Today a writer may need more than just a pen and notebook to launch a writing career. As well as a great computer or speedy laptop—and an internet connection, there are other tools that make the writing life easier. Here are a few options.
1. Speech Recognition Software
One of the occupational hazards for writers is carpal tunnel syndrome or RSI. While there are exercises you can do to minimize the effect, one way to avoid the problem altogether is to use speech recognition software. It is like having your own personal assistant on your computer. All you need, apart from the software, is a headset and microphone and about 20 minutes to get it installed and trained. Then you dictate your ideas to the software and watch the words appear on the page. You then save the document as you would if typing. While some versions of Windows include speech recognition technology, there are also more robust pieces of software–Dragon NaturallySpeaking and DragonDictate for Mac. This software is a real time saver for writers because you can get your thoughts down almost as fast as you think them.
2. Planning and Outlining Tools
Gone are the days when planning your writing was simply a matter of making notes on a piece of paper. There are now plenty of web based tools which can help to streamline the planning process. These include mind mapping tools and outlining tools. Sure, you could do both of these things on a piece of paper but it is better to have access to your documents wherever you go. Choose the right tool and you can not only make a note of all your ideas but you can drag and drop them into different positions as you refine your plan. One example of a good tool for both planning and outlining is Workflowy. You start the program with a blank page to which you can add list items. Each item can also have sub items as well as notes and links. The items can also be shared with others if you happen to be collaborating on a writing project.
3. Tools For Maintaining Access To Your Writing
There is also a simple way of avoiding having to carry printouts everywhere. Many writers have a laptop and if you store your writing in the cloud then you will always have access to it wherever you are, even if you have to use someone else’s computer. There are lots of ways to do this. If you do most of your writing in Microsoft Word, you can get a Google account and upload selected documents to that account. You can also sync your documents to that account through various programs so that you always have the latest version available to you.
Another option is a simple cloud backup. If you are working on multiple projects at the same time– or multiple files–then this could be the answer. Use a backup service such as Syncplicity, SugarSync, Carbonite or Mozy and install the software on your home computer and your laptop. By default these programs will back up most of your key files but you can also tweak the settings so that the specific files you want are included.
With some programs you can work on your file within the web application and it will automatically sync to your various computers the next time you log on. With others you can download the file to the computer you happen to be using–allowing you to complete tasks like moving quotes around, checking grammar and doing general tweaking–and upload it again once you have finished your work. Either way you always have an up-to-date copy of your files to work on.
Bonus Tool: Smart Phone
Your smart phone isn’t exactly a writing tool but if you already have one you can use it for some writing tasks. All of the tools listed above have smart phone applications which you can use to dictate, write and edit on the move. Because of the size of the screen this is not the most convenient option in terms of visuals but if you need to get something done in a hurry it could be useful. Add to that features like voice and video recording and you have everything you need to be a high-tech writer.
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