I have a confession to make. It will come as no surprise to those who know me well, and I’m pretty confident in saying I’m not alone. I’m addicted to my smartphone. And today, I’ll try to make the case for its usefulness in my writing “job.”
I have several apps on my iPhone that are great for writers. (Sorry, I haven’t had time to research whether they’re available for other types of phones, so you’ll have to look them up yourself if you’re interested.)
First off, the obvious ones. The notepad is one I use daily. I’m sure there are more sophisticated apps out there for jotting down thoughts and ideas on the story I’m working on (or on new ideas), but I like simple. So when something barges into my mind about a character or a plot twist or a snip of dialogue, I grab my phone, click on that lined, yellow “paper,” and type away. Because my memory in these cases is useless.
I’ve played a little with the voice memo app when ideas occur to me as I’m driving, because no matter how good the thought is, it’s not worth crashing my car for, generally speaking.
Then there’s the Kindle app, because if you’re a writer, you better be a reader. There are several other “reading device” apps that will suit your purposes, like Nook, Stanza, and maybe KOBO has one? But I’m partial to my Kindle app and would hyperventilate without it.
But then there are the more interesting possibilities for “writing” apps. For instance, the Brainstormer. I haven’t used this one for a while, but it is great for sparking the imagination. It comes with a basic brainstorming setting that has 3 wheels of random words. You spin the 3 wheels and voila, your imagination will likely light up. Even cooler, you can create your own word lists to put on the wheels. A couple of years ago, I started creating one for romance stories, where one of the wheels has basic romance story hooks, like friends-to-lovers or pregnancy, one has relationship situations/plot possibilities, and the third has random words. For instance, you might get:
* Reunion, Loner/recluse, and inn/hotel/rentals
* Teacher/nanny, ex-con, and artist
* Older man, family feud, and mentor
* Forbidden love, infertility, and super intelligent
You get the picture…and now my mind is swimming! And today, I noticed there are additions that I’m going to have to check out…one called Character Builder (99 cents), one called World Builder (99 cents), and one that I have no idea quite what it is, called Imagined Animals (free). (Um, I just tried it out and got Conjoined, Vampire bat, and Egg sack. So I’m sure this is useful for somebody but maybe not for an author of realistic contemporary romance fiction.)
Another app I use sometimes for my writing is Google Earth. Because images get my brain going in different directions. Whether I’m using a fictional or real setting, I can look up something similar on Google Earth and see what I’m writing about. Since my Texas Firefighters series is set on San Amaro Island, which is a fictionalized version of South Padre Island, I’ve spent quite a while checking out South Padre on my phone.
Another app I use for inspiration is Pinterest. Now, I’m pretty much a Pinterest flunkie…I don’t understand about following people, I don’t comment on anything, and I’m sure I’m missing out on the majority of the site, but it’s great for visual inspiration. For settings, for characters, even for research (like when I need to describe a trawler yacht, for example.) A lot of writers are visual people, and seeing what they’re writing about, or even just seeing random images, can spark all kinds of ideas, descriptions, plots, you name it. For instance, this tropical picture takes my brain in all kinds of directions.
Then there are apps that deal with whatever you’re writing specifically. Apps you can use for research. For my Texas Firefighters series, I’ve frequently used something called 5-0 Radio Free. Coolest. App. Ever. Basically, it gives you access to any emergency services scanner just about anywhere (not just in the US!) Once you download it, if you go to “Browse Scanner Feeds,” you’ll see all the listings. I chose US, and then selected Wisconsin and my county, and this is part of the list that comes up. Sometimes I listen to Dane County Fire just for the heck of it, and if there’s an actual fire going on, it gets addictive, I’m warning you. (Hello, I need to WRITE, but I can’t seem to turn this thing off and stop listening!) And I just discovered the guide to codes, which could definitely come in handy for several kinds of stories.
All these apps, I found without specifically looking for things to help me with my writing. I have no doubt a search for writers’ apps would open up a floodgate of possibilities. So if anyone else has suggestions, let me know. Because, well, sometimes it’s easier to play with writing apps than to write a book.