Monday, January 2, 2012

Useful Software for Writers

by Ben Small
I confess to being a computer and software junkie. Yep, guilty as charged. I about wet myself when Apple first came out with the Apple 2, and was one of the first in line when its 2e came out. Since then, I've always had at least one computer, and currently I run four (two desktops, two laptops). And funny thing, none of these computers are Apples. The reason: I don't know anybody who uses Apple, so have no one to turn to when I need help. Yes, Microsoft is maddening, but at least I understand most of Microsoft logic by now and can cure most problems I experience. If not, I have friends who can.

And since I love computers and I write, I'm always looking for software to help me do just that. I use Microsoft Word as a word processor, but when I work on a novel, I use Write-Brain's Power Writer. I'll tell you why a bit later, since I've blogged about Power Writer before.

Recently, however, noting trends of writers preparing book trailers and posting them on their websites, Facebook and on YouTube, I started exploring easy options to allow me to do just that. Problem is, I don't know much about video technology, about video or audio formats.

And then, I stumbled upon Camtica, from Jiteco. Camtica.

Here's what attracted me to Camtica:

"Camtica enables you to create professional screen recordings, presentations, tutorials and more. You can record any desktop activity with voice, webcam and animated mouse clicks. The resulting video can be saved in various formats including AVI and WMV. 
"Why do you need Camtica?
 * To create professional screen recordings, demonstrations, presentations, screencasts, tutorials and more 
 * To generate effective videos that help you train, teach, sell and more
* To create demonstration videos for any software program
 * To show customers how to use your product
* To create on-demand interactive training, tutorials for school or college class
 * To create a set of videos answering your most frequently asked questions
 * To share your recordings on YouTube, and other videos sites
 * Records entire desktop, selected rectangle region, dynamic region around mouse cursor, webcam
 * Records anything on the screen including windows, objects, menus, full screen and rectangular regions
 * Records desktop screen with audio and webcam together - personalizing your videos by including a webcam movie of yourself over your desktop at any position
 * Records video chats, Skype video calls, games, flash movies played on sites
 * Mouse highlighting spotlights the location of the cursor
 * Records video in many video file formats including AVI and WMV
 * Supports various video and audio codecs
 * Free support and advice
 * Free lifetime updates and upgrades
 * System requirements: Windows XP/2000/2003/Vista/Windows 7

"It’s easy to use as one, two, three."
Then I looked at the software controls, the so-called "ease of operation" aspects. I hate complex software, like Dramatica. Life is complex enough without having to spend countless hours learning the ins-and-outs of software I'll use occasionally. These looked simple enough. And Camtica is priced right: $9.95. {Can you believe that price? You can even get it free if you jump through a couple hoops and act immediately.} You can see screen shots of these controls at the website I've linked. 

So imagine you have some photos relating to your book's setting or topic. Or a video you want to produce. You want a trailer. Or maybe you got some good reviews, either on video or somewhere else. You want to display these. Camtica gives you simple flexibility, putting some muscle into your creative arts. Sure, you can spend thousands of dollars for complex software to do this, or hire a publicist, graphics artist and a webmaster. But why? In most cases, you'll pay these costs yourself, and if you want to create your own promotional stuff, you'll spend mucho hours in a classroom somewhere.

If you own a quality video camera -- even some smartphone cameras -- and some basic and simple editing program, you've got the tools for quality trailers, just not the software to put it all together. 

Camtica gives you that tool.

Check out Camtica. Like me, I think you'll like it.

As for the novel itself, I've used Power Writer for years, have bought more than one copy -- remember, I use four computers. Why? Because Power Writer give me tools Microsoft Word does not, the ability to create a character database, outline-as-I-go and compose screens all connected together. Plus it's got a decent thesaurus and is connectable to Power Structure, Write-Brain's structure assistance software. While this latter program sounded good, however, and indeed, I bought it, I've never used it, because PowerWriter contains enough of these features I haven't needed what Power Structure offers. And Power Writer is easy to use; it follows most of Microsoft Word's features, and when my novel is finished, I convert it to Word before transforming it into any other format I need. Power Writer

Ever forget which eyebrow bears a character's scar? Just copy and paste that description into your character database in the lower screen (expandable), and have no trouble manipulating Search commands to find it again. And Plot points of your outline are automatically grayed into your composition screen or you can enter them into your composition screen and they automatically appear in your outline. Print up either or both.

For character development, I usually turn to books, but I've also used Character Pro 5, which I understand has now been merged with Quick Story into a new software program called Character Writer. Truth be told, I haven't shelled out yet for Character Writer -- although as a software junkie I may do so someday -- because as a trait-tracker and character-depth generator, Character Pro 5 works just fine. Character Writer


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Mark W. Danielson said...

Thanks, Ben. I'll have to check these things out. However, I'm so sick of "updates" that are supposed to help me and do the opposite that I could scream. Not sure I can handle any more CGF. (Computer-generated frustration.)

Jaden Terrell said...

These sound like interesting programs, though I usually like reading about them better than I like using them! I'm considering Scrivener. Do you have any experience with that?