Tools of the Trade

Writing used to be so simple. Grab a pen or pencil, some paper, and off you went. These days, more often than not, writers use a slew of tools for their work that don’t require paper.

When I first tried my hand at NaNoWriMo, I used our iPad with the onscreen keyboard. I got to about 12,000 words with that set-up before I finally petered out. It wasn’t my work station that did me in, but my lack of planning for success.

I often go back to my NaNoWriMo experiences as the times when I can refer to myself as a writer because that’s when I started taking this entire process with some seriousness.

After that failure, Google released the Chromebook computers. They were cheap and came with a ton of storage in the Drive, so I bought one. It was a poor man’s MacBook Air. I loved the size of it. It lacked a light up keyboard which I wanted, but it worked. I tried winning NaNoWriMo the following year, failing at around 20,000 words. I followed it up the next year with my first “win” using the same Chromebook.

Not long after, I wanted something more. The Chromebook wasn’t cutting it. I wrote in the evenings back then and the dark keyboard was an issue. I’d sit in the living room with my wife. She watched television and I wrote. The lamp light wasn’t enough.

That summer, I bought an Asus Windows laptop with Windows 8 and a backlit keyboard. The interface was clunky but I got used to it. The only issue I had was the freaking space bar! When I typed, I guess the way I hit the bar wasn’t sufficient and I’d get frustrated as my words jumbled together.

computer-1839667_960_720Not long after, my wife started online schooling and needed a more robust computer than her MacBook Air. Her mom had a MacBook Pro, so with some cash and my Asus, we made a three way trade. My wife got the Pro, I got the Air, and my mother-in-law got the Asus. That set-up has worked great until recently.

About a week ago I got a new MacBook Air with a larger screen cause these older eyes had a hard time seeing on the smaller screen. Such is life I guess.

I’ve used several writing programs over the years but I’ve settled on two. My main writing program is Scrivener. I love how easy it is to change chapters, customize headings, and create usable files. And as far as cost, it’s one of the more affordable options. Of course, Open Office and the word processor on Google Drive are free, so there’s that.

I also use Microsoft Word. I’ve found as much as I love Scrivener, sometimes I have a need for the trusty Word program. It’s great for formatting paperback books. I use it for Standard Manuscript formatting when submitting short stories. I’m sure Scrivener could do it, but the program is so complex at times I can’t find what I need.

So that’s it, my tools of the trade. I work on a MacBook Air using Scrivener and MS Word. It’s worked so far, though I’m always up for learning new programs and practices to make my process better. What about you? What’s the set-up you use for your writing? What’s your go-to writing program? I’d love to hear if we’re alike or if you’ve got something else that works better.