Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Writing in the Digital Age - John Palisano - Biggest Aha! Moments in Writing

By John Palisano

In this day and age, we’ve got so many ways to read and write. Long gone are the days of painstakingly manually typing up drafts of work on typewriters. We’ve got all sorts of devices and software to get the job done. How about we explore a couple?

Word Processors
Let’s start off with the big one: MICROSOFT WORD. It’s everywhere, and everything seems to hinge upon it. It’s been around forever, eclipsing early front runner WORDPERFECT. That being said, there are some formidable challengers, many much cheaper, free, and with responsiveness that blows the Old Girl away. Now that MicroSoft is moving toward a subscription model, who knows how it will pan out. There’s already a huge migration away from the product, especially for non-enterprise users. GOOGLE DOCS is a newcomer, but has been a huge hit. This was among the first successful online/cloud software situations where everything was online. Users do not have to install huge applications on their drives. Instead, they just need to sign in. The benefits are many. It automatically backs up with each change you make. So if your computer or tablet goes down, you can sign in elsewhere, and you’re good to go. Great. But the other huge benefit, and the one that has been its biggest benefits, is that several users can edit and work on a document or spreadsheet live. There’s even a chat area so it can be discussed as it evolves. Fantastic. There are downsides. It’s limited in some areas of functionality. There’s not a whole lot of customization like there are with local applications. The mobile versions of the apps aren’t as great. But here’s the big kicker: the entire thing is absolutely free, and works with any operating system out there, so long as getting online isn’t a problem. Google even has a notebook that takes most of its work online. Therein lies the rub. You’re in their ecosystem, and privacy conspiracists  are up in arms about this and other cloud computing systems. Make your own choice, but it seems the entire computer experience is headed this way.

LIBRE OFFICE, OPEN OFFICE are big challengers to Word. In fact, they are freeware clones of Microsoft Office, and work pretty well. They lack the visual polish and some of the features of the paid applications, but they get the job done. They even offer some features not available on Microsoft, most notably being able to open all sorts of legacy document formats and convert them. Open Office has proven to be very popular.

PAGES is exclusive to Apple computers. At least in its local version. Soon it will be available online, in a very robust version, for users of all platforms. And just like Google Docs, it will sync across computers when you sign on. It’s a very elegant system, and quite fast. It loads quickly, and the mobile versions of the application are fantastic. It’s easy to make a good looking document in no time. The mobile versions lack some of the deeper settings, but you can be very productive and then do a final format on a computer with Word or some other program. You are doing that anyway, aren’t you? Which brings me to a big piece of advice, hard learned. Check your work in other programs. Especially Word. I once wrote a story in Pages, sent it out through its built in Email function, and was mortified to find it’d simply put all the Track Changes material back into the finished story. I found this out right before it went to publication. It was embarrassing, and took a painstaking cleanup to right. Learn from my mistake.

We’ve got so many mobile writing applications it’s hard to whittle it down to the best. On the Apple side, there is Pages, which is the frontrunner. At $9.99, it’s super affordable and solid. Like mentioned earlier, it syncs well with its desktop counterpart. iWriter is another solid choice. It’s bare bones, but offers an extended keyboard so you don’t have to switch to get your quotation marks, and is really an elegant writing environment.

For Android, There is the minimalist WRITE, LightPaper, and also QuickOffice, Office Suite and Polaris Office are two other applications which mimic Microsoft Word on your Android device.  Most offer syncing to their own servers or DropBox, and give you lots of choices with formatting and document compatibility. The last few even offer Track Changes, which is very important to many writers.

The great thing about mobile writing is that one can become productive while on the go. It’s easy to jot down an idea on a phone. Of course, writing longer projects can be tiring with such small screens, but it is not that bad, especially if you use built in voice recognition software to help.


I’ve tried to give a quick overview of some basic writing tools for you. If this proves popular, I’d love to talk more about digital screenwriting, digital story outlining, and go into the different devices. For now, I’ll leave you with the above. Now stop surfing and start working. Go write.

About the Author:

John Palisano's short fiction has appeared in many places. Check out: Horror Library, Darkness On The Edge, Lovecraft eZine, Phobophobia, Lovecraft eZine, Terror Tales, Harvest Hill, Halloween Spirits, the Bram Stoker Award® nominated Chiral Mad, Midnight Walk, Halloween Tales, and many other publications. NERVES was his first novel. He is working hard on its sequel, as well as many other upcoming works.

His non-fiction has appeared in FANGORIA and DARK DISCOVERIES, where he's interviewed folks like Robert Englund, director Rob Hall, and Corey Taylor from Slipknot.

Currently, DUST OF THE DEAD, his first book from Samhain Publishing, is coming out in June 2015 with more to come from that partnership in the near future. 

 His work has been cited by the Bram Stoker Award® three times.

"Available Light" was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award® in 2013. "The Geminis" was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award® in 2014. "Splinterette" was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award® in 2015.

John's had a colorful history. He began writing at an early age, with his first publications in college fanzines and newspapers at Emerson in Boston. He's worked for over a decade in Hollywood for people like Ridley Scott and Marcus Nispel. He's recently been working as a ghost-screenwriter and has seen much success with over two dozen short story sales and his novel NERVES continues gaining critical and reader acclaim. There's more where that all came from. Lots more.

You can visit him at


where you can learn about the artist and his upcoming projects.

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