When I started writing seriously (i.e. decided to write for publication rather than for my edification), I found that I needed certain tools to write “properly.”
That doesn’t mean you can’t write without them. I am anal-retentive and need certain things to keep information straight. Plus, even though I write fictional stories about superheroes and futuristic travel, I want to be accurate on as many real-world subjects as I could.
The Earth of my future was much the same as it is now. At least, the geography of cities like New York was close enough that I could use Google Earth to reference specific streets in the cities and be accurate when describing other locations relative to where the characters were. Google Earth was tremendously helpful since the bulk of my superhero story took place in New York City. Being able to describe how someone walked from Freedom Tower (the HQ of the superheroes in my story, located at the site of the former World Trade Center) to Greenwich Village greatly enhanced the verisimilitude.
Likewise, in my YA sci-fi novella, Google Earth helped me located a plausible location for the base station of a space elevator. At the time I wrote the story, there was not as much information on space elevators as there is now.
A much-derided source of information, I’ve found Wikipedia is a good starting point if you don’t know where else to look (or if you want just a general overview). Of course, unless you’re writing academically about information on the Internet or about Wikipedia itself, you shouldn’t use it for a primary source, but if you’re looking for general information about mag-lev trains for use in a fictional story, it gets you close enough.
In my mind, it’s not THAT you’ve used Wikipedia as a source, it’s HOW you’ve used it. For anything I need to cite, or I need to make sure my information is spot-on correct, I’ll look at the Wikipedia article’s annotations and footnotes and then go to THOSE sources for the real scoop. It’s sometimes more efficient than Google.
I started doing all my writing in MS Word. I’ve since switched to yWriter. I like yWriter because it breaks your story down into scenes automatically which you can then rearrange from within the software. It also has separate areas for notes on Characters, Objects, Locations, etc., which are all accessed from one interface. If I did the same thing in Word, I would have to have a lot of different files and it would just be more difficult to organize. yWriter gives you tools to edit as well, while keeping old versions. If you want to excise an entire scene, you don’t have to delete it, you just mark it so the software doesn’t include it when you compile your story. The newer versions can also create e-reader files. Best of all: it’s FREE. But if you find it useful, you should send him a donation.
yWriter is programmed by an Australian novelist who is also an IT Guru. He offers several different software packages for writers, all free, including software for tracking submissions.
For later versions of your manuscript, you can import your story into MS Word, or LibreOffice Writer. Once you get past the first draft and start editing in earnest, it’s a little easier to revise as a whole.
Not only do I use it for gaming, but I use it for writing, too. When I have a frequently-visited building or other structure, I find it helps to map it out on paper before I write about it in detail. This helps me keep the layout straight so I don’t have continuity errors down the road (it doesn’t prevent them totally, but it sure helps keep the numbers down).