I’ve been writing short and long fiction for decades, but I never was much of a planner. My go-to software was Microsoft Word. However, the longer my documents got, the more unruly Word behaved. My default was to pound out a few thousand words, give the file a name and date then save it. The end result was a messy directory with multiple folders. I didn’t like that disorganized flea market vibe. Using Explorer to search for word strings was maddening.
Arranging my ideas into a logical flow before starting a project was time-consuming and took the joy out of writing. I struggled with Excel spreadsheets, spending more hours configuring columns and cells than creating stories. Then I tried Word. Easier? Not really. The original outline for the first draft of my novel ended up as an eighteen-page table. Large tables are manageable as eels – the content boxes change shape as you add text. Besides, the final draft of Kenora Reinvented didn’t end up conforming to the outline.
Here’s what I did to get organized.
I switched from Windows computers to an Apple iMac desktop and MacBook Pro laptop. I won’t go into rhapsodies about how seamless the Apple ecosystem is compared to what I was using previously, but for someone like me with an undisciplined mind, streamlining my writing process made life easier.
- Collecting ideas. Microsoft OneNote, Evernote. I can also Airdrop between devices, take a screenshot, bookmark websites, save into the Notes app or as a PDF in Books.
- Planning. Story Planner ($10 USD). Works on iPhone, iPad and Mac. You can access your project outlines from any of your devices. You can also choose where you want your files saved – on your computer, in the cloud, etc. I recently downloaded Plottr ($25 USD), a tool featuring drag & drop visual timelines, index cards, character/place tracking, outline builder and templates (12 Chapter mystery, Hero’s Journey, etc.)
- Writing. Scrivener ($67 CAD – regular deals for NaNoWriMo or Black Friday). Windows, IOS and Mac versions and plenty of free templates. Clean interface. Composing is a breeze. You can drag and drop scenes, collect research, links, photos and maps. Don’t get discouraged by the learning curve – there’s a 30-day trial period.
- Storage. Dropbox ($144 USD a year for 2T) I save, share and access files from my phone, iPad and computers. I use Selective Sync and only save the Dropbox files I use regularly to my devices. I also use Sync, iCloud, Google and Amazon photos (free).
- Formatting. Vellum ($339 CAD – produce unlimited print and eBooks). Only available for Mac OS. Easy to import a text document, format then upload. Yes, it’s a big investment but it can also save time and money. There’s a free trial available.
- Dollarama is an under-appreciated resource for ‘old school’ writing supplies like notebooks and pens.
The bottom line is this – get organized, collect your thoughts, sit or stand at your desk then write!