Author Topic: Favorite tools for writing  (Read 336 times)

Nords

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Favorite tools for writing
« on: March 23, 2017, 11:56:05 AM »
Keith is a hard-core voracious writer, so I thought I'd use his new forum as an excuse to write about writing.

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I'll keep it simple:  sit on your butt and hammer on a keyboard, or use an old-fashioned pen & paper.

Perhaps the most important tool in writing is having something to say.  Or, as my spouse puts it:  "Can't shut up".  (Followed by "Thank goodness he has readers and doesn't have to focus it all on me.")  If you don't have the urge to write then you're not a writer-- yet. 

When you do have the writing compulsion then write at a particular time of day, every day, for at least a few minutes.  In my case it's 20 minutes each morning with my first cup of green tea (even before breakfast, let alone coffee).  That way I get some writing done and I can go surfing for the rest of the day without feeling compelled to set aside writing time or having an unfilled obligation hanging over my head.  For extra-organized bonus points, every evening you could spend a minute jotting down the things you're going to work on tomorrow morning.  (Hint:  not e-mail or Facebook.) 

My next favorite tool:  a chapter outline. 

When I started blogging, I did it backwards.  I wrote the book, sold the manuscript to a publisher, and started the blog as a marketing tool.  I should've started the blog to market the book as I was writing the manuscript.

If I was starting a blog all over again, I'd begin with an outline for a book (and a shorter outline for a shorter version of the book).  Then I'd write the blog's posts for each topic in the outline.  (The first blog post would be the outline... and you'd ask for reader comments.)  It would be pleasing to write the blog posts in the order of the outline, or you could skip around to your favorite parts and fill in the details later. 

When you finish working that outline then you have the first draft of a manuscript.  You also have a free chapter (or the book's shorter version) to give away to people who sign up for your e-mail list.  Your e-mail list helps you create your book launch team.

Favorite writing software?  LibreOffice-- mainly because it's simple (and free).  Use whatever makes life easier for you.  If Shelby Foote and J.K. Rowling used pencils and legal pads and notebooks, and George R.R. Martin still uses WordStar (Google it, Millennials) then I'm not going to pretend that I need a particular writing tool to help me hone my craft.

Scrivener is also an intriguing and very powerful tool, although I haven't caught the bug yet.  Some (like Michael Hyatt) swear by its ease of reorganizing an outline, but I'm still stuck in the mode of "edit a printout with a pen".  I haven't screwed that up yet.

Favorite blogging tool?  WordPress.  Sure, Weebly & Wix will do it for free (or cheap) but a year later you'll be moving to WordPress anyway.  (If you're really a writer then a decade later you'll still be writing.)  If you're cheap now then start with WordPress.com's free sandbox.  (A year later you'll be doing the next step-->)  I recommend you invest the money to start with Bluehost hosting, install WordPress.ORG software, and then relax in the security that you're optimized for future growth.  Pick just about any ol' blog theme and run with it.  (You can always change it later.)  Pick just about any ol' site format (I recommend the defaults).  Jump in the muck with both feet and splash around-- just about everything has an "Undo" button.  As long as you stick to the WordPress dashboard and stay out of the hosting cpanel then you'll be fine.

If it bothers you to spend a few bucks on a website, then maybe that's all the incentive you'll need to keep writing.  I intensely dislike deadlines (especially self-imposed ones) but you could think of the blog's expenses as an advance on your royalties.  Eventually you'll monetize the blog, but that's a whole 'nother topic for a different post.

Now quit screwing around with your blog's page titles or layouts and get back to work on your posts.  You can write your "About me!" anytime.  (You'll revise it every 3-6 months anyway.)  Don't worry about how stuff looks for your audience-- you don't have one yet (not even search bots).  You're going to publish content on this site for a year before you feel as though you have traffic.  Maybe two years.

As far as the rest of the publishing process goes... outsource it.  Seriously. 

Crowdsource the manuscript's editing and copy editing.  We call these people "your future readers and reviewers".  (Some of them might even ask you to reciprocate by reading their manuscript.)  This crowdsourcing is by far the best product-validation tool I know of.  If you're writing about something and nobody cares, then you should write about something else.  If you write about something and everyone hates it-- or at least argues about making it better-- then their emotion is a signal that you have a best-seller on your hands. 

The beta readers who have angry stories of their own, or advice on a particular topic about which you're clearly ignorant:  we call those people "contributors", and their words make great sidebars to break up your text.  Today I'm still friends with the people who contributed stories & advice to my first book.

Outsource the rest of the publishing, too.  Ask for volunteer artists (or pay a freelancer), and pay someone to format the manuscript in a MOBI or ePub format.  (The tools are almost there to give you a LibreOffice button that says "Format MOBI".  Maybe for your second book.)  You could sell your manuscript to a publisher, but you're going to end up doing the marketing anyway so you might as well self-publish and have better marketing analytics.  Oh, and self-publishing means you'll usually end up with more money, too.

I've even sold my blog and all its revenue goes to a guy who runs the site-- he's totally motivated to keep it up and to attract more eyeballs (my future readers) for its advertising.  Part of our sales agreement is letting me market my book on the blog, but he also uses an Amazon affiliate link for his share of my sales.  (He's practically doing my marketing for me.)  He always needs more content so he's happy to have me putting up a post or two a month while I'm writing about the topics for my next book. 

You could take the more common approach of hiring someone to run your site for a monthly payment or a revenue share.  Frankly, I'm happy to have the entire site be somebody else's challenge.

Why outsource?  Because you're a writer.  Writing is more fun, and it's probably a better use of your time than tweaking blog plugins. 

Note that most of those outsourcing recommendations are one-time tasks that you'll earn back as soon as you stop fiddling with your manuscript and self-publish it. 

Because writers... write.

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The above text is my outline of the talk (or the e-mail) I give to writers & new bloggers.  Please let me know what else you'd like to see up there-- especially the things you wish you'd known before your first blog or book.

See what I did there?
WHAT I DO:  I help you reach financial independence.  For free. 
Author of "The Military Guide To Financial Independence And Retirement."  Try your local library.
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clackapedia

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Re: Favorite tools for writing
« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2017, 12:30:11 PM »
Fantastic post Nords!  Personally, I'm a huge fan of Ulysses to do all my writing in.  Think of it as simplified Scrivener.  One of my favorite pieces of it, I can one click export my article to my Wordpress Blog as soon as I'm ready to load it!

Between the shared hosts, personally I'm a fan of SiteGround or FastComet, I find you get more bang for buck with these providers.  But for anyone starting out, I'd say your main thing is just do it.

Don't like your hosting? Change it later.

Don't like your theme? Change it later.

Don't like x? Change it later.

As an IT person by trade I fall into the rabbit hole of working on the background tech, but what matters more than anything is your content.

Nords

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Re: Favorite tools for writing
« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2017, 02:34:45 PM »
One of my favorite pieces of it, I can one click export my article to my Wordpress Blog as soon as I'm ready to load it!
I love that.  I compose offline (because WordPress doesn't always save) and I'd love to do less editing in the WordPress formatting screen.
WHAT I DO:  I help you reach financial independence.  For free. 
Author of "The Military Guide To Financial Independence And Retirement."  Try your local library.
I don't read every post, so please send me a PM or tag me.

clackapedia

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Re: Favorite tools for writing
« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2017, 04:52:38 PM »
One of my favorite pieces of it, I can one click export my article to my Wordpress Blog as soon as I'm ready to load it!
I love that.  I compose offline (because WordPress doesn't always save) and I'd love to do less editing in the WordPress formatting screen.
Oh it's awesome!  It does have a small learning curve in using markdown, but it's absolutely worth doing.

Also many more one-click export options such as EPUB...

They have a free demo on their site, gives you 10 hours of use, so you can really sink your teeth in and see if it works for you.  Only thing is its Mac/iOS only, don't know if you have a Mac or not.  If you do, go for it!

https://ulyssesapp.com
« Last Edit: March 23, 2017, 04:59:15 PM by clackapedia »

KeithTax

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Re: Favorite tools for writing
« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2017, 07:08:26 PM »
I like this thread guys. Glad to see the Bloggers Helping Bloggers section with activity. Good post on writing, Nords. Great follow up, Kevin.

Nords

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Re: Favorite tools for writing
« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2017, 01:11:12 AM »
Also many more one-click export options such as EPUB...

They have a free demo on their site, gives you 10 hours of use, so you can really sink your teeth in and see if it works for you.  Only thing is its Mac/iOS only, don't know if you have a Mac or not.  If you do, go for it!

https://ulyssesapp.com
I do all right on my PC when I'm formatting a post on WordPress, but it's very tedious on my iPad.  I'll try the iOS demo and see how it travels.

I like this thread guys. Glad to see the Bloggers Helping Bloggers section with activity. Good post on writing, Nords. Great follow up, Kevin.
Thanks, I do a lot of mentoring on writing & blogging!
WHAT I DO:  I help you reach financial independence.  For free. 
Author of "The Military Guide To Financial Independence And Retirement."  Try your local library.
I don't read every post, so please send me a PM or tag me.

clackapedia

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Re: Favorite tools for writing
« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2017, 08:57:25 PM »
Sadly, the demo is only for Mac, as there's currently no way to be able to do trials in the iOS App Store. 

I'd recommend picking it up regardless but can understand not wanting to buy it blind.  I was lucky enough to get in a beta for the iOS version to see their new features, which let me essentially get a one month trial when that was happening.  Those don't come up that often sadly.

If you message me your App Store email address, I'd be happy to gift you a copy!

Nords

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Re: Favorite tools for writing
« Reply #7 on: March 27, 2017, 11:58:27 PM »
Sadly, the demo is only for Mac, as there's currently no way to be able to do trials in the iOS App Store. 

I'd recommend picking it up regardless but can understand not wanting to buy it blind.  I was lucky enough to get in a beta for the iOS version to see their new features, which let me essentially get a one month trial when that was happening.  Those don't come up that often sadly.

If you message me your App Store email address, I'd be happy to gift you a copy!
Thanks for the offer, my apologies for not posting sooner, but I've already paid & downloaded. 

I know I can outsource the ePub or MOBI formatting, but $25 is a cheap price to tinker with it on my own.

"Markdown" rings a bell.  Was that around in the late 1980s for Apples and Sun workstations while WordPerfect and WordStar were on PCs?  I was studying computer science for a graduate degree but most of my work was with Unix and LISP.  Or maybe I have it confused with markup languages for the big programs like XYWrite.
WHAT I DO:  I help you reach financial independence.  For free. 
Author of "The Military Guide To Financial Independence And Retirement."  Try your local library.
I don't read every post, so please send me a PM or tag me.