3 Awesome Tools That Will Make You A Better Writer Instantly
Tried and tested on myself
A Little Note:
This story contains an affiliate link to Scrivener. This means that if you decide to click on that link and end up buying this life-changing piece of software, then the nice people who make it pay me a small commission which is just a little incentive for me to keep writing. I wouldn’t recommend Scrivener if it wasn’t the best writing software in the world.
I have three tools that literally make me a better writer the moment I use them. They’re so effective, it almost feels like cheating.
They are my favourite writing tools by far: Ludwig, Scrivener, and Descriptionari.
I’ve chosen to talk about these particular tools because they have what I like to call the OMG factor.
This simply means that, when I started using them, my first, spontaneous reaction was “OMG! This is genius!”
That’s how I can tell when a writing aid has tremendous value for me as a writer. Silly, I know, but it works every time.
If you’re already familiar with these tools, then there may be nothing new for you to see here. You may want to go type some words instead, and reach your writing quota for the day — that’s what makes you a writer, anyway ;)
(Alternatively, it might also be a good idea to make yourself a sandwich with smoked ham, cheese and mushrooms in buttered wholemeal bread, then toast it in a sandwich toaster, fry an egg and put it on top. I like to add a bit of parmesan inside, too. Thank me later.)
If you haven’t heard of these tools before, you want to keep reading. You can still make the sandwich afterwards. Be smart.
At this point you may wonder what’s so special about these three tools that I’ve been going on about. Let me give you some idea of what they actually do, so you know how to make best use of them.
Screenshot of Ludwig’s interface, by the author.
This is an amazing sentence search engine that gives you contextual sentence examples, from reliable sources. Unlike Google, where the results you get could be any type of content written by anyone, in Ludwig you get examples written by journalists, authors and scientists in prestigious publications.
It will cost you around $3/month to get rid of the restrictions and do unlimited searches, but that’s nothing compared to the tremendous value that you get out of it.
I use it mainly for verifying (or getting inspiration from) different uses of specific words or phrases. Let’s say, for example, that I do a search for ideas on how to use the word “resonate”.
Ludwig returns 60 examples of the word used in context, from sources such as The New York Times, The Guardian, The Economist, and journals such as the Journal of Sound and Vibration, Geoforum or Acta Astronautica. If that’s not cool, I don’t know what is.
Screenshot of Scrivener’s interface, by the author.
I couldn’t live without it. Scrivener is a powerful tool designed to make a writer’s life easier. A word processor, a document management system and a notes organizer among other things. It’s totally worth paying around $50 for a lifetime license (price varies slightly, depending on your platform and the type of license you need).
They also have a very generous free trial for the full version, that lasts for 30 days of actual use (instead of 30 calendar days). So, if you use it, say, once a week, then the trial lasts for 30 weeks.
I love the way they’ve designed and set up the interface. It’s like an author’s cockpit, where everything you might need is at your fingertips.
You get lots of amazing features, such as split screen functionality (horizontal or vertical) where you can bring up pretty much anything you like on either half of the screen. You can break down your story or novel into chapters and scenes, and access them individually.
You can drag and drop to rearrange scenes instantly. You can have the synopsis of each scene on the right, as well as any notes that you may want to have at hand. All this is just a tiny bit of what you see on the surface. This application is gold. You’ve got to try it.
Screenshot of Descriptionari’s interface, by the author.
This is a free website that shows you how a word or phrase is used, in excerpts taken from creative descriptions written by other people.
The big advantage of Descriptionari is that you see words and phrases used in literary context. As far as I know, there’s no other easy way of doing this online right now.
If I do a search for the word “dragons”, I get a good number of quotes (both fiction and non-fiction) that include this word — check out the screenshot above. This is excellent for inspiring you to think of new ways to phrase whatever it is you want to say.
This is why you need them
I have written a few different things using these tools, and this is what I can tell you based on my own experience so far.
The practical side — You up your game
Using Ludwig, Scrivener and Descriptionari, instantly takes your writing to a whole different level.
First of all, you have a framework for being incredibly productive, by focusing on writing better words, in stories that are structured more effectively.
Then you have access to creative pieces of writing that put your own words and thoughts in context. You also get great examples of different uses of the words and phrases that you’re using.
Last but not least, you’re inspired to come up with even more creative words and more elegant sentences.
The psychological side — You feel like an author
Using Ludwig, Scrivener and Descriptionari help you live the role of an author. When everything around you reminds you that you’re a writer, then it’s much easier to collect yourself, sit your behind on a chair, start typing, and keep typing.
These are specialized tools, designed and made for writers. They’re not just “a word processor” or “a dictionary”. With all due respect to word processors and dictionaries, the worthy and admirable successors of the pen and paper and the uncle who’s a retired literature professor, respectively. But generic tools are meant to be used by anyone. You’re not anyone, you’re a writer who’s taking this very very seriously.
What I’ve gained, and what you can gain
These three tools combined put me in a completely different state of mind when I’m writing. I’m more creative, more productive, focused, and confident. Over time I have applied a totally different, more efficient structure to the way I work, which has helped me immensely in becoming a better writer.
When you try them, you will find that many of your concerns are eliminated, which helps you allocate more of your brain capacity to actual writing. With time and practice, this has taken my own writing to a whole different level, because it helps me clear the clutter and focus on the task at hand: Telling the story.
Which is what we do. Right?
If you are using any other tools that make it easier for you to tell your stories, I would like to know about them. Please share your experience in the comments and let the rest of us know.