I found a new techy helper for my writing yesterday (see no.1 below) and it got me thinking about some of the different techy tools I use to help the different facets of my life as a writer. In the evangelistic mood of new year’s resolutions and the joy of passing on helpful things, here’s my current top 5 tips for writers looking to support their writing with a bit of tech.
1. Dark Sky: for avoiding rain on the walk home
When I wrote mainly from home, the weather outside didn’t particularly impact on my routine. Now I’ve switched to writing in a studio 30 mins walk from my flat, hyper-local weather information via the Dark Sky app means I know whether to stay at my desk for another fifteen minutes to avoid the worst of the hail, or if I should leg it as soon as possible to make it back before the heavens open. Given that brollies don’t survive more than a couple of minutes in Edinburgh and I don’t have a car, this is awesome. Plus the app interface is really pretty.
2. Scrivener: for structuring and getting down first drafts of long-form writing
I started with the free trial and upgraded to the (surprisingly cheap) licensed version as soon as the free month was up. One of the first compilation writing platforms I stumbled across, I’ve not felt the need to try any of the alternatives that have become established in the last couple of years. I like that Scrivener makes it visually easier for me to break my long-form writing down into chunks, and I also use it to store and categorise all my short fiction in one place. I love that you can get it to auto-read your writing back to you, and that it’s easy to set daily word targets and break longer-term goals down into digestible chunks. I’d love to find out how to stop it from auto-indenting every single paragraph when I compile to print (nope, I haven’t looked in any of the tutorials…).
3. Slack: for simplifying communication during projects
I only started using this at the tail-end of 2015, but i’ve had several people recommend it over the past year, for project management across a variety of sectors. I tend to work with small teams on fixed-term creative projects and so far I’m enjoying not having to hunt through my email to see what I said to someone because it’s all there in the messaging channels. Jury is still out on how helpful it’ll become across all the different projects I work with, and I’m looking forward to trying out integration of things like Evernote when I’ve built my confidence up on the basic format.
4. Twitter: for asking questions and keeping in touch with a writing community, long-distance
Love or hate social media, Twitter is the go-to chat zone to stalk/chat informally with other writers, agents, publishers, bookshops and a massively engaged, loyal scene of booklovers. Whether it’s using #askanagent to iron out wrinkles in your query letters or finding out details of a short story competition through RTs from a literary organisation, there’s a wealth of practical and useful information there in 140 characters or fewer, as well as endless opportunities to procrastinate, chit-chat and make bad literary puns. Great for keeping in touch with writing buddies, terrible for time-wasting.
5. Freedom: for stopping yourself from creating distractions online
This was my top techy-helper when I wrote from home, currently less useful as the studio doesn’t have internet. Somehow willpower was never strong enough to stop myself from googling a fun fact or checking in on emails/Twitter when writing on a computer. This simple, time-limited internet/social-media blocker forces you back into pre-digital levels of concentration on the task at hand and I can think of no bad points about it. Except that you also have to switch your smartphone off to stop yourself from cheating…
Distract yourself from the blank page by following me on Twitter @ViccyIsWriting or tell me about your favourite writing techy helpmates in the comments below.