Writing Tools I Use All The Time
My go-tos for reporting, research, and writing
Every once in a while someone asks me — what tools and apps do you use in your writing?
After giving that answer a couple of dozen times, I realize I should probably just write it down, so that it’s all in one place.
So: Here we go!
A throat-clearing preamble: I’m a nonfiction writer. Mostly I write long-form magazine pieces, books, and a Niagara of blogging. So long before I do any “writing”, I do a massive amount of research: I pore over books and reports and interview people, taking notes all the while. The tools below are focused heavily on the reporting-and-gathering-info process, far more than on “the act of crafting sentences”. So if you’re writing novels or screenplays, this list may not be useful for you.
(BTW, if you dig this piece, it’s part of a series I’ve been doing on nonfiction writing techniques.)
Forthwith, here’s A Guide To The Nine Essential Tools For My Reporting And Writing …
Whenever I start a new piece of work that requires a ton of research, I use Scrivener to organize it all.
Scrivener is an incredibly complex and full-featured writing tool; tons of novelists and scriptwriters use it. It has about a zillion features, though I only use a tiny smidgen of them. Mostly I use it as a lightweight database: I create a new project and, every time I hit upon a piece of research I want to save, I make a new note in Scrivener — clipping a paragraph or two from the document or interview, or maybe a screengrab from a dataviz, and then writing a couple of my own thoughts about it. After a few days or months or weeks (or years, if it’s a book) of reporting, I’ll have anywhere from a few dozen to a few thousand notes.
What I love about Scrivener is the search is very, very fast. Nonfiction writing requires you to be able to quickly re-look at your notes — and to quickly re-find something. Because Scrivener is storing all its info on your own hard drive, it’s lightning…