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Software for Writers


by Xlibris

Pity the literary masters that were never able to benefit from a few mouse-clicks and a thinking machine. It's hard to believe all those great works were written by candlelight with pen and ink and a wrinkled sheet of paper, or even banged out on an old typewriter. Imagine the curses uttered! So as we aspire to greater writing heights, we may as well take advantage of the latest inventions that are supposed to make our writing lives easier.

Ink Link Manuscript Software
Aah, what a relief to be done with files and folders and scattered documents and lists. User-friendly Ink Link lists your manuscripts and organises them by date, title, and subject. You can keep track of which publications you've submitted to, and note dates of return or acceptance. You can also record resources used for each manuscript, keep track of expenses and income, and generate financial reports for when the IRS comes a-knocking. Ink Link can also automatically generate regular reminders, publication resumes, and follow-u letters.

Triumphs:Polite little messages when you exit: "Must you leave?" "Is this goodbye?"

Tragedies:That I haven't had Ink Link throughout my writing career.

Final Draft
As if marketing your book weren't difficult enough, now here comes the Internet, a new but incredibly prominent channel through which marketing can be accomplished. At first glance, the Internet simply presents yet another arena in which authors could potentially feel left out, or even helpless. With a little knowledge, however, you can easily make the Internet work for you.

Triumphs: The "About Final Draft" credits feature a nice little line-up of well-known Hollywooders, so you get the feeling some good research went into developing this thing. Plus it's made for use with a Mac or PC.

Tragedies: What Shakespeare wrote without Final Draft.

Other screenwriting software you might be interested in are Movie Magic Screenwriter and Dramatica. Movie Magic allows you to write, edit, and view with a partner on the other side of the world, if that's the case, and Dramatica's got a pretty cool website in addition to software for sale.

Fiction writers take heed. StoryBuilder gets you going in the outlining stage of writing. For character sketches, you can click and choose each character's role (antagonist, protagonist, etc.), and profile each by selecting various characteristics from "habits" to "likes/dislikes" to "psychological traits." Tools like "Problem Definition" get you to think through the central conflict (well, StoryBuilder thinks it through for you, actually; you just choose which category your problem falls under), like "person vs. himself," "person vs. fate," and so forth.

Based on customised profiles you've selected for your characters, as well as plot and setting, StoryBuilder poses "Key Questions" for you to think about while writing — questions that should be answered by the end of the work.

Triumphs: The "Quotes" option. Every time you click on this button, you get a different quote from a famous author about the craft of writing.

Tragedies: That you can't just write your story with the StoryBuilder software for side-by-side inspiration and comparison.

StoryCraft If you're looking for a recipe for success, StoryCraft is based on the Jarvis Method, a tried and tested writing methodology. To get started, you'll find an area for understanding story "concepts" through real examples and explanation. You then have an opportunity to fill in the concept of your own story. After visiting each page and filling in the appropriate information for your work, you are bounced to a window that lets you start taking serious notes and begin describing and designing your story.

Triumphs: Full-page note-taking screen, as opposed to the usual micro-screens.

Tragedies: An overview stuffed into a little box that requires scrolling. Plus, if you're used to mind-numbing click-and-choose, wading through "The Syntax of the Story Concept" might be... well... mind-numbing.

Writer's Software Companion
What lonely writer couldn't use a companion in those darkest creative moments? The Companion starts off with a customised "pep talk" based on a questionnaire regarding personal writing habits, accomplishments, and challenges. To get the writer's wheels spinning, a catalogue features 5,000 character names, male and female, organised alphabetically with a special emphasis on unusual and foreign names.

The overall Companion approach is tutorial-esque. Users get a lively read through areas such as "Strong opening scenes" and "Middles: Getting unstuck." To keep the writer involved, examples and exercises are always available. A "My Notes" section allows you to jot notes to yourself under each respective topic area, and an index organises them for you.

Triumphs: "Improving When Not Writing" reminds the diligent writer to be a good reader, keep a journal, and pay constant attention to other peoples' lives in order to tell a better story. Also of note is "Help with 24 Most Common Writers' Problems" and "Half-truths About Marketing," including an enlightening criticism of the old cliché: "write what you know."

Tragedies: That I couldn't come up with one.

There are plenty of other good programmes out there for writers, many of which can be found at The Writers Store and can even be downloaded directly from the Web. If you're new to the software concept as an accessory to your writing, try out some demo versions before choosing the right programme for your needs.