Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tools of the Trade for the Modern Writer.

I've just discovered the 'stickies' program on my Apple and think it's one of the most useful things I've ever come across on a computer. It's great. You just open it up and a little yellow square, of exactly the same size and appearance of a post-it note, appears on your desktop. You can then type anything you like on it - reminders, ideas, internet banking passwords - and it will stay up there until you either delete the text or 'bin' the note.

It's very useful for keeping track of writing ideas and unlike my current system, the notes can't be blown off my desk into infinity by the fan, or lost in the rest of the writing detritus that weighs down my desk.

All technology should be this good. In fact, I am so pleased that someone has made a program that meets my needs this well, that I'm now sitting back, waiting expectantly for the following innovations to appear and make writing as easy as it's surely meant to be...

Word Psychic 1.0.
A word processor with telepathic device attached, Word Psychic plucks half-formed thoughts from the user's head, before they've had the chance to ruin them by trying to put them into written words. The program then analyses the thoughts and spits them onto the page in the clearest, most moving prose available to express such thoughts. A version would be available for mobile phones and mp3 players, allowing the writer to make the most of pensive journeys on public transport and amusing work situations.

Having trouble maintaining the voice of your narrator? Not sure whether your cockney washer woman would use the word 'ineffable'? The iVoice will solve all these problems and more. Simply type in a sample of your character's 'voice' into the sampleator, add any other information about your character (female, English, likes suds), and iVoice will track your writing, alerting you to any deviations from authentic voice and suggesting replacement phrases.

Cliche and Mixed Metaphor checker.
Does what it says on the tin.

Yellow Ink Purple Prose Inhibitor.
Another fairly straight-forward application, but one that comes with an adjustable index of acceptable purple prose content. Settings include 'Love-letter' (up to 90% allowable PP), 'Mills & Boon' (<60% PP) and 'Dirty Realism' (<0.01% PP).

With technology thus taking all the hard work out of being a writer, I should be able to then get down to the proper business of the occupation. This chiefly involves drinking tea, sending off absorbingly brilliant manuscripts to publishers and sipping champagne at the book launch.

Can't wait.


  1. Hello! Some interesting ideas there - are they just on the Mac? I'd love to try out iVoice (partly because I'm a bit sceptical, but always happy to have my mind opened!)

    What sort of things do you write?

  2. It was the crochet that won me over! Hi, I'm visiting from Nicola's blog, and added myself as a follower. I look forward to reading more posts and then hearing about when you actually do get to live the writers' life of champaigne drinking and so forth. Hahaha! No just kidding, I'm sure there are some who do live like that....

  3. Hi there, found you from Nicola's party. I love the stickies app on my Mac as well. I have stickies for things to do lists, books to consider buying, etc.

  4. Hello everyone! Thanks for dropping by. I've been a bit late to respond due to the time difference (I'm sweltering in a Melbourne heatwave).

    Nicola - this blog party was such a good idea. I'm fairly new to writing, still studying, but write mostly short stories, a bit of freelance and am currently attempting a YA novel.

    Karen - cheers, more crochet is on the way!

    Colette - you know, I've never used post-its before, but the Stickies is fantastic.

  5. Hi

    I love the ideas here - especially the Word Psychic.1.0 (hopefully microsoft compatible too!).


    Lovely blog!

    Have a lovely evening (it's 22.53 here and it's FREEZING).

  6. Hi - just over from Nicola's party (although I'm also from the antipodes). Love your application ideas. I want one that types the story directly from my head as my stories always seem much better in my mind than they do on the page.

  7. Hello SF - thanks for dropping by my blog! You can sign me up for Word Psychic too when that comes on the market. Although I suspect the effect would be rather Babelfish-esque?

  8. Hmm, sometimes I think the reason stories sound so much better in my head is because I don't actually have to explain to myself what's going on, so the actual words are less important. Then you try to write it down and find it's not quite all there.

    So yes, Word Psychic could spit out some interesting half-formed stuff, but would be sooo useful as well!

  9. so what we need is Word Perfect Story?

  10. :-) I used to use the stickies at ICLEI. My mac also had a 'time out' app (is that the name, I'm not sure?) that came up with this green zen buddha thing at intervals you program in. Like 10 secs every 10 minutes, and a full minute every hour. Have you seen it?
    I like the iVoice! best not let that washerwoman get too hoity toity...

  11. I looked, but no time out app on my computer that I could find. Not that I'm in any danger at the moment of doing too much work without breaks!