There are beta products, programs that store research information beside your text, templates that make navigating novels simplified, and meters (God, how I love a good chart) to tell us if we’ve hit our word count for the day, week, or month. But how do we know which program is the best? And what is a good program for a beginning writer or a bestselling author?
The quest for the best program for all writers leads to one basic need: Writers want to know what program is going to draw us away from the struggle of outlines, chapters, plot structure, and character bios, while also marking where we love the story and the places where we anticipate work.
This quest is why I have a friend who actively searches for the best program all the time. She tells me about downloading these one-word named applications (names no one can pronounce until you’ve heard an expert say it) and she uses them for a few days or weeks, and then the search is back on for a “better fit.”
When we chat about these “writing tools,” she speaks about them like she's looking for the Holy Grail. It's as if she expects some magical thing to happen when her world and this ideal program's world collide that will suddenly force words to spew out her fingers and everything will read polished, error free, and rich with characters and plot.
I don't have the heart to tell her, although I must for the sake of The Writer’s Code, that there is no better writing program than sitting down in the chair every day and actually writing.
If a program works to draw you to your chair, then great. If it isn’t getting you writing because you’re fiddling with the settings and reading a 200 page tutorial on The Greatest Writing Program Ever Created 1.0, then forget it.
You must keep in mind always that you do the work. Not the program.
If the program or app or gadget eases the process then go for it, you have my full support. Just don't spend more hours looking for, downloading, and figuring out how to use the program, than you do writing with it.
As for me, I chart ideas on the computer (MS Word) or I make a spreadsheet (MS Excel) about my plot, my characters, short story titles that arrive in the middle of the night, just to keep it all organized. Then, inevitably some driving force urges me to put an actual pen, (you know, with ink), into my hand and write my plots, my research notes, etc. in front of my face. I like to have something tangible to flip through when I'm actively typing my fiction work rather than toggling between documents which is what I do with my freelance writing. That's me.
The real key in all of this is that the best writing program is whatever works for you. The end goal, after all is not to have the best app, it’s to have written (past tense) something really worthwhile that you love. Otherwise all of the downloads and product reviews and celebrity endorsements mean nothing. Don’t let the search for the best program delay you in reaching the finish line with your writing.
Share your thoughts in the comments below. Feel free to gush about a program you like or tell me who makes your favorite pen (I’m on a zebra pen kick myself).