Tag Archives: computer

A writer’s tools – what do you REALLY need?

Do you NEED a huge desk, piles of papers and a dodgy haircut?

Writing a book used to be a simple, but longwinded thing. You took some paper and a pen, and you wrote. When you got something wrong, you crossed it out and wrote it again. Then along came the typewriter and that made things neater, but mistakes still needed correction. And then correction fluid. Now we have computers, netbooks, tablets, smartphones….There’s almost no end to the number of gadgets that allow you to write, blog, compose, educate…on the move.

But what do you NEED? Obviously, if you’re blogging, you need something with access to the internet, so you can upload your wit and wisdom for the eager masses. And if you’re any kind of author, you should know that a blog is part of building your author platform (See Kristen? He CAN be taught!) So there’s an argument right there for the inclusion of a computer and router in your Writer’s toolbox.

Inspiration is a flighty thing, and it can strike at any time. A decent smartphone can let you record your brilliant idea as it occurs. Maybe you can even slot the bare bones onto Twitter for the benefit of your followers. (And isn’t it great to have followers? Like you’re some kind of prophet leading your people through the literary desert to the flowing waters of wordy goodness….) Ok, a smartphone. Which we’re definitely not getting for the games, oh no. Ooh, look, Bejewelled!

Smartphones are good for 140 characters of tweet, but writing my novel two thumbs at a time? No way. But a laptop is too bulky. Get yourself a neat little netbook, hook up to the Starbucks Wi-Fi and away you go! Proper keyboard, decent size screen, and you can even check Facebook. For your author-type publicity updates of course.

You know what’s coming, though, don’t you? All these things are lovely, and yes, to be a successful published author, you’ll need to use the internet and present your manuscript in a legible form. But to write, to communicate the notions in your ever-whirring brain, all you need is that good old pen and paper. Don’t believe the hype that says you need the latest software to write your novel, or that you can’t live without a 28inch screen for your PC. You could write a whole novel in pen on paper, and it could be just as good as a first draft in Times New Roman in Word. Yes, you’ll have to re-type the whole thing, but if you aren’t planning to do more than one draft, then you’re no writer, my friend.

Today’s secret is a simple one: To be a writer, you only have to write, and you can do that with a pen and a piece of paper.

Excellent tool for writers – Dropbox

My favourite new icon - so handy and unobtrusive!

I had prepared a huge rambling monologue about the joys of collaborative writing, thanks to the last two weeks spent working with my writing partners (who came all the way to Canada for a writing work out – thanks, Steve and David!). But it occurred to me that short and sweet is better for blogs and David introduced a minor, FREE, piece of software that made our entire fortnight a lot easier to manage, writing wise.

DROPBOX is a downloadable piece of software that sits on your desktop. You can save files to it, or drag and drop them as usual, and they’re there, in the folder. But they’re also in a 2Gig folder out there in Internet Land, so if you’re out and about and drop into an Internet cafe, you can open up a file you’re working on, change it, save it and Dropbox will update that same file the next time you go online at home. No more dragging around a file on pen drive, worrying about which version you’re saving, or where you last worked on it. Listen, I don’t know about you guys, but I have a desktop, a laptop, and now a netbook. I have four pen drives and two portable hard drives. I have trouble keeping track of where the records database is most recent, or which unfinished play file is the most up to date. Now I keep all those files in Dropbox and they’re all the same file on every computer!

If this sounds like a gushing advert for Dropbox, then I make no apologies. We all installed Dropbox on our various machines during our writing fortnight, and added a shared folder, meaning if one of us completed a sketch or scene, we didn’t have to e-mail it around, we just dumped it in the shared folder and the other guys’ folders updated automatically. As long as we were careful to work on files one at a time, there was no instance of multiple versions appearing and having to be collated. We wrote a complete panto (60 pages of material), nearly a dozen sketches, two lots of corporate work and outlines of many, many other ideas, and they all got speeded along using Dropbox. It’s still inplace and working though David and Steve are back in the UK.

So, if you’re using multiple machines, or working cooperatively with another writer, try Dropbox. They’re not paying me to tell you this, so it’s a genuine tip from one writer to others – this thing can actually make your writing life easier and less frustrating!

TLC go wild in Canada! Steve, David and me (L-R)