Monday, 21 March 2011

Pimp My Writing

Hello my most noble Alterheroes. Today's Frost Bolt will be a bit different, due entirely to my recent interest in the topic of writing in the 21st century.

I'm the kind of guy who likes - no - loves gadgets and all that jazz, and it has been over ten years since I last wrote something substantial longhand. At this point, I fear my handwriting has deteriorated - if that is indeed possible. Nonetheless, I covet Microsoft Word as it relates to my writing. In fact, if you had told me there were other ways to boost literary efficiency, I would laugh. That is, until I discovered some very unique tools.

The first is an all-in-one media tool called Celtx.

"Celtx is the world's first all-in-one media pre-production system. It replaces 'paper & binder' pre-production with a digital approach that's more complete, simpler to work with, and easier to share."
click to visit the homepage

And boy does it ever!

Not only can you produce films, videos, documentaries, audio-visual presentations, screenplays, comics, mix tapes and storyboards, but you can also write novels on this thing. And the best part is: no more tweaking the bars to conform to the industry standard 8 1/2 x 11"; it is built in; there is a feature that lets you write notes in a side bar box, so no more using post-its or other .txt files; you can also use the built-in index cards at the crotch, which makes plotting a breeze. This free programme is a do-it-all magician and there are too many features to describe here. It may not replace your use of MS Word, but I can assure you it will most definitely be an asset in your multimedia endeavors.

Computers have come a long way in terms of Text-to-Speech technology. Microsoft introduced this tricky bit of magic with Windows Me, and since then it has evolved from robotic, inaccurate and hazy to human-like and a tad less stilted. Mind you, the voices are not perfect, but they are good enough that you no longer have to furrow in order to hear.

Two companies leading the forefront are Natrualreader and iSpeech.

click to visit the homepage
"NaturalReader is a Text to Speech software with natural sounding voices. This easy to use software can convert any written text such as MS Word, Webpage, PDF files, and Emails into spoken words. NaturalReader can also convert any 
written text into audio files such as MP3 or WAV for your CD player or iPod."

Naturalreader has a free downloadable version that has some basic features excluding top-notch voices. To attain these, you have to be willing to pay for its personal version at a cost of $49.50. Sadly, these only include two voices, which is pretty much a rip-off.

click to visit the homepage

If, like me, you love free stuff, then iSpeech is the way to go. I highly suggest you check them out, because they offer so many services. In a nutshell, they include mobile speech apps, drive safely apps (Stop texting while driving with by iSpeech - Speaks TXT (SMS) and email and lets you dictate), speech recognition software, custom voices, the ability to podcast your blog and so much more. Best of all, you don't have to download a thing and all it takes to get started is your email address. The downside to its free use is the limit to how many minutes of text-to-speech you are allowed. For free, it's 60 seconds, but for as little as three dollars you can get up to twelve hours, which is pretty decent.

This is what I was able to do using the free version to narrate the opening of my draft.

There are so many methods we can employ to get the best out of our writing experience. We are no longer restricted to pen and paper or MS Word, but a myriad of software that can set our imagination alight, or turn our computer into our own personal reader. Now that is how a 21st century writer/pimp should roll!

  • Yes
  • No
  • I'm not sure
  • I prefer old fashioned pen and paper, thank you very much


Misha said...

Haha I wrote my entire first draft in pen and paper.
Fun, but time consuming.
I'm now writing my entire MS over on another nifty freeware word processor/writing aid called yWriter.
Love it despite a few of its irritations.


T.D. McFrost said...

Oh dear lord! I think a trip to the hospital will do you some good. Writing longhand is like walking two miles in these times.

I am concerned and fascinated by your feat, albeit thoroughly frightened of long hand. I swear, now that I got a taste of technology I WILL NEVER GO BACK! Never, I say! Muahahaha!

Kelly Hashway said...

I use a combination of hand-written notes with bits of dialogue and Word. I carry notebooks everywhere for when inspiration strikes. But when I sit down to write, I use the computer. I've never tried any of these programs you've mentioned. To be honest, I'm a little scared of them. :)

T.D. McFrost said...

Scared? They won't bite. (LOL) I think you feel this way because you assume it will be difficult to learn, or get into, but it's actually quite the opposite. Celtix is so darn easy and with text-to-speech all you do is copy, paste and press listen.

It's as easy and breezy as a Cover Girl. :D

Tabitha said...

My college degree is in Math and Computer Science, so I'm all about technology and gadgets and other fun stuff. :) There's no way I could write an entire novel in pen and paper. I can actually type faster than I can write. :)

However, in the very beginning stages of a new project, my creative juices flow better when I use pen and paper. It kind of sucks because my hand is always cramping from trying to keep up with my thoughts, so I've developed my own kind of short hand. If anyone else tried to read my notes, they'd think I had escaped from an asylum or something. :) Once I've sorted out the story and characters on a high level, though, I switch to the computer.

I haven't tried the software you mention, but it looks cool! I'll have to check it out. :)

Jenny Jones- Free screenwriting software said...

Hi Everyone!!

I know this is an article about Celtx but I work at and they just released a celtx version that lets you sync your Celtx scripts with, so you can write Online and offline. You can download it from sourceforge here: or by searching there for Scripped.

Check it out, it's free! It's same as celtx but also works with Scripped which is really convenient!!


Outreach Director

T.D. McFrost said...

Tabitha - Yes ma'am, I also type faster than I write . And I must admit, I do scribble ideas on paper when they come to me, which is often...(oh!)one just popped in my head. Off to write. :D

Jenny Jones - Herro. Love your name, sounds like Bridget Jones, wanted sex goddess! (LOL)I never heard of it, so I'll check it out. Thanks for stopping by. :D

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I am a man of high hopes but low tech. No pen and paper, mind you. But the keyboard is the upper limit of my skills! LOL. But those programs you've mentioned sound amazingly helpful. Roland

Christine L. Arnold said...

The thought of not having a computer to write is terrifying. I can't read my own handwriting. And I type at least three times as fast as I can write on paper. I've heard scrivner is also really great for writing, but so far I haven't graduated past MS word.

Thanks for the comment on my blog post! I checked out your entry in the YAtopia contest - your book sounds really interesting!

Tracey Neithercott said...

Just found your blog from the lovely Kelly Hashway's blog.

I think if I tried to use only pen and paper I'd never finish a story. I'm pretty sure I'd get such severe carpal tunnel some time around chapter four that I'd be too crippled to write more.

I've never tried any of those, but a month ago I bought Scrivener (after months of deliberation) and it's awesome. I only wish I got it before I wrote my manuscript.

T.D. McFrost said...

So many new and old Alterheroes stopped by today. I love it!

Roland - Pish-Posh, I'm sure you are a man of many talents. You also sound ancient. Are you a Holy Orpheon? Don't know what that is? If you really wanna know, email me and I'll tell ya. ;)

Christine - You're a blond bombshell! Love the sexy ladies joining my trove.

I would shrivel into a prune without my laptop and MS Word. The thought just made me lose 10% of body fat! :(

You're most welcome and I mean every word I wrote. You rock!

Tracy - You're also very pretty. So today I hooked a blond and a brunette. Score a touchdown for Tyson! (LOL)

Thank you for stopping by and following. And I agree: with the innovations of technology, it's hard to go back to the 'brick and mortar' way of things. If only the publishing Industry were so liberal with their thinking...

I've heard of that Schrivner thingy, but, like Christine, I haven't graduated past MS Word yet. But I will check it out.

Lo said...

I just read your pitch over on YAtopia, it's great! Good luck (now, if only I could escape revision hell so I can start entering contests again. Sigh!) Anyways, I have to say, complicated technology kind of distracts me when it comes to least of late. I have Scrivener, but I started writing this latest draft in MSWord...I just wanted nothing but a blank white page!

T.D. McFrost said...

Laura - You really think it's great? I personally read it over and could've done a much better job. However, I do appreciate the support. Thank you so very much! :D

Where's your entry? I'll stop by and give it some love.

Thanks for stopping by.

Lo said...

Well, if you already have thought of ways to make it better then entering the contest was worth it :-) (but I did think it was great!)

I didn't enter this WIP is far from being ready for agent eyes!

Ron Starc said...

The current best text to speech software is Text Speaker. It has customizable pronunciation, reads anything on your screen, and it even has talking reminders. It is great for kids as it highlights the words as they are being read. The bundled voices are well priced and sound very human. Voices are available in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, and more. Easily converts blogs, email, e-books, and more to MP3 or for listening instantly.

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