Three indispensable tools for getting your writing done

Now that publishing is no longer a barrier for many of us, it’s worth looking at ways to remove a common barrier that still exists: writing.  Here are some techniques and tools I personally use to help me get words out of my head and closer to being published.  If you have any others you’ve personally found to work well for yourself, please share them in the comments sections below.

1. Get a distraction free word processor. My personal favorite is also free (for the PC) – Zen Edit. On the mac, there are similar program such as WriteRoom & OmmWriter (ipad/mac).

2. Play background sound to focus your mind and inspire you. I love Pandora.  When I’m writing or blogging, I almost always have it running.  Two stations I’d suggest you create for some awe inspiring ‘atmospheric’ music comes from the bands: Manual & Hammock.  For years, I’ve used a brilliant little app called Chatter Blocker to keep my mind on task.  A cool thing you can do with Chatter Blocker is create your own loops.

3. Begin by outlining and gathering thoughts. One key to creating great non-fiction lies in the table of contents.  So be sure you are writing from an outline.  Visual outlining is easily done with any of the many mind mapping tools you can find online.  Be sure you get one that allows you to export the mind map into an outline, and use that as your table of contents.

Here’s a few other tools I use on a regular basis to help me keep my writings organized and into a space where I won’t ever lose them:

  • Use Simplenote to never lose another idea. I use simplenote in combination with ZenEdit.  I begin by writing in ZenEdit, and then always save my work to Simplenote.  You can use tagging within Simplenote to organize your writing. I find that my mind often wanders, and simplenote has been a great tool for me to put those on the back burner for now and get back to the topic I’m writing about. The biggest reason I’m such a big fan of Simplenote is because of the seamless integration with the ipad (even when the ipad is offline).
  • Stay organized and expand your ideas with index cards. There’s a few virtual index card apps out there, but one that’s been out longer than most is Super Note Card. If you’ve attended any of my workshops, you might be familiar with my 4-up sheet & 8-up sheet brainstorming techniques.  SuperNoteCard is a great tool to expand them further.
  • Keep your files safe and secure. One of the common problems new (& sometimes old) authors fall into is in losing their files or getting revisions of their work mixed up.  Like millions of others, I’ve discovered dropbox – and now it’s a technology I feel I can’t live without.

Hope this helps you focus on your writing which is one of the most important things you can do!  My #1 suggestion is that you find a few tools that work for you and stick to them.  Complexity quickly becomes a real issue as you try to add that latest new tool to your arsenal.  And while it’s very tempting because we are always looking for a quicker/better way… resist them and stick with what you already know.

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