Successful writing means keeping your butt in the chair (BIC), your hands on the keyboard (HOK) typing away madly (TAM). For some projects one of the computer applications designed for writers can help you persevere to the end of a book, screenplay, or article. For other projects these software products might be a hindrance.
Software for writing provides a place to compose your draft, to brainstorm and outline the project, and to organize character descriptions, setting notes, and more. Available for the Mac are Scrivener (every tool you could want, and maybe more than you want), StoryMill (superb timeline integration), Manuscript (highly focused on the writing), and Storyist (perhaps the most balanced).
When an App Gets in the Way
Some published authors argue that a word processor like Microsoft Word or Apple’s Pages is all that is necessary. There is also much to be said for a sheaf of good paper and a favorite pen or pencil. The way to determine if your favorite writing software gets in the way is to focus on the “typing away madly” part of BIC HOK TAM.
Watch your fingers. If the app is helping you produce page after page, fine. Your fingers will fly over the letter keys. However, if you find your fingers frequently reaching for the mouse or the track pad to make some changes to character or setting notes, to rethink your outline, or to polish your time line, it may be that your software is a distraction. When the fun of using all the tools in your application crowds out the enjoyment of losing yourself in the creative process, it may be time to break out the word processor or the quill and ink.
If you want to use Word or a pencil and paper, there may still be a need to track characters, scenes, and notes. The Mac has an app for that.
Subplot ($20) by Craig Romans keeps character and setting notes, tracks scenes and their details, and helps you set writing goals. The app has helpful reports displaying character dossiers, progress toward goals, and which scenes include a certain character or setting. It can sit on your desktop in its own window waiting to provide needed information without making you close or leave the window in which you are typing away madly. It has an average user rating of four out of five stars at the Mac App Store.
Some of the reviewers gave Subplot fewer than five stars because the app does not do as much as Scrivener and the other full-functioned writing apps. But, that is the point. You might give it five stars because it does less.
How often do you need more than pen and paper but less than full-blown writing software?