Writing Tools: Or the things I HAVE to have to write a story.

I was thinking to myself last night while waiting on Dropbox to sync about how I absolutely have to have certain things to be able to properly write. And how this time last year I was still writing in *gasp* MS Word. I’ve come to rely on certain tools so much that I would cry, whine and generally make moany noises if they were to suddenly crap out on me. So here is a list of those tools because I am ALL about lists.

Hang on…I need to find a big flaming #1 somewhere…*googles Big Flaming #1*

No dice, I’ll just make some. Okay. Done. Here we go.



First and Foremost, I need Scrivener. I cannot stress how much I love this program. It’s easily worth the money!

This is a word processor, outliner, cork board, notes program and e-book compiler all rolled up into one. This has completely changed how I write. Things are now clearly in individual scene files organized into chapter folders — and everything is easily shiftable. I can draw in my inspiration photographs into a Character folder and build a Character document with important information like appearance, age, scent etc.

But the thing I love about it most is FULL SCREEN Mode. This is super important for an easily distracted person like me. In Full Screen mode, I can blank out all other windows while still drawing in items from my research folder. So if you don’t get a reply to your Tweet within a half hour, it’s probably because I’m either away from a device or I’ve got my nose shoved in Full Screen mode while I madly write.

Another thing that makes this program super helpful is the compiler. From the same scrivener file I can churn out most major e-book files. They’re nicely formatted and ready to go. I can even have it create a Word/RTF Document for submitting to publishers/agents. It will even do HTML format! How cool is that?

Here are some extra shots from the smutty Air witch story I’ve been writing this week:


I should probably mention that it’s not actually the Dictionary App that I need most of the time but rather the Thesaurus. Macintosh OS X comes prepackaged with this beautiful little application that is almost always open on my computer. It’s a quick and easy way to make sure a word exists the way you thought it did. Example: Piston isn’t actually a verb. *grumpy sigh*

One of the things you’d hear me say regularly if you were forced into my company in the real world is that I’m only in possession of half my vocabulary on any given day. Dictionary/Thesaurus helps me remember the terms that are in the missing half. It’s like mental Olympics trying to trigger my memory to spit out that damn word I know exists in the English language but just can’t freakin’ remember. This leads me to #4 on my list, Evernote, but we’ll get to that later.


I’ve come to rely on Dropbox so much it’s frightening.

So what is it? It’s that thing you’ve been hearing about with “storing things in the Cloud”. Buzzword Blah Buzz Blah blah blaaaaah. *yawn*

Okay. Here’s how it can help YOU.

During NaNoWriMo, one of the lovely local authors arrived frazzled and late to the Panera bread “Write In”. She’d spent two days searching for her precious USB Thumb drive that held all of her writing projects — specifically the 18k words she’d already churned out for November. Minutes late, her wonderful hubby found it but the experience frightened her so much that she declared that she needed to back the USB drive up that instant and e-mail herself the files.

I piped up with “Use Dropbox!”

This is the perfect use for Dropbox. Backing up your writing files to Dropbox in addition to USB/E-mail means you have a copy of your files on the Internet even if your computer crashes! And if that USB drive fails, as they’re prone to doing? You’re covered…at least whatever you remembered to copy over to Dropbox.

If you install the handy Dropbox app/program on your computer, you can set it to automatically synchronize all of the files in a given folder or folders. It’s even got a little bit of versioning so you can restore earlier versions if something goes wrong with your file. How cool is that?

I’ve come to rely on this so much because I use different computers. Dropbox synchronizes my writing, my design files, my photographs and anything else I put out there. It also makes it easy to create a share link so you can let someone else grab a file from you!

Best of all you get 2GB FREE!

Okay, enough about Dropbox.


Evernote is another of those “Cloud” tools — one for organizing notes.

You may wonder why I’d need a program to organize my notes when Scrivener does that. Good question.

While Scrivener is great at holding research/notes on a single story, it’s not so good when you’re dealing with series, crossovers or other stories in the same universe. Scrivener doesn’t share files well.

I use Evernote to keep notes on my universe. Specific coven titles, coven leaders, vampire senator names, witch power descriptions, etc. — all of that is in Evernote so that I can get to it no matter what story I’m working on at the moment. That way I don’t have to open a dozen individual scrivener projects for a dozen different stories each time I make a minor change/addition in my universe.

Best of all, I get everything I need in the FREE version!


Now you might be shaking your head at me in confusion on THIS one. Bear with me!

I regularly make really stupid grammatical/spelling mistakes in my stories. Particularly I’m bad about failing to combine words: e.g. I type “cork board” instead of “corkboard” and “red head” instead of “redhead”.

While Scrivener is great for quick writing, and has a built in spell checker, it has nothing for grammar. So in comes MS Word to pick up the slack. I use Scrivener to compile in Word Document format and then open the file in MS Word to have it do a lovely grammar/spell check. MS Word picks up on my worst offenses before I dare to submit a story to a publisher/agent.

I’m lucky enough to get this free through work. I wouldn’t pay for it myself if it came down to it. But I know from experience that I do whine and moan when it comes time to edit if I don’t have MS Word handy.

P.S. Like my flamey numbers? Get them HERE.

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