by Michael Bedford
Published at 2020-05-06
Some writers may be able to fill their manuscripts with inspired text without any outside help but, thankfully, in this age of apps and user-friendly software, we writers who need a little help organizing our thoughts have some options. Gone are the days of having to rely on sticky notes and bulletin boards to keep track of the countless structural changes you’ve made to your manuscript. Now, like so many things in life, there’s an app for that and many other editorial tasks. Here are five samples for you to try out!
This versatile app helps authors push their note-covered desks beyond the boundaries of their offices and into the 21st century. Scrivener was designed for authors of long documents, manuscripts in particular. By giving authors the ability to quickly switch levels of focus (i.e., to go from examining minor plot details to reviewing a story arc), Scrivener makes it easier to keep track of all of the pieces of the unwieldy puzzles that manuscripts can become.
Scrivener operates on a “three-ring binder” approach, allowing authors to work the way they want to. Storyboard view options give authors a virtual corkboard that they can modify using a simple drag-and-drop interface, allowing them to make structural changes to their manuscripts without having to worry about burying themselves in sticky notes. Scrivener’s outlining tool gives authors an additional level of control over their documents, and Scrivener’s modular word processor platform allows users to view up to four different documents side by side. This is a particularly helpful feature when trying to describe a photograph or painting.
Apps like Scrivener are revolutionary because of the level of control they provide to authors, but they can’t do the hard work of organizing a manuscript all on their own. Evernote provides online, mobile, and desktop access to users who want to keep all of their musings in one place. So even if inspiration hits while you’re lying in bed trying to fall back asleep, the quick note you type into your phone at 3:45 am will be available on your laptop when you need to cross-reference it later.
This may seem like a minor service, but authors tend to take inspiration from a number of different sources and at a variety of different times of day or night. Evernote acts as a curator of this disconnected data, allowing the user to string them together in a meaningful way.
Sometimes the information age is too tantalizing. Writers need time to write, so why not cut down on your superfluous browsing? Users pick the websites or apps they find the most tempting and then Freedom temporarily makes them unavailable at the user’s instruction.
It might seem extreme for writers to limit themselves like this, but the logic of the app is pretty simple: we have a finite amount of time in which to write and a finite amount of willpower so it’s best to limit distractions.
Google is a powerful ally of any writer. Google Ads provides useful data for commercial content writers, and tools like the Ngram Viewer allow users to track linguistic trends across time. Different types of texts call for different literary toolkits, and Google has a number of programs that can help. So, before you purchase an expensive app or software suite, make sure you’ve checked out what you can get for free first.
Literary technology isn’t all virtual binders and blocking websites though. Some of the most intriguing developments involve changes in how readers are interacting with books. E-books give readers some opportunities to interact with what they’re reading but interactive elements tend to be relatively basic; publishers often provide links to their websites and non-fiction books sometimes provide links to videos or appendices.
As e-books gain traction, though, the world of e-lit is opening up. The Electronic Literature Organization defines e-lit as “works with important literary aspects that take advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer.” One such example is Pry, an award-winning interactive mix of text, audio, and video. Interactive and non-linear, Pry and similar projects are showing writers and readers alike what interactive technology can do to improve the literary landscape.
Literary Technology apps offer writers and other editorial professionals a range of new opportunities in which to improve the writing of in-the-work projects. So, if you’ve been working on your manuscript to no avail for a long while, consider using some of the above tools to help draft your outline and finish your manuscript once and for all.
Just remember that even with the extra help these apps provide, there’s no substitute for having an experienced professional editor review your work. Scrivener, Evernote, Freedom, and similar organizational apps are great tools that any dedicated writer can use to push their manuscript to the next level, but nothing beats the streamlined professionalism of an experienced professional editor’s reaction to what you’ve written.
Michael Bedford is a freelance editor, copywriter, and performer living in Mount Hope, Ontario. He can be reached at email@example.com
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