Today I’m not going into how to create a story or even into (gasp!) outlining, but about the physical things and programs I use. And don’t worry, I’m on a strict budget, so most of these things are budget friendly. I’ve upgraded a couple of programs over the years but, I have used and can suggest free/cheaper alternatives.
When I first plan out a book, I don’t actually start with the formal outline in a word processor. I start with specific scenes in mind. First thing I do is write down those scenes on individual index cards. As I fill out more cards I can eventually put them in a specific order and flesh out my story. Then I transfer the rough outline into an outline format in a word processor. I don’t just use index cards for outlining, but also for making any kind of notations and lists. If I’m editing I’ll use index cards to make notes on what needs to be changed in what chapter. It’s not like you have to use index cards, but I prefer them over notes in a notebook because once you’re done you can throw the index cards away and clear off more space from your desk. A notebook you have to, or rather should at least, keep around until it’s used up. Which, I know if you want you could argue that having index cards vs one notebook doesn’t make it better. I also have a drawer dedicated to index cards tucked away for ready use. I don’t know what it is but, index cards really help me focus on one thing at a time instead of looking at a bigger, and more intimidating, picture. You can find index cards for a great price at most office supply places. Including Walmart. I go to Big Lots often and can purchase a pack of 100 for $1.00. Also, Office Max and Office Depot have index cards on sale a lot and I pay .10 for a pack of 100.
Word Perfect/Microsoft word
If you’re a writer then you probably already have a word processor. I used word perfect for years because it came free on my computer. Buying Microsoft word is expensive, but there are certain things you can’t do without it. Such as, formatting your ebook, track changes, and other tools that limited programs such as word perfect can’t do. Not to mention that Word formats are universally accepted. I was given Microsoft word as a gift, but wow what a difference! I was looking into purchasing it anyway when it was given to me. One thing I’ll say, is don’t get the new word programs. I have Word 2010 and it does everything I need it to. The new programs, instead of buying the software once and being done with it, you now pay for a “subscription” of sorts and have to pay yearly. I’m not a big fan of maintenance costs. Word 2010 works for me.
I like to think that someday I’ll grow up into a full blown website, but for now my blog serves my needs. In the event that I do put up an entire site of my own, I’ll do it at one.com. My friend and fellow author Ann Lavendar uses one.com and after much gushing I went to check it out. For one year of basic service plus a free domain it’s $3.00. Yes, $3.00 for the entire year for your website. You just can’t beat that. The second year it’s $1.89 a month and $13.80 for the .com domain. So even in the second year you’re looking at paying only $36.48 which is oodles cheaper than the one to two hundred dollars other sites charge. After some digging around it seems that not only are they cheap, but their website builder seems easy to use for those of us who aren’t html savvy. And they have live chat!
Scrivner and yWriter6 are both organization programs for writers. I can’t think of a simpler way to put it. Scrivner, whilst fancier, is also the most expensive of the two. I had a trial run of Scrivner and I loved it. However, I didn’t love the $40 price tag. The good news is yWriter6, while it doesn’t have as many features as Scrivner, is free. So you can download the trial version of Scrivner and determine for yourself if you want to pay the $40 or download yWriter6 for free. Either way, if you don’t like either of them, you don’t have to commit. I think I’ll eventually get Scrivner, but don’t overlook yWriter6. In fact, the version of yWriter I’m familiar with is yWriter5 so you know the developer is making improvements as time goes on. Best of all they’re both developed by other writers.
I’m going to have to give my husband credit for this one. White boards can be pretty expensive, especially if you purchase a large size. An alternative to this is to go to your local hardware store (Lowes or Home Depot) and get shower board. Yep, shower board. My husband used to work at Home Depot and he was the one who came up with this. You can buy an 8×4 shower board for about $13-15. Whereas if you buy a 4×6 whiteboard at Office Max/Depot you pay 99$. Things to note about shower board: its finish isn’t as glossy as whiteboard. I have no idea how a dry eraser will work on it. I just use a paper towel. And just like with whiteboard, spraying it with a cleaning solution will really clean it up. We bought my whiteboard in the 8×4 size and had it cut into four pieces at the store for free (we got it at Home Depot, but Lowes will do the same thing) just to fit it into the car. Just be sure to go to the lumber department, that’s where they have the saws. I have various pieces hung in my office and they’re wonderful for writing, keeping notes, making lists and well, anything you could want a whiteboard for.
Binders & Sheet Protectors
As I discussed in both floor plans and character sheets, I keep binders full of information. I have a lot of notes in my computer of course, but a lot are in binders I keep on a shelf next to my desk. Although for the sake of not losing anything I have most things in print and on my hard drive. I place general world notes, character sheets, and floor plans in these binders as well as any outlines I have printed out. The sheet protectors are pretty obvious, they protect my papers as I have a habit of eating/drinking whilst working. Also, if your floor plans or anything else is in pencil, the sheet protectors keep it from smudging on the page. Don’t forget folders to keep things organized and easy to find!
The laser printer isn’t cheap to start with, but it saves you a ton of money in the long run. I have printed off hundreds of pages from mine and I’m still on the cartridge that came with the printer when it was purchased for me in April of 2015. This is the one I have and I love it. Prints out 17 pages a minute and it’s quiet and smooth. I’ve had a replacement cartridge for it for a while but, the great thing about toner is it doesn’t really dry out. If it sits for years it can compact and only if exposed to heat and humidity. So not only can you go months without printing, but it’s ridiculously cheaper. I paid $10 for the cartridge replacement, but as I said I’m still using the starter cartridge. Something else to consider is that you can print over a thousand pages off of one cartridge.
If you’re a Windows user you may like to work in halves. Snap one word processor to the left and right then work off of your outline there. Not me. I like to have the whole screen filled up with my current document. I also have trouble reading computer screens too, so this may be why. When I work off of an outline I like to have it printed and next to me on the desk. Rewrites are different. I will definitely do side by side documents in that case. For everything else, such as notes or outlines I like to use book stands on my desk. There’s also a chance you have an old novel left over from decades earlier that you only have in print format and you dug it out of the desk drawer. Either way, for using print a book stand is a must. These are the very book stands I have. They are an add on item, which means they’re cheaper, so you will need to include them with another order.
Hard Drive/Usb Drive
Last but not least is my love affair with portable hard drives. They are my backup’s backup. I keep all of my writing and notes and other valuable digital information and photos on my hard drive. In the event of a fire or some other catastrophe I can just grab my small hard drive and have everything I need without worrying about my computer. Of course, I’m not saying risk your life trying to get it, but if it’s possible you can. If you have to evacuate you can slip it in a backpack and still have your work. Also, if you vacation and don’t want to fuss with bringing a computer you know you can work off of it at any computer (although be careful about what computers you work at of course). Or if you work primarily at a desk top but want to take your own laptop on vacation you can work off of your hard drive. I also use it to store things because then my memory on my computer suffers and it keeps old computers working fast for many years. The difference between a portable hard drive and a thumb drive is space. My current portable hard drive is 1TB vs a thumb drive that can hold a few gigabytes. I primarily use my thumb drive to print off items at Office Max or photos at a Walgreens.
Until Next Time…
I hope you find some of these items useful. If you have any resources you’d wish to share, leave them in the comments! I would love to hear what others use to help them chug along the writer’s road. Something I left out of the main content but I still use are multi-colored pens. I don’t know if I truly find them helpful or if they’re just fun. Either way they break up the monotony of blocks of information and make reading easier. I also use multiple colors on the index cards when putting together a rough outline. Sometimes I’ll assign a color to a character so that I know how often they appear. Until next time, keep on keeping on!
Dragon Bloode: Covet is out everywhere ebooks are sold.