My Top 5 Tools to Get You Writing
Note: This article is an updated version of "My Top Ten Tools to Get You Writing", which originally appeared on the blog on January 22nd, 2015.
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Ultimately, it's the writing that makes the writer, but that doesn't mean you can't set yourself up for success.
Over the years, I've discovered that the best way to have great productivity and an easy-to-manage writing process is to set myself up with good, reliable writing tools. It may seem odd to some that I use more than just a Word document to get the job done, but I'm a firm believer in not settling.
If there are tools out there that can make my writing process simpler, faster, and more inspired, then I want them—and I'd encourage you to give them a shot as well. Today, I'm sharing my top 5 tools that will get you writing like the #writeboss you long to be. Shall we dive in?
Tool #1: Scrivener
What is it?
Scrivener is software designed specifically for writing long-form content such as novels and dissertations. Though it does cost a one-time fee to purchase ($45 for Mac or PC, $19.99 for iOS), the organization and ease of use Scrivener provides is priceless.
Scrivener allows you to keep all of your work—including notes, research, chapters, scenes, and more—neatly organized in one file called a project. This means you no longer have to open fifty windows to view all of your documents or work with one incredibly long document that makes switching between chapters a nightmare.
Everything you write can be assigned to a different sidebar folder, all of which you can create, rename, rearrange, and delete at will. Scrivener also allows you to take easy-to-access notes on your chapter, give each scene each a synopsis, and mark them both with a label and status. And that's just the beginning!
What I've used: In the past, I used both Microsoft Word and Google Docs to write my stories, but I was never truly a satisfied user. I had dozens of documents detailing the many aspects of my fantasy world, and I absolutely hated having to open all of those windows when I wanted to have my notes nearby. Scrivener was definitely the right match for me.
Tool #2: Dropbox
What is it?
Every writer should take measures to safeguard their work from computer failure. Fortunately, this isn't too difficult. I currently use Dropbox, a free cloud service, to house my digital files.
I love Dropbox because you don't have to do any extra work. Simply download the app and house your files in the Dropbox folder on your computer, and every time you save a file, it will automatically upload to the Dropbox cloud. (Psst...Scrivener also saves automatically while you write, so you don't even have to remember to press 'save' for your files to update in the cloud. Huzzah!)
I do keep two notebooks of additional notes outside of Scrivener for sketching world maps and house genealogies. I keep these notes in a small fire-proof safe, not because I am afraid of theft, but because I could literally not recreate them from memory if my house burned to the ground. If you keep physical notes as well, consider how you might safeguard them today.
What I've used: In the past, I've used flash drives and external hard drives to safeguard my project files. The only trouble came in actually remembering to plug the drives in and update my projects, not to mention my paranoia about losing the drives and my files with them.
Tool #3: The Novel Planner
What is it?
I don't know about you, but I love setting big goals for my writing life. But tackling those big goals can be more than a little overwhelming at times. That's why I created The Novel Planner, a daily planner designed specifically with authors in mind.
For me, conquering project overwhelm begins with getting organized. That's why I included a project reference guide, monthly and weekly calendars, a chart to track writing goals and accomplishments, and other additional organization tools in The Novel Planner, which comes undated so you can begin planning your best writing life ASAP.
Is this a shameless plug? Maybe. But when I found myself dissatisfied with other organizers and planners on the market, I set out to create one for Type A writers like myself. If you fit that bill, I hope you'll enjoy The Novel Planner as well.
What I've used: Before 2014, I never scheduled out time to write. I was in school at the time and simply wrote whenever I had the chance or felt like it. But that was before writing became a career goal instead of a hobby. Now that I'm pursuing the author life, I find The Novel Planner keeps me on top of all my responsibilities with both my business and my books.
Tool #4: Books, podcasts, and blogs — oh, my!
What is it?
I'm a firm believer that you're as great a writer as you work to be. That means not only writing frequently and with a critical eye, but making dedicated time in life to continue to learn more about the crafts of writing and storytelling. I personally do this by listening in to some of my favorite writing podcasts and catching up on awesome writing books and blogs.
Here are some of my current favorites:
Tool #5: Community
What is it?
Writing is often a lonely endeavor, but it doesn't have to be. By connecting with the writing community, you gain access to a wealth of advice and encouragement. You may even make a few amazing writing friends and industry partnerships along the way.
I've been involved in the online writing community for the past three years, and the kinship I've found there has been absolutely priceless. That said, you can also find great writing communities in person. Make sure to check out your local libraries and schools for writing classes or groups, and don't be afraid to attend a writing conference or two as well.
You can also get involved online with the two communities I host, the #StorySocial Twitter chat and the Well-Storied Facebook group. Click the links below for more information on how to join!