Saturday, February 13, 2016

No Revelations About Tools or Tricks To Be Found Here

I’m a pretty straight forward writer of books and don’t use much in the way of fancy applications.  A long time ago I did switch to writing on the computer as my handwriting got worse and worse (not that it was ever too pretty).

Eons ago, long before I became published, I first used Wordstar, with dot commands and other arcane such tricks, but I happily switched to WORD when it came along. I still faithfully pound the keys in WORD nowadays.

Tweetdeck keeps me up to date with my amazing twitter Followers and the intriguing people that I Follow. There’s no way to manage the always-cascading timeline I have in twitter itself. I’m hoping their new revision of the timeline won’t mess me up too much. I have Tweetbot on my cell phone.

Canva is my choice for creating promo graphics…I’m not too good at coming up with snappy ones
like many other authors do, but I try. I putter. I have fun. It's a tool that isn't too complex for my nontech mind. (Can you believe I was on the implementation team that installed Oracle at JPL in the late '90's? Me either LOL! I was more of a change management person than a programmer though.) Incidentally, I'm sharing a few of my Canva efforts on this post for your delectation...

ccCleaner keeps my cache and other mysterious, hidden computer archives from clogging up the works too much.

Carbonite backs up my laptop stuff daily. It slowed down my email too much for me to run it constantly. I'm highly impatient. Those few seconds of lag drive me CRAZY.

Norton sniffs out viruses and other insidous attacks for me…

Some of the other creative people with whom I collaborate use Google docs, so I’ve learned how to do that…I schedule meetings, Facebook parties and dentist appointments in Calendar…I do blog posts in Wordpress and Blogger….my audiobook narrator put up samples of the audio books in Soundcloud…

I use a noisy kitchen timer to tell me when to stop typing, and get up and walk or be busy on my feet for 10 minutes before resuming the keyboard workout…

And of course THE most essential component of my life as an author are The Cats, who tell me when I need to pay attention to THEM. Enough said!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Tools of the Trade

Let's just all acknowledge that music is a huge portion of what gets me going. The MP3 player and good quality stereo ear buds are a prerequisite to me writing. Without piping creepy music into my brain, I'm the dog in the Disney Pixar movie UP. Every noise, every vaguely overheard conversation will drag me out of working and into eavesdropping - you know - in the interest of future stories. I am especially susceptible if there's the least hint of conflict in a voice or voices. Lacking an ivory tower in which to write, I do my darnedest to manage my focus. Most of my writing tools center on that.
  1. MS Word It is possible I once toiled in the mines where this software was produced. Which means it's where I'm comfy. Dusty and stained by the blood of developers though it may be. This is where all editing, formatting, rewriting and stitching the corpses of my enemies --- er ---where stitching stories together happens. Sometimes I draft here, but Word has a lot of clutter on the screen and I will occasionally switch to one of the tools or apps that follow.

  2. Pen and paper because writing by hand accesses a different part of the brain while you're writing and once in a while there's value in coming at a story from another angle.  

  3. Rocketbook Notebook This is a notebook. You write whatever you want by hand with a specific pen (the ink is the key to the magic here). Once you've finished your masterwork, you bring up the app on your phone, snap a photo of each page and presto, your scrawl is scanned into the cloud location of your choice. You can classify and sort pages as they're uploaded. You can email them to yourself, too. When you've filled this notebook, you take it to a microwave. You zap it for a few seconds and presto. The pages are blank again. You start over.

  4. OmmWriter This is one of my favorites. It is a simple text pad application nestled into an encompassing visual and auditory environment that takes over your computer screen, acting as a distraction blocker. It's designed specifically for drafting. The writing screen is tiny so as to draw you deep into the environment and into a semi-hypnotic state of flow. It offers several sound track and key click sound options and it is recommended for use with headphones. When I want to shut out the world and make some tracks, this is a great place to do it. The only drawback is that anything you import from this application comes into Word poorly formatted. You will have to spend a few seconds reformatting and doing a global search and replace on straight quotes - for some reason, the quotation marks resist being turned curly when I switch them to Times New Roman.

  5. Dark Room. Variation on the 'suck you in' theme. Dark Room emulates an old Commodore 64. Black background, green text. Blocks anything from popping through - whether that's mail notifications or IM windows. Drafting tool only. No editing available. Same deal as with OmmWriter. You will have to mess with formatting. But such is life.  

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Tools and Process

A question that keeps getting lobbed at me looks something like this:
"What's your process?  How do you actually write?"
Yeah, that's not as easy a question as you'd think.
You see, a lot of what I'm doing when I'm working is trying to get a small portion of the bigger picture into focus.  Whether it's outlining a novel or drafting a scene, I'm honing in on a tiny part of the grand vision in my skull and trying to grab hold of it.
This is why I love this noise-reduction headphones I've been wearing lately.  My assaulting my ears and shutting off the rest of the world, I can let my brain go deep into the mode it needs to be to in to be able to focus on the work.  It's almost like putting myself into a trance.  Heck, sometimes I put the same song on repeat, let it just drone over and over in my skull so the creative things have nowhere else to go.
And as much as I love my laptop and writing on Scrivener-- yeah, I'm a Scrivener writer. Nothing else matches the hopscotch way my brain works.  I'll be working on some scene and then a different thing for a different project comes up, or the bit I'm writing has ramifications that should be foreshadowed earlier, and I can just click on the other thing, make a note or a change, and come back.
I lost my train of thought there.  I was talking about despite loving Scrivener-- sometimes I need the tactile.  I need to spread out papers, images and notes over a wide surface, and physically hash out the story.  Especially in the outline phase.  I had to do when I re-broke the outline for Imposters of Aventil, as it became that my original outline didn't match how things actually ended in The Alchemy of Chaos.  I already know I'm going to have to do the same for A Parliament of Bodies, as well as everything in Maradaine beyond that point.  I know I'm going to have to break out all the giant paper in the garage and do some large-scale work to figure it all out.
And there is a lot to figure out.  I'm very excited about what's coming next.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What writing apps?

I am so trained in the ways of Word that, though wooed by Scrivener, I keep returning to Word. I've never looked for writing apps for my phone because I don't use it for that. And I like BIG screens for writing. Documents and maps and music everywhere. And I'll write notes to myself on dozens of scraps of paper before I write it on a stickie on my phone.

So instead, here are a few trailers of movies I'm looking forward too...

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Essential Writing Tools

Thanks to KAK for posting on Sunday, while I was off at Daytona Beach watching ripped young men from the Embry Riddle Air Force ROTC do crunches. Oh, and being on panels, etc., at the Coastal Magic Convention. Damn, I love my job!

One question - why are my hats all out of order??

I'm going to weigh in on what KAK said, as she rounded things up nicely on our topic this week of our favorite writing apps. It's interesting where she and I do and don't overlap.

Before that, however, I want to address the overall topic, particularly as Jim and Linda have already indicated that they have little to nothing to say on the subject. They use Word and that's it. You'll also note that KAK listed Word first in her post. So did I.

It's important to remember that's because we are all established writers with habits and routines we've formed over years of work. Of course this is kind of a "duh" answer to us. But, it's worth pointing out that this is a question I see A LOT from newbie writers. I think the question arises partly from wanting to do things the best way and partly out of cultural conditioning, particularly in the U.S.

The man and I have a running joke, in fact, about how Americans love to "gear up" for new enterprises. Like the person who takes up biking and has to buy not only the bicycle, but all the color-coordinated gear, from socks to helmet. Or the one who decides to learn to paint and acquires the full-studio set of artistic supplies.

I think we're really inured into thinking that we need special tools to launch new enterprises. So, what are the essential writing tools?

Imma let you in on the secret!

YOU NEED TO HAVE: something to write on and something to write with.

Seriously. I'm not oversimplifying here. The beauty of being a writer is that we can get away with virtually zero overhead. A stubby pencil and scrap paper will get you by. Oh sure, eventually you're going to want to put those words into some sort of word-processing tool, because that's what everyone uses - whether you'll digitally format to self-pub or send to agents and editors.

Given those considerations, my five favorite ACCESSORY tools are:

1) MS Word:
I write in Word, edit, read for crit partners, etc. It's the industry standard and works just great for me.

2) MS Excel:
Me too on tracking All The Things. Submissions, sales, word count, project plans, P&Ls, etc.

3) Dropbox*:
Also on KAK on this one. I write all my manuscripts in Dropbox. It's a great relief to know I can rescue them from anywhere, should I need to.

Now she and I part ways.

4) Alarms and Clock --Windows 365:
I keep this window open for various timed events - 15, 20, 30, 45, 60 and 90 minutes. This lets me limit my social media time and pace my writing sprints throughout the day.

5) Calibre:
Terrific for converting, organizing and backing up my ebook library - including my own books. This is what I use to send manuscripts to CPs and beta readers, to send giveaway books to readers and reviewers, and to track what I have. Highly recommend!

Monday, February 8, 2016

I got nothin'

Favorite Writing Apps is the name of this week's game and my answer is the title of the article.

I use Word. it's all I've ever used, really and I'm not likely to change any time soon. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. And you kids get off of my lawn!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Favorite Writing Apps Round-Up

Jeffe's over at the Costal Magic Convention this weekend, so I'm sneaking into her room at the bordello to talk about:

Favorite Writing Apps Round-Up: research apps, timers, trackers, composition software, etc.

1) MS Word: For manuscripts and outlines, I use Word. Probably isn't a surprise since .doc/.docx are the most commonly accepted formats for mss deliveries and exchanges. There are other options out there for composition software, and my fellow bordello mates can speak more knowledgeably about them than I. For those interested, Microsoft has switched to a software-subscription model for Office 365 + Cloud Storage. $100/yr.  If you upgrade to Windows 10, they're offering Office for a discount.

2) MS Excel: For tracking All The Things. Submissions, sales, word count, project plans, P&Ls, etc. You've likely guessed by now that I'm an avid, old-school PC user.

3) Dropbox*: For Cloud Storage, I use Dropbox. Set up takes a nonce, and after that no effort to maintain. Every writer will tell you to BACK UP YOUR FILES OFTEN. I have a flash drive and Dropbox. Dropbox has free and paid versions.
*Dropbox uses a Referral Reward program, so if you sign up using the link above, I get more free storage. FYI. 

4) Grammarly--Web & Office: For those days when you're sure every word you've written is spelled wrong. With an extension for most browsers (in addition to beefing up MS Word's spell & grammar checks), Grammarly's free version minimizes IHAZRIGHTER problems. I use the free version; the paid version is more of a student/academic's application.

5) For Promo Images. Okay, it's not technically a writing app, but it is an awesomely simple graphics/design app. I've used it to create this year's Word-Whores header, Pull-Quote Images, social media graphics, newsletter art, etc. It's not intended to replace Photoshop or GIMP. Cost varies from free to $1 per image or template.  I used Canva to make the promo image in this post for LARCOUT.

I don't use timers, blockers, or anything particularly whizbang. I'm looking forward to the tech secrets of my fellow Word-Whores!

~lingers in Jeffe's room~
~tries on all her hats~