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How to Choose Writing Software

By: Jennie Kermode - Updated: 13 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
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When you first start up your writing business, you'll find yourself bombarded with adverts for writing software. This is not altogether a bad thing. Writing software is at its most useful when you're still learning the ropes, as it takes care of a lot of the formal details for you. Book writing software, for instance, can help you to set out chapters and organise your writing plan.

But there's lots of different creative writing software to choose from and as a new writer it can be very difficult to assess its value. How can you avoid wasting money on gimmicks and make sure you get what you really need?

Word Processors

The most fundamental piece of writing software you'll use is your word processor. There are two things you need from this when working as a professional writer: you need it to be adaptable, and you need it to be intuitive. The latter quality is difficult to measure because everybody thinks differently, but what it really means is that it has to make sense to you.

Visit your local computer warehouse or download free trial versions to experiment with different word processing programs and see which one you feel most comfortable with. Don't just settle for the one which comes as part of your basic computer package if you find it hard to use.

No matter how much specialist creative writing software you use, you'll always need a good word processor to help you deal with administration and the variety of small assignments which a writer has to take on to make ends meet. Make sure you know how to use your word processor to write letters, CVs, business plans, reviews and articles in a range of different formats. Don't be shy of asking for help from your support service if necessary - that's what they're there for.

Script Writing Software

If you have a good word processor, why worry about specialist writing software? When it comes to scripts, you'll soon discover the answer to that question. Setting out the complex formats necessary for stage plays, screen plays etc. on an ordinary word processor can be difficult if not impossible, and it requires a thorough understanding of those formats to begin with. Good script writing software will do it all for you and will also help you to arrange the larger structures of your work.

Despite their sometimes misleading names, most major scriptwriting software programs are suitable for both stage and screen. Both Movie Magic and Final Draft are excellent for helping you translate between visual ideas and what gets written down - or vice versa, helping you understand what your writing will look like when performed.

Meanwhile, Dramatica is good at helping the new writer to develop story structure and character and incorporate these ideas into a script format. Software like this tends to be expensive but it can be well worth your while if you're serious about earning money through this kind of writing.

Book Writing Software

These days there's book writing software available which can help virtually anybody to develop a novel, providing everything from style guidance to the basics of story creation. As a serious writer, however, you're unlikely to need all this, so the important thing is to identify your weaknesses and find the appropriate software to compensate for them.

Almost every writer can benefit from useful features like story outlining and timeline development, but it's up to you to decide if you need help with characterisation (check out Fiction Master or Writer's Blocks), developing plot twists (Storybase), or organisation (try Personal Knowbase or Write Again!).

Try before you buy and make sure you choose a program which is helpful to you, not just the one with the highest general ratings. Ideally, the creative writing software you use should help you to think about your work and develop your own independent skills.

Staying in Control

Whatever type of writing software you use, it's important to remember that rules are made to be broken. Your software will set things out according to the rules, but you shouldn't be afraid to make alterations every now and again, for creative purposes.

Not every novel has to be written in chapters. Not every character has to experience a conventional story arc. The best way to approach writing software is to use it as a base on which to build a formulaic story. You can then break with that formula in order to surprise your readers and create something more literary.

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