The number of tools freelance writers can use to manage every aspect of our work keep growing. Some can be incredibly useful for creating a more productive writing process, while some may actually slow you down. The problem is that these tools are not universal. That means that you’ve got to invest time into finding those tools that actually work for you.
Even as simple as what you use to actually write can have an impact on your writing. Most writers can identify differences between the types of writing we do with pen and paper and what we do on a computer monitor. It’s not necessarily better or worse — it’s just different. Personally, I have a much harder time writing fiction when staring at a computer screen than researching and writing non-fiction.
Identifying the Tools that Work for You
When it comes to writing tools, you may have to kiss a lot of frogs — the only way to see what works can be a matter of trying out a demo account or a free version of anything you’re considering working with. The really tough part is that it can take long-term use to find certain types of weaknesses. For most of us,it’s generally not worth trying out a new system unless there’s something seriously wrong with an existing system just because of the time involved.
But if you are ready to make a switch, put yourself in a position to actually evaluate the tools you’re trying out, rather than just going for it. If you can put together some numbers on how long certain types of projects take you with your current system, you can determine the usefulness of a new tool right away. If you spend a lot of time just trying to get your research in order, for instance, finding a tool that lets you organize and search your research quickly is going to make a lot of sense to use regularly.
Most of us don’t need the newest tools or the shiniest gadgets, no matter how appealing they are. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t buy new tools, of course — I have an iPad and I certainly enjoy it. But it is useful to approach the tools you use for writing at least somewhat conservatively. Changing every week isn’t likely to be necessary and, in fact, many changes can actually slow you down as you adjust to a new tool, even if it’s more efficient in the long run.
Debra Stang says
I don’t know what I’d do without Microsoft Word and my Internet connection for research. Other than that, though, I’m strictly a pen-and-paper girl. I keep all my to-do lists on a yellow legal pad by my desk, and I almost always write out the rough drafts of my projects by hand. There’s just something about it that’s soothing. (Of course, the members of the younger generation in my family think I’m “totally lame.”)