What App Do Writers Want? (Plus Prizes!)

As some of you know, I’m a software developer when I’m not writing fiction. I have been looking at exploring some new technologies lately, and would like to do so by working on a meaningful side project. After some thought, I settled on wanting to create something that would be useful to writers.

I could cheat and make something that I would personally find useful, but what fun is that? Instead, I want to hear from you, in case maybe you are sitting on some amazing idea, just waiting to be realized. So, the question stands – as a writer, what app would be most helpful to you?

This would be something accessed online (I’m not a mobile app developer, yet). It can be complex or simple. It can be anything, really. Some spit-balled ideas that I’ve had are:

  • Timeline Tracker: Visual informational tool to make sure all of your story’s events fit nicely into your continuity.
  • Character Tracker: For those who might have stories with lots of characters, keeping a handle of all of them can be daunting. Who’s dead, again? When did he die?
  • Collaborative Universe Designer: This is kind of a pie in the sky thing that relates to another dream project. Essentially, this would provide a framework for multiple people to collaborate on creating a shared universe. This would encompass both of the previous ideas and more.

Those are just some general ideas, so don’t let them restrict what you might come up with. I’m interested to see what would be really meaningful for people. I’m also not opposed to replicating something that’s a pay-to-play platform, if you find that a burdensome limitation.

I’m feeling extra generous, so let’s throw some prizes into the mix here. Everyone that comments with an app recommendation gets a chance to win a paperback copy of Fauxpocalypse or Heroes and Villains (not yet released). I’ll pick one winner randomly, and if I choose your idea for my side project you will also win a book. No firm deadline on this, but get your ideas in soon, as I want to start working on the project. I’ll pick winners when I feel it’s appropriate.

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14 thoughts on “What App Do Writers Want? (Plus Prizes!)

  1. If we are going for utter pie-in-the-sky:

    A deviation from target audience tracker: similar to a grammar/spell checker, only instead of telling you whether a text is valid for a selected language/dialect it suggests areas that will be confusing for a given language/dialect.

    For example, US texts might have “Randy” and “gang-banger” highlighted if the app was set to British English because the words have a different common meaning.

  2. An app that will allow you to create a custom dictionary for e-books.

    For example, I have the Kindle version of Frank Herbert’s classic “Dune”, which comes with several appendixes, one of which is a glossary of terms used in the book. Now, that was fine in the print version, but it’s kind of frustrating to have to go to the glossary for “mentat”, for example, when one can just highlight “sirocco” and have a definition pop up.

    What’s more, many phrases are composed of common words but have their own meanings– “oil lens”, for example.

    I’ve invented a number of words for my books, and it would be great to be able to include an app with the books that would automatically define “ambimorph” or “orthovore” for my readers.

    • That would be handy, but is probably outside of the scope of this project. That would probably have to be a custom reader app altogether, which isn’t going to be a great online utility. I don’t know if any of the popular reader apps are open source or extensible to build onto.

  3. I judge apps on whether I’d use them, so a character tracker type app would be something I’d be interested in. Whilst worldbuilding is something I used to struggle with, creating joe bloggs and all of his relatives is something I can do in an instant. As you can imagine, this means that, even if they don’t turn up in the story, I want to know and track everything about those characters. At the moment, I’m using free family tree site FamilyEcho.com. Of course, people have to be related to track them that way. πŸ˜›

    • Yeah, I’ve read a lot of writers complaining about keeping track of their characters. Having something that tracks their info and relationships, familial or otherwise, seems like it would be helpful.

  4. I agree, an app to keep track of your characters would be extremely useful. πŸ™‚ As far as original ideas go, I’d love an app that could keep all of my notes and ideas in one place. Right now I use folders and color-coded index cards, but some sort of spreadsheet program with categories for characters, plot, kingdoms, anything would be a huge help.

    • Have you looked into Scrivener? It’s a paid license program, but it does everything you’re looking for. I tried the free trial, and I really enjoyed all of its functionality for planning and assembling discrete bits of information like character bios and miscellaneous notes/research. The downfall for me was that I write in literally 3-4 places, and it didn’t have great (or really any) support for that. If you write in the same place all the time, could be worth looking into.

      • Ooh, I haven’t actually tried Scrivener, though I’ve heard it mentioned before. It sounds awesome! πŸ™‚ I’ll definitely look into it, thanks!

        (And now since my creative juices are flowing, I came up with another idea): How about an “Inspire Me” app? Whenever you’re feeling stuck, you can pull up the app and click to one of three sections: Music, characters, or words. If you go to music, you click on the “Inspire Me” button, and a random clip of music plays. If you go to characters, you click on the button, and it gives you a character to put in your story. Maybe something like, “Middle-aged man, recently divorced, has two kids” or something even crazier, “Unicorn with anxiety issues.” Then finally, if you go to the words section, you click on the button, and it gives you a random word to get you going.

        No idea if this is any good or not, but I thought I’d share. πŸ™‚

      • Ooh! And a picture section that gives you a random image to inspire you! (I promise I’ll shut up now.)

      • Haha, the only problem I see with this is generating the content. Again, seems like it would need some kind of user submission portion. Music and pictures also come with copyright concerns. So, probably doable, but not as easy as it sounds.

      • Oh, right. πŸ˜› Probably should’ve thought of that. *facepalm*

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