Honestly, if all we had to write with were notepads and typewriters, I’d be the most frustrated writer alive. I love technology and all the things it helps me do!
So here are the 10 tools I’d have great difficulty living without.
I’ve only had two screens for a couple of years, but now I don’t know how I’d manage without them. I’m often writing on one screen while checking an Excel file, the Internet, or a photo on the other screen.
2. An “idea catcher” of some sort
For me, right now, it tends to be the Notes program on my iPhone, but it’s normally been a small notebook. The key point is, never be caught without a way to capture an idea.
I have two four-shelf bookcases filled with books on writing. Most, but not all, were published by Writer’s Digest.
If you want to see what kind of books I have, you may be able to see some titles in this picture.
I also have at least 10 floor-to-ceiling bookcases filled with books, from the classics to those from a variety of genres, including those in which I write.
4. The internet
I love the way we can now do much of our research online. I’m sure that’s saved me thousands of hours over the last ten years. Yes, you should double-check everything, but overall, it’s a great time-saver.
5. Planning templates and forms
- Brainstorming Sheets
- Fiction Planning Guide
- Nonfiction Planning Guides
- Character Template
- Plot Diagram
- Setting Design Template
6. Plastic bins
While I still use paper files for keeping track of drafts and correspondence for every story or book, I use plastic bins when I have more information than can be kept in a file folder or on my computer. One bin per book is the norm.
7. Microsoft Excel
I use Excel to keep track of anything that involves a list that can be sorted as well as details about my characters, timelines, motives, scenes, word count, and a host of other details.
To see how I use Excel for my To Do list, check this recent blog on my writing goals.
I just started using Scrivener to write last fall, and so far, I love it. Nothing against Microsoft Word, but Scrivener was made for writers like me. It’s like a big binder rather than a writing pad. You can put everything in it, and I do.
There are many places you can learn more about Scrivener, so I won’t go into detail here. This might be one place where a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are two pictures.
The one on the right shows the full Scrivener screen for my 3rd Manziuk and Ryan mystery. The Binder (table of contents) is on the left, the writing area in the middle, and the Inspector, which acts like a mini-notebook, to the right.
The second one shows the middle section being used a corkboard, showing different chapters.
I’ll also mention that I found the book Scrivener for Dummies helpful because I find books preferable to videos.
9. Microsoft OneNote
I keep this program open all the time. It’s a super place to pop random ideas, pictures, or just about anything I find on the internet. The best part is that it automatically includes a link so you can give credit or go back again.
It’s also great for keeping ideas.
I have a number of folders so I can choose where to put things. And it’s search function is terrific. No matter how disorganized I get when I’m really busy, I never lose anything.
I also love the fact that it takes screen clips. The pictures of my screen with Scrivener open were both saved as pngs from the screen clippings in MS One Note.
10. Microsoft Publisher
Like templates, diagrams, and maps.
The picture to the right is a rough drawing of the floor of the building where my 3rd Manziuk and Ryan Mystery is set. It saves me no end of time and frustration to be able to visualize what I’m writing about.
And if you don’t have InDesign or another top publishing program, MS Publishing is also great for creating posters and other promotional materials.
11. Adobe Creative Suites
Because I’m an independent publisher as well as a writer, I make a lot of use of InDesign and Photoshop, etc.
I use InDesign to lay out my books as print books and then e-books, and I also use it to create some of our marketing tools, including bookmarks and posters.
Going back to having two screens, when I’m using InDesign, I honestly don’t know how I’d do it with only one screen, because it has a variety of style palettes that are also usually open; not to mention an associate program known as the Bridge.
I hope this post has given you some ideas.