Blog The Writing Life

My Writing Set Up

Keep it simple...with help from technology.

My Writing Set Up

A couple of weeks ago, I asked what writing helps you use. Today, I’ll outline my set-up. Yes, these are the things that excite writers.

For Writing

For much of my daily blogging, I write directly into WordPress. I’ve gotten used to the new editor which is a sure sign that a new revision is on the way. I copy these posts into Scrivener as a record of my writing. If so inclined, there are apps that allow you to back-up or capture your entire website but this is too much work for me.

I write a lot on my phone (iPhone 7s), which is weird to me. When I’m standing in line or waiting for a meeting to start, I take notes and make lists with the native iPhone Notes app or with Wunderlist. In the days of yore, we used to have conversations with other human beings during those times. So much for the old ways!  I’ve tried joining the Evernote cult but just can’t find the buy-in.  The only cult I’ve willingly joined is the Old-Saab cult.

I use Scrivener with a deep affection. This is one of the few things I’ve found that lives up to the promises computers made to us long ago. It’s as powerful as any editor available and geared entirely for writers. It’s inexpensive – fifty bucks US – but don’t confuse its low cost with a lack of power or features. If you decide to shell out the money for a license, I recommend watching a few You Tube videos about setting up and using the program. An hour or so here will pay real dividends. I’m still learning its ins and outs and am now working to understand it from the viewpoint of a blogging and writing database.

I use  Word sporadically for business writing or when I’m submitting for publication. I like that it works seamlessly with other MS applications. And let’s be honest – the world runs on Microsoft. I use the on-line subscription service so it’s available to me anywhere at any time.

Other Stuff

I use Pocket to collect web addresses while surfing. WordPress will do the same thing, as will Evernote, but this app is so clean and simple that I prefer it. I load it into FireFox so capturing anything is a one-click affair.

I use Wunderlist as a repository for ideas and for general list making.  Mostly, I use it to capture things while on the run and sift through entries once every couple of weeks. I link it to Google Calendar so am also able to use it as a reminder.

I’m pretty much in love with Trello. I don’t even know what it is. Visual database? List tool on steroids?  I don’t know but I use it daily and update it regularly.

I use Dropbox to back up all my writing. It’s a safe place and is a work-around for accessing Scrivener files from any computer since they aren’t web-based.  I also save files to my computer and do monthly permanent save on a USB stick. Redundancy is key here.

I have a growing relationship with Grammarly. I want it to like me and want it to give me good grades and want it to tell me how wonderful I am in my weekly writing report. Instead, it reminds me that I don’t know how to use commas and I run on too much. To add insult to injury, the geniuses who market the app tell me that if I pay them money – thirty dollars a month – they will tell that I’m an even worse writer. Hoo boy!

When the scientist in me comes out, I use Excel to track submissions and other stats. I also have a file in Scrivener where I track this stuff. Because I’m always using Scrivener, it’s just easier to keep text records of what went where and when. It’s easy to keep addresses and contacts there, too. I use Excel less and less as I go along.

I have an Amazon Fire that I use for reading. I ruthlessly refuse to put any other apps on it. They will only distract me.

I recently bought a Lenovo laptop for about $350.00. It’s a tank. I use the Ubuntu operating system and the thing runs like a supercomputer. This has nothing to do with writing and can easily be a distraction. Unless you like tweaking operating systems this probably isn’t for you. At home, I plug my internet modem directly into my computer for near instantaneous response.

I am hardly ever without a pen stuck somewhere on my body. Paper can be had anywhere.

I’ve never cared much about having a special place to write. I can sleep on the floor and can write anywhere. I’ve never tried writing in a coffee shop or in a street-side cafe in Budapest. I would probably be too distracted.

At this point, I’m using Google Calendar as an editorial calendar. It works fine but I’m open to any advice for this tool.

Summary Tips

  1. Do you need this stuff? Good gawd no. Hemingway wrote with a pad, pencil, typewriter, and shot of booze. You want to write? Then write. You want to be a better writer? Then write more.
  2. It’s a great distraction for me to start playing with apps. How many note taking apps are there on the Apple App Store? A thousand? A million? Pick one of the more popular titles and start taking notes. Then get back to writing.
  3. This sounds silly at the end of this post but keep things simple. I’ve read advice about using X for writing then transfer the file here for editing then save it here and compile it here – I’m lost and tired already. Get your system in place and keep writing.
  4. This is as elementary as it gets but keep these things close at hand. Don’t hide them where you have to look for them. Remember – you want to write. Don’t let finding a program distract you. Here is a screenshot of my ‘BlogHelps’ FireFox tab. It keeps everything I need instantly at hand.
  5. Remember that these are tools. You want to write. Then write.

That’s it. The list is longer than I expected but its works very well for me. And I’m never far from paper and I always carry a pen. Who knows when there will be no wifi, no ethernet, no satellite for my phone, and the spirit of Tolstoy will speak to me with the keys to the kingdom?

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4 comments on “My Writing Set Up

  1. I’m in the early stages of finding my inner writer and so most of the programs mentioned are foreign to me. Up until about a month ago I was using Word almost exclusively. When writing for Sports Illustrated I’d make my entries straight into Outlook since they edit submissions so heavily anyway.

    Lately I’ve taken to writing in a bound journal with my trusty Dixon Ticonderoga. I feel a certain freedom with honesty and a closeness to my words when I write with a pencil. I imagine one day I’ll transcribe the journal to some form of digital media but I’m not there yet.


    • I know several bloggers who use Word exclusively. If you write a blog you can set Word up as your native editor and it works well.

      Totally agree that thinking with a pen and paper – or pencil and paper – seems to jog things that a word processor doesn’t. But maybe this is age related.


  2. Like you, I love Scrivener. I use it to manage multiple blogs. It uses markup to produce text you can copy and paste into the WordPress text (not visual) editor. When one of my blogs apparently got hacked a few months ago, I was glad for the year-and-a-half’s worth of posts stored in a Scrivener project. Here’s how my process works:


    • Our set-ups sound similar. The ability to visually stack individual posts or chapters or whathaveyou under file names in Scrivener is what I like most. I can do it in Word with bookmarks but it’s more cumbersome. If you are writing three blogs it becomes even more important. Seems that without a way to systematize you will be doing more time organizing than writing. And it’s all about the writing!

      Liked by 1 person

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