Posted by: Phil Anderson | March 3, 2013

Technology and Writing

I’m always amazed when I read about authors who write novels longhand with a pencil on paper. I know that up until about forty years ago that’s the way it had to be done, but I just can’t imagine doing it. My handwriting is illegible (because I don’t practice) and I mentioned before that I like to edit as I go, and that’s a frustrating process on paper. I don’t know that I could be a writer without technology.

Of course my first piece of writing technology was a desktop computer. I was a teenager in the 80’s, so I started with a Commodore 64 (which was more difficult to use than a pencil and paper) and upgraded a couple of times a decade, managing with my budget to stay within five years of being state-of-the-art. Microsoft Word has long been my tool of choice for writing, mostly by default.

When the time came to consider something more mobile, I of course looked at laptop computers. This was many years ago and they were very expensive, beyond what my budget could handle. They also did more than what I wanted. I didn’t plan to play games or do any complicated computing; I just wanted to write. So with a little more research I discovered the Pocket PC.


I bought myself an HP iPaq running Windows Mobile with a pocket version of Microsoft Office. With a wireless keyboard that I bought to go with it, I was operational. I actually wrote the second half of my first novel on my mobile device during lunch hours at work and I started a second novel on it.

After several years of faithful service the screen cracked, and over the course of the next few months it went completely black. My search for a new pocket-sized computer led me to Apple’s iPod Touch. I was surprised, because I thought it was a music player, but with a new wireless keyboard and a word processing app I was back in business. I finished writing the first draft of my next novel on it, and I’m using my upgraded iPod Touch for editing and revisions.

Besides word processing (I use Office²) there are a lot of other apps that I’ve found useful when I’m writing:

  • Of course there is the all important dictionary. I use because it was free. The thesaurus is especially useful when I’m trying to find just the right word.
  • When I’m making up place names in a fantasy story and want something that sounds Spanish-y or Norse-ish I use my iTranslate app (also free).
  • There’s a (free) app for WordPress that I can use to update this blog, moderate comments, and see if anyone is reading what I write.
  • One of my favorites is Idea Sketch, which lets you create a flowchart or diagram of your ideas. I used it to chart out the second draft of my novel to find plot holes or ideas that aren’t connected. Here’s a picture of part of my current project, with different colors representing characters, and shapes to indicate locations:

Conquest of Theran

Besides those apps, I use my iPod to search the internet for information, download books to use as references or just inspiration, and believe it or not, to listen to music (usually movie scores) that inspire me when I’m writing.

How about you? If you have any useful apps or other technology that helps you create, leave a comment and share.

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