Useful Writing Tools

Hello!

For those in Australia, Happy Australia Day!  Hope you’re all having fun in the sun!  For those of you stuck in the northern hemisphere winter, here’s a picture of Bondi Beach, near Sydney, to keep you warm:

Image

This is the second of my contributory posts to Ruth Snyder’s Blog Hop, where this time we’re exchanging our tips and tricks for recommended writing tools.  As a quick comic diversion however, another blogger I follow posted about her self-improvement resolution to metamorphose from a “jerk” into a “tool”, quoting the awesome track “Tool” by Forty Six & Two .  Funnily enough, in Australia the words “jerk” and “tool” are synonyms!  What transformation therefore, I wonder? 🙂

Anyway, now to writing tools.  [Not writing jerks, of whom I have come across plenty during recent forays into the Twittersphere…  Perhaps that’s a future post?]

(1) Brain (left) – by far my most useful tool, fast submitting to atrophy in these months of unemployment.  I am currently engaged in providing critical reviews of draft manuscripts for a couple of other authors, which also serves to hone my own composition skills.  Whereas most of my writing originates from another facet of my being (please see note 5 below), I strive to use the left brain’s analytical powers during editing and proof-reading, to eliminate as many style inconsistencies, typographical errors and most of all repetition.  That was repetition…  Did I say repetition?  Yes, I think that was repetition.  This is repetitive.  And annoying, huh?

I was lucky to learn from an extremely inspiring English teacher in high school, who by now I expect is a thoroughly decomposed writing tool.  Miss Baker (or “English Baker”, so as not to be confused with “French Baker”, who once told me that I’d better look for a job soon because I’d never get into university.  A less inspiring teacher I cannot imagine, but this BSc (Hons) graduate is anything but bitter…) forbade us to use a character’s name twice in the same paragraph, unless for specific emphasis or when it was the only way to avoid confusion.  Permission for this latter concession required pleading on several occasions, or much shorter paragraphs at the very least!!

This discipline does not seem to be widely followed, however.  Surely we can think of other adjective-noun combos which will both enable readers to recognise our characters and afford a little more insight into their personalities?

Vocabulary overuse is also easily avoided between similar scenes with a thesaurus, a vivid imagination and some extra effort.  I can’t remember how many times I flashed over “he found his release” when conducting my own research into what makes a mega-bestseller…  Come on, own up!  I’ll give you fifty guesses.

(2) Brain (right) – creative writing, IMHO, is an exercise in open-mindedness and perspective.  Using all five senses to describe a location or event using our emotional responses to these sensory inputs is common enough, but I prefer to be mindful that my characters, whether central or peripheral, would not necessarily react in the same way as I would.  This technique, with great fortune, also has a positive impact on repetition.  Doh?  There it goes again.  How repetitive!  Apologies 🙂

(3) Tablet – and yes, I’m the first to admit that medication can attain tool status also…  My most indispensable physical tool would undoubtedly be my tablet computer.  Mine is an Asus EeePad Transformer Prime, running Android, for any fellow geeks.  The productivity and quality gains I achieve by saving drafts into e-books on a regular basis and then uploading them onto my tablet are enormous.  My shiny, silver friend allows me to behave like a reader, with my feet curled under me on the couch or outside in the sunshine (Oh, did I mention that it’s summer here?), rather than as a bug-eyed writer staring at a vertical workstation screen in pursuit of those ever-elusive bloopers.

I can’t tell you how many more errors I pick up in “reader mode”.  Using the annotation features available in most e-reading software, it’s a fairly painless process to correct these in the working document.  Having said that, I may well be disadvantaging myself by using Android, since there may be some other fruity tools available to automagically make amendments between iPad and Mac, or between Windows tablets and Microsoft Word.  Another option to investigate once I have an income…

(4) Social media helpers – I don’t know about you, but I never realised that authoring would entail so much manic manipulation of minuscule morsels of media material.  NOW THAT IS TRULY REPETITIVE.  Please, pleease, pleeease, Miss Baker, allow me this one…

“So you’ve written a novel?  Well, that’s the easy part,” the hero said with a sexy half-smile and a sly wink.

“Ain’t that the truth!” I groaned.

Never fear!  There are tools to help minimise our social media hours, if we abide by the maxim “Geeks to the rescue, caveat emptor”.  [Is it acceptable to attribute the word “maxim” to something one makes up on the spur of the moment?]

My favourites so far are Hootsuite, SocialOomph and RoundTeamIt’s probably overkill to use all three, but no one product seems to do everything I need.  These reasonably-priced tools allow us to combine the different types of feeds from Twitter, Facebook, our blogs and LinkedIn accounts into a single browser interface, from which we can schedule tweets to each social media outlet and make good use of Twitter lists for retweeting purposes.

  • Hootsuite‘s strength is the ability to communicate to all platforms through the same messaging function.  It’s weaknesses are the inability to tailor the post to the character limit, e.g. Facebook does not limit us to 140 characters, and that it forces you to log back in with frustrating regularity.
  • SocialOomph / TweetCockpit is great for scheduling a number of blasts at once across Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn only.  It’s better than Hootsuite in that, once created, we can tailor the number of times the message is sent per platform, i.e. we may want to tweet several times a day, but only once a day to our professional LinkedIn network and once-and-only-once to our fondly-held Facebook friends, who are undeserving of exploitation.
  • RoundTeam‘s all about re-tweeting our followers’ tweets, which increases the likelihood of them retweeting ours!  It’s all about community, folks!  [Essential note:  make sure RoundTeam’s “Sensitive” and “Profanity” filters are set, because I’ve been caught retweeting some particularly unsavoury content without my knowledge.  Thankfully a friend notified me before I lost too many followers.]

(5) Heart – while I would credit my left brain as useful, without question my most valued writing tool sits within my ribcage.  If returning to my chapters after an absence doesn’t make me smile, cry, moan, gulp or rile to some extent, I am not satisfied with them.  In fact, one of the most pleasing aspects of reviewing old work is the element of surprise:  did I really write this?  This leads me to wonder if I’m simply the messenger, as does my equally cynical and irreligious protagonist.  Where does inspiration come from, given it’s oftentimes transitory and that we require a reminder of past thoughts?  If I knew, I might list a sixth writing tool.

Ruth Snyder's blog hop

32 thoughts on “Useful Writing Tools

  1. Thanks, Ruth. I remembered after posting that I had omitted SocialOomph from my social media helpers. This is actually where I spend the majority of my time.

    I love the variety in our posts. It just goes to show that there are many ways to skin cats (figuratively-speaking, of course!)

    Reply
  2. Lorraine,
    Great post. I like how you divided your brain up into the various hemispheres because you are right…each play different parts in our process.
    Leanne Ross ( readfaced.wordpress.com )

    Reply
  3. Great tools – love the heart and brain choices – we tend to just assume.
    Hadn’t heard of the 3 platforms you mentioned – will have to check them out.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Bev. There are new social media platform popping up every day! It’d also be worthwhile to set up a register of tools NOT to use, since I’ve definitely wasted money and hours finding out the hard way!!!

      Reply
  4. Happy Australia Day! I really need to put that in my calendar. 🙂 Bondi Beach looks great (I was there about a decade ago for a very short visit at the end of a long walk – no, maybe I started there… I think the walk was Bondi to Coogee or vice versa. Anyway.) Nice to meet an Aussie writer! These are some great tools. I haven’t checked out any of those social media tools (I’ve heard of Hootsuite but I have this fear of new things so haven’t gotten into it yet). Thanks for sharing their strengths… maybe I’ll venture in someday. Good luck with the job hunt! 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks, Bonnie. Ah, the Coogee Bay Hotel. Fond memories! My cousin’s husband used to be the manager there, which was very convenient for relatives. If you get down here again, Melbourne’s worth a visit.

      Reply
  5. Fantastic post. I love the way you described your writing tools. Very original. Social media is part of my daily routine. But I didn’t think of listing it as part of my writing tools.

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi June, Thanks for your feedback. I’ve spent nearly 30 years in IT, so I always lean towards technology for help! I’d love to hear some of your tips to maximise your social media hours. It seems to take so much time out of every day, for what seems like little gain in terms of book sales 🙂

      Reply
  6. Hi Lorraine Down Under – author Margaret Atwood sees herself as two people, the human with a body who bakes cookies and the writer with no body other than a body of work. Your brain and heart analogies reminded me.
    Hope your Australia Day was a wow.

    Reply
    • Hi Bobbie. I hadn’t heard that reference for Margaret Atwood – it’s lovely! I saw her interviewed (albeit from row 248) at last year’s Perth Writers’ Festival. She is mellowing with age, it seems! I think most writers are driven by their emotions, for better or for worse!

      Reply
  7. Very clever Lorraine – thanks for sharing. Even though I wrote an anti-tool post, tongue-in-cheek (mostly), you’ve inspired me to check out some of the social platforms you mentioned.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Sara. Having worked in IT for almost 30 years, computer-based tools are engrained into my psyche! I attended a workshop run by Writers Victoria a few days ago, where the instructor insisted we close our computers and write by hand. Withdrawal symptoms galore – it was the first time I’d hand-written anything more sophisticated than a grocery list for a VERY LONG TIME 🙂

      Reply
  8. Lorraine, your comments about the brain were spot on! Having taught creative writing at the college level I used to wonder if brains were used. Some of my writers were more interested in using their emotions. Thanks for pointing that out.

    Reply
    • Hi Donna, thanks for your comment. I’m sure every aspect of us as people can play a role in shaping our writing; memory, senses, prejudices, (although I try to keep the last to a minimum!) I would love to study creative writing. I’ve just finished reading Mary Cox Garner’s “Hidden Souls of Words” and find myself left in limbo 🙂

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s