Tag Archives: software

Distractions ““ Stop working against your technology

One of the most common complaints I hear from fellow writers is how hard it can be to write and be productive with all the distractions prevalent on the information superhighway. While the usual advice “Just Write” still burn strong, when you write every day the temptation can be too much. It can be an email notification, or just a quick pause to look something up. Next thing you know you’re lost in the throes of reddit and the time you allotted yourself to finish this chapter ended hours ago. If you’re one of these types that often find the allure of the web a little too much to resist, here are some ideas that may help. I’ll start out easy and move to the most extreme so you can choose a solution that works best for you.

  1. Close all programs that distract you. This means your email program, instant messenger windows, web browsers, and other alert programs. Keep a notebook in front of you to write down all ideas that pop in your head or items you want to research. Stay in your writing window as much as possible.
  2. If you absolutely need to have internet access for research, but find yourself always clicking on those same websites, look at getting a browser add-on that blocks websites for certain time limits. Examples are leechblock for firefox and StayFocusd for chrome. These apps let you choose a website and set up access restrictions. You can block the site for the entire writing session, or grant brief access to the site for 10-15 minute breaks every other hour or so. While this method is easy to circumvent, it will remind you to write when you absent-mindedly click on that reddit or facebook link.
  3. If nothing else works, block the problem sites permanently. Almost all routers have an access control functionality. The access control pages, much like the plugins, let you choose a website and a time period. If you have it in your schedule to write every morning from 7-9am, you can have your router block these pages during that time. You can even specify the computer so your family/roommates aren’t blocked as well. You can even turn off the internet during this time so there is literally nothing online to distract you. If you’re really desperate, bring a friend in and have them change the password to the router. That way, it’s blocked from the router and you’re free to work.

While this won’t solve all distractions, it does help get you away from the ones online.

A Writer’s Software Arsenal

The enemy of every writer is the same: the blank page. We each have different weapons that we use against this common foe, but being a programmer by trade, I tend to use software in my arsenal. Being my first post, I thought it would be a good idea to list some of the common software tools that many authors, including myself, use. Just to note, these are all my own personal recommendations and I have not been influenced by their publishers.

The Word Processor

Microsoft Word: ~$149.99 with office. (https://office.microsoft.com)
Openoffice: Free (http://www.openoffice.org/)
Google Docs: Free (https://docs.google.com/)

A common theme you’ll hear when writers give advice is to use what works best for you. It doesn’t really matter which word processor you use, as long as you have something you can use to write with. When you write, you should use something that is familiar to you and lets you work with very little thought on how it goes down on paper. If the line that appears under misspelled words throws you off your game, disable the feature. You can always run a spell check at the end. Just write!

Plotting:

Wikidpad: Free http://wikidpad.sourceforge.net/

When I first started plotting my books, I would create a lot of files in Microsoft Word and put my thoughts down there. As my novels grew larger, my system began to fall apart. Another author suggested wikidpad to me and it has been a huge time-saver ever since. It has a small learning curve that takes a little getting used to, but once you’re familiar with it, things begin to fall into place. As you plot out elements, you can quickly link to other elements and world elements. This can easily turn a convoluted mess into a well-structured system. The price is hard to beat as well.

Backup

Dropbox: Free http://www.dropbox.com
Carbonite: $59/year http://www.carbonite.com/

Computer backup services have been around for a while but still tend to go unused by many writers. Some claim that they don’t want their unpublished works stored somewhere online, while others just haven’t taken the time to set it up. As with any type of insurance, it’s not a problem until something goes wrong. I personally keep all my transcripts on dropbox. The advantages are numerous. I can access my documents from my home or work. I can start writing on my desktop at home, and finish from my laptop in a café with no worry of how to transfer it between the two computers. If I’m at a conference, I can pull out my iPhone and instantly pull up a transcript to show off, or even email to potential agents or publishers. One other feature I like about Dropbox is that it will keep a revision history. If you have a bad night and delete half the document in a fit of rage, you can go back and pull up a prior version, restoring the lost chapters.

I will continue to look at other software that may be useful to writers to battle the blank page. If you have ideas or suggestions, please leave a comment, and I may look at them in future posts.