Guest Post: Getting Organized with Writing Tools

This is a guest post by Hyacinthe M. Miller.

I’ve been writing short and long fiction for decades, but I never was much of a planner.  My go-to software was Microsoft Word. However, the longer my documents got, the more unruly Word behaved.  My default was to pound out a few thousand words, give the file a name and date then save it. The end result was a messy directory with multiple folders. I didn’t like that disorganized flea market vibe. Using Explorer to search for word strings was maddening.

Arranging my ideas into a logical flow before starting a project was time-consuming and took the joy out of writing. I struggled with Excel spreadsheets, spending more hours configuring columns and cells than creating stories. Then I tried Word. Easier? Not really. The original outline for the first draft of my novel ended up as an eighteen-page table. Large tables are manageable as eels – the content boxes change shape as you add text. Besides, the final draft of Kenora Reinvented didn’t end up conforming to the outline. 

Here’s what I did to get organized.

I switched from Windows computers to an Apple iMac desktop and MacBook Pro laptop. I won’t go into rhapsodies about how seamless the Apple ecosystem is compared to what I was using previously, but for someone like me with an undisciplined mind, streamlining my writing process made life easier.

  1. Collecting ideas. Microsoft OneNote, Evernote. I can also Airdrop between devices, take a screenshot, bookmark websites, save into the Notes app or as a PDF in Books. 
  1. Planning. Story Planner ($10 USD). Works on iPhone, iPad and Mac. You can access your project outlines from any of your devices. You can also choose where you want your files saved – on your computer, in the cloud, etc. I recently downloaded Plottr ($25 USD), a tool featuring drag & drop visual timelines, index cards, character/place tracking, outline builder and templates (12 Chapter mystery, Hero’s Journey, etc.)  
  1. Writing. Scrivener ($67 CAD – regular deals for NaNoWriMo or Black Friday). Windows, IOS, and Mac versions and plenty of free templates. Clean interface. Composing is a breeze. You can drag and drop scenes, collect research, links, photos, and maps. Don’t get discouraged by the learning curve – there’s a 30-day trial period.
  1. Storage. Dropbox ($144 USD a year for 2T) I save, share and access files from my phone, iPad and computers. I use Selective Sync and only save the Dropbox files I use regularly to my devices.  I also use Sync, iCloud, Google and Amazon photos (free).  
  1. Formatting. Vellum ($339 CAD – produce unlimited print and eBooks). Only available for Mac OS. Easy to import a text document, format then upload. Yes, it’s a big investment but it can also save time and money. There’s a free trial available.
  1. Supplies. Dollarama is an under-appreciated resource for ‘old school’ writing supplies like notebooks and pens.

The bottom line is get organized, collect your thoughts, sit then write!

Hyacinthe M. Miller

Hyacinthe M. Miller is an award-winning author of short stories, magazine and newspaper articles, contemporary women’s fiction and non-fiction. Her fiction has been published in Herotica 7, Whispered Words, and Allucinor, The Elements of Romance. Her debut novel, Kenora Reinvented, Book 1 of the Kenora & Jake: Investigations, Mystery & Seasoned Romance Series, was published in September 2019 in ebook format.

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