Guest Post from Mike Sicking – Software Tools you Can Use

Mike Sicking is an American writer who writes for an English blog called Limebird Writers. He’s one of several people writing for them, and his moniker there is LimebirdKaiser (don’t ask me why…). In the last year, he decided to get serious about his writing,so he warns people not to treat him like a guru. But this post of his was useful to me, since it gave me a quick rundown of some of the more useful software available to help writers get to where they’re going.
You can read all his current works-in-progress on his own WordPress blog, here.

Tools For Writers

We live in a wonderful world with full of ones and zeroes buzzing around the old internet. Are you taking full advantage of the tools available to you?

You might think: This sounds boring and dreary. I’m an artist, not an egghead! This kind of stuff isn’t for me!
Not for you? Read about the day that LimebirdKate lost her work in progress to see why this is for you.
And if saving your hard-earned words from being eaten by the void isn’t enough for you, maybe a few free tools for planning and organizing your work will get you interested.

DropBox

If you take only one thing away from this article, make it this: DOWNLOAD AND USE DROPBOX TO BACK UP YOUR WORK.

Dropbox runs in that “Cloud” you might have heard about lately. Install it on your desktop and write a few great pages. Then head to the coffee shop and pick up where you left off on your laptop without batting an eye. Forgot your laptop? Guess what: use your smartphone.

There’s a web interface too, so you don’t have to install any programs if you don’t want to. This also means that anything you save to your Dropbox is available on any computer with an internet connection. Download your opus to your great aunt’s PC and get to work while the rest of your family sleeps.

Dropbox syncs your files between all your computers in addition to the Dropbox servers. So, if Dropbox disappeared tomorrow, all your files would still be stored on all your local machines.

Dropbox has a “Public” folder which can generate URLs for each file inside it for easy sharing with, well, the public.

Non-Public folders can be shared with other Dropbox users on a per-user basis. So if you want to share your “Family Vacation Pics” folder with just your mom and sister you can. Or you can share your “Rough Drafts” folder with all the friends you meet on Limebird for easy peer feedback.

Dropbox also keeps a history of versions as you change the files in it. So if, in a fit of trusting, you share your folder with an unsavory character who Replace-Alls “the” with “boobsLOL”, you can restore your files pretty easily. This may or may not have happened to me or someone I know.

As far as security goes:

There’s always a risk when storing your files online. But, as we’ve seen, there’s a risk to storing your files only locally as well.

Dropbox isn’t a no-name start-up company run by amateurs with the threat of going out of business overnight. It’s a fairly large and respected site. I think you can trust it as much as you would any other site on the internet.

It’s available for Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone, Android, plus a browser-based interface. There’s no excuse not to be using this.

It’s free for 2 Gigabytes of storage, which is more than enough for any text files you want to store. Pictures and videos will eat up your space a lot faster. You can get more space by referring friends to Dropbox or you can just pay for it. You almost certainly won’t have to worry about that, though. Personally, I’ve been Dropboxing pretty liberally for over a year now and I’m using a little under 6% of my available space.

Simplenote

Go grab a Simplenote account here. Think “Dropbox Light”. It stores and syncs text files only. Simple text only, so no italics or bold allowed, sorry. But no frills means no distractions. Plain white space; you just fill it up with words.
I write just about everything in Simplenote to start with, including the rough drafts for NaNoWriMo, This year and last year.
Simplenote allows you to tag each note with multiple categories for easy organization. Make a tag for “Future Story Ideas” and never again forget a moment of inspiration. Tag your chapters with names to see a snapshot of your story by characters.

Simplenote.com is available anywhere you have an internet connection and a modern browser.
For fancy off-line solutions, you can download a number of front ends.
There’s something for whatever operating system you’re working on.
I can personally vouch for the official Simplenote iOS app and the Windows-only Resoph Notes.

The web app is free and most of the front ends are as well. The official iOS app and Resoph Notes are free for sure.

yWriter/Scrivener

Grab yWriter here and Scrivener here.

Where Simplenote’s beauty is in its simplicity, yWriter and Scrivener take the opposite approach: they do it all. Both programs allow you to organize your stories into chapters and scenes. Then reorder them easily. Then take notes, create an outline, get daily word counts and set goals. Tons of great features. Remember to save your working files in your Dropbox account so you can access them from anywhere.

yWriter is available for  Windows and Scrivener works on Mac and Windows although the Mac version is more robustly developed at the moment. yWriter is free although you can register your copy if you like the program.
Scrivener: free…for 30 days. Then $40 US.

WriteOrDie

Check it out here. WriteOrDie’s tagline claims that it’s “Putting the ‘Prod’ in Productivity”. Write as fast as you can. Pause for too long and your existing words are slowly deleted. While I can’t vouch for the quality of the work it will produce, it will help you achieve your daily word count. This is another web app, available wherever your internet is. There are downloadable versions for Windows, Mac and Linux, plus apps for iOS.

The online version is free, so why would you pay for the desktop versions or the iOS app? Both are about 10 bucks US, though, if you’re interested.

How about you? Any helpful tools or tips that you’d like to share with us? Leave ‘em in the comments!

5 thoughts on “Guest Post from Mike Sicking – Software Tools you Can Use

    • I know you have writers everywhere…but I have a sneaky feeling the blog was started in Britain. being English/American (and I’ve been to South Africa…) myself, I recognised that English sense of humour (please note the spelling of humour, which my Spellchecker wants to correct…)

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