Helpful Programs

So sometime near the start of this year I started to explore the use of some programs for writers. I’d sort of toyed with the idea of making use of the various helpful writing programs and apps out there for a while now, but had never really done much with it. It was always sort of a ‘later’ project to find good programs I’d want to use. Especially considering that I didn’t want to be paying a ton of money for something I was going to end up hating or not using (so free was always an added bonus).

Now, I’ve tried several different writing prompt apps. Most of them were rather disappointing. I’d get rather predictable results -either they were horribly clichéd, or the app was super repetitive. Not what I wanted. But then I stumbled across a D&D quest prompt app that has given me several great ideas. With this app, so long as I have an internet connection I can submit and access the quest ideas of a community of people. Some of them are cliché (as is to be expected), but some of them are kind of fun. Below is a short sampling of the (expanded) D&D ideas I’ve drawn from the app.

  • The ruler of a city sends his second (and favourite) son on a peace keeping mission. The son is young and eager and unaware that success will make him the heir to the throne. The eldest son is aware of this, but also aware of the importance of the mission. He wants the favoured prince killed after he succeeds. Other parties are either in favour or against the deal -some want to see the favoured son on the throne (as he’s generally considered a better man than his father), others want to see the mission fail. Each party is willing to go to different lengths to attain their end goals.
  • The ruins of a black fortress in the middle of a small village are said to be cursed. People in the village get sick and die more often. A good cleric tried to ‘cleanse the taint’ from the area, but disappeared. Since then, anyone who dies goes missing in the night. The tower has an enchantment that suppresses all healing spells/abilities. The cleric was slain in his attempt and rose as a lich intent on creating an undead army.
  • After the death of a wizard and sale of his estate, a group of paintings are coming to life (though they never moved while in his possession). Each painting is cursed in a different way, and the curse takes effect six days after the painting leaves the confines of the wizard’s estate (where he had charms to keep the curses suppressed). The paintings were supposed to have been burnt upon his death, but the nephew who inherited thought selling them for money would be more practical. (I came up with 13 different paintings and their curses)

The app, for those interested, is simply called “RPG Encounters”. (I have an android device, so I don’t know if iPhones can get it)

As for programs for my computer… I’ve started using Scrivener and Evernote.

Originally, I was a little skeptical of using Scrivener for my writing. I’m used to simply using MS Word. I start at the top and just keep on writing. It’s worked fairly well for me in the past. I’ve completed three NaNos that way (though only one of those resulted in a finished story. The other two are 50-80% done). But for the July Camp NaNo I decided I was going to try and use Scrivener for my story.

Normally I come up with a rough idea of where I want the story to go, but I rarely ever write it down. I just sort of let the story unfold as it will. With Scrivener you’re encouraged to make chapters and sections that you can write short descriptions for. My July Camp NaNo was a fictional diary, so I just made each section a different date entry and lumped them into chapters based on where in the progression of the story the dates fell. No other description was used. And it worked surprisingly well.

Honestly, I was expecting to get frustrated by the sections and chapters broken up that way. But I found it helped keep my on track with what my original story was supposed to be. I did stray a bit -mainly in that I was trying to write the diary of a villain, but… she ended up more sympathetic than I’d intended. I was so impressed with how it worked that I set up the sequel to my first NaNo win (and the only truly finished story I’ve written thus far) in Scrivener. So far, it’s progressing wonderfully. Now that I’m used to the sections, I like that I can take a quick glance at what events are coming up in the story so I don’t get lost in a tangent.

As for being frustrated with the program… well, I dislike the difficulty I have in setting and changing the formatting of things. And I dislike that there isn’t an overall word count (just a section one). But both of those are fairly minor problems.

The second program I’ve started using is Evernote. I’ve always sort of toyed with the idea of getting the app, but just never have until earlier this year. Now, admittedly, I don’t use it all that often. Primarily, I use it as a place to keep a list of all my story (and D&D) ideas. It is much more convienent than having story scraps littered around the house in torn-out notebook pages, on scrap paper and post-it notes. Plus, because there is a desktop as well as an app version of Evernote, I can add or review ideas pretty much anywhere! Big plus for me 🙂

With these two programs I am rather looking forward to November and NaNo 🙂 It will be interesting to try and tackle a traditional novel format (as opposed to the diary one) in only a month. (I’m lazy about working on my sequel right now >.< oops! A new story might be just what I need)

What program or programs do you use for writing? Any tips or tricks to making the most out of them?

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