Daily Archives: November 19, 2009

Tools with Balls: Software for Serious Writers

Note from Deborah Riley-Magnus – I’m not usually one to endorse products on my blog, but there are a few amazing tools coming onto the market designed to help writers write and organize, manage SEO and understand the shifting literary market. I think this is the place to share them. Welcome to a new blog category – Tools with Balls – where we can explore a few neat weapons for success! In the case of My Story Writer, I had taken the challenge, downloaded the free sneak peek and promptly asked Lara Wells if she’d like to share her thoughts with my blog buddies. Here’s what Lara had to say.  

I never thought I’d use writing software. I know as well as any writer that when it comes to writing, there’s no “magic bullet.” No book you can read or class you can take or software you can use that will make writing stories effortless, but it would be wrong to ignore the fact that there are tools out there that can help to make the process of writing more manageable. 

My Story Writer was created by a software developer for his daughter, a writer who wanted a tool that would help her writing – not to write better but to get (and stay) organized throughout the writing process. 

I was asked to take a look at My Story Writer this past summer by a friend of my husband’s in the hopes that I might have some marketing ideas for the software. I’ve been in marketing for more than a decade but was very skeptical as I downloaded the trial. Two hours later I wondered how I’d ever planned a story without this tool. 

The argument I often hear about writing software is that it’s just another way for writers to procrastinate. I agree. As writers, we are true masters at procrastination. We have a gift for finding something else we need to do when we should be writing. The options are endless. 

The other snappy comeback I see when someone asks for a recommendation on a good writing software product is: “Shakespeare (or insert-any-other-famous-writer’s-name-here) didn’t need writing software and you don’t either. You just need to write.” If you carry that logic ahead we should all be writing by candlelight with a quill pen and a pot of ink. Shakespeare (or insert-any-other-famous-writer-name-here) also didn’t have a computer, spell-check, or the Post-It note – all of which I could not live without. 

Writing shouldn’t have to be any harder than it already is. 

As for me, I’m currently working on revisions for a memoir I never thought I’d write (I’d so hoped it would be a novel) and I’m playing around with two other novel ideas that are swimming around in my head. I’ve got three of what I’d call “practice novels” to my credit – one first draft and the others at various stages of revision. I learned a lot from writing them but don’t believe any of them are salvageable – and I certainly don’t have enough passion for any of them at this point to see them through to the finish line. 

In my writing, I’ve always struggled with structure and that’s the problem I’ve had with the memoir. Even after writing the first draft and undertaking a major revision (let’s just call it a complete rewrite), it still felt to me like a series of events and not a story. I wrote the first draft and the rewrite before I knew about My Story Writer but have been using it on the current revision and can’t believe how much it’s helped me to visualize what I have for each scene – and more importantly, see what I was missing. 

My favorite tool in My Story Writer is the wizard. In addition to the New Story Wizard, there are wizards to help you create characters, locations, events and even items. I wasn’t sure how helpful the wizards would be for me since when I started inputting my two story ideas I had such limited information, but the wizards helped by taking these story “nuggets” then and asking the questions I needed to have the answers to write the story. What’s the story crisis? Where does the story take place? When does the story take place? What happens at the end of the story? Of course I didn’t have the answers to every question in the wizards but it planted the seeds of these unknowns in my head so that I could be thinking about them. Not sure the color of your protagonist’s eyes? Maybe it’s irrelevant and will mean nothing for your character at all, but what if it does? Or it could? 

But what I think is the greatest thing about My Story Writer is that I have everything in one place

Like most of us, I need to maximize the time I have to actually sit in front of the computer and write. By having everything in one place I don’t waste time searching for a character’s name or random trait that I wrote down here somewhere. (Good luck finding that on my desk.) And not only is everything I need captured in one place it’s organized around each story which is great when you’re working on more than one project at the same time. I’m currently playing with two different novel ideas and not sure which one will be my next project so I’m researching and exploring both of them. 

My brain isn’t into linear processes so even as I’m trying to work out ideas for one story, I’m constantly coming up with something for the other – whether it’s a character detail or a plot point or line of dialogue. With My Story Writer I can easily jump between stories and capture all of my ideas –  even links to the websites I may need to reference again. Everything is right there so there’s no searching through the multiple folders in the Writing folder in My Documents to find a document I think I saved. 

I don’t write science fiction or fantasy but am in awe of the writers who create not only a story, but an entire world in which that story takes place. When your locations aren’t as simple as Colorado or Los Angeles I don’t know how you’d keep it all straight and consistent without a writing program. 

The future of My Story Writer is exciting, too. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve to software and here are two new features we’re working on:

  • Collaboration – With the new collaboration functionality you’ll have a way to easily work with another writer or writers on the same project. This will also make My Story Writer a great tool for writing classes or groups to be able to share not only a manuscript in progress, but also the planning that’s going on behind the scenes – like character development and plotting.
  • Marketing – We’re undergoing some major enhancements to the Marketing tab which currently focuses on the query letter process to include planning for the post-publishing marketing efforts that often starts long before that first query letter is even sent out.  (Thank you to Deb Riley-Magnus for her feedback and insights into how we could improve upon this to offer a true publicity tool.) 

As what it means to be a writer evolves, so will My Story Writer. It’s meant to be a companion to you throughout your writing journey – whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned writer. So share with us how you work and what you need to make your writing days easier. There’s never going to be a “magic bullet” when it comes to writing, but I’ll take any tool that makes the process more manageable.

My Story Writer writing software brings technology to the creative writing process so you have a structure for organizing all of your writing projects. You bring the ideas – or use the brainstorming functionality to create some – and My Story Writer delivers a way to control the writing process the way you want to – from conceptualization of your story idea to the day when you submit your manuscript for publication. You can try out the software with a free 15-day trial. (http://mywritingsoftware.com/FreeTrial/tabid/139/Default.aspx

Lara can be found on Twitter (@mystorywriter) and on the My Story Writer blog or via email laraw@mywritingsoftare.com