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The Critique Crypt => General writing chat => Topic started by: fnord33 on August 17, 2011, 08:32:11 PM



Title: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: fnord33 on August 17, 2011, 08:32:11 PM
I just installed windows 7 and I can't find the installer for my old program, so I was searching for a new one and ran across a lot of interesting software like rough draft and dramatica. I haven't had a chance to check them out yet. Anybody know anyone who has used this or anything like it? Do you use any software that makes writing faster or easier? 

Dramatica:

Aspiring and seasoned writers take note: gone are the days of handwritten note cards, extensive plot revisions, and hand cramps. Dramatica Pro promises to be your writing coach, your secretary, your guide, and even your therapist as you develop sharp, focused storylines together.

Getting started in Dramatica Pro as a beginning user is intuitive and easy. In the StoryGuide segment, there are three levels of story forming, and we tried out the most advanced (which is estimated to take three to four days of work). Dramatica Pro comes with 32,768 potential "storyforms," all of which incorporate structural, thematic, and dynamic elements of your story. After answering about a dozen of the multiple-choice Dramatica Query System questions, we were able to decide on one storyform. For those that choose not to pursue the multiple-choice route, there is also the Story Engine, which allows for a more holistic and freeform method of sketching out your basic story.

One thing you'll notice right off is the unique language of Dramatica Pro. While many terms--motivation, pursuit, antagonist--will be familiar to most writers, there are a number of terms that are used in specific relation to Dramatica Pro's capabilities. Fortunately, at each stage of the story-creation process, there are a number of help buttons (such as Explain, Theory, Usage, and Context) that provide further definition of terms and their usage. And after a few sessions, we found ourselves thinking about "signposts," "journeys," the four "throughlines," and other features that bring a story into focus.

Dramatica Pro's main desktop is the portal for all story-building activity. Its 12 tiles present users with options for developing just about every aspect, from character creation and polishing, to plot-progression charts and reports on your progress and story. Because Dramatica Pro does not try to be a word processing application, every nook and cranny is filled with developmental prowess to help hone your skills while discovering your story.

One aspect of the application that we appreciated was the opportunity for writer growth. After becoming familiar with the application's interface, we were able to use Dramatica Pro's Story Engine and Story Points to access our story's "master controls" without all the exposition and explanation. Also, Dramatica Pro offers a Brainstorming command that allows the program to intelligently tweak your storyform into something new should you experience writer's block.


Title: Re: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: Pharosian on August 18, 2011, 12:07:37 AM
I don't use any writing software outside of a program my husband wrote for me that is a basic text editor plus a word frequency counter. Each word is added to a list on the left along with the number of times it appears in the document. I can select any word in the list and it highlights all instances of it in the document, which lets me see when words are used too close together or simply overused. It helps me find all the instances of "just" and "that" and other problem words, for example. I use MS Word for the final formatting.

A few years ago I bought a package called New Novelist. It was supposedly designed to help you keep track of characters and so on, and had a plot wizard that would supply a sort of twelve-step program for your story. Unfortunately, this was basically the hero's journey in a number of variations, and it didn't work for me.

A friend of mine swears by Scrivener. I downloaded the free trial and found that it had a lot of great features, but I never really spent the time to figure out how to use it to best advantage. Initially it was only available on the Mac, but I understand that there's a Windows version now. It's worth checking out.


Title: Re: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: marc_chagall on August 18, 2011, 03:14:38 AM
That sort of program sounds ghastly, fnord. I wouldn't touch it.

I write pretty much everything from short poems to full novels on an ancient copy of Word. The only exception is if I'm writing in French, which sometimes makes Word panic and start squashing letters on top of each other for some reason, so then I swap to Open Office.

If I were writing scripts, I'd use a program that sorted the formatting for me, but my blood runs cold at the thought of a program that is going to influence the form of my fiction writing in any way, which is what 'Dramatica' sounds like it would do.

Basic text editing for me. Nothing else.


Title: Re: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: JonP on August 18, 2011, 04:00:14 AM
Same here, just basic Word plus Evernote for jotting down ideas.


Title: Re: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: Ed on August 18, 2011, 04:05:27 AM
Oh, I couldn't be doing with that -- I'd never get anything done. The only thing I use is that Sonar prog, which keeps track of my submissions. Even that's pretty useless for me with the amount I put out.


Title: Re: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: Rev. Austin on August 18, 2011, 07:09:23 AM
I just use Word (two files per story - one for ideas/research, the other for the story itself) and a tiny notebook for scribbling story ideas and notes in :) Dramatica does seem to promise the moon on a stick, which makes me very wary.


Title: Re: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: ozmosis7 on August 18, 2011, 03:46:16 PM
I started out using Final Draft and a program called Grammarian for catching basic stuff. I later found word does the trick of both of them. I've fooled with some of the other mapping ones, but found them holding me back with too much to do. I can see where they might be helpful if you are that type of writer though. Word alone for me now, though.


Title: Re: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: Geoff_N on August 19, 2011, 02:08:49 AM
I use nothing but Word but judging by the echoes and pleonasms that my eyes miss I should use something else before relying on critiquers to find my blunders. On my old PC's favourites there was a web-based program that found those kind of errors, highlighting them much in the way Pharo describes. I can't find it now. You just copied and pasted your text into it. Simple and quick. Anyone  know one that does that?


Title: Re: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: fnord33 on August 19, 2011, 05:04:44 AM
Yeah, I don't really like the idea of a computer program messing with my work. I'll probably check one out eventually, but I expect it to waste ore time than it saves me. The one Pharo was talking about sounds extremely useful, though.   


Title: Re: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: Kai on November 17, 2011, 11:13:16 AM
ywriter is an amazing program that lets you organize and helps break your writing into scenes instead of large chunks of text. It's made by spacejock software and it is free.


Title: Re: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: jsorensen on November 17, 2011, 11:28:37 PM
I've looked at Dramatic and read some of their publications concerning thheir theory of story--interesting and fun and kept me from writing...Don't want to knock the program, it could and does work for some, but for me I just use Microsoft Word -- outline the story, add to it, detract from it, or what ever is needed...


Title: Re: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: delboy on November 18, 2011, 04:23:42 AM
I just use Word and I wait until the house is empty and I read my stories aloud and that usually helps me fine tune rhyhms and highlights repeated words and phrase. The dog gives me funny looks, though.


Title: Re: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: eagle37 on November 18, 2011, 08:39:40 AM
Yup, swear by 'reading out loud' as being one of the final edit steps. Always end up shking my head in horror at how many thinks it picks up I'd missed two or three times already


Title: Re: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: notsoscarey on November 18, 2011, 07:52:56 PM
Word or Works and a notebook with different colored pens.  I likes me pens! Mmmm...pretty pens...




(how many of you read penis instead of pens?  heehee)


Title: Re: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: LashSlash on November 19, 2011, 11:57:52 AM
I just use Word and I wait until the house is empty and I read my stories aloud and that usually helps me fine tune rhyhms and highlights repeated words and phrase. The dog gives me funny looks, though.
.....


sorry to disappoint and to sound stuffy--- reading aloud tells you if the text makes basic sense, or not. that's about all it does.  --- it will not tell you iff the text  is well written ..... why?? :-  we dont write the way we speak. our speech patterns are lazy as can be, and choka-bloc full of lacsidaisycalities.   [even when writing dialogue, one has to be aware of this]......


read this out-aloud: jonny said to me that the bucket  is just about half empty and even i couldnt know that without looking for myself....

did that sound okay?? - of course it does . how many mistakes do you hear??- none ........--- is it well written??? -- no, it is not  ....


Title: Re: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: JJ Holden on November 19, 2011, 04:14:05 PM
I use Word.  I use a large sketchpad and colored pens when I'm editing chapters, checking for plot holes and dropped characters and whatnot. Notebooks, listpads, and I read aloud sometimes, too.

Wow, this writing business is more strenuous than I thought.  :shocked:


Title: Re: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: Ed on November 20, 2011, 05:47:25 AM
I just use Word and I wait until the house is empty and I read my stories aloud and that usually helps me fine tune rhyhms and highlights repeated words and phrase. The dog gives me funny looks, though.
.....


sorry to disappoint and to sound stuffy--- reading aloud tells you if the text makes basic sense, or not. that's about all it does.  --- it will not tell you iff the text  is well written ..... why?? :-  we dont write the way we speak. our speech patterns are lazy as can be, and choka-bloc full of lacsidaisycalities.   [even when writing dialogue, one has to be aware of this]......


read this out-aloud: jonny said to me that the bucket  is just about half empty and even i couldnt know that without looking for myself....

did that sound okay?? - of course it does . how many mistakes do you hear??- none ........--- is it well written??? -- no, it is not  ....

I disagree. I think sometimes your voice gets lost in-amongst all the writing and you can sometimes word things in a way that would leave you tongue tied. These parts, when a reader stumbles over them, cause a small break in the fictive dream while they re-read or have to engage their conscious mind to decipher the text. Reading aloud, I think, is the best way to find these bits. You can also better hear the rhythm you've created, whether it's good or bad, whereas you can't always see them on the page.  But of course, like anything writing related, it's down to the individual writer to work out what best works for them.

What technique do you use to fine tune your writing, Dan? I'm always on the lookout for anything better than what I already do.


Title: Re: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: LashSlash on November 20, 2011, 06:49:05 AM
here are 3 practical suggestions for fine-tuning, simple advice -- easy to implement --- and worth their weight in gold!
:

1 -- do a ctrlF and search for the following words: that; even; just [there are some others but start of with these 3. every tme you find a match for one of those words, delete it and see if the text still makes sense ---- 99% of the times this will be the case. if you are left with one of these words after all t5his, see if you can write the sentence in another way without one of those words. [look out for any remaianing 'thats' ---  it may6 be thay should be written as:'this'......these words are pleonisms [we use them the whole time in our speech and reading aloud will not identify them]. bikoman-geoff was the one that turned me on to being aware of pleonism and tautology in my writing......

eg:- He was getting too old for this sort of thing; he would never have injured himself on a short slide like that even just a few years ago [from an entry story to the doom comp]

i suggest: He was getting too old for this sort of thing; he would never have injured himself on  SO short A slide a few years ago



2 - put the text aside for a coupla days ---- do this more than once. [for me a story is never finished until its published]



3 -- get someone like delf in your corner :smitten: :afro: :smiley:      my strong points are: designing a story and vocabulary and fluency and working knowledge of a number of languages ---- my weak points are:spelling and grammer and tenses. find someone you can trust to help you with your weak points and point out where you have gone wrong.



thats all you gonna get out of me for the moment. [at one stage i was posting my DankaWanka Rules of Thumb for Writing Poetry & Prose ..... someone very cruely called me Danka WankER ..... so i gave up on that......sheesh, the nerve of them!]


as said, simple advice -- easy to implement --- and worth their weight in gold!


Title: Re: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: Ed on November 20, 2011, 07:28:53 AM
I've stopped using the words 'that, just and even', and have the opposite problem, I think. My writing seems a bit too stripped back to me, sometimes, when I compare it with the writing in professionally published books, which seems warmer somehow for all the pluperfect and pleonasms. There's a balance to strike with everything, isn't there. :afro:


Title: Re: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: LashSlash on November 20, 2011, 08:46:36 AM
I think. My writing seems a bit too stripped back to me, sometimes, when I compare it with the writing in professionally published books, which seems warmer somehow for all the pluperfect and pleonasms. There's a balance to strike with everything, isn't there ..... of course there has to be a balance --- maimonides calls it 'the golden path'............. but,but,but, you have to ask yourself: who am i writing for? you feel your writing is 'a bit too stripped back '. are yoy writing for yourself /your own intertainment, or are you writing to entertain the reader?

my genre is 'back-yard literiture'. by definition literiture is something that a reader can return too  more than once and discover something new on each visit  this is demanding on me and my writing, and i am very strict with myself..... and maybe with oithers as well ......... so maybe that 'wankER' comment was not all that out of place :huh: :huh:




Title: Re: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: akaShoe on November 20, 2011, 03:06:52 PM
*quietly delurks*

Wow. I had no idea about "that," "just," and "even." I sure hope you folks don't mind that I've stuck around post-contest... I'm learning a great deal from all y'all.

ctrl-alt-lurk


Title: Re: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: delboy on November 20, 2011, 03:24:32 PM
I use all three words - especially 'that'; although a swift look at a Booker prize winning excerpt reveals I don't use it as much as some  ;)

That (!) said, I shall be bearing this advice in mind in future.

Derek


Title: Re: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: Pharosian on November 20, 2011, 05:40:06 PM
Like everything else having to do with writing, there are exceptions to the "rule." What LashSlash says is a good starting point, but I think it's useful to look at the context before omitting a word.

My own guidelines for whether to keep or delete the word "just," for example, start with drawing a distinction between narrative and dialogue. Since many people use "just" in their speech, I don't automatically refrain from using it in dialogue. Technically, the sentence I just don't know what to do has equivalent meaning to I don't know what to do. But coming from a bewildered character at the end of her rope, using the word "just" intensifies the statement.

Then there are the cases where just is used as an adjective: He is a just man. That sentence is clearly NOT equivalent either to the sentence in which just is an adverb: He is just a man OR to the sentence without it: He is a man. I would further argue that He is just a man is NOT equivalent to He is a man, but in that example, the word "only" would be more acceptable to many editors: He is only a man.

Regarding "that," I believe LashSlash objects to its use as a conjunction: He's the guy that I was telling you about. You probably don't need to avoid its use as a pronoun: That is the guy I was telling you about or as a relative pronoun: I did not have sexual relations with that woman... or as an adjective: At that moment, I knew he was lying... or as an adverb: It's not that long until Christmas.

And don't even get me started on "even."  :2funny:


Title: Re: What writing programs do you find useful?
Post by: Ed on November 20, 2011, 07:03:37 PM
*quietly delurks*

Wow. I had no idea about "that," "just," and "even." I sure hope you folks don't mind that I've stuck around post-contest... I'm learning a great deal from all y'all.

ctrl-alt-lurk

There's a prog out there somewhere that scans any story you put into it for pleonasms. Can't remember what it's called, but the first couple of times you use it it's quite an eye-opener.

Another good search to do is for 'it was' and 'there was'. More often than not, if you reword to exclude these you will improve the sentence and make it more active.


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