Eleven must-haves in my writer toolkit

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I’ll bet you don’t even remember the days when a computer was the newest thing in writing gadgetry. With the plethora of apps and add-ons that has bombarded us over the last years,  these days it’s almost a full-time job to keep up with the latest.

I don’t think I have. But I do have some favorites and frankly don’t know how I’d get along without them. Here are eleven tools I use every day.

TextEdot ocpmTextEdit – I use this simple word-processing software that came with my iMac and MacBook to draft all my blog posts. If I ever need to strip something of html coding, TextEdit works well for that too. (Just click on “Plain text” in the program’s Preferences.)

Scrivener logoScrivener –  This powerful program is helpful for putting together most things from articles to books. I even use it to store my poem collection. Its keyword function, ability to collect links, mark each post with icons etc. make it very adaptable to almost anything you want to do with it.

Evernote iconEvernote – I use this program to collect information when I’m researching. I love how I can copy snippets to it when I’m browsing web pages. When I use it to take lecture notes I sometimes activate its recording ability.  I have it installed on three devices so now use the paid version (it’s free for two devices).

Pocket app - logoPocket – This app collects the URLs of articles I want to read later. Pocket is also installed on both my computers and my iPad so I can access the same list from three places.

Blogger icon Wordpress logoBlogger.com and WordPress.com  – I blog on both these platforms and love both. I have connected two of my blogs to domain names so have dropped “blogger” and “wordpress” in the url without the expense of self-hosting (called “domain mapping”).

Facebook iconFacebook private profile and Author Page.  Facebook keeps me connected with family and writing friends and lets me spread encouragement, kudos, and information about good books, resources etc. I have my website blog connected to my Facebook Author page so new posts automatically show up there.

Twitter iconTwitter – I use Twitter to connect with friends, colleagues, do a little marketing, and find interesting links and information. My blogs are connected to Twitter so whenever I post to them, a tweet goes out automatically.

 

FeedlyFeedly – This RSS reader, installed on both computers and my iPad, provides me with a wonderfully efficient way to read blogs.

 

SpotifySpotify – Using this digital music service I can listen to my favourite artists while doing office busy-work, or stream wordless classical, jazz, or pop as a background to writing.

 

TimerA Timer – Finally, I wouldn’t be without my iPad timer. I work best when I know I’m committed to write for a set amount of time. (It’s amazing, too, how inspiration rises when you know you’re stuck there—no ifs, ands or buts). A good amount of time for me is an 90 minutes. I set my timer for 30 minutes and take it in segments.

Maybe you noticed, a lot of these tools help with connectivity—me staying connected to myself as I work on different devices. What writing tools could you not live without? What makes a new one attractive to you? I’m always open to ‘new and improved’!

(This is an updated post that was first published on January 27, 2014. This post was my contribution  [2 of 6] to a writers’ BLOG HOP.  Read about what tools other writers are using HERE.)

Advice I’d give a new writer

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Self-publishing: easy, fast, cheapGiving advice to someone in any business these volatile days is risky—no less in the writing biz. Things have changed drastically since I first put my toe into freelance writing waters, fifteen plus years ago. It’s hard to predict what new condition, improvement, or obstacle will come along tomorrow, let alone a year or two from now. One piece of advice I would give to someone starting out today, though, is related to new developments.

My advice: Don’t be too quick to self-publish.

I’m not saying don’t do it. Just don’t let the ease, affordability, and popularity of self-publishing alone lure you onto the bandwagon. One can feel a certain amount of pressure to get work out there just because it’s easy to do and it seems like everyone is.

  • Get advice from those familiar with your work about whether or not it’s ready for prime time.
  • Get familiar with the market and what people are reading, so you know whether you  have a commodity people want and will buy.
  • Know your goals.
  • Count the cost in terms of the whole package including marketing and publicizing.
  • Above all, pray about it, and let the peace of God be your heart’s umpire in this – Philippians 4:6,

Blog hop for writers - logoWhat advice would you give a new writer?

More advice for newbie writers is found HERE.

After I wrote this post, I came across an interesting article about self-publishing at Writer Unboxed: “The New Class System” by Donald Maass.  More food for thought.

The B-I-B-L-eBook

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The Bible on Kindle

The Bible on Kindle

In the article “Fifty Shades of the Good Book” Christianity Today writer Sarah Zylstra  reports that having the Bible available as an e-book has boosted Bible sales and reading. This is especially true in places where Bibles are hard to get or there is a stigma attached to going into a Christian bookstore, like Muslim countries:

“The fastest-growing areas for digital Bible reading are where access is restricted, said Troy Carl, national director of Faith Comes by Hearing. The ministry’s second-most popular audio Bible (after English) has become Arabic. On average, those in traditional Muslim countries listen three to four hours at a time—far more than the average three to four minutes of those in developed countries.” (Read all of “Fifty Shades of the Good Book”…)

Personally, though my main study Bible is a physical book, I use the Bible on my ipod quite often during my devotions when I want to check a string of references, in church to follow along with the pastor’s message, and anytime I want to look something up and my ipod is handy. It’s not to hide what I’m reading but because having the entire Bible in a gadget that’s compact and weighs a few ounces is just plain fabulous!

What about you? Has the Bible in ebook made a difference on how you read, study and listen to it?

Take charge of your online life

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These days a writer is expected to do a lot of things in addition to writing. Staying abreast of industry trends and participating in social media are two of them. Trouble is, keeping track of all the interesting and useful stuff on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs can not only suck time from writing but also bury inspiration, dampen enthusiasm, blur focus, and deplete energy. Posting and reading social media updates can be just as distracting. There is so much out there to read and do—and still only 24 hours a day in which to do it.

Two little programs that I use regularly have helped me streamline my time online, even as I attempt to stay on-task in the midst  of all the noise.

Pocket (getpocket.com – formerly Read It Later) is one. It’s a program that works on any device (phone, tablet or computer). I have installed it on both my desk computer and laptop using Firefox.

The program puts a little pocket-shaped icon in my browser bar. If I find an article that looks interesting but I don’t have time to read it, I simply click on the pocket (which then turns red). It gets saved to a list of links that I access by clicking on a second pocket found at the far right of my browser.

Because I have Pocket on both computers, I can browse the internet for information at my desktop, save all the articles in my pocket, and read them later when  I’m relaxing  with my laptop.

A second great time-saver is Buffer (bufferapp.com). This program lets me schedule tweets. I also installed it on both computers using Firefox.

The free version of Buffer lets me schedule updates to one Twitter, one Facebook, and one LinkedIn account, but it does have some limitations. For example, I’m limited to how many tweets I can schedule; I think it’s 10. However, that’s easily enough to schedule enough tweets for a day or two (I have control over how many times a day I’ll tweet and when).

So gone are the days of inundating my followers with a deluge of tweets within seconds of each other. Now I set aside some time most days to Buffer my twitter stream for the next day, remembering to sprinkle in a few tweets for my book or other writing. I haven’t posted any updates to Facebook or LinkedIn with Buffer but I’m sure it works just as well.

These two handy little programs (plug-ins, apps, whatever they’re called) have helped me take control of my online reading and social media endeavors. Why don’t you give them a try?  You might like them too.

 

(First published on Inscribe Writers OnlineSeptember 12, 2012)