Top 5 Tools of the Trade

2013 RWA conference picPJ Sharon here. I’ve been taking an online course this month to learn how to use Scrivener. For those of you who don’t know what Scrivener is, it’s a software program developed specifically for writing. Scrivener puts everything you need for structuring, writing and editing long documents at your fingertips. It’s a way to organize your work into chapters, scenes, or sections so that it’s easy to move and manipulate them within your document. There’s even a place to keep all your research together in one easy to find folder. Think of it as one of those cool binders you loved to shop for when you were in high school…or maybe that was just me.scriv pic

Scrivener is available for Windows or Mac users and there are tons of tutorial videos out there. So why am I taking a course? Because I’m one of those non-tech-savvy individuals who needs my hand held whenever I’m faced with learning anything new on the computer. I’m convinced that this is why I married an engineer (aside from his being a sweetheart, a hottie, and a heck of a good kisser).

Scrivener is one of those writing tools that I can see has amazing potential to streamline my writing process. Once I’ve completed my manuscript, the program compiles it all into a professionally formatted document and even allows me to produce a .mobi file and an .epub file for upload to Amazon and B&N, respectively. I’m not there yet, but I’m pretty sure it will generate the appropriate file format for I-Books and Kobo as well. This would save money on hiring a formatter to do this for me, and I would continue to have complete control over making changes as needed.

If I were one of those folks who loves new gadgets, gets excited about the prospect of Windows 10, or one who can’t wait to buy the latest greatest I-Phone, I’d be stoked about learning Scrivener. Alas, I am not one of those people. Although I pride myself on being an intelligent person with a “can do” attitude most days, my brain does not appear to be wired for organization of files or the minutia of the not-so-intuitive Scrivener program. I’m more the absent-minded professor type who lives with piles of notebooks and file drawers full of things I’ll probably never need but can’t get rid of. Frankly, I’d rather be writing my stories than learning ANOTHER new computer program.

I’m hoping to feel differently after the course is complete and will report back as to its usefulness, or more to the point, my ability to adapt to it.

There are however, other tools of the trade that I have found exceedingly helpful. Here’s my top 5 list!

Authorgraph: Nothing to learn and everything to gain! Signing up for Authorgraph is free and easy. It allows me to digitally “autograph” my ebooks for readers who request it, and it sends me weekly updates regarding my books’ Amazon rankings. It also notifies me of new reviews. Great tool!

Canva: I’m new to Canva and will be attending a webinar to learn more about how to use all its features, but it appears to be user friendly and intuitive. It allows me to make my own graphic designs, has templates for Facebook and website headers, and offers a ton of royalty free photos to use for the designs. It’s perfect for creating graphics for Pinterest boards, blog tours, or events. I’m looking forward to letting my creative mind explore this fun new resource.

Drop Box: This is a “cloud based’ storage area for all of your files, photos, and documents. The free version offers enough memory for most of us to never run out of room (unless you’re storing tons of photos or videos which take lots of space). You can buy more storage space if needed, but the standard free 2 GB are plenty for my files. Drop box allows you to store, share, and work together on projects with others and syncs up to all of your devices so your info is always available. I use this as my back up to One Drive (which is also cloud-based storage). I also periodically back up my computer onto an external drive from Seagate.   

Excel: Not long ago, I recall saying the only thing I knew about spread sheets was how they fit onto a mattress. After a few quick tutorials with techno-hubby, I was able to reap the benefits of this most excel-lent tool. I use it for my list of websites and passwords, keep track of bloggers, reviewers, and promo sites, and compile my quarterly/yearly sales reports (when I get around to them), all done with excel spread sheets. I know only the basics of how to use it, but it seems to be doing the job for me just fine. Excel is available through Microsoft Office.

Hoot Suite: This social media powerhouse allows me to schedule tweets ahead of time. The basic program is free and user friendly. Again, I’m certain I’m only using the most basic features, but it does what I need it to. When I have a promotion going on, I can set up my tweets and schedule them to release throughout the day without having to be on Twitter all day long. It also allows me to group certain individuals, much the same way Twitter does. I can have bloggers and reviewers in one group, writers and publishers in another, and readers in yet another, so that I can target tweets to a specific audience. Very handy indeed! And don’t you just love their logo? (Casey Wyatt? I’m talking to you!)hoot suite image        

So these are a few of my favorite tools of the trade. Have you used any of these? Love them or hate them? Any I’ve missed that you’d like to share?   

10 thoughts on “Top 5 Tools of the Trade”

    1. There’s always ‘one more thing’, isn’t there? It’s the same with any profession; you gather the tools you need along the way, gradually build a suitable tool box, and over time, you become more proficient with each tool, but not every tool is best for every writer. Unfortunately, it takes time to figure out what works and what doesn’t and it all takes away from our writing time! Thanks for stopping by Kate:-)

  1. Paula, wonderful sharing. I have done all I am willing to do to learn Scrivener. I even have a flash drive with the tutorial that I took online. I just don’t have the time to get it to be efficient for me. I just started using Drop Box yesterday, pretty cool, and I do know and use Excel when I run art shows or do my books. But Scrivener, it’s a no for me at the moment. Thank you.

    1. I hear you, Gail. I’m not sure if it’s for me either. As I said, my brain doesn’t seem to want to work that way…or it could be that my greatest weakness is my resistance to change:-)

  2. I LOVE Scrivener! I’m a pantser, but I still find it very useful, not only for writing projects, but others as well. I don’t outline with it or anything. No way I could do that. But I can keep track of my projects. For instance, I can mark when a scene is done and ready for the editor. I’m less tempted to go back in and fiddle with it once I mark it as done. Then when I get it back from the editor and make final changes, I can mark it done done. LOL The color coding is awesome! And I like seeing those colors change too which makes me more inclined to write and get it finished (or whatever I need to do in a certain project).

    I also love Canva. It’s easy and quick to use.

    DropBox is a MUST for me.

    I use TweetDeck instead of HootSuite.

    And, you’re right — with Authorgraph, you set it and forget it until you need to add a new book. I don’t even think about it unless I get an email letting me know I have a new request. 🙂

    Great tips, Paula!

    1. I knew you’d be on top of this one, Rhonda Hopkins. You’re one of those tech people who just seems to embrace the brave new world and “get it.” I envy your tech savviness! Thanks for popping in:-)

  3. Thanks for sharing! Heres my take. I’ve used Dropbox for years to duplicate files on my computer. They are not only saved, but I can access them from any computer or mobile device-even my phone. I have never had any issues with it nor had to buy extra space. I use Excel for reports like expenses, query tracking. Its not hard to learn and helps organize info. Hootsuite intimidates me-I’ll have t try again. I never seem to stick with organized writing programs like Scrivener-which I haven’t tried. Like you, Paula, I end up with sticky notes and research files but somehow make my way through the muddle.

  4. I have used Excel before when I was at work. Used it for money things. I now use the cheap Libre Office version for my bank account and writing expenses. I want to learn how to use Canva next, as I like the look of it and think it good for my biz posts.

    1. I think you’ll find Canva useful and easy to use. My problem is always “getting lost” in a new toy. By the time I start feeling comfortable using a new art program, I realize hours have gone by and I’ve accomplished little to nothing. Thanks for popping in and sharing your experience.

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