My Writing Tools

Here’s what I use as writing tools for both my fiction and non-fiction world. But yes, it’s quite possible to perch a laptop on your knees and create a modern masterpiece with a simple text editor. Heck, it’s possible to do it with a pencil and paper too. But who’d want to?

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Hardware

I own an Apple desktop, laptop and iPad (and yes, an iPhone which I use for – gasp – a telephone) Given our two-country lifestyle, (my better half hates Canadian winters) this works quite nicely.
When the desktop finally dies, it will be replaced with a massive monitor and I’ll plug the laptop into that for the “big screen” effect while working. (I really hate the tiny screens of laptops and iPads for a long work session.)
But the first thing, and the reason I tell you this, is that they all sync and have the same software so I can use them no matter what/where I happen to be.

Evernote For Short Work

I’ve had a Premium account with Evernote right from the beginning and I was one of the early adopters. This is my main short form writing tool because it’s readily available on all my machines. Type once and it automatically appears on them all. I’m a fan. Naturally, it contains all my notes, works in progress, research, and and anything “short” that doesn’t require multiple chapters. In other words, as long as it’s one one screen, it’s in Evernote.
I’m writing this on Evernote. Some articles I code as I write (headers etc). Some I code after I copy/paste them to WordPress, but there’s no rhyme nor reason for this. it’s just how I feel when I’m writing.

Scrivener For Longer Works With Multiple Chapters

It would be hard to imagine writing a long form work such as a book on any other platform than Scrivener now. Again, I’m a long-time user of this and have written around 20 ebooks using it.
I have also written 7 books on MS Word. And the last one, a large perennial gardening book was a nightmare to organize and keep straight. My editor and I worked out a system where we cut the manuscript into multiple “sections” for our own use so we didn’t have to scroll through hundreds of individual pages to find a specific paragraph.
Scrivener made all those problems go away. I now have it installed on all three of my main working machines and because I store the works in progress in Dropbox, they all sync seamlessly. Literature and Latte just released (April 21/16) the iPad version and I got this on the first day. Naturally.

As an aside, if you want to sync to your iPad, you have to drag and drop the file into “Apps” and then “Scrivener” so the iPad can see it. You can easily access this file from your regular machines.

Mind Mapping

Scapple is another of the Literture and Latte (Scrivener) products I wouldn’t be without.  I can map a novel or non-fiction work quickly and easily.  It’s by far the most flexible idea-mapping software I’ve found.

Pen and Paper

Last but not least, I use artist’s hard bound sketchbooks as “idea factories”. I jot down ideas, notes, rants and whatever happens to be on the top of my mind first thing in the morning. Julia Coleman in her classic book “The Artist’s Way” popularized this “morning note” activity for creatives but I was doing it before I read the book. I also use colored pens and sticky book marks to mark notes I’d rather not lose.

Online Storage

As I mentioned above, I use Dropbox for storage of all files. This makes them transferrable between computers and it’s far more reliable than the Apple iCloud system. The only thing I use iCloud for is backing up my iPhone and iPad and for my image storage and transfer between machines.

Backing Up

Both of my two main working machines have their own hard drive (Lacie portable drives) that are never unplugged. Apple’s Time Machine does a fine job of keeping both systems up to date.
If you’re following along, this means

  • all images are backed up in iCloud,
  • all working manuscripts are on Dropbox and Evernote
  • all other data is on a portable hard drive via Time Machine.

It is possible I’d lose data if I lost both my machine and backup drive on both computers at the same time. The only solution to that would be a constantly back up system that’s cloud based. I’ve tried Carbonite and while it worked, it was clunky.
It seemed there were always issues with it not backing up or stalling or any number of things so I allowed the service to lapse. I’m fairly comfortable with having all my working data on two machines, Evernote and Dropbox now. Software would be simply a matter of hooking back up the Mac store and downloading everything again.

Hosting

Tried ’em all. Sigh.
I took a brief run at WordPress dot com and while it was a no-brainer and easy to run, it was too limited for what I wanted to do.
I also have one self hosted WordPress site at Douglas-Green.com which is a non-fiction/writer/creative/whatever kind of blog. If I could figure out a monetization model for it, I’d likely move it to this host as well.
This site is on Rainmaker It’s overkill for the size of the site (tiny) and the income being generated by fiction (nil) but it has several things going for it. It’s a one-size-fits-all kind of platform which does everything I could dream of with a website. From a merchant system to podcast hosting, Rainmaker works. I run my large gardening site on it and while this one is tiny by comparison, it means I have a full tech team to sort out any issues.
For example, when the podcast feed didn’t validate, they sorted it out. I don’t have to do tech “stuff” at any level and that frees me up to be creative. That alone is worth the yearly fee. My objective is to grow into the site rather than develop something else and move here. Stay tuned on that one.

Bottom Lines:

  • Evernote for short one-page work.
  • Scrivener for long work.
  • Scapple for free-form idea generation
  • Dropbox for syncing everything.
  • And pen and paper for sorting out my mind

My writers notebook where I discuss tips and online publishing can be found here
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