Tools of the trade

As someone with a serious interest in writing, I’m a very excited girl when NaNoWriMo rolls around every year.  It’s an excuse to talk about a subject I’m passionate about with other people who feel the same.  The playing field is leveled as everyone finds themselves in the same boat for at least that one month.  The mad rush to create a novel in an extremely limited amount of time bonds people like war veterans sharing harrowing stories from the trenches.  My favorite aspect of this exercise is the community that builds up on the forums around October and through November.  Everyone there is so helpful and quick to share tips and advice.  I’ve been turned on to several tools for writing that I never even knew existed due to my participation in those forums and learned how to use old favorites in new ways.  I thought I’d share what I use in my personal arsenal for writing.

Mead 5 star “hybrid” notebook

First off, I have to say that I adore the pockets in these things.  When I start the planning stages of a story, I find that I think better when I start pouring ideas out onto graph paper.  I alternate between pages of bullet pointed notes and mind maps.  Although I do have a netbook which, besides being adorable, is an extremely portable way to get words typed, I find that it’s a more effective use of my time to carry my paper notebook around with me when I’m waiting to pick up the kids or have arrive a few minutes earlier than planned to an appointment.  I later type all my notes into the various software programs I use for idea organization.


For the early planning this tool is a workhorse.  It’s a free mind mapping program and it’s not only easy to use, but easy on the eyes.  I use it for brainstorming everything in the early stages and even later in the story I have a template I use for characters as they develop.  I uploaded it to the site where you can download it for your own use: here.

A use that might not be as evident is using one of the several diagram structures for creating a time line.  I searched high and low for a free program that would allow me to create a simple chronology of the events of my story in relation to each other.  I’ve found that the fishbone structure actually works really well for my needs.  Generally I will list a date or event and use the note feature to add all the relevant details.  It keeps it looking clean and easy to find what I need at a glance.

MyHeritage Family Tree Maker

Not a lot to say about this one.  It’s another excellent free program.  Useful for the sprawling families that immortal creatures seem to amass after generations of humans have come and gone. 


This is the last of the free programs I use.  It’s a great program for writing.  It lets you organize and rearrange chapters and scenes as you write.  I read some interesting things about the capabilities of Microsoft Word so for this go around I’m going to see if it works as good as the reviews have made it out to be, but if that doesn’t pan out, it’ll be back to yWriter for me.


I can’t possibly say enough good things about this program.  The only drawback is the price, but even then when you consider all the use I get from this program it doesn’t deter me in the least.  I’ve even decided that I’d like to get a Windows phone when my current contract expires so that I can take advantage of the fact that it has portable OneNote access.  How handy for adding quick notes when they come to you while you are waiting in line at the bank or the grocery store?

I use OneNote for the bulk of my writing.  I use it for collecting research as well as for any and all information that pertains to my world building.  I love the wiki-like linking that’s supported between pages.  I also use it to accomplish a version of note card plotting.  Under a section I call “scenes”, I create a series of pages and on each I write as much detail as I know about the scene, including a date if I know it.  As I figure out more, I can easily add more detail to each page and it’s practically zero effort to reorder the pages in whatever order flows best.  Also nice is the fact that I can’t possibly drop them and mix them up.  If  you know me then you realize this is a very real risk.

Liquid Story Binder

I lusted after this program for years.  I finally bought it recently when it was on sale around November.  Unfortunately, I can’t figure out how to use it.  I think it could be very handy if you know how to use it, but the learning curve is steep and despite a number of tutorials, both on the site and floating around the internet, I still don’t have a clue.  Essentially, it does what everything else I use does, but in one place.  I can’t give any kind of review due to the fact that I have no idea whether it’s good or not.  Which, I suppose, is a review of a sort.

And that’s about it.  I have downloaded pretty much every interesting program even remotely aimed at writers, but these are the ones I can’t live without.  I hope that these links were half as useful to you as they’ve been to me.

1 Comment

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One response to “Tools of the trade

  1. Pingback: Long time no see! | Wren's Writing Nest

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