I just got my home pc overhauled, got rid of my crappy Vista for Windows 7 and finally got a home copy of Microsoft Office 2007. My laptop is now a lean, mean, manuscript writing machine. It runs faster, jumps higher, and can bench-press 550... Okay, maybe that last part was a bit of an exaggeration, but I'm excited. I don't know how I survived all these years without Word, how much time I wasted during my lunch breaks at work, reformatting and fixing my headers and page breaks, and emailing agents. It was a nightmare.
Which just shows to go ya—it always helps to have the right tools for the job. That's what my southern, retired Army Sergeant daddy always says, and if you're not going to listen to an ex-sergeant, who are you gonna listen to?
Now that I have Word, I'm wondering if there aren't some other tools I've overlooked or didn't feel like I needed. I mean, I've got a word processor and a notebook and pen. What else do I need?
Now that I have Excel, I'm planning on writing out character sheets to keep track of physical features of the characters in my WiP. Since I've got a lot of pseudo-science steam-punk type inventions, I may need another spreadsheet to keep track of inventions and the limitations of the power my sorcerer characters can access. I'm sure I could think of a million different things to keep track of on a spreadsheet, but only when I'm procrastinating. ;)
Every so often I feel the need to use a mind-mapping software, like FreeMind, which is a free download, and is pretty user friendly. I use this when I'm stumped about the progression of details of a scene, particularly action scenes where I'm not sure of sequences of events, or scenes where I need to know the order of information that is to be revealed. Sometimes I just want to write out my scene-goals, and it helps to do this on the computer rather than in a notebook because I can switch between windows pretty easily.
Another tool I use when I need to do some research is Google Scholar—which can sometimes turn out to be more frustrating than helpful if it directs you a subscription only site, and you can't access the article for free. I'm also lucky enough to have access to an online article site called JSTOR both at work and at my nearby alma mater. Though some people say, write first, research later for the details, my brain just won't work like that. I need to know the settings to properly immerse my MC and others in it. Not to mention, research helps get my creative juices flowing, and sometimes even helps me figure out plot details.
Right now I'm researching Delphi, Greece as a setting, and also rural areas of both Massachusetts and Mississippi. I like to use Google Maps for that and look at the satellite imagery as well as street views where they're available. Then there's the DaylightMap, which is useful if your characters teleport across the globe and you need to know what time it is in Turkey when they just left the southeastern US.
Do you have any favorite tools besides good old paper and ink? I'd love to hear about it!
“All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” ~George Orwell
I'm a YA writer who delves into urban fantasy, paranormal and romance, and who loves reading good books almost as much as writing them.
When not writing—or working—I enjoy daydreaming, drinking tea, and walking in cemeteries. I used to spend the rest of my time checking my inbox for manuscript requests, but am now proudly represented by Rosemary Stimola, of Stimola Literary Studio.