My amazing co-MFA cohorter Kate asked if I'd used any of these writing programs. I'll copy the list first in case you're looking for one:
- Blogger: This popular Google-owned site is a great place to start your own blog for free.
- Scrivener: This popular, feature-rich program is great for organizing research, planning drafts, and writing novels, articles, short stories, and even screenplays.
- The Literary Machine: This free software allows writers to compile research and writing modules that makes it easier to draw on information collected during research to write an outline or a final draft.
- New Novelist: Created for Windows users, this program is specifically designed to meet the needs of novelists, making it possible to juggle ideas, notes, and more in one place.
- Open Office: Why pay for Microsoft products when you can create free documents with Open Office? This open source software provides similar tools to the Microsoft Office Suite, including spreadsheets, a word processor, the ability to create multimedia presentations, and more.
- Script Frenzy: Scriptwriters will appreciate this software. It offers an easy layout that helps outline plots as well as providing storyboard features, index cards, and even sound and photo integration.
- Storybook: This open source software can make it easier to manage your plotlines, characters, data, and other critical information while penning a novel.
- TreePad Lite: The free version of this software keeps the writing process simple, ensuring that information stay organized and your story stays on track.
- WordPress: WordPress is another popular and free choice for starting a blog (or two).
- Writer’s Cafe: Get creative with writing fiction with this easy-to-use software. Designed by a writer, it features a notebook, journal, organizer, writing tips, and even an e-book all about writing.
- yWriter5: Another word processor for writers, yWriter5 helps break down a novel into chapters and scenes to make everything a little more manageable.
- ZohoDocs: Zoho is another free word processing suite, and like Google Drive, it allows you to write and access your work from any computer with an Internet connection.
Here's what I replied:
OpenOffice is seriously exactly microsoft office. word, excel, all that. it's the same thing. For outlining, I'm partial to regular blank paper -- i make a list of
and then little points
and then i'll indent a little and write scenes i have ideas for
AND THEN MORE BIG POINTS
and do it that way. the more bare-bones, the better. my writing partner Eric tried this iphone app called Save the Cat (the free version, oh, here it is) that gives you a 15-point outline to fill in...you can try that, too. but really just see what works for you.So I guess my big writing secret is, I don't have a big writing secret. I try to be in the moment. Sure, there are some things I know about my characters before the audience knows them -- you can't very well write a murder mystery without having some idea who the murderer was and how she slips up -- but the big, character-defining, wow-instilling moments, I like to come to at roughly the same time as the reader.
But I do spend a LOT of time, hopefully more than my readers, thinking about what's going to happen, and what might happen, and the outliers are always the most interesting parts, al pi Flannery O'Connor's idea that an ending should be both "surprising and inevitable." And those are the chances we get to surprise people. I guess those are the moments that really justify outlining and planning ahead: because you've already anticipated all the expected things, and you've come up with most of the surprising-and-probably-won't-happen endings (the "evitable" endings?), and so what remains -- bizarre, off-kilter, and true to the story -- might be your ending.
(Or it completely might not. Which is why, for the 20 pages I'm writing now, I have four different outlines going. I mean, it's a novel, which means things will get sticky...but sticky is exactly what outlines are made for.)