While you are planning and outlining your writing you might want to try note-taking tools to capture thoughts, quotes and resources, and to play with structure. EverNote allows you to capture notes as text, or photos, and has a plug-in to your browser so you can automatically save from web pages. WorkFlowy enables you to put together nested lists (of chapters, sections, characters, tasks). I love the mobile app that allows me to work on these lists in meetings. For the less linearly-inclined there is Spiderscribe that keeps your notes in mind maps.
For the actual writing, you can use your favourite word processor, but you might want to try tools like Scrivener or Writer’s Blocks that are designed for more heavy-weight writing. These tools help you to keep track of large and complex writing projects with outlining and overviews and allow you to easily move text around to re-structure a large manuscript. Scrivener also gives you the tools to output your work as an e-book. If you want to write an e-book, but don’t want the full power (and cost) of Scrivener, try Sigil, a free and open-source e-book editor.
If you struggle to just get the words out, try WriteorDie which uses a game-like format with rewards and punishments to make you write. You set a target for, say, 1000 words and then you have to keep typing until you reach it. It’s a great tool for doing initial free-writing about your topic. I use it for the first draft of blog posts. And if you are easily distractible, try some of the tools that declutter your desktop, taking away all the social media notifications so that it’s just you and the text, and possibly a soothing background image and soundtrack. FocusWriter and OmmWriter are worth a try.
For academic writers taking the time to build up a database of references in a good reference manager will pay off in the long run, making it easy to find and format references and taking your productivity to dean-pleasing heights. Mendeley and Zotero are both free (for basic functionality) and store your references in the cloud so that they are easy to access. Both have tools to automatically index your database, making it quick and easy to add items.
Do you have favourite software tools for writers? Share them here.
I am running a writing retreat next week and have been putting together lists of my favourite writing tools to share. I thought I’d share them here too.
“The Sense of Style” by Steven Pinker, subtitled “The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century” is a book about why writing matters, what makes writing good, and how to navigate unsettling changes in language with style, without being stuffy about correctness.
“The Book on Writing” by Paula LaRocque is a great guide to writing simply and for clarity.
“Keys for Writers” by Ann Raimes and Susan Miller-Cochran is a (costly) reference text for academic writers. It covers the writing process, using resources and referencing, technical aspects of language and a very helpful guide to how the grammar of different languages impact on expression in English. The international edition is available through Exclusive Books (not Amazon).
Refseek is a great source of reference web sites. Think of it like the reference section in a library. It has a guide to online dictionaries, including general dictionaries and those for specialist terms like medical, computer and financial terms. The site also gives links to other reference works, such as style and grammar guides.
Visuwords is a really fun graphical dictionary where you enter a word and related words pop up around it. Try it! Good for really understanding all the nuances of any particular word and identifying possible ambiguities.
Urban dictionary is a great way to while away a boring meeting or seminar. Words are defined by the users of the site so there is nothing official about them, but it gives great insight into how words are actually used. You can submit your own definitions too, so get creative!
There is nothing like good writers for advice on writing. Here is one of my favourites, Ursula K Le Guin, on Rules of Writing. Explore her site for more or hunt for your favourite author online and let them excite you about the possibilities of words.
What resources inspire you to play with words? Share your favourites here.
Update: Applications for this position are now closed. Thanks to all who responded.
We’re hiring! Please point anyone at this ad who you think would make a great first impression for Better.
Are you able to bring people together, put them at their ease and make them feel loved and cared for? Do you want to work in a relaxed happy space, for between 20 and 40 hours a week, surrounded by creative people?
Better is (soon to be) a shared space for artists, writers, crafters and other creative people. We are looking for a receptionist to greet people, make them happy, manage memberships, sell items from our kiosk, arrange events, and keep the place organised. Please explore this blog to learn more about Better.
What we want from you:
- A sunny, outgoing disposition
- An ability to work well with people
- A good memory for names and faces
- The ability to connect and introduce people
- A good telephone manner
- Great organisational skills
- Computer skills – spreadsheets, word processor, e-mail
And optionally (nice, but not essential):
- Any retail experience
- Events organising experience
We can offer R50 per hour, with a bonus each month that the company exceeds monthly targets. Starting date will be 01 October 2016 (if all goes to plan).
To apply, send a CV and a cover letter saying why you would like to work for Better to: email@example.com. Please put “Better Receptionist” in the subject line and apply before 21 August 2016.
We will only contact short-listed candidates. If we don’t find the right person, we won’t appoint anyone.
Thanks to everyone who answered our survey. Thought we’d share some of the results with you.
We now know that fast internet, safe parking and a quiet work space are really important for Better. Tea, coffee and cake also ranked highly! You are keen to attend exhibitions and discussions on doing things better, as well as book launches and readings.
The best part was reading your wish-lists of what you want to see at Better. You gave us comments about the space…
- “A good working environment, not too hot or cold, not too harsh and light, or cosy and dark. Just balance.”
- “Lots of tables and chairs/benches in a relaxing garden, with access to power points”
- “Individual spaces with comfortable lounge chair and open space to view outside – I cannot be creative in a closed space – to be on top of building with no restrictions – rooftop sitting on lounge chair able to look at the sky in summer and in winter glass doors to look outside – summary comfy sofas, view and private space or semi-private space”
- “Affordable for-hire equipment for photography and street art”
- “Most craft implements”
- “Pantone books”
- “3D printer. Laser engraver/cutter. Milling machine. Lathe.”
And about services…
- “Access to a curated database of other local creative suppliers e.g. laser cutters, bookbinders, printers, 3D printers, stationery stores, copywriters, open mic events, instrument stores, etc.”
- “Healthy lunch options so I don’t need to worry about organising food when I’m super busy”
- “A nice place to take clients to for meetings or the ability to easily book secluded space – without exorbitant costs”
Lots of people want to learn…
- “Sharing and learning of different skills, not necessarily in my profession.”
- “Workshops or short lessons to learn new skills, e.g.: typography, printing fundamentals”
- “The feeling of learning. At varsity when you enter a library you automatically feel inspired as so many people are learning so many things. Where work places struggle is to replicate this feeling of inspiration.”
And you recognise the value of other people…
- “People to talk to and get perspective from”
- “People with experience in getting freelance work published”
- “Angel investors and donors for my next creative project—every artist’s dream!”
Not sure that we can provide for all your wishes right up, but it convinces us that there are enough people out there who share our interest in having just the right environment for thinking, connecting and creating.
When and where?
Most people said they would visit two or three times a week between the hours of 9 am and noon, with a fair number also keen to attend in the evenings. Many of you are willing to drive up to 10 km or to the next suburb.
We had great fun plotting the suburbs you live and work in on a map of Johannesburg. There were large numbers in Melville and Greenside, but also many in Randburg. From our map we plotted out a circle of suburbs that would put most people within a suburb or two of our location.
We have done the sums and based on the interest you have shown, it looks like Better will be viable. So now we are out hunting for a suitable property. Watch this space, we will let you know our progress.
Thanks to all who connected with us. If you want to make sure you hear about the next steps, get on our mailing list here. Please continue to send your good ideas, feedback and thoughts. We love hearing from you.
We’ve had many great ideas from those of you who have completed our survey and from conversations over the past few days.
For artists, it seems that Better could provide access to the kinds of sources and resources that they might not be able to own individually. Some of the things on the wish list include anatomical models, reference books, a light table, studio lights and backdrops.
There was also a request for live models so we are adding life drawing sessions to our list of events.
The idea of things being used communally fits well with our Better ethic, so we love these suggestions. We may not be able to start up with everything, but we’d like to provide a space that you will find well worth visiting.
Look out for more news as we analyse the survey results this week.
I (Judy) work a lot with writers, mostly in the academic space. I’ve facilitated a lot of writing retreats where we get together and write. At the most recent retreat a colleague was pondering why it is that he can be so much more productive when surrounded by other writers, than when he works by himself at home. This sparked quite a discussion.
Even though the uninterrupted space at home seems like a good place to work, it is easy to get distracted, to go and put the laundry on, then to hang it up, then to decide that the dishwasher must be stacked, the path must be swept. It is easier to procrastinate.
Being in a room with other writers, all working together, makes it easier. The fact that everyone else is writing inspires you to do the same. There is a cameraderie, and some social pressure, that keeps you working. There are also fewer distractions to support your procrastination.
When you get stuck, you can discuss whatever is tripping you up over coffee with the next writer. There are shared suggestions as to how to get unstuck. I’ve seen people share resources, contacts and simply empathy. Writing together is better and Better hopes to be a space to facilitate this and other creative activities.