Thursday, 1 November 2012

Organising the disorderly: free writers' programs

Seen my laptop anywhere..?
I've epubbed one; have five in progress with nine others to write. Organised? No, far from it. But tonight I've got that irritating, self-assured smirk on my face that so annoys the wife. Why? Well, several reasons really. Despite not being able to write much of late, I have been planning for the day I become a full-time writer by organising myself!


First of all, a while ago I bought Scrivener*, the writers' program. I'm still not 100% comfortable with it, but each time I use it I learn a little more, and I'm sure it'll all make more sense to me if I go through the tutorial oagain, after having used it sufficiently to be familiar with the basics.

What I've done with Scrivener is create a project for each of my #wips, which means I no longer need to open word and figure out where I am before writing. Scrivener organises all of that for me, which means I can usually just read the notes and get on with writing. If you haven't tried Scrivener, I suggest setting aside some time to download it, running through the comprehensive tutorial and getting on with it. You won't be disappointed!


Secondly, I downloaded and installed Dropbox**. What a programme! Dropbox is a cloud storage programme with bells and whistles. The first 2GBs are free, with options of increasing the capacity simply by linking it to your Twitter account, Facebook account, viewing the tutorial etc. In fact, I'm only using 18.3% of my massive 4.4GBs, all of which I gained for free simply by doing the things they suggested I do to get the extra storage! If I want an additional 100GBs, it'll cost me just $9.99 US per month, but to securely back up my #wips and research, I have more than enough for free.

But what about the bells and whistles I mentioned above? Well, I do all of my writing on my creaky old laptop (with a missing 'L'). It'll give out on me one day, guaranteed. If it does, it's not a problem. Why?Because Dropbox has installed a folder on my computer, which is where I store all of my Scrivener files mentioned above. I simply open the Dropbox folder (just like any other folder), locate the Scrivener project I need to work on and open it. After I have finished for the night, I simply close the file - no back up, nothing.


The reason I get to sleep so soundly, knowing by babies are well-looked after, is because the file is automatically backed up to the Dropbox on-line storage server. If my laptop goes bang in the night, I can log into my Dropbox account from any computer and access my #wips. What's more - and this is the really amazing thing with Dropbox - I have downloaded it to my office desktop computer and my Smartphone. After the Dropbox folders synchronise, I can access my #wips fully; from the office via my desktop, or from my Smartphone anywhere in the world. Whatever I add, delete or amend automatically synchronises across all of the devices I have added Dropbox too.


Imagine sitting on the train staring out of the window, running through your protagonist's latest scene when an idea hits you. You no longer have to make notes! Just open the Dropbox file on your phone and enter the notes as you think of them, directly into the Scrivener wip file you are working on back home! The file in the office at work and on your creaky old laptop auto-updates too! Dropbox means that you can basically work on your #wips 24hrs a day and never lose track of your latest updates, whilst the whole book remains securely stored for you!


Finally, I also managed to set myself up with a sign-up newsletter, again for free! Despite only releasing one short story as an ebook, I have a lot of books in the pipeline. I know I need to gather the email addresses of people who might well wish to buy my next release. I have over 7000 Twitter followers, but they aren't going to buy my next book once I release it - I need a list of people who will, and a simple means of sending them a newsletter to prompt them to do so.


I've signed up to MailChimp***, permanently free if you have less than 2000 subscribers. If you get more than 2000, well you can jolly well start paying your own way. MailChimp suits me perfectly - I have added it to my blog (see above right), to my Facebook page and tweeted it. I can use this program for free until I have over 2000 subscribers! Then it'll cost you depending on the quantity of subscribers and quantity of monthly emails you wish to send them.

* Scrivener is one of those programs that writers toy with getting once they've heard of it, then swear by it once they've used it. It currently costs $40 US and is well worth the investment. Available for Mac and Windows, with a free trial! Just visit Literature and Latte for details.

** Dropbox will blow you away with its ease of use, functionality for writers and back-up security. Get yours here.

***MailChimp is free to use and a must have for any forward-thinking writer. Start collecting those emails now!

I hope my advice is food for thought for you? Is there anything else I should be using, or anything you need to know more about? Just leave me a comment below, thanks.

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