What Tools Do I Need To Write A Book?

The publishing industry is changing all the time, and so are the tools writers can use to write a book and get it to market.

It’s been nearly a year since I shared what was working for me as a writer and independent publisher. Over the past 12 months I’ve made some changes to my tools and processes, so I thought now would be a good idea to provide an update.

The Tools

Notebooks

I’m still favouring Leuchtturm1917 notebooks* for my day-to-day writing after switching to those from Moleskine* a couple of years ago.

The reason I switched is because the Leuchtturm notebooks include numbered pages and an index at the front so whether I’m jotting down research notes, ideas for character names, scenes that pop into my head when I’m not near a computer or new story ideas, I can reference it in the index and locate it easily later on.

This past year I’ve been undertaking research for a writing project that has required something different to my usual notebook though, simply due to the nature of the material I’m collating together. A ring binder can be cumbersome and I wanted something I could fold back the pages when referring back to my notes, especially while travelling.

The ARC style of notebooks* tick all the boxes for me in this respect.

You can buy different sized notebooks, and the pages are held together by metal (or plastic) discs.

You do need to purchase a special hole punch for this system, but it means that you can pull out the pages and swap them around while you’re working – and because the discs are smaller than the average ring binder, it doesn’t take up much room on the desk either.

Since I discovered this system for my current research project I’ve purchased more ARC notebooks for my business and marketing plans, and I can’t imagine using anything else now.

On-screen writing

To keep all my initial ideas and research in one place, I use the Evernote* app on my phone. It links to the same app on my computer in my office so once I’m there I can review the content.

I also use Evernote to store all my hashtags for my Instagram posts so I don’t have to type them from scratch every time!

I’m a huge advocate for using Scrivener* for writing my stories.

The thought of going back to MS Word like I did for my first two books and having to scroll back and forth or try to use the Outline option to review my work gives me chills!

With Scrivener, I create a new folder for each chapter and then create a file under that in which I write the actual scene.

I like this system because it means if I’m halfway through writing a scene and a character says something that acts as a trigger for a plot twist or makes a statement that must be followed up in order to make sense, I can simply jump ahead, create a new folder for that idea and then carry on.

Compiling the finished manuscript into a Word document for my editor took a bit of getting used to with the new version 3 of the app, but that was only because I was so used to version 2. Once I’d followed a couple of tutorials on YouTube it all made sense and I had no problems at all.

I also remain a huge fan of the fact that in Scrivener, I can have sections within the same project for my research, character notes and settings so that they’re always to hand, and the daily target for my word count is an added incentive to hit my deadlines!

My most recent addition to my writing tools has been a Bluetooth keyboard* that I can link to my phone or iPad when I’m out and about.

It’s faster than trying to type out ideas with my thumbs and it folds up neatly when I’m finished.

As you can see from the photo it’s about the same size as my iPhone 6S.

The case doubles as a phone holder so you can use the screen easily while you’re working.

I invested in a mini iPad last year because I wanted to subscribe to a few magazines such as Writing Magazine and Entrepreneur without filling up the recycling bin every month. I was also fed up with cutting out snippets from magazines and saving them in my filing cabinet, only to try and locate them again months later!

I use my mini iPad for dictation (see below) and reading industry-related magazines, however I’ve also set it up so that I can update my mailing list when I’m out and about.

Active Campaign* has its own app so I’ve created a different form for readers that links to a specific list I’ve created for this purpose. If I’m at an event and someone wants to sign up to my mailing list, I can ask them to do so straight away on my iPad rather than risk them walking off with a business card and forgetting to keep in touch.

Dictation software

Much to my horror, Nuance decided to discontinue products and support for Mac users of the Nuance Dragon Dictate Professional dictation software last November without warning.

One morning I was happily working away, dictating my word count and the next – nothing. The software kept crashing and there were no updates available.

It nearly got to the point where I purchased a cheap Windows tablet just so I could get my hands on the Windows version of Dragon Dictate, but then a friend mentioned in passing that the Dragon Anywhere* app was still available for iOS.

It does incur an annual subscription, but given the fact the old software was costing me to upgrade every 18 months to two years anyway (depending on iOS updates), I see this as a reasonable fee to keep my words flowing. I really did miss not being able to use dictation for three months until I heard about this workaround!

I’ve now got Dragon Anywhere on my iPhone and my iPad because the app can be connected to DropBox*. This means that whenever I dictate a new file, I can upload it to DropBox and retrieve it once I’m back in the office. I also like use dictation in the office whenever possible because it means I don’t have to sit in front of my keyboard all the time.

Dragon Anywhere is also available for Android.

Headphones

These days, I’ve stopped using the Sennheiser* headphones in favour of the Bose Quiet 35* pair I purchased in 2018.

I simply find that having the Bluetooth connection rather than a wire attached to the computer makes it easier when I’m dictating and pacing in front of my desk!

These headphones weren’t cheap, but they were a good investment as I’m sure I’ll be using them for years to come. They’re also very handy as a noise-cancelling device when travelling.

Production and publishing

I thought I’d end this update with some information about two processes I’m advocating for getting my books into readers’ hands.

As I’m an avid Mac user, I’ve been using Vellum* for the past two years to create my eBooks, print and – with a recent software update – large print formats.

Once the manuscript has been proofread and the final update is complete, it’s a simple case of dragging and dropping the Word file into a new Vellum project and that’s it. Done.

I couldn’t believe how easy the process was when I first tried it, but I can’t imagine using anything else now. Best of all, the licence fee is a one-off so you never pay anything again.

Finally, when it comes to selling my books, I’ve been using PayHip* to sell eBooks direct this past year. I’ve set that up using BookFunnel to deliver the books to readers via email.

The reason I chose PayHip over all the other services available is that they manage all the EU VAT reporting – essential if you’re selling books anywhere in the EU from your store.

Additional features I’ve used include offering book bloggers the opportunity to become affiliates when reviewing my books on their websites, and offering readers the chance to earn discounts if they share my first in series books on social media through my PayHip store.

Conclusion

As you can see from the above, some of my processes haven’t changed over the course of the year but I have made some tweaks and improvements. In other instances, I’ve been forced to find alternatives as software developers change their product offerings but this is something that will happen from time to time.

We simply have to learn to evolve while getting the words down. I still like to sit in a comfy armchair with a pen and notebook some days when the ideas aren’t flowing in front of a computer screen – as long as the words are written, it doesn’t matter how they get there.

One thing that hasn’t changed in my process is the use of a sit/stand desk. Aside from my iMac, it was the biggest investment in my business but it has saved me hours of back pain – and the associated physiotherapy sessions!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this update about my writing tools and how I’m writing books in 2019.

Why not let me know what tools you’re using in your daily work routine?

Note: An asterix (*) within the text above denotes an affiliate link, for which I earn a few pennies (and it doesn’t cost you anything).

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for the tips, Rachel. I love Scrivener too and would never go back to Word. Need some noise-canceling headphones again. Had Bose Quiet Comfort in the past, so will look into the Quiet 35 now. Rock on!

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