Melville never had to ignore the attraction of satellite television when he penned Moby Dick; Hemingway didn’t have the option of playing Modern Warfare 3 instead of writing A Farewell to Arms; and Shakespeare wouldn’t have needed to write “Sonnet 130” if he could have just texted his feelings to his mistress with eyes nothing like the sun. Sure, that’s an easy attitude to take when perpetually distracted while trying to create that first masterful, meaningful piece of literature. Then again, why curse the woes of technological consumption when you can use the gifts of the modern age to help write your first draft in record time? Here, five innovative tools to assist the 21st Century Writer.
Software developer Literature & Latte created this unique content-generation tool specifically for screenwriters and novelists. Scrivener gives writers the ability to create a manuscript or long-form document non-linearly by placing all research documents, outlines and notes in one file. As your first draft starts to come together, you can effortlessly move small or large blocks of text around and refer to your supporting documents at any point within the manuscript, giving you the ability to see the whole story or the smallest detail at the click of a button. Editor’s note: Scrivener surely doesn’t take its name from the ultimate slacker.
Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk used the same team behind his aptly named website, The Cult, to create Lit Reactor, a social networking site that brings together aspiring writers, established authors, and literature geeks to critique each other’s work. Lit Reactor rewards the most active users with badges and other fun perks, publishes a free online magazine, and offers monthly online classrooms and workshops that let you learn the secrets of good writing from published authors — all for a fraction of the cost of a humanities degree.
Think your autobiography has a shot at selling, but can’t afford a full-time stenographer to type out the years’ worth of anecdotes ready to spill out of your skull? Speak to the Nuance Dragon (well, speak into the microphone and ramble on for as long as you want: Dragon’s intuitive speech-recognition software will type out your words “three times faster than typing, with up to 99 per cent accuracy”). The latest version allows users with accents to calibrate the software to recognize their speech patterns.
For the non-fiction writer or journalist who will rely on hundreds of hours of interviews, Livescribe’s lineup of Smartpens comes equipped with microphones, and the included notepad memorizes where in the recording a certain note was made. Tap on the smiley face, diagram, or single word jotted down during the initial recording and the Smartpen will cue up the exact moment in the interview when the mark was made. The amount of time you’ll save not having to scan a sea of audio for a few golden quotes will be enough to write a second book.
Write or Die
As most successful authors will concede, actually getting words onto the page is a constant battle, even when you’ve been regularly writing for years. Write or Die is a fun app that takes over your iPad or desktop and doesn’t let you pause to judge your work: Those who procrastinate during the set time limit or fail to reach their preset word count goals are punished. The penalties range from the aptly named “gentle” (a reminder pops up after a designated period of non-writing) to the ruthlessly brilliant “kamikaze” (the app will start to erase what you’ve already written unless you start typing).
Image courtesy of Cheryl Holloway.