Oftentimes I see people asking what tools other writers use for their craft. I’ve had quite the repertoire all the way from the 90s floppy disks to modern cloud services and more. In this article, I will take a dive into my phases as a writer from the times of pen a paper, all the way to current software and even AI.
In the beginning, there was a paper.
One of those things you give to first graders is to practice their cursive. Well, you used to anyway since cursive is a dying art these days. The lines in these weirdly sideways-oriented flimsy paper notebooks were also used to study music later on. It’s handy, just draw the not-balls in between or on the lines!
It was in one of these notebooks that I wrote my first ever story. It was quite long too, considering I could barely manage a letter on the page at all. If I tell you that the hero was a boy who lived in the closet under the stairs, you can guess what spurred me into it. He was having Christmas too – but time grants me a black hole where the rest of the story should be.
I have one of my originals from way back when. A story of Kasker, the sorrowful ghost. Pages upon pages of A4 copy paper, all scribbled in uneven lines. Perhaps I will tune in and finish that story one day now that I’m all grown up!
Getting modern – Computers
Then something magical happened – my father gave me one of his floppy disks! I couldn’t believe it, as it meant I could now write on the computer. Mind you, back then internet was not a thing, and the unit was… well it was a unit. None of this fancy flat 5K ultra HD nonsense. I still have that floppy and hope to one day look into it once more. In my memories, I wrote a story of a silver phoenix, whose name later lived on in my world. I believe I gave it to a certain undead half-panther-half-veil-watcher… Cleon, he was called.
Que the rapid development of tech, and soon I had in my hands the internet and USB drives. I used my father’s PC and stored what I could on the drives, occasionally printing them out. I still have the original copy of the first ever novella I wrote regarding my world. It took me a weekend of not eating anything but toffee-filled chocolate, a pack of noodles, and minced meat. I’ve lost the image I took with the crummy webcam, my hair all greasy from not even taking a shower.
Back then I also didn’t bother about having good keyboards or chairs. The agony was probably severe, yet I endured it like only a teenager can. These days I’m blessed to have my husband’s high standards to provide me proper gear! The keyboard I am writing on now has some amazing red switches and it’s so smooth you wouldn’t believe it!
When I found out about Google Docs (and Drive) I was ecstatic. All the space! None of the pain of losing my stuff if the memories go missing or corrupt! I could move everything online and on the PC, which meant I didn’t need to drown in piles of paper anymore. Of course, I am still only halfway through moving stuff from the papers to the cloud. The sheets of unfinished business keep whispering to me in the night from my nightstand.
These days I use Google for all the menial things. Short texts like articles, my story skellingtons, notes, and other memos or research go straight into their convenient little files. I used to do the editing and proofing of my text on a physical paper copy, but have since stopped with it. It’s way more convenient to not have to worry about the space it takes to store all of that material!
Sometimes I will also paste sections of my stories in Scrivener onto Google, as Grammarly does not work in the software. And I am entirely hopeless with my typos and minimal dyslexia symptoms!
And then I found Scrivener and their mind-mapping tool, Scapple. The load these two took of my shoulders was massive! Without going into too much detail about the mind-mapping app, I had been looking for something exactly like it. Nothing like a digital canvas I can type things into as I plan branching game stories or even longer novels. It’s truly godsent!
Scrivener, I’ve noticed, is the perfect tool for my needs. I can organize my projects nicely by chapter and scene, and even have my research right there next to it. I also like the whole dimming down and blackening of the edges of the screen. It really helps me focus on the task at hand. And the goal trackers? Do I even need to tell you how motivating it is to see a bar go from red to yellow and green as you keep on type type typing away…
I use Scrivener strictly for longer materials. Anything that I plan to make into a book goes through Scrivener. And that’s because the software was made with that in mind – it comes with a built-in tool for your common ebook file formats. And that, my friend, is invaluable to me as I go on while trying to do this thing with the least amount of hassle and frustration possible.
Various research helpers
That’s not all. I wouldn’t be much of a writer if curiosity didn’t show up and make a mess of things that are perfectly ordered already. Or perfectionism for that matter. When I can’t quite figure out how to say something, a word escapes me, or the rhymes refuse to flow. Then the internet is where I tend to go. No rhymes intended.
Google and Wikipedia are some staples in my toolkit, with the caveat that we must be smart about the information we take in. While the vast seas of misinformation may be amusing at times, they don’t really bring me the relatability I seek on occasion. Well, they don’t bring the reality of things either. Sifting through the stuff can also be quite the hurdle by itself, and so it is that I must make many of you angery at me now.
The latest addition to my weapons of letter-slinging is AI. I know, know, Mrs. V is a heathen. But worry not, I don’t intend to make it write anything for me. I still have my writer’s pride, you know! No, what I use the AI for is research. Despite its inevitable woke-leaning biases, it has proven to be quite handy in providing information about various things. I highly recommend it for such purposes, if only to alleviate some of that Google noise as you work.
While I absolutely adore the thought of doing some things by hand, I have had to become a realist. My lifestyle is better off with all my work on drives and clouds, without the mountains of material cluttering my home. Which is not just my home anymore, since my husband has to live with me too now.
It’s also important that we (writers and artists from all walks) keep up with the times. Things are digital, Ebooks are abundant, and self-publishing is the sh*t. AI is butting its 01011 tendrils everywhere, as well. And while I don’t believe it will overtake humans anytime soon, I do see it as a valuable addition to the toolkit of any respectable modern digital worker.