Tools of the Trade: Writing


Writing — The tools I use and love the most. 

3x5 Index Cards - For brainstorming just about everything, I prefer old school index cards and a large wooden table. Hit that table with a little furniture polish (I prefer lemon scent) and you can quickly slide cards around and pour your brain out onto the table. Having the ability to see everything at once is the most powerful advantage of the system. There are several software solutions to index cards, and I've tried most of them, but my brain works exponentially faster and smarter with traditional cards. Give it a try sometime. 

Workflowy - Great app and web app for organizing thoughts, outlining, notes, etc. Great quick key functionality to keep things moving, and it has a hashtag feature that makes sorting and filtering amazingly easy. I'll usually take my index cards directly into Workflowy to start building and refining projects. I use it to create comic stories, classes and workshops, keynote presentations, and even a new nonfiction book I'm working on. it's also for harvesting random bits of ideas that don't yet have a home, and the search and hashtag features allow you to sort through ideas very quickly. I use it daily, highly recommended.

Slugline - My favorite scriptwriting app, but last time I checked it was Mac only. Slugline is fast, clean, and most of all, it's future proof because it uses Fountain, a simple markup syntax for text that was co-created by screenwriter John August who has his own sriptwriting app called Highland. Highland is also brilliant and similar to Slugline, but Highland can actually crack and import just about any PDF screenplay. I've been able to quickly pull in some of my old work from my days in Final Draft because I had saved them as PDFs. As a guy with old Quark and Aldus Freehand design files (as well as WordPerfect and Appleworks text documents) this stuff is nearly impossible to open unless you're still using a computer built in the 90s. With Slugline and the Fountain file format, your scripts are essentially simple text so any application can open and edit these files. If you use the Fountain format, you can write a scene in any text editor, then paste it into Slugline and your formatting will be perfect. I've actually written entire scenes on my iPhone in the Notes app, and pasted it into Slugline without a single edit required. It's wonderful. I own Slugline and Highand, but I prefer Slugline because of the on-screen formatting. 

For iPhone and iPad edits of the same files via Dropbox, I use --

Editorial - Great mobile editor of text, markdown, and more. There are even Workflows you can download to export and email clean PDFs of finished scripts right from the phone. Note, there is also an iOS version of Slugline, but so far I haven’t had much luck with all the crashing. - Easily my favorite online thesaurus, and I've tried just about all the major sites. Clean interface, great word suggestions ranked and sorted by actual users, and less noise overall. Sometimes you just need a different word, or you want to break something down in a different way, Power Thesaurus is the word bomb.

Booklet - Once I'm deep into full outlines or scripts, I like to proofread with printed files. To save on paper and hassle, I use the double-sided booklet feature in Adobe Acrobat, and hit the center of the booklet with two staples. I end up with a great little 5.5 x 8.5 booklet. 

If you give these a try and enjoy using them, let me know! I’m on most major social networks, but mostly active on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. You can also get my newsletter.