Articles tagged "writing tools"

3 Reasons Why You Should be Writing in the Cloud

Tips for writing in the cloud

Imagine: you’re an author hard at work to independently publish your book (stop me if you’ve heard this one before). You finally have time to write but…you’re at your work laptop instead of your personal one. Or you only have your phone or tablet on you. Or you’re waiting on someone’s feedback about a crucial detail that you need to continue. The list goes on.

In short, it can be a hassle to keep track of your in-progress work when you want to sneak in some writing time or show your book to someone. That’s where “the cloud” comes in.

You might have heard of the cloud and thought of it as an overused business term. To some extent, you’re right. But it can also be a valuable tool for any writer. The cloud lets you access and edit your work from anywhere, and there are programs out there specifically for writing.

What program should I use?

First things first: if you’re going to write in the cloud, you’ll need to decide where you’ll be doing it. A lot of this will come down to personal preference; what meets your needs, what you’re comfortable using, and even what platform is the most aesthetically pleasing all play a big role.

Google Drive is a good place to start. Most people have a Google account that they use for Gmail and other services, and using Drive is free to use. The convenience makes at least giving it a shot a low-effort task, and it’s straightforward enough to be very easy to use.

There’s also Evernote, a popular choice in its own right – so popular, in fact, that it surpassed 100 million users last year. You can pay a little extra for bells and whistles, but the basic program is free and more than enough for most writers.

Again, there are a lot of choices out there, but both Google Drive and Evernote have features that every writer can use (and will be discussed below), and they’re available on computers and mobile devices so they’ll never be out of reach. Play around until you find something you’re comfortable with!

Regardless what where you write, here are three ways the cloud will help make your writing efforts that much smoother.

Take your work anywhere

Do you save files to USB thumbdrives? It’s hard to believe we ever did such things, isn’t it? If you’re writing in the cloud, though, this all goes the way of carrying around CDs or floppy disks or – gasp! – even folders and binders full of printouts. Today, you can start writing, have it saved automatically, and pick it up whenever and wherever you want.

“But that’s not a problem,” you say. “I write on my laptop, and that’s portable. I can already take that anywhere!”

Sure you can – assuming you have that laptop. What if inspiration strikes while you’re in bed with your tablet, or while you’re waiting at the airport and only have your phone to tap away on?

That’s the beauty of the cloud: wherever you are, that’s where your work is, too.

Collaboration

Writing is often thought of as a solitary endeavor, but we know better, don’t we?

Maybe you have a small group of people with whom you’re collaborating on your textbook. Or you have experts and thought leaders double-checking your work. You might have people proofreading for you, whether it’s a professional editor or friends and family you’ve enlisted to give your book a once-over.

Regardless of your circumstances, you’ll never run short of reasons to share your writing with a lot of people before you even get the first hard copy published, and working in the cloud makes that process that much easier.

In the cloud, you can give anyone you’d like access to your work. Services like Google Drive and Evernote come with chat functions, allowing you to discuss changes and brainstorm on the fly. You’ll never be out of touch with those you’re working with, removing a huge barrier to the old way of writing.

Research

Research is a key part of any book. Whether you’re writing a textbook full of facts and figures or you want to make sure you’ve got your indigenous plant life straight for your post-apocalypse novel, you never want to be called out for misinformation.

It’s important to get things right, and the Internet has revolutionized they way we find information. Since you’re working in the cloud, integrating your research into your writing is seamless. Take Google Drive: you’re already using Google for most of your information-gathering, right? Well, click on a word or a phrase in your document and get Google search results instantly, including the option to cite results in the format of your choice. Footnotes have never been easier!

Or maybe you’re using Evernote. Did you know that it comes with a web clipper tool, letting you save articles and websites right in Evernote for easy access and reference? Or how about that you can link related notes to keep track of everything? Or, for you non-fiction authors, store things like business cards and recipes? All the information you could want is at your fingertips, and you never have to leave your writing.

A new way to work

You might have noticed that these tactics go together hand-in-hand: collaboration is a lot easier because you can take your work anywhere, and research is simple when you can have other people make notes and suggestions in an instant. They fit together like pieces of a writing puzzle. And that’s why using cloud-based tools to write makes so much sense.

There’s something to be said for old habits, like sitting down at a notebook or a typewriter, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t embrace new and innovative ways to do things. After all, you’ve seen the benefits of self-publishing over going through the old, outdated publishing process. If you’re in the market for convenience, speed, and ease of use, there might be something in the cloud for you.

The Scoop on Scrivener

As writers, we’re known to seek comfort in the form of tea, complaining, and well, more complaining. It’s part of the process, which as of late has been somewhat revolutionized with the software writing program, Scrivener.

If you follow authors on social media or have a critique group, you’ve probably already heard of it. Praised by mainstream media like The New York Times and tech publications such as Wired, The Seattle Times even went so far as to say that writers “swear by” Scrivener — which over the years has received awards from MacWorld and MacUser.

A self-proclaimed “content management tool,” the software is designed to help writers “structure and compose” long documents such as dissertations, screenplays, essays and of course the ever-daunting novel. The “binder” section in the left navigational pane helps you find and edit specific portions of your document and hop to and from your research or other notes then back to your writing easily. Don’t like where one scene or paragraph is placed? Drag and drop it into a new location; no need to waste time copying, pasting, and re-formatting your text. Last, but certainly not least, the virtual index card feature was created to help authors determine the best sequence for their work. Explains Allison Martin, who used the software to redraft her YA fantasy novel, plot a contemporary piece, and write a short story:

“Often while writing I’d have an idea for a future event or couldn’t remember what I was leading up to in the scene I was writing. So I’d pop over to the corkboard and check or type a quick note in the side bar so I would remember. Being able to see a point-form version of my novel is extremely helpful for me. Scrivener catches all my tangents and afterthoughts and compiles them into neat and organized homes that I can go back to and actually understand what I meant in my notes.”

Lauren Morrill, author of the upcoming young adult novel from Random House, Meant to Beagrees about Scrivener’s organizational merit.

“I like the way it forces me to think in parts of a novel: scenes, chapters, etc. Word is just one giant, endless blank page, which can be really scary.”

Structure isn’t the only helpful Scrivener provides. The often updated software offers an outlining tool, allows you to switch to scriptwriting mode for screen or stage play formatting, and even exports your document into the format you need for self-publishing.

That said, there are some drawbacks, notably the program’s file exclusivity, meaning that it’s not possible to pull one’s Scrivener files into Word to do a read-through when not at your home computer. Although the company has stated on their website that they’re “hoping to bring a scaled-down version of Scrivener to the iPad (and possibly the iPhone too) eventually,” nothing has been announced just yet.

Those new to the software should heed advice from veteran users. Notes Allison Martin,

“Think of Scrivener as a ‘writing software program’ not as a ‘word processor.’ It’s not like Word or Pages where you just start writing. It’s meant to aid you in the ENTIRE writing process from research to outline to publication.”

Lauren Morrill concurs, and also advises users to “watch YouTube videos” to really understand how it works before diving in. Otherwise you may run the risk of reaping more frustration than reward.

Speaking of one’s experience with Scrivener, have you used it yet? If so, tell us what you think in the comments below.