A short while ago, I asked what writing helps other writers use. Today, I’ll outline my set-up. So far, it’s the best writing setup for me but I acquiesce that your tastes might differ. Yes, these are the things that excite writers.
I’m always tempted to write my daily or short blog posts directly into WordPress. I like the editor and the immediate feedback. I use the Tiny MCE Advanced plug-in which accomplishes the rare feat of making something good truly excellent. I always record these posts back into Scrivener which is my primary writing and archiving tool. I also periodically backup my website.
I write a lot on my phone, an iPhone 6s, which is weird to me. When I’m standing in line or waiting for a meeting to start, I take notes and make lists with the native iPhone Notes app or with Wunderlist. In the days of yore, we used to have conversations with other human beings during those times. So much for the old ways! I’ve tried joining the Evernote cult but just can’t find the buy-in. The only cults I’ve willingly joined are the Old-Saab cult and the Scrivener cult.
I use Scrivener with a deep affection. It’s one of the few things that live up to the promise that computers will make our lives wonderful. It’s as powerful as any editor available and geared entirely for writers. It’s inexpensive – fifty bucks US – but don’t confuse its low cost with a lack of power or features. If you decide to shell out the money for a license, I recommend watching a few You Tube videos about setting up and using the program. An hour or so here will pay real dividends. I’m still learning its ins-and-outs and am now working to understand it from the viewpoint of a blogging and writing database. Author Bryan Collins writes a helpful blog post about using Scrivener for blogging here. This is seriously helpful to scrivener beginners. I haven’t used the Scrivener app for the iPhone and would be interested in hearing from writers who do
I use Word sporadically for business writing or when I’m submitting for publication. I like that it works seamlessly with other MS applications. And let’s be honest – the world runs on Microsoft. I use the on-line subscription service so it’s available to me anywhere at any time.
The Business End
I’m pretty much in love with Trello. I don’t even know what it is. Visual database? List tool on steroids? I don’t know but I use it daily and update it regularly. I use it to capture ideas and as a project manager. It’s one of those wonderful programs that are useful for the easiest of things but is powerful enough to grow with you as your needs and skills expand.
I use Dropbox to back up all my writing. It’s a safe place and is a work-around for accessing Scrivener files from any computer since they aren’t web-based. I also save files to my computer and do monthly permanent saves on a USB stick. Redundancy is key here.
I have a teen-age, angst-ridden, love-hate relationship with Grammarly. I want it to like me and want it to give me good grades and want it to tell me how wonderful I am in my weekly emailed writing report. Instead, it reminds me that I don’t know how to use commas and that I run on too much. To add insult to injury, the geniuses who market the app tell me that if I pay them money – thirty dollars a month – they will tell that I’m an even worse writer. Hoo boy!
When the scientist in me comes out, I use Excel to track submissions and other stats. I also have a file in Scrivener where I track this stuff. Because I’m always using Scrivener, it’s often easier to keep text records of what went where and when. It’s easy to keep addresses and contacts there, too. I use Excel less and less as I go along. I’m continually looking for ways to work within Scrivener. Anything I do that takes me out of the program adds a layer of complexity that I try to avoid. Is Scrivener always the best tool? No. But remember – Tolstoy wrote Anna Karenina with a pen that had to be dipped in ink every few words. Writers have got by with a lot less sophistication than a computerized scheduler.
I have an Amazon Fire that I use for reading. I ruthlessly refuse to put any other apps on it. They will only distract me. It often goes on sale for $59.00 and is one of the great buys in techland.
I use Pocket to collect web addresses while surfing. WordPress will do the same thing, as will Evernote, but this app is so clean and simple that I prefer it. I load it into FireFox so capturing anything is a one-click affair.
I use Wunderlist as a repository for ideas and for general list making. Mostly, I use it to capture things while on the run and sift through entries once every couple of weeks. I link it to Google Calendar so am also able to use it as a reminder.
At this point, I’m using Google Calendar as an editorial calendar. It works fine but I’m open to any advice for this tool.
Oh. There is another cult I’ve joined. I use the Ubuntu Linux operating system. I recently bought a Lenovo laptop for about $350.00. It’s a tank. Ubuntu, as opposed to Apple OS or MS Windows, runs this thing like a supercomputer. This has nothing to do with writing and can easily be a distraction. Unless you like tweaking operating systems this probably isn’t for you. At home, I plug my internet modem directly into my computer for an instantaneous response.
I am hardly ever without a pen stuck somewhere on my body. Paper can be had anywhere.
I’ve never cared much about having a special place to write. I can sleep on the floor and can write anywhere. I’ve never tried writing in a coffee shop or in a street-side cafe in Budapest. I would probably be too distracted.
The Best Writing Setup?
Do you need this stuff? Good gawd, no. Hemingway wrote with a pad, pencil, typewriter, and shot of booze. You want to write? Then write. You want to be a better writer? Then write more. It’s a great distraction for me to start playing with apps. How many note taking apps are there in the Apple App Store? A thousand? A million? Just pick one of the more popular titles and start taking notes. Then get back to writing.
This sounds misplaced at the end of this post but keep things simple. I’ve read advice about using X for writing then transfer the file here for editing then save it here and compile it here – I’m lost and tired already. Get your system in place and keep writing.
Keep your tools close at hand. Don’t hide them where you have to look for them. Remember – you want to write. Don’t let finding a program distract you. Here is a screenshot of my ‘Blog Helps’ FireFox tab. It keeps everything I need instantly at hand. It allows me to stay more focused on writing.
That’s it. The list is longer than I expected but it works very well for me. And I’m never far from paper and I always carry a pen. Who knows when there will be no wifi, no ethernet, no satellite for my phone, and the spirit of Tolstoy will speak to me with the keys to the kingdom?
I’ve added four books to my essential set-up. You will have your favorites that are indispensable for you for what and how you write: take a look at these and see if you want to add them to your library.
Have you ever wished that a wise and experienced teacher will simply lay out what’s needed for you. Harris does exactly that here in the book that is far and away the best in the category.
This is a more top-down view of the craft of writing than Harris’ book. Livesey deftly scrubs a few centuries of the best writing and tells you why it works. There is a whole lot of goodness here. Take your time and let it soak in.
More details of the craft of writing. Not grammar and punctuation as much though that is here too. But thoughts about using this word or that? Why does this sentence work? Why doesn’t this paragraph flow as well as this? A master class.
My new favorite. Write all you want for yourself. I applaud your every word. But if you ever want another person to read what you’ve written, or if you ever want to trade some of your words for cash to pay your bills, then you have to jump into the foray of business. Friedman walks you smartly through each step without the hysteria and hype of those Facebook ads. A must have in my opinion.
Cheers and Seleah
Are you a writer? Of course, you. What tools do you use? What do you think of the tools here? anything Better? Too much?
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