I Promise You Won't Learn A Thing From This Blog

The official blog for author Ashley Chappell. Check back every week for a few laughs at my expense or, if you know the love-hate process that is writing, commiseration.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Writerly Tools: From Post-its to Final Draft

I love getting to talk to new authors and trying to help them answer the same questions I had when I first started writing novels. One of the big ones I get asked most often is about what software tools they should be using for writing. Unfortunately, that question is every bit as subjective as asking how to write the novel itself.

My brilliant and wonderful engineer husband would call me ‘artsy-fartsy’ for what I’m about to say, but it’s nonetheless true. Creating a novel is a personal journey and no one process will be exactly like another. Some writers need guided help developing characters before they even start writing, while others develop on the fly with the bare-bones plot in the back of their mind. Sometimes the problem is keeping the sub-plots in focus so the novel doesn’t end with unfinished business. If there is a problematic area in writing, you can bet there’s software out there to help remedy it.

But which to choose? Like every other process in writing, the answer to this requires loads of research into each program’s capabilities, but be careful weeding through the advertisements and the sometimes paid-for endorsements. There are endless recommendations of different writing software by authors all over the web. You can’t even go to a writer’s forum without having software ads flashing brightly across the banners these days. In terms of pricing, there is free software with limited functionality such as Storybook or you can spend as much as $250 on something like Final Draft. But here’s the thing...

A tool is only as good as the person using it.

I don’t mean anything about writing skills when I say that. I’m simply talking about dedication to the tool. Just like buying exercise equipment doesn't get you in shape if you don’t use it, most writing software requires you to be fully committed to really be effective. That means doing every bit of your plotting, writing, brainstorming, EVERYTHING in them. Most of them have libraries where you can enter every imaginable detail about your characters, world, sub-plots, etc. But if you don’t use them to the fullest you’ve wasted your time and money. At worst, the wrong software (even though the description sounded so great when you chose it) can even sabotage your work if it forces you to adopt habits that are in conflict with your writing style.

That was the exact experience I had with writing software. I decided before I started God of Gods: Dreams of Chaos #3 that I needed to get myself better organized and convinced myself that using software was somehow more professional (yes, I’ve been that na├»ve). The software I tried had the element libraries that I thought would be great to help me keep up with my 60+ characters and it used a tracking system in which every scene was written individually and the characters, locations, and dates were all recorded for the reports it would generate to show you the story flow visually. Sounds amazing, right? I did great with populating the element libraries, but when I had to start treating the scenes as individual elements I discovered it completely wrecked my sense of flow. I was no longer able to feel the motion between scenes and that led to a draft with no momentum and a feeling of disconnect between each scene. I’ve actually started the novel over twice now and I’m still struggling with getting the flow right.

Unfortunately, there's no Sorting
Hat for writers!
Since then, I’ve talked to other writers who thrived when writing scene-by-scene and a few others who came to a grinding halt with it like I did. That’s part of what makes this choosing process so very subjective. I’m all for software if it helps, but I think the idea that you have to use software to write a great book is as dangerous as telling a writer they have to use an outline when they write.

If you’re having trouble managing your WIP, try software, notebooks, Post-it notes, note cards, whiteboards, or tattoos even. Try anything. Actually, try everything. Creativity is all about being open to new ideas and resources and sometimes they can come in unexpected forms.

So I’m going to say it again, artsy-fartsy or not, but creating a novel is your personal journey and no one else’s process will be exactly like the one that ultimately works for you.

Once you’ve found that magical process, get out there and make something amazing!


  1. I am guilty of purchasing writing software, much too many to name. I feel like I get better results when I just sit down and write. Every now and then, I'll open up Scrivener or Dramatica and play around, but they never inspire me to actually write! :)

  2. That’s exactly what I did! I always end up playing around with all the features and run little ‘what-ifs’ that only ended up distracting me from actually writing. In the long run, it was worse than trying to write with Facebook open.

    Thanks for stopping by, Diane!

  3. I like to talk more than write. Therefore, the written work, I usually order on this site essays.io . Here a wonderful base of authors and editors with whom I had a long association. And this is beneficial especially if there is a discount.

  4. It`s interesting. I help my son develop writing skills. Besides, sometimes I use help of the writers and pay for research paper. Most of them have certified ABA. And this is really the master of his craft.


"Feedback is the breakfast of champions." - Ken Blanchard