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Tales of a Modern Writer – The Beginning

The Beginning

First off, let me just say I couldn’t survive in an era without technology. It opens so many doors for me to accomplish things that weren’t possible for me growing up. I imagine my young life would have been quite different with access to the tools I have today. I would have been able to start my writing career much sooner.creative writing 386

Technology is essential, not just to me but to many kids who once would have been dismissed as lazy or incapable. I grew up with ADHD, a disorder I’d never even heard of until I got to college. It wasn’t diagnosed as regularly as today, and medication certainly wasn’t as well-accepted. I was fortunate. My intelligence got me by, though I did have my fair share of troubles. I never realized my potential. I thought “good enough” was my best. In my second year of teaching, I was finally diagnosed. A whole new world was opened up for me. I was still ADHD, but I had acquired my first tool in my arsenal to accomplish my dreams.

Technology opened many new doors. I’d already begun using it as a means for connecting with people, finding new ways to cope in my life. Once I discovered the power behind technology, I began to embrace it wholeheartedly. Before I knew it, I came to rely on all sorts of programs and devices to keep me organized. Most importantly, it was tech that allowed me to start writing.

Had these tools been available when I was younger, I might have started my writing career much sooner. The tools I really needed, however, hadn’t been invented yet. I needed portability and the ability to keep track of everything I wanted to work on. With a lot of trial and error, I’ve finally found what works for me.

In future posts, I’ll talk about each of the tools and programs I use to compensate for my shortcomings. I will share what works best for me. As a writer, experimentation is essential as you find the right development process. If you’re like me, some of these tools may just make it possible for you to achieve your goals!

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Tools for Writing

As a teacher of students with special needs and an author, I’ve been asked a few times what tools have been useful both in the classroom and for writing in general. This post is dedicated to sharing some of the best tools and strategies that I have found for writers who struggle with the task of writing and organization. I, myself, have ADHD and it wasn’t until later in life that I began to explore medication as an option to treat it. It opened new doors for me as I never thought that I could concentrate long enough to write. Even with medication, the task of writing is difficult. Keeping scenes and story-lines can be a daunting process. Fear not, for I have found some great tools and strategies that have made me a better writer and to achieve my dream of a published novel.

First, let’s address writing in general. There are several helpful programs that can help both students and adults to produce better written compositions and manuscripts. One of the most popular used in school is the SOLO Suite software developed by the Don Johnston Company. This is the leading software for students who struggle with DyslexiaDysgraphia, and other disorders which make the task of writing difficult. The software addresses two major areas of concern for most writers with disabilities, or even those without. It provides word prediction as well as text-to-speech audio feedback that can assist students and adults who struggle with spelling, phonological processing, auditory processing, or other orthographic disabilities. The software is easy to install and easy to use. While typing it gives the composer word choices that are both phonologically sensitive as well as context bound to ensure that the most likely word the writer is going to use will appear on the list of choices. This is essential to writing. Most word prediction software uses a similar approach; and word prediction is becoming more common place on mainstream devices. In time, the use of software such as SOLO Suite may become obsolete as these features will be built in to your devices by default. Until then, this is a great solution for written compositions in the home and at school

The use of tablet computers, such as Apple’s iPad is revolutionizing the way that teachers are able to teach and the way students are able to access information. In a past post, I illustrated the way that technology is providing opportunities for kids and students like never before. It has opened the doors for kids who otherwise would have been unable to perform on a given task. Because tablets like the iPad have many accessibility features built-in, it enables students to access information in a way that is natural and effective. The iPad has text-to-speech built right into iOS. This means that you don’t need to rely on 3rd party software to access this amazing feature. Jump into the settings under “Accessibility” and you can enable text-to-speech very easily. The voice is natural sounding with realistic inflection. This keeps it from reading like a monotonous computer and provides accurate auditory feedback for students.

I have also found this to be an indispensable tool for me as a writer. After I have completed a chapter or scene, I can easily go back and read the scene on my iPad, enabling text-to-speech and it forces me to read (or at least hear) everything I’ve written in a scene. I catch far more errors this way and it allows me to focus better on my writing. Without text-to-speech, I find that I “insert” words into my writing that aren’t there only to realize later that the sentence sounded nothing like I had read it in my head.

The iPad, of course, already has built-in text prediction as well as spell-check which are also essential tools for any writer. While the text prediction on the iPad is not as accurate or helpful as SOLO Suite software, there are 3rd party applications in the App Store that provide similar benefit. Abilipad and Typ-O HD are examples of two really good writing applications on the iPad that provide very similar features to SOLO Suite.

For organization of writing it doesn’t get any better than Scrivener. This word processor was designed from the ground up to be the perfect writing tool. And as someone who has tried many many writing tools, I can assure you Scrivener is by far the best. It offers a level of customizability that you won’t find in any other software. While some of these features may be a bit on the complicated side, the average user can function with the software just fine without ever even knowing they exist. It offers an outstanding organization feature that saves oodles of time. If you’re like me and have big aspirations for creating a plan for a story only to find that your scenes have gone off in completely different directions, you’ll appreciate the ability to move scenes around easily in Scrivener. It gives you the option to view scenes as notecards that can be rearranged on a whim which will move your scenes around in your manuscript with ease! It’s incredibly helpful even for the most devout plotter. You can build your scenes as a stack of notecards or an outline, make notes about scenes and characters, color code scenes based on whatever helps you keep track of things, and even add tags to help search for things in longer manuscripts. You can copy and paste research right into your Scrivener file so that everything you need for your manuscript is right at your fingertips! I can’t say enough about how wonderful Scrivener is. My only complaint is that they have not yet released an iPad app, however, it syncs very well with Plaintext (which is how I can easily read what I’ve written).

screen-shot-2013-04-01-at-12.25.19-pmIf you haven’t figured out the beauty of document syncing between devices, this is probably the biggest benefit I have seen with the modern push into the tablet world. I find it to be a very comfortable and effective workflow to type my story on my laptop, pick up my tablet and go read over what I wrote on the couch while I listen to it using text-to-speech. This not only breaks up the monotony of sitting in a seat (or wherever you type your stories) and then reading over it in a more natural way. Reading on a small tablet is like reading over your work in a book. It’s just one of those things you’ll have to experience for yourself. There are many many tools for effective document syncing: iCloudDropboxBoxSugarsyncSkydrive, etc… The list could go on and on. There are more and more solutions, each offering their own mixture of user experiences and usefulness. The two I rely on most are Dropbox and iCloud.

Whether you are comfortable with Mac or Windows, iOS or Android, there are many options out there that can help with improving your experience or your child’s experience with writing. It can make the difference between being able to write and not for some kids with disabilities and can enhance the writing of those who do not have disabilities. It’s all about finding the right tools for you. If you have any questions or would like more knowledge about how these software options can help you, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be happy to offer any advice I can give.

Happy Writing!!

If you have specific questions that you would like to have answered that are related to this topic, feel free to ask them in the comments section below. For more information about the author, please visit: J.M.Cataffo’s Author Website

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I thought this was an amazing video that illustrates the amazing things our youth are capable of if given the chance. Granted this kid is well beyond gifted, but it just goes to show you that our gifted learners are just as important as the struggling ones.

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Writing on the iPad

You know, some people are so adamant about how awful the iPad is for writing novels. I sincerely beg to differ! The iPad has changed how I write novels. I’m not longer bound to a desk or table on a large computer that I can’t move. Or even chained to a laptop because , seriously, as portable as they are, there is still much to be desired on being able to crack one open on a whim and bang out a paragraph or two. Of course there are those that cry out, “Buy a MacBook Air already!” Well for those rich snobs that can afford one, more power to ya! There’s only one accessory I need for my iPad to make it the perfect writing tool, a wireless keyboard. While I have become pretty proficient at typing on the on-screen keyboard, I find that it is a bit cumbersome for long jaunts. The thing that makes the iPad so useful as a writing tool is that it’s portable enough that I can keep it with me no matter where I am. I find myself jotting down ideas, writing paragraphs, editing sections that I’ve had an epiphany about. Best things is, I don’t have to remember the change until I get home. I can whip out the iPad and make the change without missing a beat! I’ve written both of my books on the iPad and I don’t plan to change. It’s the best tool yet for my writing. I’ll talk more about the apps I use soon, but if you use an iPad to write, share your successes and struggles!

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Technology and Writing

One of the best things about being a writer today is all of the fascinating gadgets and tools that are out there to help shape your craft. A lot of people are stuck in the old paper and pencil trap and feel that is the only way to truly get any writing done. Since the advent of computers, it has transformed writing. For the first time, writers didn’t have to worry about rewriting and carrying around hundreds of sheets of paper. Writers can now edit on the fly with word processors and move details around at will.

The most recent piece of technology that I have found to be useful is the iPad. I’ve read a lot of things about how horrible the iPad is for writing, but I beg to differ. For the past two years, I’ve worked mostly on the iPad to write my current project. It is especially useful for editing and revising. Rather than having to be stuck at a desk or table with your bulky laptop (assuming you haven’t purchased an ultra-light laptop), you can sit comfortably in bed, on the couch, or even at the coffee shop and browse through your story, making necessary changes along the way.

It’s most useful for those spur-of-the moment ideas that tend to hit you when you don’t have your laptop with you. I’m notorious for popping up in bed in the middle of the night and wanting to make a quick change that I just thought of. The thought of opening my laptop and waiting for it to boot in the middle of the night is agonizing. With the iPad, I just pop it off the stand, make my change, and drop it right back in. Done! It truly has been a lifesaver for me and my writing.

The other complaint I hear is that people don’t like to type on the iPad. I tell ya, I had a bit of trouble at first, but now I’ve gotten to where I can type on it pretty well and if typing on the screen is uncomfortable, there’s always that nifty Bluetooth keyboard. There are so many tools on the iPad that I’ve found is helpful in organizing my thoughts, planning scenes, keeping track of plot points, and even throwing together some rough ideas for artwork. If you have any thoughts on the iPad or other technologies, please share! Perhaps you can inspire a writer to try some new tools!

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