It used to be that the tools that writers used were a typewriter and a pencil. Perhaps a dictionary or thesaurus by their side. Now, the number of interesting writing tools out there for speculative fiction writers is legion. Here are the ones I use fairly regularly:
- I would never, ever write novels again without Scrivener ($40). Never, ever. If you are a novelist, or a nonfiction book writer, I strongly suggest you check it out. It is totally worth the money. It’s available for Mac and PC, and allows easy outlining, attaching all sorts of things, organizing, etc. Then, the compile function means it can create a manuscript from the project you’ve been working on. I’ve used it to write all but the first of the novels I’ve written, and I’ve never looked back.
- I use MS Word ($5/month) for the final editing stage, to send the MS to beta readers, etc. I used to be a loyal LibreOffice/OpenOffice user, but the formatting weirdness in sharing with Word users, as well as the ease of moving a Word doc to an eBook format has made me settle on Word.
- Scapple ($15) is a sort of a brainstorming tool. It allows you to quickly make connections between characters, for instance, or plot ideas, etc. For example, I’ve used it to track family members of the famous Michaelson clan from the Casitian Universe Series for the sequel I’ve been working on, set 70 years after “Humans Untied.”
- Campaign Cartographer ($45) is a great tool to make maps. I generally don’t include the maps I make in the final novel (I did once,) but I use it to create maps that are useful in the writing and plotting process. If I were more of an artist, I could do amazing things. Alas, I am not, so I do useful things.
- Aeon Timeline ($40) is a tool I wished I’d discovered when I first started writing the Casitian Universe books. (Oh, well, it wasn’t written then.) Anyway, if your speculative fiction book has different kinds of calendars (I was trying to track four(!) in the Casitian Universe Series) this is the tool for you. I’ve been using it for the sequel of Becoming Queen.
- Evernote (Free/$5 per month for pro – gives you some features and more space) is a tool that has some similarities to Scrivener, without a good compile function. But it’s great for making clippings from the web, notes, and such. I use it for just about everything around the publishing and marketing process. The nice thing about Evernote is it makes it really easy to share notes and notebooks with others. I kind of wish for a Scrivener/Evernote love child, honestly.
- Wikipedia (donate!) is my go to research tool. Do I need to know how long a Mars day is? How can I calculate the time dilation of a ship going at 1/2 the speed of light? What kind of clothes did people wear in 1860? Where did the Oregon Trail go? All this stuff I can find (generally) on Wikipedia. At the very least it provides me with a solid start.