the writer's arsenal: bookmark these now, thank me later

I've talked a lot about the importance of getting yourself organized when you're setting out to write a book and today I want to give a shoutout to the top five tools I personally use and have come to rely on during my writing process (all of which I'm recommending of my own free will--no product placements here, folks!).


Oh, Trello. There are days when I still can't believe you're real. I've tried a lot--A LOT--of different outlining tools over the years. I don't think I could ever possibly list them all. But none have met my needs the way Trello has. It allows you to create these things called Trello boards, which are basically giant bulletin boards where you can pin cards under different columns. I used to only use it for laying out chapter breakdowns, but now I use it for everything. Cause why not? It's so much easier when you have everything you need in one place. I create a board for each book I'm working on, then within the board, I create character lists, chapter breakdowns, a place for snippets of text (cause sometimes you think of perfect dialogue before you've written a scene), and any other things I need to keep handy (locations, facts, timelines, continuity checks, etc). I also use it for new book ideas, marketing ideas, home renovation projects (yes, that is unrelated, but that's just how diverse this tool is! I can even share the home reno stuff with the husband so we can collab on it together!)

Here's a pared down sample of what my story boards look like:

So yeah, it's awesome. Plus, once you set up an account, you can use it via your web browser, your phone, or your tablet (it's even on Kindle!) and everything syncs seamlessly. Oh, and it's free! They do have a paid service called Trello Gold, which I'm sure is a really powerful tool for businesses that require lots of people to collaborate on massive projects, but for writers who want a space to map out their thoughts, the free version is all you need.


I'm not using Werdsmith as much these days now that I've migrated almost everything to Trello, but sometimes I still want a space where I can do some writing on the fly. For me, Werdsmith has risen above the rest when it comes to writing apps because it's clean, simple, and it works. I can write something on my iPhone while out shopping (cause sometimes you think of brilliant plot twists in the middle of the cereal aisle) and it's there on my iPad when I get home. A few extras that put this app above the rest include word count goals and an idea-to-project-based structure that makes Werdsmith a good place to brainstorm and then run with your brilliance when you're ready.


Don't even try to tell me you don't use more than one cloud service. I know you do. We all do. Sometimes because it's forced upon us (Google, Apple, etc) and sometimes because we want to stick to the free version of each and then run out of space. And that's not even to mention that some cloud services just plain old function differently than others, and meet certain needs better than others. If that sounds even remotely familiar than you should probably start using Multcloud, an online tool that lets you manage most of your cloud services in one place. Need to move files from one cloud to another? Multcloud makes that super easy. Want to backup your novel to more than once location? Save it to one of your cloud services and then easily drop copies anywhere you want to keep a backup.


There isn't much to say about this website beyond the fact that it provides really good creative white noise. Do you enjoy working to the dull roar of a busy coffee house? Are you inspired by the sound of rain and gentle thunder? Rainy Cafe provides either (or both at the same time!). If you, like me, concentrate better with a little something to block out your actual environment (and find music only helps when you're writing certain scenes), then Rainy Cafe is probably the answer to your concentration woes. Check it out.


Yes, I know I've already covered cloud storage with my shoutout to Multcloud, but I have to give an honourable mention to Tresorit, which I've mentioned before, because unlike the cloud services you can sync with Multcloud, Tresorit is super secure cloud storage done right. I like to keep anything I consider to be highly sensitive material in Tresorit, including an extra backup of each of my novels. It has fantastic encryption and is perfect for those files you really want to lock up tight. Just don't forget your password. Just kidding. I think there's way to deal with that... I think.

So there they are--my top five writing tools! Do you have any specific tools/resources you've come to depend on during your writing (or working) process? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

the writer's arsenal: the fly on the wall

Let your reader be a fly on the wall

Write what you know. It's one of the most common pieces of advice that writers are given. And no, it's not just meant to save you time on research. That's important too. Write what you know doesn't necessarily mean write your life story (though for some people it does, and those stories can be quite compelling). Authors write about all kinds of things that have never happened to them personally, but that doesn't mean they aren't writing with an authenticity that keeps the reader believing they could have. Write what you know simply means don't stray too far from yourself when you're writing. That thing everyone talks about called voice? That's actually just you. That's the authenticity you can bring to a story by putting a piece of yourself in the writing. The one thing you have as a writer that nobody else has is your unique perspective based on your lifetime of experiences. That's your advantage and it should be a part of everything you write. That's writing what you know. 

Regardless of how fantastical your plot may be, you want your reader to feel like a fly on a very real wall. You want them to feel like they're not just reading a story, they're stepping into a rich, colorful, fully-developed world and are spying on it for a while, if not stepping right into the shoes of your protagonist. I'm not a vampire, or an astronaut, or a twelve-year-old boy, and simply outlining what those beings are like isn't enough to grab my attention. What does is the magic that mixes our world and the other--the voice that connects "I know nothing about this" with "But I'd like to learn more" and "There's something about this that I can relate to". If an author doesn't put a piece of their own humanity into their story, doesn't "write what they know", it'll show and the story will be weaker for it. The plot will be there, but the life behind it will fall flat, lacking in the kind of compelling voice that engages us to keep turning the pages. There's nothing wrong with being inspired by other authors, but make sure your writing always comes from a place that's authentically you. Giving your story a real voice is the best thing you can do.

the writer's arsenal: you are not an island

I know what you're thinking. Where's the Friday5? Right? ;) Well, I've given it some thought, and right now, I really only have time to blog once a week (I'm hoping that will change one day, but alas, truths are better accepted than denied... Whoa! Where did that come from? I've been watching too much Downton Abbey/Game of Thrones/Britishy stuff). If I blog once a week, and it's always an edition Friday5, I'll never get around to blogging about anything else! So I'm going to switch it up from time to time and do a Friday5 when there's some awesome news to report (not that there isn't this week...) and then throw in a few regular posts for variety. Today, I'm in the mood for a long-overdue edition of The Writer's Arsenal so let's get to it!

You are not an island...but you could end up on one.

I've talked before about writers vs. authors and what I personally think the difference is. In short, writers write to write, while authors write to be published (Huh. That was easy--maybe I didn't need to write that post!). Today I want to touch briefly on the subject of authors in the public space. I say briefly because it’s a topic that’s been covered elsewhere, and covered well, but I want to add my two cents because good advice bears repeating.

If you write to be published, please, please, PLEASE be mindful of the self you portray online--even if you’re not yet published. Yes, even if “nobody reads my blog anyway”. It seems simple and yet so many authors get it wrong. Famed actors will often talk about how the downside to their chosen career is the forfeit of their privacy. The reasonable ones accept it for what it is—part of the job. Others can’t seem to grasp the necessity of a public persona, go on to behave ridiculously and then blame the media for invading their privacy. Is it fair that people should have to take on the burden of being scrutinized to do what they love? No. Of course not. But if privacy is important to you, chose a career that’s not in the public eye.  Being watched is PART of celebrity and celebrity is part of the job.

Authors are also in the public eye, though to a lesser extent. Regardless, people ARE watching and so an author too must be on their very best behavior. It doesn’t matter if you’re still on the journey toward being published, a debut author, or an experienced author with many books under your hat. You must—absolutely must—mind your manners in public. And yes, in this case, public means the internet, public engagements, the line at the supermarket, etc. If people can observe your behavior, you need to make sure you give them every reason to like you and no reason to feel incensed by you. Does this mean you can’t ever let off steam? EVER? No, you can, but be SMART about it. Be diplomatic. Write opinion pieces, not rants and be wary of anything that could be too polarizing. If you feel the need to really dig in bitterly on a subject, do it in private.

How you present yourself in public is part of being an author, just as writing, marketing and sales are also part of the job. Who you are matters to your readers (and potential readers). It’s a saying you’ve heard since you were a child, but it never gets old—if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. At least not in a public arena.   

Of course, all of that is assuming you don’t want to ruin your career ;)