Tools of the Trade
So you're serious about this writing thing. Excellent! Great news! I love your enthusiasm!
But where do you start?
Well, that is an impossible question, really, because everyone starts somewhere different. Some writers begin with an outline. Some fly by the seat of their pants. But no matter HOW you begin writing, you need to actually, you know, begin writing.
But with what shall you write with? Dear Liza, dear Liza
Every author I know has a host of tools they use to slap the old words on a page. I rounded up a few of them and asked them what writing tools they can't live without. Here's what they said:
Jodi Meadows, author of the forthcoming, sure to be epic INCARNATE (Katherine Tegen Books, Spring 2012) said this: "My most beloved thing is, of course, Scrivener, but also: I must have some sort of map in front of me. It doesn't matter if it's fab or not. I like having a basic idea of locations and which direction the character is facing. It also keeps the sun from rising in the south."
Beth Revis, author of the NYT bestselling ACROSS THE UNIVERSE (Razorbill) uses: "A combination of Scrivener and Word. When I draft, I draft in Scrivener--that way I can get all the ideas down easily, move from chapter to chapter, etc. Then I compile the manuscript and move it to Word when I'm ready to revise. It helps me to see problem areas if I switch format when I go from writing to editing."
Kirsten Hubbard, author of the forthcoming, gorgeous novel LIKE MANDARIN (Delacorte, March 8 2011), can't live without "The 'hide white space' mode on Word, yellow legal pads, Rhapsody streaming, my mutt at my feet, and lots and lots of Tazo chai."
Veronica Roth, author of the forthcoming, ass-kicking novel DIVERGENT (Katherine Tegen Books, May 3, 2011) said: "I only use notebooks for brainstorming and outlining, but I do a lot of that, so I take them seriously. I recently abandoned my trusty Moleskine notebook for a Muji notebook because it lies flat, it's thin so you feel like you're filling it quickly, and it's not too big. I also use Scrivener. If that program had a face, and it wouldn't sue me for harrassment, I would kiss it."
And if you're curious what's on MY list of necessities? Here they are:
Scrivener. Seeing a common theme, here? I've been meaning to write a post about how I use it, and I will, someday, I swear. Suffice it to say for now, though, that while I began THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER on Microsoft Word, because that was all I had at the time, I switched to a Mac from a PC (and therefore from Word to Scrivener) about 3/4 of the way through the process (on one of my later revisions), and it changed my writing life. I'm drafting MARA 2 on Scrivener, and already, I can see how much of an impact it's having—in the best way—on my drafting.
Mac Freedom. When I just need to get away from it all, I take a vacation. I remove Tweetdeck from my dock, and because I am lazy, I don't have the patience to use the web version that much. But when even that won't do, or when I find myself looking at pretty shoes or at pretty, shiny pictures, I turn it on, turn off the internet for a few hours, and usually? I don't come back. I like the silence and I forget the internet exists. It's pretty awesome. And if you want or need to turn it off? You just reboot your computer. But if you're like me, you'll hold off on the reboot and just wait until it's finished. One of the best tools out there.
My sexy new iomega 500 gig external hard drive + Time Machine. Okay, so, confession time: I wrote a whole book without having my own dedicated external hard drive. The Help Desk was in charge of my backups, which we'd do whenever I was feeling panicky or superstitious and I had an assortment of thumb drives and dropbox accounts and various and sundry backup accoutrements for my Most Critical Files. But do I recommend that approach to my fellow writers? No. No I don't. Guys, you NEED to back up—regularly and often and in an organized way. What Time Machine does is this: when connected to an external hard drive, it does one long, initial backup of every single thing on your hard drive - pictures, documents, PDFs, .scriv files, everything. And then every hour on the hour, it saves any changes you've made in said hour to each and every single you've modified in the past 24 hours. It makes daily back ups of files you've modified. No thought process involved. No extra steps.
My Macbook Pro. I had a random Dell laptop which I wrote 3/4 of THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER on. It froze. It crashed. I panicked, due to previously referenced haphazard backup practices. And then finally, after much research and after being shown the glory of Scrivener, I took the Mac plunge. A desktop wasn't for me, because I hate sitting at a desk—I like moving around from the dining room table to the couch to the bed to the local indie coffee shop to Barnes & Noble to wherever. And I knew I wanted to be able to play DVDs without the hassle of needing an external drive, thus eliminating the super sexy Macbook Air from the competition. And with my particular needs, the 13" Pro suited me better than the Macbook, so that's what I bought. I haven't regretted it for one second. I use many, many applications while I write: Scrivener, ITunes, Safari almost constantly. And on my PC, Word + ITunes + Internet Explorer did NOT get along. I know that having 10,000 Internet Explorer windows open didn't help, and I *KNOW* having 10,000 Word document windows open didn't help, which is why Scrivener's split screen feature is probably the single most valuable aspect of it, for me, but I digress (See? I can't stop TALKING about SCRIVENER. It's a disease). Bottom line: the way I write and use my laptop is perfectly suited to my Macbook Pro. Also, it's pretty.
Cost: $1200, but Mac laptops range in price from $950-$1700.
3" Drugstore spiral notebook. I often find that dialogue or snippets of conversation fill my head first. Sometimes the scenes even evolve from the dialogue. And when I have those bursts of inspiration, I need to write them down. Wherever, whenever. So I keep a teeny notebook on me at all times for exactly that purpose. Cost: $0.99.
And there you have it- my most beloved tools, and those of Beth, Veronica, Kirsten, and Jodi! What are your most beloved writing tools, pray tell?