I’ve dared to call myself ‘writer’ out loud now for about five years, though I’ve known deep inside I was writer since the third grade. What has consumed a HUGE chunk of these last five years for me is figuring out my writing process. Until I figure out HOW to do a thing, I’m often unable to work. I’d like to save you some time and share with you my writing arsenal- my go-to collection of tools I find useful, user-friendly and conducive to getting to the business of writing. Putting words on the page.
My Writing Group
My writing group is the number one tool I have. I cannot count the number of times they’ve encouraged me, talked me off the ledge, inspired me and given me stellar feedback on my work. A good writing group, or even a partner, is key to being a good writer. It can, however, be difficult to find one.
I discovered my tribe of scribes when I attended SFU’s (Simon Fraser University) Southbank writing course in 2014. If you can financially swing attending a course, or perhaps a conference like the SiWC (Surrey International Writer’s Conference), these can be great places to find like- minded writers. If that is beyond you at the moment, try an app like Meetup to to find meetings of like- minded individuals at coffee shops and libraries in your neighbourhood.
If you have money to invest, I highly recommend The Creative Academy. If you become a member, you can virtually meet up with writers from around the world from the comfort of your own home and take part in online office hours with published writers. If you need a kick in the pants, you can join in on their online writing sprints.
Any way you go about it, finding a solid, supportive community of writers is key. Writing is a lonely, mind-bending business. It’s nice to have fellow crazies you can count on.
Word processing is a key need for any writer. For five years, I flirted with Scrivener. Almost every writer I know recommended it to me. This year, I used my NaNoWriMo discount and bought it. I should have done it ages ago.
While Microsoft Word does everything I need it to while I am drafting, it is in the editing phase where Scrivener shines. It is much easier to navigate a 50,000 word document using Scrivener’s systems of organization than the giant document I was constantly getting lost in when I was working in Word.
I am also looking forward to linking my research into my future projects. I know I have photos and notes for the manuscript I wrote on Word, I can’t remember where I put the notebook and files I squirreled them away in. Scrivener may just save me from myself and my terrible filing system and give me more writing time.
One Stop For Writers
I love me a good worksheet or writing template- I think it’s the teacher in me- but I realize that cruising the internet for a character worksheet or timeline tool every time I need one is a huge waste of my valuable writing time. That’s where One Stop for Writers comes in.
With a paid subscription, you get access to tons of worksheets, templates and the amazing writing thesauruses written by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. The access to the Emotional Wound Thesaurus and the Emotion Thesaurus alone are worth the price of admission. Having a workspace to link it to and save as you read is the icing on the cake.
Definitely a great tool.
Once I had my word processing needs met, and my research covered, I realized I needed a tool to help me craft and polish my drafts. Through my member discount with Creative Academy (membership has so many benefits) I discovered ProWriting Aid.
I signed up for the free trial and fell in love with their reports. Editors are expensive, but ProWriting lets me polish everything from my adverb usage to sentence variation to the words I overuse. It shines a light on my bad habits, and a writing friend assures me that with continued use, it may even train me out of using them.
I eventually settled on a lifetime license, which was a decent outlay of cash, but I was glad once I switched to Scrivener because I could install it to use there and in my Word program. I’ve even installed it on my Chrome. It makes sure even my emails written well.
Brutally honest but worth every penny.
I learned the hard way I am not a pantser after I wrote my first novel without an outline. After the headaches created by that misadventure, I went in search of a tool I could use to guide me through the outlining process and discovered Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland.
I worked my way through her very useful workbook and created the outline and character sketches for my second novel with ease. Imagine my delight when I discovered she has created software to walk writers through her process. It was my Black Friday gift to myself; I’m looking forward to trying it out once I finish the edits I’m working on.
My Writing Space
I’ve written just about everywhere the last five years; cafes, the library, my backyard, my dining room table and in the office space I share with my children. While I would give my eye -teeth for a writing shed (see the above picture for my dream shed), alas, that will not happen soon.
Instead, I invested in a setup in the space I have to make it as conducive to writing as I can. I have photos that inspire me, my books, a comfortable chair and an ergonomically placed monitor and keyboard (a must, especially since I’m developing what my chiropractor calls ‘tech neck’). I have a filing system (a work in progress), a chaise to read on and I painted it in my favourite colour, green. It is a space I’m happy to stumble into when I do my morning pages.
I’d love a door and children who didn’t constantly interrupt me, but we can’t have everything! Someday I’ll train them out of their bad habits, or perhaps I’ll even set up that writer’s shed. A girl can dream.
There is more I can share, particularly about some of my favourite writing books, the writing courses I’ve found most useful and the writing supplies that make my writer’s heart flutter, but I’ll save those for a future post. For now, fellow writers, I hope your process is clear and your words flow. Happy writing!