Monday, April 16, 2012

Writing Tools I Can't Live Without

We all have tools to help us in the writing process, whether it’s something as simple as a dictionary, as advanced as Scrivener, or as ruthless as Write or Die. (Write or Die is a program that makes loud noises if you go too long without typing. If you put it on Kamikaze setting, it’ll actually delete words until you start typing again.)

I’d like to hear the tools you all use. In the meantime, these are mine:


Best. Program. Ever. It’s basically a folder on your desktop, just like any other folder, except you can access that same folder from any computer. I can edit my book during my lunch break, save it on Dropbox, and it’s there waiting for me at home.

I don’t have to wonder whether I saved my book to a jump drive or my desktop. I don’t have to battle with my husband over which computer I can use. I don’t have to download and upload the files every time I want to see them. It's wonderful!

Table of Contents

I used to have so much trouble finding scenes and chapters when I kept my book in one 300-page document. I started separating chapters into separate documents, but I had to keep several documents open at once and I hated it.

Now, I make a table of contents for my book so I can keep a list of every scene at the beginning of my document and I can get to that scene by clicking on it.

If you use Word (this might be different depending on which version you use), highlight the title of each scene, go to Home, and select a style (Heading 1, Heading 2, etc. If you don’t like any of them, right click on one and select “Modify.”) Once you’ve done that to all the titles, go to the beginning of your document and Click on References > Table of Contents. Select the one you want, and it will appear.

If you want to update the table of contents to include changes you made to the document, right click and select “Update Table.”

Microsoft Word 2010

Word has always been a staple with me. The newest version of Word, however, reigns supreme over the others.

My favorite feature is the search engine. When you hit Ctrl F, a box will appear on the left that shows every reference of the word with a full sentence and the page number. You don’t have to click through every single instance of the word to find the one you want.

You can also make your table of contents show up as a sidebar when you use Ctrl F. That way, you don’t have to scroll to the top of your document every time you need to see a list of your scenes.

Electronic Thesaurus

Word also has a Thesaurus function. It’s so much faster than flipping through the pages of a book. To use it, click on Review > Thesaurus.


This is more to help with reading than writing, but hey, the two are closely linked. Goodreads is an easy way to keep track of and organize the books you’ve read and the books you want to read. You can rate them, view others’ ratings, and read reviews. You can go onto your friends’ profiles and find out what they’re reading and what they thought of those books.

It’s especially helpful for research because I can keep all the books I find on my topic in a folder. I also have a folder for books people have borrowed from me so I can remember to get them back.

There are a million other cool features like forums, groups, “best of” lists, giveaways, and more. I go on this site several times every week.

You’re turn! What resources do you use to help you write?


  1. I use a flash drive for all my stuff and just keep it saved on there. It's on my keys so I have it wherever I go. The search function on Word is awesome; I use it instead of a Table of Contents, just searching for "Chapter 18" or whatever. Also Goodreads is uber helpful to keep organized with books to read.

  2. I use a flash drive for archiving, OpenOpen for writing, and an infinite supply of post-its for notes. I keep my chapters in seperate documents but paste them all in a master document once a week so it's easier to find things.

  3. I recently started using Scrivener. It's honestly the greatest thing for helping keep me organized and focused. I am loving it.

  4. Scrivener is amazing! I go back and forth between it and Word when I work—draft in Scrivener and edit in Word.

  5. What a great post! I LOVE word, it's so fabulous, you're right!

  6. I've used MS Access for years to keep track of submissions, markets, WIPs and their word counts. I taught myself - the first database was very basic, and grew as I decided I wanted more info added and available from it. It now also tracks reject/accept comments, money earnt from each story etc.

    Word is good, too.

    1. I recently learned how to use Access in my Computer Applications II class and really want to create a database for my books (like, the ones I own). However, it only comes with the business version of Microsoft. -sigh-

  7. I love that idea of using the Table of Contents. That could make for very easy navigation through the document.

    And I'm a flash drive person. It's a 16GB darling that goes with me pretty much wherever I go. Long as I have access to a USB port, I can get to my babies.

  8. I also write HF and know how important - and, oftentimes, difficult - it is to avoid anachronisms. A website called is really helpful for finding out when and how words were used in the past. Also, if you search on Google Books and restrict the search settings to a specific date range, you can see how a particular word or phrase was used in that time period (at least in the written sources Google has for that period).

  9. That is a great idea, Teralyn, to have a shelf for loaned books on Goodreads. I may steal it. -shifty eyes- I actually recently went through and swept out all my read books before 2012. I want to be meticulous like that. Then I have an owned and want-to-own shelf. I was thinking about creating a re-read too.


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