Tag Archives: Online Writing

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?

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Writing from a female point of view…..

300px-Symbols-Venus-Mars-joined-togetherOK so let’s be clear from the outset. I am not a woman. There lies the problem. I am not a woman. I don’t want to be a woman- let’s be clear about that too- although I have the utmost respect for the opposite sex (you’re digging a hole here man- get out of it quick!) I just don’t think that I am capable of fully understanding how the thought processes of the opposite sex work (aargh-too late! you fool! you’ve just alienated the most intelligent half of the species- that’s half your readership gone, dumb ass! Oh no, crikey- just alienated the other half too- men really are very intelligent, erm…… honest!)

Women are from Venus and I hail from Mars- so how in all the hells am I supposed to put myself inside the head of a Woman and write convincingly– fool the reader into thinking that the images and motivations I describe are really those of the ‘fairer sex’.

These questions all came about because I made the schoolboy error of asking my lovely, intelligent, wonderful (keep it up, you may get out of the hole yet….) wife to read the first 50,000 words or so of my fledgling novel.

I sat on my hands as she gazed at the laptop, pretending that I didn’t yearn for her approval- feeling myself blush and overheat as the pressure became too great.

“I know it’s not very good,” I said, “please just be honest with me,” but not too honest- oh god don’t hate it! “what do you think? Is it as good as what you’re reading at the moment?” I glanced at the table and saw a paperback ‘female’ book with a pink cover that had stars and a cartoon shopping bag on it- crikey, not the right audience- no shopping in my story….. dammit shoulda put shopping in my story. “Don’t forget it’s just a first draft- very rough really- just thrown on the page, you know they call the first draft the ‘vomit draft’ sometimes ’cause it just gets, well, written really fast, you know?”  In my angst I began to tap a heel on the tile floor.

Wifey- intelligent, beautiful, witty, charming Wifey (ok- there are compliments and then there’s sycophancy- reel it in now, man) looked up at me over the screen, her lips pursed. I tensed as I awaited her feedback.

“Sshh,” she said, “I’m trying to read.”

Dutifully and obediently I shushed up. Although I did start to rock back and forth lightly like a child in anticipation of an ice cream sundae (hmmm chocolate sprinkles).

She finished reading, closing the lid of the laptop with an ominous click.

“Well, whad’ya think? Do you like it?” I whimpered

She paused for an age (well actually less than a second- wasn’t really a pause at all- get some perspective, fool!) “It’s……….really good,”

My heart sang for joy, yes!, yes!, I’d done it….. (note to self- received wisdom is never to ask for feedback from family members or partners, they nearly always give positive reviews even when the work is doggy doo).

“But,” (there always has to be a but- don’t you agree?) “There aren’t any female characters in it…..”

“Well…… there are,” I said defensively, “there’s the hawkish woman with the red hair.”

“She’s in one scene for about five seconds…..”

“Yes but she’s very important later on though…….”

After my chat with Wifey I felt elated and deflated at the same time. I determined that I was going to introduce a strong female character earlier on. I knew exactly the woman. The wife of one of my protagonists and there was a chapter where a scene from her point of view (POV) would be really interesting. Shouldn’t be difficult! (oh you poor naive fool).

I scooted upstairs to my wonderful office/writing room (ok so it’s the spare bedroom- what can I say, I fib sometimes, get used to it……) and blasted out a scene in a couple of hours, it had a slow and introspective beginning, building the female character, she looked at herself in the mirror, bemoaning her lost youth. As is the way with these things I also managed to introduce three additional characters that I didn’t know existed and that I am now desperate to extend the story line for (really gotta stop doing that….). The woman was strong and yet fragile- she thought how I thought that women thought (if you know what I mean….).

I was so proud, I’d cracked it, my strong female character had sprung fully formed from my mind, fully formed and ready to take on the universe……

I asked wifey to read the chapter, my excitement barely containable.

She read it quickly, then looked at me and pursed her lips.

“Well? Well?” I cried

“You really don’t know anything about women do you?” ……the world came crashing down around my ears…..

It turns out that a woman examining herself in the mirror and bemoaning the ageing process- whilst it might be the pastime of many (male and female! not being sexist- promise!) does not make for a sympathetic character. It does, however, make for a pathetic character.

In the words of Wifey, “No woman wants to read about a wrinkled old hag- unless they’re a witch. If it’s a witch then that’s OK.”

Sadly she’s not a witch (the Wife or the character….), so back to the drawing board on the female POV (Oh what does wifey know- have you seen the junk she reads? What if she’s wrong? What if millions of women are just dying to learn all about how the wrinkles will come and their hair will go grey and lank?)……..I fear my internal voice needs it’s head testing…..

Hmmm, maybe she can be a bit younger and  think about what shoes to wear all the time- I hear they’re important to women…. yes…… shoes…… (now you really have alienated half your audience!…… Nitwit!) 

60,000 words (as if that has any importance- but somehow it does- know what I mean?) and counting. Would be more but I had to delete a scene about a wrinkled old hag (who was meant to be a strong and dynamic woman in her fifties, by the way…..). Hey ho, much to learn…….

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