So I’ve been writing for over a year now in a relatively serious fashion (on the train, for half an hour before I go to bed each night- minutes snatched here and there… you get the picture). During my time I’ve found that a particular set of tools helps me do what I do, so here they are (it’s simple really):-
1) Scrivener- this writing suite from the rather brilliant guys over at Literature and Latte is the key tool that has helped me to follow my dream and actually start to write. The thing about people who want to write (novels in particular) is that they have to be very, very, organised. Often a novel has dozens of chapters, hundreds of scenes and more characters then you can swing a cat at. It’s ridiculously difficult to keep track of all these things. Scrivener uses a simple and intuitive interface to allow you to keep track of everything (I would advise you take the time to watch the excellent tutorials). The software virtually becomes an extension of your mind once you figure out how to use it (and I am stumbling across new features all the time)..
Scrivener is a must if you are serious about writing (in my mind)- I am going to write a separate post on it at some stage as it would take a day to describe its brilliance. Just trust me and try it (there is a thirty day free trial). There is a link on the sidebar (note; I gain nothing if you buy Scrivener- I am not an affiliate).
2) Evernote- there are two reasons for this, the first is that Evernote is a great tool for taking notes, photos or just about anything else and storing them in the cloud. Perhaps more importantly, unless you are a very heavy user, it’s free (there is a premium version for those who are love to eat the megabytes)- it also allows you to sync your account in the cloud across all of your devices- so you write something on your phone and you can pick it up on your tablet or laptop.
The other reason I love Evernote, is that it allows me to continue writing chapters on my Android devices (see below) when I do not have Scrivener available- and then when I get home I can just cut and paste and voila! Everything is back in Scrivener. Hopefully Scrivener will be available soon for Apple and Android mobile devices- but until then Evernote bridges the gap. To be honest I will continue to use Evernote in any case for gathering information and as an aid memoir.
3) Scapple- difficult to describe but essentially a kind of mind-mapping tool by the good folks (again) over at Literature & Latte. I use it to write plot lines or timelines or a ‘character cloud’ detailing essential characteristics. The great thing is you can then import straight into Scrivener (you get the picture).
4) Samsung Galaxy S3 (other phones are available!), I use this with Evernote to jot down story ideas or take photos.
5) ASUS eeepad transformer- this is essentially an Android notebook and ten inch tablet in one. When the keyboard is docked it has a rather fantastic sixteen hour battery life. It can also be taken just about anywhere (I am writing this post on a train from London, and I have found the transformer fits perfectly on any seat back tray- the advantage being that I don’t need a plug or a full table seat that would normally be needed for writing on a train. It also has a full ‘chiclet’ style keyboard, which is great for hammering out the words.
6) Google Drive- this is essentially a cloud based storage system that is great for storing your documents on. Don’t forget, they aren’t safe until they’re in the cloud, and you wouldn’t want to lose your precious writing, would you? I back up to Google drive at every opportunity.
7) My laptop- this is the central hub of my writing hobby, I use it to run Scrivener and also to do all of my editing directly in Scrivener and for uploading files to the cloud etc. It is Windows 7 in my case- but I understand the old Apple devices are pretty good too!
8) My Kindle- what I’ve learned over the last few months is that it’s really difficult to read something on a computer screen, particularly when editing, it’s very easy to miss words and grammatical errors. I’m really not sure why, but this does seem to be a widely accepted phenomenon. Many writers print out physical copies and read and edit from a page- but the truth is I tried this and it was just too messy for me (although I am sure it would suit some). The Kindle makes it easy to read the text (I create a PDF or .mobi file of the chapter I have written using Scrivener and e-mail it to my Kindle), the digital paper better recreates the book reading experience and I can annotate as I go along. Then all I have to do is read through the annotations and make amendments as necessary in Scrivener on my laptop. It sounds like a convoluted approach, but it works for me and it saves on paper, so may even be better for the environment.
UPDATE: I finally caved in and bought a Mac. The thing is though, I have always thought they were a bit overpriced, so I managed to track down a second hand iMac 17inch on eBay (it was made in 2006 and it runs like a dream). I now use the iMac along with all my other tools. The main reason I got a Mac? To access Scrivener 2.0 (of course), and I have to say that I have not been disappointed…
So that’s the lot. The tools listed above have become my writing life. I am sure you have your own and some of them may be better than mine. If you have suggestions why not post them below for all to see?