Writer’s Toolbox

The Search for the Perfect Writing Tools

Writers need the right tools for their work, and boy do I have opinions on this. With respect to software, my opinion is that the people developing these tools spoke to anywhere from zero to one actual writer. In fact, I think they developed whatever their programming environment made possible and then justified that result to writers. Which means the tools in general lack the flexibility required when actual people use those tools.

Until about a year ago, I wrote in WordPerfect. I run a Windows virtual machine on my desktop and laptop so I can continue to use a tool that actually IS pretty darn flexible and doesn’t impose the Microsoft “YOU WILL WRITE THIS WAY BECAUSE” paradigm. Oh, and formatting. The formatting is so awful. Anyway I have been increasingly annoyed and irritated by the VM I use. (Parallels).

Parallels mostly works but when something goes wrong or when you need to contact the company for any reason the experience is dreadful and I have been searching for a WordPerfect alternative because in my perfect world, I never have to give the Parallels company another dime of my money. If anyone from Parallels reads this; I hate your company and I hate your broken, opaque website and I hate that you hate your customers.

For years I have  been looking for a tool that would allow me to write in MacOS. Because I’m telling you Word ain’t it. I have to have MS Office in order to be compatible with the rest of the world, but I really really really hate Word. That said . . . The MS office suite tools that allow you to open and edit documents on any iOS device are wonderful. Editors, copy-editors, and proofreaders tend to work in Word, so this ability is a must have for me, and in this case, MS nailed it.

This tool works. So, for every purpose except writing fiction, thumbs up to Office 365 and its MacOS/iOS tools.

I did try Scrivener. I really did but its not a tool that works for the way I write. I envy all the people who love this tool and haven’t had to fight their natural writing process to use it. I just can’t

I tried a bunch of other tools; Open Office and Pages were total fails. I tried several apps that proclaimed they were great for writers and none of them were, and most did not mean “great for people writing fiction of 100,000 words.”

Ulysses is the only tool I’ve found where I started a writing project and was able to complete it in that tool instead of moving it to WordPerfect.  I wasn’t wasting hours trying to do simple things like work with individual chapters sometimes or with the entire document other times, oh, and being able to assemble and reorder chapters. I didn’t have to fight to have an environment that was pleasing to my eyes and it exports to a docx format (and several others) without forcing me to spend much or any time reformatting. It’s good enough to send to editors etc.

I wrote an entire novella in the tool and it was fairly seamless. I’ve written Bound in Smoke in Ulysses, and that book is just about done. I haven’t used WordPerfect in ages. I have a few things I wish it would do but nothing that keeps me from writing and getting the output I need.

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