Editing done! Now On to Geekier Things.

13 03 2011

The editing of Shae Connor’s first novel, or at least my part of it, is done! I had a goal to get it done this weekend and I finished in the wee hours of this morning. \o/ It’s a great read and I can’t wait for it to be accepted and released by a publisher.

Now it’s time for a little geek out. I’ve had people ask me what I use, tech-wise while writing, so I thought I’d put it here as a clearinghouse of geekery.

So, it’s no secret that I’m a tech geek. I outright say so in any bio anywhere online. I grew up with a father that was a Systems Analyst back in the days of punchcards and the Vic 20 computer. I remember how excited we were when we “upgraded” to the Commodore 64. In fact, I think I still have the Commodore 64 in my basement as we speak.

I’m almost sure I learned to type before I learned to write cursive. It would explain a whole heck of a lot about the state of my handwriting, come to think of it. I’m going to give you a rum down of the things that I use on an everyday basis when I’m writing and who knows, maybe you’ll find something that helps you out too.

Researching, Storyline Ideas and Storyline Brainstorming.

Evernote: www.evernote.com www.twitter.com/evernote (free and works on anything)

I call Evernote my external brain. It’s a cloud (online) based program that you can use for making notes, clipping web pages, leaving yourself video or audio messgages, and even email in notes to yourself.

I’ve been using it almost since it started and use it to clip pages from websites that I use for research for my story and it automatically keeps the website address there, so I can find it again. I use it to keep notes on story ideas, right from the one line of a thought, the expanding of the kernel to a storyline, to a chapter by chapter outline that I go by while writing the first draft.

You can organize everything into notebooks and also tag them with keywords, so when you’ve hit a wall in a story and you remembered a plot idea you had about an 8 foot ball of string, you put in keyword string and there is your note. My suggestion is start with the tags from your first note and keep consistent with them. It will save you so much time in the long run.

I’ve introduced it to writers. and non-writers alike, and everyone I’ve introduced it to uses it on an almost daily basis. I have a friend that uses it to take pictures of things she’s comparison shopping for, she can take a picture with her phone, puts the store, the price and  tags it for easy reference and uses it to shop. I use it for beyond writing as well, taking pics of the labels of my favorite wines with my iPhone and instead of trying to explain what I want to the person at the liquor store, I just pull up the picture of the label and say “Do you have this?”

You can add it to your computer, your smart phone and tablet as well, so no matter where you go, or what you have with you, you have access to your content. It may not seem like a big deal, but when you have a great idea for a storyline and you can make sure that every one of your devices has it , you’ll be loving it as much as I do.

The Writing Process

Beyond word processing programs, there are programs I use to help while I’m writing.

The first is MindNode www.mindnode.com (free, but Mac only)

I use this program to map out relationships in what I’m writing. I start with the central character and work the relationships out like branches from that trunk. If you’re writing a very involved storyline with lots of interactions and inter-relationships between characters, this will stop you from losing your mind, or having to go back in what you’re writing to find a name you can’t recall by finding the last scene you wrote for them. You can lose hours that way. You could also map storylines this way, keeping a chronological listing of events. I prefer more text based layouts for that, but it could definitely work for those that are more visual based.

iA Writer  www.informationarchitects.jp/en/writer-for-ipad/ www.twitter.com/iawriter

When I’m writing, I’m horrible about getting distracted by other things. I have a mild case of ADD, the predominantly inattentive type, and sometimes it’s incredibly hard for me to sit down and concentrate on writing. This is a program that I love, because it’s been designed from the ground up to help you concentrate and focus just on your writing. Everything about it has been engineered with writers in mind. They have their own touch keyboard in the app that has all the most used keys right there for you, buttons that let you position your curser before or after a word, so you’re not stabbing at the screen trying to fix one letter in a word without erasing the whole thing.

It has two modes on it, the regular mode that gives the upper half of the iPad’s screen real estate to what you’ve written and the keyboard the bottom half, then you have focus mode, which blurs out everything you’ve written, except for the last three lines. It makes you focus on being in the moment and your eyes aren’t going upward looking for typos or distracting yourself with thoughts of maybe rewording that sentence two paragraphs ago that could be tightened up a little. It’s simple and ingenious, even the font that the program uses has been specially made for the program to give the crispest, easiest to read letters.

There are not a lot of bells and whistles on the program and they’ve specifically made it this way. You have word count, estimated reading time and if you’re inside your document, it will tell you what the estimated reading time your cursor is at. They consulted a lot of writers when they were making the program and it shows. It has everything you need and nothing you don’t.

Can you tell I love Writer? I’ve also heard from their twitter feed that a Mac version is coming in the next few weeks. You have no idea how happy this makes me.

I used my iPad and this program for a week in NYC and managed to get a surprising amount of writing done, considering I had no laptop with me and at least 10 other people around at all times. It comes down to this. If you have an iPad and you write, this should be one of the first apps you get.

Backing Up Your Work

If you only take one thing from this blog post, let it be this section. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever have your work saved in just one place. You do not want to reconstruct all of your work on a novel from scratch. It’s not fun and will more than likely have you just giving up rather than starting over. I have four different places, besides my hard drive, that my work is backed up to.

The easiest way is to have an external hard drive. Make sure that you’re getting a brand name though. I made that mistake the first time and didn’t go with a known name and all of a sudden my external drive just stopped working. I lost files I’ll never get back, since it conked out in the midst of one laptop dying and getting another loaded up.  This started the multiple streams of saving my stuff.

Thumb drives are great. I have several of them and have them labelled for different purposes. One for back up of writing, another for work I’ve edited for other people, and more for picture back ups. They’re easy to throw in your bag when you’re travelling, so you have a mobile back up of any files you use while travelling that doesn’t need the internet or a subscription to a cloud service.

For those counting along at home, that’s 2 back ups that are not my hard drive.

The third and fourth ways are my iDisk through Mobile Me and Dropbox. www.me.com and www.getdropbox.com. These are both online or ‘cloud’ based ways of saving things, this way if every other means of backing up fails, if you have access to the internet, you can get your files back. It also means that I can write a chapter on my laptop one night, edit on my iPad in a cafe during lunch, think of a new scene and write it on my phone while waiting in line at the grocery store  and all of it’s pulled from the cloud and automatically updated no matter which device I access it from. Even if everything else blows up, back up-wise, as long as the internet stands, I’m good. If the internet breaks, I think we have bigger problems than whether I can access my last chapter. =)

So, there you have it. Geek-out over. There is all my geekery and gadgetry that I use on almost a daily basis when I’m writing. Hopefully you learned of a new service or program, or if I’ve completely not mentioned something that you think I’d use, let me know.