A Tool is Not the Product

Unless you are a tool maker, then I guess it is. As I’m working through edits on Ascent of the Fallen, I’m trying to learn to use new tools. Or at least, programs I’m used to but using them in new ways.

I heard a comment on a recent Creative Penn podcast that insinuated “You do outlines better than I do.” And it made me scratch my head. Is the level of outline use expectation higher for fiction or non-fiction? How can someone be “better” at outlining, something that’s a purely creative function? Hmm…

Well, I remind myself of two things. First, the tool is not the product. Just because you have or use a particular application, program, or whatever, that doesn’t make you an author. Writing a book does. People write using many different mediums. I understand George R.R. Martin writes on an old featureless word processor. Some folks hand-write their first drafts. Ommwriter, Word, Scrivener, whatever. Writing is writing. Find what works for you and use it.

Secondly, if you use a particular tool, we shouldn’t compare ourselves to everyone else as “better” or “worse”. How can we compare such things? If you aren’t Steven King writing “Misery”, then how can you say you are better or worse at using the tools he does? We should all strive at becoming more and more proficient at our craft. I love learning new things about Scrivener. But I don’t think I’m better or worse than others. I’m not doing what they are. Maybe I emulate some of their attributes, but I won’t get down on myself.

So what am I using? These are some of the tools in my toolkit.

Scrivener: I bought the hype and got myself Scrivener based on the strong positive recommendations of many self-publishing authors. It’s a word processing software package. I’ve used the Windows and Linux variants and enjoyed both. I really appreciate the methods on dividing up chapters and sections and the ability to natively keep notes, pictures, ideas, and beats. The backup features are great. And as I’ve learned more tactics, I find my writing moving along faster and more efficiently. It will also compile what I’ve written into a variety of formats, which makes publishing a breeze.

Evernote: While I keep many story-specific notes in Scrivener, I keep the big story line in Evernote. I use this for a bunch of purposes. I can download and save articles of interest, pictures, and other research. I can write out broad story arcs, story foolscaps, and other global tools to keep the story aligned and ensure I meet my overall goals. And I can create and track business-type information as well. And it syncs to all my devices (I completely justify the annual license fee.)

Editing: I used two tools for editing so far, and plan to use a third.

Adobe: For my “real” job, I use Adobe Acrobat to create and edit pdfs of my technical writing. I’ve had good luck in providing my beta readers pdf copies of chapters to read and give feedback on. It was a universal enough format that everyone could read how they liked. And it have the ability to add digital comments too.

Kindle: As I’m doing my line-by-line edit, I’m using my Kindle app to do my work. I don’t like using my actual Kindle Paperwhite, but I can do alright on my phone or a 8″ tablet. I’m reading in the same format and style that my reader will, so I can see where words bunch up, repetitive words, and small type-setting errors. And when I don’t like the word choice or notice a missing thing, I can add notes. The tablet and phone work better for that function alone.

Microsoft Word: My last tool is an oldy. I use Word exclusively to do word processing for my professional technical writing. But I never liked it as a writing tool for creative work. Not as functional. However, for editing, Word may be a necessary solution. What tool i my editor most comfortable with? What tool will allow me to easy see where changes need to be made? And I think I can use Word on my left screen, Scrivener on my big screen, and keep things flowing. We’ll see. I’ve always appreciated the red line strike out (RLSO) features in Word, as well as keeping comments from multiple people in group edits.

These may be the tools I use, but they needn’t be the tool you use. And I’m still learning as I go. Hopefully you never end up defining yourself only by the programs on your home screen.

P.S. – Not a huge deal, but I’ve written on an Asus Vivobook ultrabook laptop, and now on a Microsoft Surface 3 Pro. The Pro is great.

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