my writing “tools”

After considering Regan’s comment from my “Multiple Perspective” post, I started to think about the tools that I use to help me write. I think I’m pretty indebted to NaNoWriMo, Scrivener, Google Drive, and the internet.

For NaNoWriMo, I have realized that not just the November writing month but both of the Camp NaNoWriMo’s are essential to my productivity. It gives me space to let my family and friends know that I’m putting my full focus into writing, and then they can give me the grace to ignore them and be grumpy for a quarter of the year. Revising takes much less focus for me than the creation of the story’s skeleton, so then I can pick up an old draft (the newest NaNo creation always needs a few months of separation from my head) and start working on that at a less-crazy pace.

Will I still be able to do that in a far off future where I have children? I really hope so…

And yes, I know that some people complain about NaNo and say it creates bad novels. It does… the rough drafts are going to be VERY rough. But only idiots go and submit those novels in December. The point is to have a month of encouragement, peer pressure, and focus to get a 50,000-word rough draft out of your head and onto the page. Then you start the grueling process of revision and editing. Just because you churn out a rough draft in one month doesn’t mean the STORY is bad… I think it’s malarkey to believe that only “real” writers sit there and bleed over every fancy sentence.

Just think about Neil Gaiman, who recently sat down and wrote twelve short tales over three days. They can be read here. Good writing doesn’t require an enormous time span, just enormous effort.

So yes. NaNo. It helps/makes me get stuff done.

Next is Scrivener, a word processor that I invested in after doing a free trial. (It’s half off with a winning NaNoWriMo code, so there’s that)! I wish I could be one of those people who fill entire yellow legal pads with their first draft, scribbling away with a fancy pen. But handwriting just hasn’t worked for me. It’s what I tried when I was a teenager trying to write, and I just wasn’t motivated enough… I’d drift off into doodling. Something about the screen feels much better to me: I can check my word counts quickly, type very quickly, save it more safely and access it again more easily than with paper (at least, now that I have Google drive, a smartphone, etc.), and fight with spellcheck about all my made-up place names.

But of course, Microsoft Word does all that too. The reason I love Scrivener is for its organization capabilities and output options. I can write scenes in their own section and drag them around during revision, which is much faster than copying and pasting in Word. There are menus for outlines, character breakdowns, and research so that they are easily accessible all from within Scrivener. I can click back and forth as I write and double-check a character’s eye color in a few seconds, for example. Then, when I have a draft done, I can compile it as a Word doc, a PDF, or even fancier things like manuscript style or an e-book. All with the click of a button! (No, they aren’t paying me for endorsements, though I would LOVE the money, haha. I just really like Scrivener). :)

Google Drive (previously Google Docs) has been helpful, as well. I don’t use it daily or anything, but I like to keep rough ideas and outlines there. Then, when I have a moment to brainstorm and am not at my personal laptop–say, a free moment at work, or waiting to be seated at a restaurant–I can log in to the same document from my smartphone or another computer, and keep working. I know, I know, if I used a notepad that was always in my purse, it’d achieve the same thing. But typing is just so much faster for me!!

And finally, can I just give a shout-out to the internet in general? Yes, it is a source of distractions (tweet tweet), but it is also a marvelous fount of knowledge. What does the inside of a submarine look like? The internet knows! How do I contact agents who might be interested in my work? The internet knows!! What is the difference between “lay” and “lie,” again? THE INTERNET KNOWS!!!

See? It’s magical. I love it.

That is a summary of the tools that have proven most helpful to me in my writing endeavors. What do you think? Is there anything else out there I ought to try?

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2 Comments

Filed under Writing

2 responses to “my writing “tools”

  1. I agree. Scrivner is cool. I have the notecards at a glance for each section. Character pages for quick and easy reference. And when I wanted to stop synchronizing what all my characters were doing inside their common time line, boom!, I just started writing the section for one character all the way out. Easy to move around later.

  2. I haven’t heard of Scrivner so I’ll have to check it out, but Googledocs has made it’s way into my life too. Now my computer is slowly dying, so I’m hoping to save more of my writing to googledocs so I can use my family’s computer, or my fiance’s, etc… etc… But really all I want is a lightweight laptop! :)

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