Writing Tools

The great thing about writing is that all you need is a pen and paper. Except my writing is largely illegible, even to me. So I use my laptop. And then, of course, there is the matter of publishing, which adds more complexity. So all in all, I used quite a few bits and pieces along the way.

Mac Pro laptop. A huge indulgence, I know. But it is so light and I’ve become accustomed to the Apple way over the past few years (my ex-Lotus colleagues will find this very hard to believe!). A personal choice, obviously, but it really has been a great tool.

Scrivener. Scrivener is a word processor for writers. I addition to all the usual WP features, it adds great outlining capabilities, space to hold outlines, ideas, research, character profiles and a lot more – all in one place in an easy to follow layout. Scrivener thinks in terms of chapters and scenes, which is excellent.

It will export to Word, to pdf, and to various ebook formats. For anything more complex than a short story, I thoroughly recommend it. It also has easy to see word counts for scenes, chapters, and the entire book and allows target setting and other fun stuff. There is a script-writing module, and one for plays.

There is a wide and active support community. $45 well spent (It is written in the UK by the way.)

Calibre. Free software (donations welcomed) that allows seamless conversion between lots of formats, most important to me, ePub and Mobi (for Kindles). Eventually, when the final draft is almost there, and you need to share your story with early readers, you’re going to move your draft into Word. Layout, pagination, formatting, are just easier (or maybe just more familiar) in Word than in Scrivener. Calibre is really good at managing Word to eBook conversions. It is actually an eBook library management tool.

KDP. Kindle Direct Publishing ii the tool/service you use to get your story into the Kindle store on Amazon. I’ll try to write more about the experience of using KDP in a later posting. Suffice to say at the moment, I’m happy with the process. I plan to explore other ebook options in the future, but for the moment, I’ve only tried Amazon. But don’t use KDP to create your paperback.

CreateSpace. CreateSpace was bought by Amazon and at some point, I assume they will fold it into KDP to create a single platform for authors. I found CreateSpace a little intimidating at first. I like to know the path I’m setting out on before I start, and CreateSpace doesn’t offer that. However, once I got into it, it was all pretty straightforward. It is still astonishing to me that I can create a professional looking paperback for no more than the cost of buying the first copy – say £10/$10/€10 or so. No commitment, no need to buy any more. I think it is astonishing – and I don’t think it will be true forever.

Excel. I created a spreadsheet that would manage all of my character’s ages. So at any moment, I could see how old everyone is (if they are still alive of course.) Surprisingly challenging, especially if you are writing a family saga! (Contact me if you want a copy.) I also had to create a spreadsheet covering every single day of my final chapters, just to keep track of where everyone was, and to ensure no-one was in two places at once.

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