folders can contain any number of pages and you can put anything you want into those pages, including Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, videos, audio, images, whatever. The information isn’t cross-referenced against itself as it might be in more sophisticated programs I’ll discuss in a moment, but it is a handy way to keep your ideas organized without any extra expense if you want.

Liquid Story Binder XE

This writing software package is offered in a free and a paid version. Tools it offers include binders that link to any folder on your computer, manuscript format, planners, hierarchical lists, chapters, notes, outlines, mindmaps, checklists, timelines, storyboards, journals, dossiers, galleries, playlists, sound recording, the list goes on. I just downloaded this not long ago and haven’t had much opportunity to play with it yet. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll post a review of it once I’ve had a chance to know it.

Scrivener

Software designed specifically with writers in mind. The tools they offer include a corkboard for storyboarding linked directly to your writing, an outlining tool, and the ability to work on your story scene by scene, chapter by chapter or even at full length. I’ve heard they even have a mind mapping tool available as a plug-in. The advantage of software like this is that you are able to access everything you need from within the same window — at least, that’s how I understand it to work. I haven’t yet tried it out myself yet. It’s only $40 on their website and they do offer a free trial.

Evernote

Another paid program, this one is highly adaptable to a variety of purposes, not just writing. I tried this one when it first came out and didn’t find it helpful enough at the time to justify paying for it. However, the program has grown up a lot since then and I’m hearing professional writing friends talk about using it all the time. The advantage of this one is that it backs up on the cloud so your work can always be available to you across numerous devices. Plus it gives you the ability to work offline as well.

What do you use?

Do you use any of these tools? Something else? Let us know what works for you. Tell us about your favorite programs and your favorite features within those programs. What was the learning curve like to get your stories loaded and back to writing again? Looking forward to hearing from you.

Wendy Strain

My entire life is full of writing and creativity. Whether copywriting for exciting new projects, crafting web content for creative companies, ghostwriting, editing, coaching, or exploring my own imagination as a fiction writer, I am constantly engaged in stretching boundaries and exploring possibilities.

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