Andrew Q Gordon was kind enough to have me as a guest on his blog recently. Here is a repost of my article.
Has Technology; Knows How to Use It
There is a virtual buffet of ways for authors to connect with readers and readers to find their favorite authors and books. There is Facebook, WordPress, Blogger, Google+, Pinterest, and, well you get the idea. As many ways as there are to connect, there are blogs and wikis and videos offering up instructions on how to use them.
I’m not going to compete with the blogs, wikis and videos, they’ve said it all and far better than I ever could.
Something I’m interested talking about today is what to use all these wonderful things on, and some software that easily transfers what you need onto multiple devices. Yes, I said those horrible words,software and devices!
As writers, we often use dirty words, yet none quite elicit the emotions software (whatnots and thingamabobs) and devices (gizmos) do. The best advice I’ve heard concerning social media is pick one or two, stick with them and do them well.
I say the same advice transfers exceedingly well to software and devices. Now, remember I don’t have a degree in computerology, mine is in biology, and I don’t work in the computer industry, I’m a veterinary nurse. These are simply things I’ve tried and found work really well. I want to share!
The first thing is it all starts with your computer, be it desktop or laptop. That’s the thing that is going to be your main clearinghouse for all your writing and networking needs. Any software that’s worth having is going to be on this device. Think of it as the mothership.
There are two basic species of gizmos other than the mothership, Android and Apple. I have Android based gizmos, but most of the whatnots and thingamabobs that you can use and put on an Android gizmo, you can also find an Apple version of and visa-versa. I’ve even seen apps capable of merging Android and Apple whatnots and thingamabobs for people who have both species of gizmos.
Okay, now that we got all that technical jargon out of the way we can dive right into the important stuff.
Recently I was lucky enough to participate in a writer’s conference. Naturally a good deal of time was spent on social media and marketing. The great big question was how to fit these activities in with writing and editing. One of the presenters whips out her cell phone in the middle of her presentation; holds it up and says something to the effect if you have one of these you have a great tool for keeping up with your social media.
I’m going to take this concept—and it’s an important, very true concept—one step farther and say if you have a smartphone you have a wonderful tool for writing on the go as well.
Even full time writers without day jobs have to occasionally drag themselves from the keyboard (or pad of paper) to complete tasks such as grocery shopping, picking up the kids from school, taking the dog to the vet and all the other stuff day to day living demands.
I don’t think there has ever been a writer who existed that didn’t have plot inspiration, great dialog or character backstories present themselves when they were someplace other than their place to write.
This is where your gizmos become your most valuable tool.
Standing in line at the grocery store and the solution to that plot hitch strikes? Waiting on your child to exit school when the reason why character B does what he does? Sitting in an exam room waiting for your dog to be vaccinated and the most amazing story line starts rolling in your head? Afraid you’ll lose that thought before you get to write it down? We’ve all had that happen.
Have a smartphone? It doesn’t have to be the latest and greatest, you still have a little computer in your hand.
I use several thingamabobs that I keep on all my gizmos as well as the mothership. Through the magic of the internet what I put on one appears for accessing on another.
Microsoft Office, if you use it, doesn’t just come with Word, it comes with a nifty thing called One Note (http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/onenote/). It’s a virtual notebook that takes up literally no space in your purse, bag or kitchen table. There is also a One Note app for phones/tablets. So if some brilliant idea strikes I can take out my phone and record it right away. There is a free version that is very similar called EverNote (https://evernote.com) if you don’t have Microsoft Office. I have a separate ‘notebook’ for each project I’m writing and within that separate ‘pages’ for characters, plots, important things I’ll never remember otherwise, research links…just plain stuff. I figured it out once that if that was a paper notebook it’d be about three feet tall and weigh approximately as much as my car.
The next most important writing app I have is called Keep (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.keep&hl=en). It’s a sweet place to jot down to-do lists, I can take a picture of something to put on it and have for later use. Think of it as virtual sticky notes, or a little flip pocket notepad.
Both of these apps sit on the home screen of my phone. These, or other similar versions, can be put on any phone or tablet (that includes Kindle and Nook) for quick access. They are easy to use and customizable for your individual needs. I never have to search for a pen to write with either.
A third whatnot I have and use is Google Docs (docs.google.com). This is especially helpful when writing with others. Documents can be created and shared amongst a group, so everyone can add ideas, plot lines or whatever. It keeps a file folder on the mothership and stores all your important stuff online in a cloud as well and will do so automatically.
DropBox (www.dropbox.com) and SkyDrive (https://skydrive.live.com) are online ‘cloud’ storage. There are others, and they all have free versions. The greatest thing about these is if I take a picture, or work on a story on the go, they are automatically saved not only on my phone (or tablet) but my mothership and my little section of the cloud. That means I’ll never lose a picture or comments on a galley again!
Download several different types of note taking, idea-organizing apps and as with the social media pick one or two and do them well. The others are simply chewing up storage place, so take them off your gizmo. My personal rule is if one of these devices or software isn’t something I can figure out how to use in a short time I give it up for something else. None of these things will work well for you if you spend more time trying to figure out how to use them than actually using them.
One of the most important features of all these gizmos is by simply choosing the backup online option if you lose your smartphone or tablet, or if it’s damaged, your information is not lost. Reinstalling the app on a new gizmo reinstalls all your important data stored on that app as well. You have the option to back everything up onto your mother-ship too.
However, and I cannot stress this enough, do not be afraid to try these tools. They won’t bite and there is a forum on practically everything filled with people who know more than you and are willing to share that information. A forum I’ve found very helpful is Android Forums (androidforums.com). Another great source is wireless carriers and manufacturers; they all have user forums to find help.
It’s important to know how to use your electronic gizmos and mothership, and that includes finding the right tools to use on them. Just as a thesaurus and dictionary are tools for writers, electronic devices and their software are equally important tools of our trade, not just cool toys to look at pics of grumpy cats. We owe it to ourselves to use these things to make our lives easier and more organized.
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