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A utility belt for writers

  • Published at 06:08 pm August 18th, 2016
A utility belt for writers

Writing professionally is both easier and harder these days. Harder because there are more rules and expectations now, your readers are more diverse and more demanding. Easier, because there are so many tools and support groups and networks to draw from. What could the likes of Shakespeare and Hemingway have done with things like version control, one has to wonder.

Having said that, sometimes the sheer number of online writing tools on offer can be mind-boggling. From prompt banks to version control, to distraction-blockers, some people approach the art of writing as they would an Olympic sport, and enterprising tech geeks have answered with an abundance of apps and tools promising to turn you into the next JK Rowling.

For an aspiring writer, this can be really daunting. As an old-school soul, used to banging out pieces the old fashioned way – by drafting things on old-fashioned pen and paper, and then writing out a more polished draft using the most basic word processor, yours truly can testify to just how intimidating the plethora of digital tools can be. Where my former challenges used to be finding an idea, and then writing about it and producing a final draft by deadline, I am now bombarded with ads that tell me I need special writing software that formats my work for me, that I need version control software so I can keep all my drafts....aaargh! One can only imagine what this might sound like to the absolute beginner.

This is when Draft comes in. How to describe Draft? Here's what the site's creator Nate Kontny has to say: “You don't need writing software; you need someone's feedback on your writing. You don't need version control software; you need to find all the things you've written without fear. You don't need distraction free text editors; you need to find ways to write more concisely, more clearly. You don't need real time collaboration software; you need a bigger audience for your writing. I'm working on Draft to provide what you need. What I need. We need to be better writers.”

Favourite Features

Version control: This is particularly useful for collaborations. When multiple authors are working on one piece, Draft creates a copy for each author, showing a split panel with changes incorporated by each author in a separate panel. You can then accept or reject whichever changes you want for your own copy, without having to redo everything.

Feedback: What budding writer doesn't want some feedback on a project under construction? The problem with soliciting feedback is that you don't always have a qualified first reader at hand, and sometimes when you do, they might be too busy to meet your deadline. This is where that “Ask a Professional” button comes in as a lifesaver. With one click, you can send your draft to a team of reviewers who can suggest changes, which then you can choose whether to accept or reject. All the control is in your hands.

Archiving: Draft has a great system that allows you to mark each version of the piece you're working on as you go through multiple re-drafts. You can then recall all versions with a convenient search function and then put them up side-by-side to compare versions and see how your writing has evolved with time.

There are a ton of other cool features for this amazing tool. You can import documents from Google Docs, Evernote, etc, and work on Draft, which will automatically re-sync the pieces back into the applications you pulled them from. It's compatible with a number of social media sites, so you can use it for everything from Tumblr posts to Wordpress blogs.

From the beautifully minimalistic interface, to the intuitive functions and features, Draft really is one of the best things that can happen to a writer. Do you really need another reason to try it?