Writing tools for the Modern Geek

All my friends know I am a geek. I don’t care, there is no point denying one’s nature. And this is a great time to be a geek, the amount of technology around us constantly growing and changing. While there is much debate about the future of publishing and the impact that technology will have and is having on books, there is plenty of ways in which a writer can benefit from tech at our fingertips.

Many of you will have already heard of, and used, a lot of these tools but I thought I would run through a couple of things I have found incredibly useful, just in case you have missed them.


Pretty much the reason why I bought a Macbook instead of a Windows PC (back when it was limited to OSX), Scrivener is an incredibly useful tool. There are far better posts floating around about it, but essentially it allows you to take all the disparate elements that make up a work in progress (text, research, outlines, drafts) and organise them in one place and when you are done spit out a manuscript ready for subbing. It has endless features, like full screen writing and customisable backups, which would take me hours to outline. Check out their site, or this excellent third party blog.

Dropbox – The Cloud

Ah, the Cloud. I am so sick of hearing about the new grail of IT in the meetings I have to sit through at work, but I can’t deny it has its uses. There are lots of cloud applications floating around (couldn’t resist, sorry!) but I am currently using Dropbox. After installing the application on my Macbook at home and my work laptop, I now have a folder that synchronises between them. It means I can be working on something at home, click “save”, and then when I am eating my lunch at my desk at work start working on it again.

The fact it is all stored online means that my greatest fear, that my laptop will explode or be stolen or eaten by alien goats, is no longer an issue as my work is safe from harm! Plus, I have set up Scrivener to save its automatic backups to the Dropbox folder when I close a WIP, so it adds to my redundancy. 2gb of storage is free, and if I get to the point I need more I can always purchase it.

www.duotrope.com – Web based

Duotrope is a web based service that acts a marketplace for short stories. People putting together an anthology or those running a recurring magazine or site will place advertisements that list what they are looking for, the compensation offered and their submission guidelines. It has a number of other handy features, such as a deadline calendar and submission tracker.

Duotrope is free, but if you have any spare cash throw some their way, as this the sort of service that is invaluable to an aspiring writer.

Story Tracker – iOS

The only issue I have with Duotrope is that you can only track submissions for markets on their site. As some of the markets I have submitted to are outside of Duotrope’s coverage I wanted a way to keep them up to date. Story Tracker is an app for iPhone and IPad that allows you to do so, and obsessively check things like how long a submission has been pending. The developer is very approachable, and there is talk of an OSX native version, which would be great. You can try a trial version for free.

WriteChain – iOS

Another groovy iPhone app, WriteChain allows you to record the amount of words you have written in a day or session. To encourage you to do so regulary, it creates a “chain” that gets broken if if you go a set interval without writing a certain number of words. The challenge is to have as many “links” as possible and is a great way of setting goals. And, it’s free!

Google Reader – Web based

If you are anything like me, you would have lots of blogs and news sites that you follow, both to keep up with what friends and peers are doing, and for those little snippets of news that might inspire a story. However, I struggle to remember to check sites regularly, and I was finding myself getting behind. Google Reader aggregates the RSS feeds of whatever sites you specify, collecting all the updates in one place.

Byline – iOS

While there is a Google Reader client for iOS, I have been using Byline for news on the go. It syncs with your Google account but has the advantage of caching all the articles for later viewing, meaning I can download my news in the morning on my WIFi and then browse them later, even when not connected. The full version is pricey for an app, so you may decide that, like me, you can handle a few banner ads and use the free one.

Stanza – Cross Platform

I quite like Kindle, but I use Stanza for non Amazon books. It allows a direct plugin to repositories like Project Gutenberg and can read almost any ebook format. It is lacking a way of organising your library, hopefully they will address that soon. Considering it is free, it is hard to complain too much.

Any other useful tools that I should check out?

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