Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday 5: Five of my must-have writing tools

For this week's Friday 5, here are five of my must-have writing tools beyond the obvious (computer, printer, paper).
1. Liquid Story Binder (writing software)
Kinda old now, but full of useful features and amazingly flexible. I can go from brainstorming and outlining to writing to revision and spellchecking all in one program. Scrivener is the really popular writing program now, and it has a lot of features in common with LSB, but I found it a little too regimented. This image shows a working layout from The Lost Book of Anggird, with a timeline, the Builder I wrote in (Builders are a tool that collects a lot of files into one larger file with a "table of content" on the side that lets you add, delete, and move smaller individual files around), and a listing all the files in that project.

2. Index cards.
I'll confess, I kind of have a fetish for index cards. One of my desk drawers is crammed full of unopened packs in both 3 x 5 and 4 x 6 sizes. I use these for outlining, putting each scene idea on a card, then I can see where the blanks are that need to be filled in and also rearrange them as needed. I also use them for revision. I make a scene for each card (as described here: with a one-sentence summary of the scene, notes on the purpose of the scene, the situation or conflict it addresses, what changes in the scene to move the story forward, and what revisions I need to make in the scene.

3. Post-its.
I use a ton of post-its, or sticky notes. I put them on my revision index cards to give myself an idea of how much work each scene needs (I'm almost never right) (also see the post linked above). I also use them to mark the place in my manuscript where I left off editing, and also to leave notes to myself in the manuscript of things I think of that need to be changed later on. For example, in the crossing the river scene in To the Gap (upcoming book 4), I put a sticky note saying "Mrs B rides across fully clothed". Cryptic, but I know what it means, and when I get to that part I'll know I meant to change that. (rides across fully clothed, as opposed to swimming across the river in her underwear like everyone else has to do, if you're wondering.)

4. Timer.
I use this on days when I'm having trouble focusing, set for 15 minutes at a time. Or if I have other chores I need to get done, I set it for 30 minutes at a time, then go work on other stuff for a bit. Or if my work hours have been slipping, I set it for the number of hours I need to work that day to make sure I get them all in.

5. American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 1st edition.
My parents gave me this for Christmas (or maybe my birthday? they're close together) when I was in, hm, 5th or 6th grade, and I still have it. This is the original edition, with an extensive section in the back on word origins, which is great for coming up with fantasy words. It's huge and heavy, and since it's over 40 years old its eleventy-gazillion entries don't include the latest slang and buzzwords (but since I write other-world fantasy I don't need those anyway), but it's my authoritative go-to for spelling, definitions, and usage (the extensive usage notes have been a lifesaver more than once). An oldie but goodie, and I have no plans to quit using it.

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