Monthly Archives: February 2014

My writing tools….

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…

UPDATE No.2: The writing tools seem to have worked! I have just released my first novelette (a very short novel or very long short story– go figure). It’s called Paradise and is available on Amazon (those are links by the way, press them if you want to see the book!). OK, so I have to admit this might look a little desperate, but what can I say, I’m excited! 😉

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?

Why not follow my blog? There’s a button on the top right if you feel like it….

Top 10 book writing distractions….

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Top 10 book writing distractions….

There are a lot of things that can cause distraction when writing. Whether you’re a good writer or a bad writer (I am hardly in a position to judge anyone at the moment. I am wrestling with the difficulties of editing a book that I wrote without enough planning, mostly whilst on the train, but that’s a different story….), you may find that writing becomes an addiction, as an example here, I should state that I am writing this post whilst sat in the drivers seat of a car (clearly I am not driving- don’t worry…). You see I have a six month old son who likes to go to sleep in his car seat, so the daily routine includes going out in the car until he falls asleep, once he is asleep, it is safe to stop somewhere.

As I sit in the car park at Sainsbury’s (for the foreign readers that is a supermarket), I write feverishly, my tablet held at an impossible angle between steering wheel and belly- punching out words with two fingers where normally I would touch type- already my shoulders and hands ache. A man just got into his car next to me and gave me a very strange look,  but the thing about fatherhood is that I just don’t care what people think- my son is the number one priority……The other thing about fatherhood is ‘baby-brain’ (in this case getting distracted whilst writing a post about getting distracted whilst writing….), whilst this affects my wife to a greater degree than me – I fear I am still a victim 🙂

So back to my top ten distractions when writing a novel:-

1) Babies- although in the case of my wonderful son I don’t really mind- kids take up a lot of time! Crikey, it’s hard (but highly enjoyable) work….

2) Work- a career that makes you work 70 hours a week can be a real drag when you are trying to write a book.

3) Having to eat- I reckon that takes about an hour a day, an hour that could be dedicated to writing.

4) Working on book cover design concepts when you haven’t even finished your book- hours and hours of lost time– mostly trying to figure out how to get GIMP (I will write about it in the ‘serious’ section of the blog when I get time and if I am not distracted..), to work and do what I need it to do. All this, ladies and gentlemen, when I have already decided that I will hire a graphic designer to do it for me in the end!

5)  Working on a novelette that sprang into my mind the other week. It’s now finished and it’s called ‘Paradise’. It has absolutely nothing to do with my novel and now I have two pieces of work that need editing (oh the pain!).

6) Working on a short story that popped into my head the other week! (see 5- I have compounded my editing misery…..).

7) TWITTER (sorry to shout, but it takes up a hell of a lot of time!), so twitter is great, but if you’re going to be active you need to put in the hard graft, even if that’s just thanking all the kind tweeps out there who have been so supportive. Blimey, is it just me or is everyone in the world an aspiring author? Apparently we all have a book in us- all I can say is that it must be wedged in so painfully that everyone wants to push it out onto the page…..

8) Goodreads- OK I am a real novice here but it does look like the best thing since sliced bread for getting recommendations for books etc- if you haven’t done so already, check it out….(oh dear, I think I just distracted you from writing your book….).

9) Looking out the window of the car and spotting all the people that give you weird looks. Imagining what those people think you are doing….. wow, perhaps they think I’m some kind of spook on a surveillance operation? Sadly, in truth, I think they believe I am a strange looking bloke who appears to be staring at his  lap whilst moving his hands around in the same area (Oh dear god, no! What must that look like? Gotta finish this blog quick or I’ll get arrested….).

10) There are many more that could be added, but see point 9 (looks around warily for signs of police car….) I have to get this finished! Blogging- I may not blog often but it is a bit of a distraction (and it may just get me arrested…..).

So there you go. Big moan over. Truth is I love the writing- don’t know if I’m any good or not but hey, who cares as long as you enjoy it, right? My son is still asleep in the back of the car (45 minutes sleep and counting- Wifey will be so proud of me!). Off to brave the chaos of the modern supermarket, and then, who knows? If he’s still asleep I may have a go at that chapter I realised needs adding to the first act of ‘Hope’- stranger things have happened…..

My first blog in quite a while…..

The clock is tickingSo the thing about blogging is that it can take an awful lot of time, right? Not only that, but you have to have something interesting to say- which is really rather difficult- let’s get a few things straight:-

– I really am a ‘virgin’ when it comes to the social media thing- I have absolutely no idea what I am doing- I need you to know this, it’s important to me. As I write at this very moment I have absolutely no idea what is going to spew forth from my consciousness- it’s what the Americans (hello, by the way if there are any of you out there! What’s the weather like across the pond?) would call a crap shoot (I think…). The idea of a crap shoot is really rather intriguing……. I would imagine that the bullets would smash the toilet bowl quite quickly and then you would have less of a crap shoot and more a case of crap shoes (or a crap joke?)

– Anyway, even though I am a ‘virgin’ at the whole social media thing I appear to have almost two thousand ‘followers’ on twitter, which is really rather nice 🙂  not quite sure how it happened though. In fact it has gotten to the stage where people are asking me to stop calling myself a social media phobe but the truth is, I can’t. It’s just too scary out there in the digital universe….

– There are many different ways in which one can put ones foot in it when on the social networking trail (or trial, depending on how you look at it…), I am sure. The problem is that I don’t know any of the rules yet, and that is a bit of a worry. I do need to get my backside in gear though as (hopefully) my book will be released in a few months time. Progress is mind-numbingly slow at the moment, but hey ho, it has to be done.

Anyway, I realised recently that my debut book will be called ‘Hope’ (for me this is a huge step, really, trust me, it is) and the very naming of the thing brought on a dawning fear (blimey, lots of fear and worry in this post…) that I will actually have to complete the blessed thing and cast it out to be judged by my peers. Therein lies the problem, what if they all hate it? A nagging voice in my mind keeps saying (I’m pretty sure it’s my subconscious, and it doesn’t actually speak, so I am relatively certain I’m still sane… just to clear that one up…)

Of course there is another voice in my head that just says I really think you should be worrying about whether or not anyone will actually find it, buy it, and read it first, you nitwit, and while we are on the subject, why are you writing a blog at this time of night when you could be editing your book, hey?

Oh well, back to work then 😉

Or perhaps I’ll just check my twitter account? Or goodreads? Maybe I could just sort out the facebook account…. I hear pinterest is quite useful…. I said back to work!