My Writer’s Toolkit

Every writer will swear by different apps or utilities. Everyone will use some trick of the trade or another. One of my friend made a very tiny leather journal to be able to make character notes at the office. A lot of people will email themselves home things from work, or keep notepads handy. One friend makes herself voice memos.

It’s interesting.

That’s why I thought you might be interested to know what my tools for the trade are for my writing projects.

1) Write or Die. The first draft of this post was composed in the Write or Die desktop app. I ended up buying the desktop version because I wanted to be able to save stuff more easily, and because it has a few more bells and whistles.  (I’ve had to use internet history wizardry to recover words written on the web app that were almost lost to the ether.)

This app is perfect for free writes and word sprints. I use it for warm ups and first drafts. When the goal is to get to the page – just get to the page, and write absolutely anything for 30 minutes, Write or Die is perfect. It plays horrible sounds and turns colors when you stop typing. It has an in-page word counter and timer.

2) Scrivener. It’s rare to find a writer who is only so-so in their opinions about Scrivener.  It’s a love/hate thing.  I didn’t realize how useful it was until after I did a few editing passes of Salvaged in Word.  When I downloaded Scrivener’s trial version for the second time, and went through the tutorial I was weeping tears of joy and exclaiming to Brett that he had NO IDEA how cool this application was. I am a convert. Both the 8th and 9th revisions of Salvaged have been in Scrivener and I’ll never go back. My new stuff all gets created in the app.

The thing that makes it different from Word? It’s meant to handle a 300 page novel, related notes, links, comments, outlines, and all of the little things we authors need to make a book a book. I can color code, mark chapters done or revised, move chapters with a single drag and drop. AND I can export into kindle versions so when I send it to beta readers they can actually use their kindles without clunky PDF limitations. Oh, and it does script formatting for stuff like comics. Consider me SOLD.

3) Preceden. Timelines are important, and a pain in the ass to build. They are also hard to keep track of and easy to mess up continuity. Brett uses this timeline site for a time-travel RPG he likes. I like it because I can include the whole damned ‘verse in one line, and I can fact check myself. Because I use real dates, I like to be sure I am where I say I am in the timeline. I will also be able to share this timeline when I’m done building it (Sorry, it’s still locked for now).

4) Pen and paper. I journal. I to do list. I mind-map, I chart, I diagram. I make post it notes and I scribble ideas on napkins. I remember things better when I write them down. I am better able to brainstorm in paper and pen form. I like to sketch maps and leave myself notes. I know, it’s old-fashioned. But it works.

That’s it. that’s my whole “tools of the trade post”. I like Evernote as an “everywhere” to do list, but honestly, I set it up with great enthusiasm and then never went back into it. For some reason electronic to dos don’t ever do it for me. They hold no sway. I need a legal pad or a steno pad, or some sort of pad and a black ink pen. I need to be able to make Xs and bold black check marks. I need to be able to highlight the thing I REALLY NEED TO GET DONE. and I need to be able to see it in my own handwriting. Call me a Luddite. I will laugh hysterically, but sure, you can call me that if you want.

5) Emails, Google drive, jump drives, my iPhone. I have made myself voice memos when I’m walking and don’t want to forget anything I just came up with (and don’t want to text and walk due to my clumsiness). I’ve sent myself countless emails, I save documents where I can get to them from my home computer, work computer and everywhere in between. I carry my phone everywhere, so that’s my most common note-taking device. I carry my journal most of the time, so that’s the 2nd. I honestly try not to do too much writing at the office, but sometimes thoughts don’t wait around for time to go home.  Also, these tools are useful for quick free backups!

6) Walking, housecleaning, etc. – I move around. I do something mindless and mundane. There’s nothing that shakes loose the stuff that’s stuck in my head better than moving around a little bit. A sink full of dishes is sometimes exactly what I needed to do while my subconscious brain mulls through logistics of a scene. Yoga and meditation work, too, but I find that they are too steeped with expectations. I EXPECT them to work, so then I’m just waiting for inspiration. Washing the dishes, I’m really just expecting to have some clean plates.

7) Sleep. I “sleep on it” a lot. Often right before bed, I will journal a page of notes on the chapter I’m stuck on or the question I can’t solve. Then I go to bed. In the morning, it’s not like I’ve magically gotten the answer and I wake up with a light bulb over my head. But usually either doing my journaling or a 30 minute stint on Write or Die will give me the free writing forum to blurt out the answer to the question I asked for. The only thing I say about this technique is that no matter how stuck you feel, you have to get yourself into that chapter or scene and start writing it. Commit to a half hour. Just sit there with it. Otherwise, you don’t give your subconscious time or opportunity to step forward and show you its neat solution to your problem.

8) Rituals. Sometimes I tweet about how I’ve got tea brewing and a candle lit. I know it’s cheesy, but lighting the candle is like a little sign I send myself that now is the time to make something happen. It’s a tiny energy ball. It’s a tiny light. I don’t turn around in circles three times before I write, but I like to have a hot mug of tea in a hand-thrown cup. I like to have a candle burning beside me. Besides, it gives me something to look at while I’m pondering.

9) Books.  Reading is as essential to writing as … words. Reading in all genres, all types of books. I also like to read because sometimes my word-generator is on empty and it needs to be refilled.

10)  Creative play. You’ll see I will randomly post about other kinds of creative stuff I’m doing. I paint, I collage, I do weird stuff around the house. I sew, I make jewelry. This is important too, for the word-generator’s refueling process. Sometimes it’s just about relaxing. Other times it’s about exploring your world through a medium besides words.  This is one I build in as much as I can.


One thought on “My Writer’s Toolkit

  1. Pingback: “How Hard Can It Be?” (and Other Famous Last Words) | A.K. Anderson | Science Fiction and Fantasy Author

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