WRITING – PAIN OR PLEASURE? IT DEPENDS ON YOUR TOOLS!
Even the best writers can find pain while writing, be it from self-doubt, mental overload, or the dreaded writer’s block. On the other hand, writing at its best can bring the thrill of creation to anyone – expert or novice. You probably know the feeling when words flow naturally, like someone else is doing the job!
So what is the difference between pain and pleasure in writing? How you prepare is crucial. Once you’ve got your ideas in order and have a plan that you can trust, it’s a lot easier to focus on the text itself. Your mind is free to make great sentences because you know exactly what is going where. Fortunately, there are some great digital tools for writers out there to make this crucial step easier.
Here are four apps to help you organize yourself the next time you write.
Scapple is a visual thinking tool: it helps you quickly see your thoughts and how they connect. One cool aspect of Scapple is that you can write your ideas down right when they come to you. Click anywhere on the screen and add a new note. You can then make connections between ideas. A dotted line represents a simple connection, while arrows show how one thought leads to another.
You can group related ideas by placing a shape behind it and then moving the entire notepad around the screen. Scapple has several format options so you can give your notes the style and colors that work best for you.
Another nice feature is dragging and dropping images onto the screen. They can be linked to your notes in the same way. You can also drag and drop a text file and Scapple will break it up into paragraphs or sentences, each of which becomes notes that you can move around. By zooming in and out, you can focus on the most important notes or see the bigger picture.
Scapple is a great way to visually sketch out your ideas, especially if you don’t have a lot of notes and can quickly map them out in front of you.
Like Scapple, Braincat invites you to bring in all of your ideas as they come, but it works very differently. This application is ideal when you have too much to do – too much information or too many ideas. The goal of Braincat is to take you from a mass of unsorted content to a few key elements that can aid you in writing.
Braincat separates input from organization. After you’ve entered all of your ideas, categorize them. You look at every note and ask yourself, “What kind of thing is this?” or “What heading should that go under?” It’s surprising how quickly you can do this because categorizing is what your brain was built for. This simple process reveals the hidden structure of your thoughts: it’s a pretty magical experience.
You can start with hundreds of notes, far more than you could manage on a single screen. You end up with a handful of categories – and they matter to you because you created them.
Next, organize your categories and name your “big idea” – the underlying concept that holds everything together. Then Braincat will automatically provide a detailed outline that you can use as you write, and you can export it as a CSV file which is handy for Google Sheets or Excel. For visual thinkers, Braincat also generates a simple mind map that shows you everything you have organized at a glance.
Are you still suffering from writer’s block? There is a mode in Braincat called “Discover”, in which you can answer important questions about your writing project. It’s perfect for getting those mental wheels working again!
The idea of Writer’s Blocks is to have all of your materials in one place before you start writing. It is used to link your notes to your manuscript so that you can switch back and forth between them.
Writer’s Blocks uses a simple column-and-block format, similar to Trello. You can create a column for each topic, chapter, scene, or section of your writing project. You can then insert blocks of any length in any column. You can drag blocks from column to column, sort them within a column, or select a block to create a new column. The app will automatically renumber your blocks as you move them around so they’re easy to find.
In Writer’s Blocks, you are not limited to what appears on the screen. You can scroll down your blocks or to additional columns. You can zoom out to see everything you’ve collected or zoom in to focus on your immediate priority. To make it easier for you to navigate, you can use colors and formatting tools that highlight important thoughts.
When you are not connected to Microsoft Word, Writer’s Blocks has its own word processor. This will be shown in an area next to your block columns. The advantage is that you can import your blocks directly into your manuscript and they always stay linked. You can find the original block by clicking inside your manuscript. And when you change the order of your blocks, the order in your manuscript changes too.
Writer’s Blocks is ideal if you want to create your draft by putting pieces of text together and then arranging them in the best order.
As with Writer’s Blocks, Speare views writing as pieces of text that you gradually join together into a document. These modules are created in “panels”. These are columnar areas that you can organize side by side on your screen.
Speare makes it easy to rearrange your blocks using drag and drop. In addition, you can break paragraphs into sentences so that they can also be moved. You can use boards both for your planning notes and for creating the actual text. Since you can nest boards by dragging and clicking, you can create an outline with a hierarchy of headings and minor items. There are visual tools that you can use to highlight and distinguish different blocks with color and style.
A specialty of Speare is what it calls “spaces”. A space provides a framework in which to place related boards. You can see at a glance which rooms you have opened and which boards they contain. You can quickly switch between spaces, and deleting a space leaves the boards intact: the space was just one way to organize your stuff.
All of this makes Speare a great tool for writers who accumulate large scraps of text and then use those kernels to create a document. Once you’re ready to start building your design, you’ll find that the app has excellent formatting and editing tools. In particular, revisions can be easily created and tracked. There are also collaboration features so that others can help you create and finalize your piece.
With all of these tools, you shouldn’t have to suffer while writing. Make writing easier for yourself by organizing your thoughts with the digital tool that works best for you. And then enjoy the pleasure of flowing those sentences!