Published on May 10, 2021
There was a time when ‘video killed the radio star’ (great song by the way). But now the radio star has morphed into PodCasts, so it was VHS video that died not the radio star of video even. Tech can improve your writing, but not all tech is equal, and some old tech still works. So how do you work out what’s best and if you can work with it.
I’m old enough to have grown up using phone booths, ringing home ‘collect’, writing out my Masters thesis to be typed up (the person who did this was cross-eyed by the end of it), waiting for dial-up listening to the squawk, using 4 1/2 inc floppy discs.
As a business book writer, I actually used a pen and wrote whole manuscript draft in longhand, and I still do when it’s a particularly challenging piece of writing. I am sure it’s related to the fact that when I learnt to write it was by writing, not typing. My fingers, hand and brain have this memory of how my thoughts flow from my brain to the paper. This said, I have changed. Well, I’ve had to change.
From Luddite Lane to tech superhighway driver..maybe
Over the past 25 years I’ve written through various upgrades of computers, programs, software and apps designed to assist the writing process. I’ve moved from desktop to laptop, from PC to Mac (never going back although I have to stay PC current). I’ve tried numerous transcribing, spelling, grammar, proofreading and editing apps. Some worked better than others, most I’ve left on the side of the superhighway as they are simply not high enough quality to make it worthwhile in terms of the time or money spent.
But then I am someone who spells out all their words in text messages in full, uses punctuation and full sentences (mostly).
This said, there are some tools/tech that I do use that I’ve found helpful, useful, save time and money and could well work for you. Here’s my latest list of the tech I use to improve my writing.
Tech to help with the book writing process
Otter.ai – speech to text translation. One of the better transcription offerings in the marketplace. And it links with Zoom (see below re Zoom)
Fireflies.ai – free meeting and recording transcription.
Roam Research – a note taking tool for networked research
Zotero – if you’re more on the academic side of writing this might be just the took for you
Zoom – great for interviews, transcripts, video and audio recording, especially now when face-to-face interviews are much harder to organise.
Document management tech
GoogleDocs – keeps track of versions, edits and great for collaboration (essential when you’re getting feedback and go through the editing/proofreading process) AND your writing is saved to the Cloud.
I am a bit ambivalent about working in Google Docs with my clients. I can do it, but I don’t find it as easy/flowing as marking-up a Word doc via track change. Some of my clients love it, others don’t. So this is a great example of being flexible with the tech. If one way doesn’t suit/work for you try another.
DropBox – one of my favs. As I work with business book writers throughout their book journey we get to the stage where we have to share photos, diagrams, charts, tables and, of course, the page layout files. We’re talking large files that you can’t email. DropBox is a simple way to do this, doesn’t cost the earth and has various levels of storage capacity you can buy. This said, I also use WeTransfer for large files and that’s good too.
As for actual grammar, writing and editing software I have to say I haven’t met a program/offering that beats an actual writer, proofreader, editor. Of course there’s the heavily marketed Grammarly and rather cleverly named Hemmingway app. My experience of these is so-so. You can spend a lot of time following ALL their suggestions to end up with something that simply doesn’t sound like you or is unreadable at best.
I’ve also played around with Yoast, in fact I’ve used the free version with this post (perhaps you can tell). Yoast is all about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and again, it can be a bit of a trap. If you maximise your SEO you could well end up with an article that’s unreadable.
I’d like to introduce the Slow Writing movement, taking my lead from the Slow Food movement.
Slow writing is where authors, new and experienced, write (or type) their work, revise it by printing it out, marking it up with a pen and then head back to the computer to translate this to ‘the screen’. After several rounds of this process the ‘draft’ manuscript is then sent to an editor or proofreader (sometimes both) at a point in time, who provides their input – almost always now via a track-changed/marked-up document that makes the Red Sea look pink.
Perhaps then the author prints out this document, wades through the Red Sea on a raft and gets to the other side with a ‘clean’ final manuscript.
There could, of course, be another crossing, with an actual proofreader, but the same process would occur.
IF you want your business book to be the best it can be, something you are proud to stand on a stage with and talk about, this slow writing process, for me, is the only way to achieve the quality that’s required in the business world. Sloppy writing, spelling, grammar, page design and even the quality of the paper your book is printed on all reflect the standard you’re prepared to accept or not.
Tech is great, humans are better
I’ve learned to embrace all the aspects of tech in relation to how it can and does help writers write better. It’s hugely important though not to be driven by the tech. Each of us has ‘our voice’, our thoughts and ideas and our way of expressing these. This is what your audience wants to read, not some SEO-maxed article, post, blog or book.
And, I haven’t seen a tech offering that can craft a great content outline for business books that really meets the needs of the target audience for a business book. Big tech is working on this for novels (think the 7 great story arcs (btw if you haven’t heard of these watch Kurt Vonneget’s video about this…brilliant). Business books require a completely different approach.
If you’ve used some tech to improve your writing, please share in the comments.
If you want the human connection with your business book, contact me. You won’t have to go through a bot check, security profiling asking you to identifying the images with star or other such tech,