Friday, March 29, 2019

About Writing Ep. 1: Things I Use for Writing

This isn't intended to be a how-to post. It's more of a discussion of craft and to give you a look at my process. There isn't a right or wrong. Just a matter of preference. I watched videos where writers discussed their favorite resources, and mine were a little different, so I thought I would throw them out there for your consideration.

Disclaimer: This blog post is not sponsored by Microsoft. 😸

Microsoft Word: My word processor of choice is Microsoft Word. I have tried a couple of other options, but I keep coming back to Word. While it may not be perfect, it has a lot of features for formatting and has everything I need to get my book from draft to ready to print.

Note: If you want to be able to quickly edit a specific chapter by clicking on the navigation pane, set each chapter number as a heading until you get ready to format for printing. The headings should show in your navigation pane. You can choose a heading level in the "Styles" section on the Home tab.

OneDrive: I am surprised how many people don't seem to know about OneDrive. It's not only for cloud storage, but also an online word processor. If you are a fan of Google Drive and Google Docs because you can take your book with you and because it saves automatically, well, guess what. So does OneDrive. The reason I prefer OneDrive is that it also allows me to open my document in the full-featured, offline version of Word.

Leave OneDrive open while you edit. You will have to click SAVE in Word, and it saves to the document located in the OneDrive cloud, not to your computer. If you are worried that it did not save (sometimes you might have to re-sync), go to your drive window and look to see if the time saved says "just now."

OneNote: OneNote is also a Microsoft application. I recently had to use this for a course I was taking for my day job, and I learned how to organize with it. I like to use OneNote mainly for brainstorming. It allows me to create tabs and pages. One of my pages might be a journal to my novel where I brainstorm and discuss issues and possible solutions with myself. Another tab might be for research, and the pages might contain information that I want to keep up with. Another tab might be for timelines, a calendar, moon phases for my werewolf, etc. You could put character profiles in or maps or whatever. Of course, there's an outline, as well. I think of it as a desk reference for my novel.

Excel: I also use Excel for timelines. The rows might be days of the month, days of the week, chapter numbers, moon phases, plotlines, etc. Each column will be a chapter, and a group of columns might be a day. It's very helpful if you are trying to keep up with what is happening around the same time, such as things going on in the background.

Calendars: Since I am writing a book that involves a werewolf, moon phases are important. When I wrote my first book, the events were taking place at the end of summer and before school started. I wanted to make sure that my events were logical. Furthermore, printing out a calendar and noting which chapters happen on the same day and looking at the whole of the story on a calendar allows me to put things into perspective. I either use a current calendar or, in the case I am dealing with now, I'm using a continuation of the same calendar I used for book one. I feel like that's important. While I'm not going to say in my book that it's the 16th day of October, 2016, I will say that it's October, and I may note that it's a Wednesday or Thursday in my story.  You wouldn't want to have a situation where you have two full moons two weeks apart. That doesn't happen.

Kindle: I love Kindle's Text-to-Speech feature more than Audible. I can convert my file to mobi and send it to my Kindle without publishing. It shows up under documents and opens just like a book in my Kindle library. I actually prefer Kindles TTS over Audible because it's just being read to me without being "acted out." When another person acts out a sentence, they are simultaneously sending you signals that manipulate you into feeling a certain way about the words. For example, if they use a "dumb" voice for a character (usually a woman impersonating a man, just saying), it might make you think less of the character, when it's possible that the actor just needs to go to therapy. The Kindle TTS is not perfect, especially with words that can be read multiple ways such as "read" or "project," and ending a sentence in a word like "what" or "where" will always make the voice pitch go up, but it's actually pretty smart and doesn't sound robotic to me. :)

Listening to my book allows me to hear errors that my eyes might have overlooked. While it's no substitute for proofreading, I have found it useful for catching some errors and also listening for how the book flows.

Note: After converting your file to MOBI, you can send your file to your Kindle using the email address assigned to your Kindle.

To locate the unique address, go to the Docs app and tap on Send-To-Kindle.

Also, the address you are sending FROM must be added to your list of approved email address, so just anybody can't send you a file.

To add your address (or to check to make sure it's there), go to Amazon's "Manage Your Content and Devices" page. Select "Preferences." Scroll down to Personal Document Settings. You should see a list of all of your Kindle devices and devices with a Kindle app installed on them. Below that is an area called "Approved Personal Document E-mail List." If the email you are trying to send from is not there, select "Add a new approved e-mail address" below the list.

There are online apps for converting a file to mobi, but if that's too much trouble, Microsoft Word does have a speak function. The voice is more robotic sounding, but it will help you to hear your work being read back to you. I have mine in the quick access tool bar, and it looks like a word balloon with a "play" arrow and says "Speak selected text" when you mouse over it. The disadvantage is that it works much like Speak in Safari, and you have to highlight each section to be read, rather than listening to your manuscript as if it were an already-published book.

Index cards: I tried the Scrivener version, but there's nothing like a stack of index cards to help you figure out the order of things. These work best early in the plotting of a book while I have all of these ideas floating around in my head but no idea what should go first. I write a blurb about each scene on a card and move them around in whatever way makes the most sense. I may not use it on every book, but it has proven useful for me. Alternatively, you can use sticky notes and move them around on a white board. I like the index cards because I can clip them together and take them with me.

Pencil and paper: I don't write my book by hand, but I use paper all the time for mindmapping when I am trying to figure out a problem. I also jot down ideas and notes as they occur to me while doing another task.

These are the basics that I use, although occasional food, a beverage, headphones to block out the barking dog, a playlist, thesaurus, reading glasses, and inspiration all come in handy


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