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: digital baggage

Writers today have a plethora of digital tools at their disposal to, ideally, make their lives easier when it comes to mapping out ideas, and writing anywhere, anytime. (That's right. Plethora. Thank you, online thesaurus, for example!) But this is one of those cases where too much can potentially be a bad thing, or at least, a complicated thing, involving too many software and service options.

I recently downloaded a master password keeping app (1Password if you're interested), deciding it was time to get the minefield that is my online identity organized. The very thought of all those accounts I have out there (plus the ones I've made and undoubtedly forgotten about) is overwhelming. Services, online shops, online banking, site logins--the list goes on. Thanks to the master app, I'm now starting to feel a bit more organized with all my accounts and passwords (which I beefed up in the process) in one place, but the exercise has also brought to my attention the vital importance of a little digital housekeeping from time to time.

It's time to leave some of that baggage behind...

If spring is the time to clean house, then I propose fall be the time to organize the scope of our digital lives. I firmly believe organization is the key to productivity so if you're having trouble in that area or even if you're just feeling bogged down by all the services you're signed up for, here are a few tips to get you moving in a better direction:

1. Are your apps holding you back? Mine were. And not just because I didn't have enough space to upgrade the software on my iPhone. I simply had too many apps kicking around that I downloaded to "check out", but the problem was, most of them had been downloaded for the same purpose--I wanted somewhere to write on the go. But after a while, I had so many of them that I couldn't remember which was which. I couldn't remember which ones I liked. I couldn't remember which ones I'd synced to the cloud or which ones were even capable of that. It was time for a major purge. After categorizing my various apps into folders, I started the process of opening each one to remind myself of how it worked and whether or not I liked using it. If anything about it didn't meet my needs, I ditched it. Even if there were aspects of it I did like, I don't have time for multiple apps that do the same thing. In the end, I isolated a trio of writing apps that each serve a distinct purpose, including one for writing on the go, and I trashed the rest, deleting related accounts as I went. I then did this with the rest of my apps, cleaning up anything I wasn't really using. I could already feel the digital burden on my shoulders getting lighter.

2. Next up was cloud storage services. Most of us don't only subscribe to one, even if we didn't make that decision consciously. But doesn't it feel a bit scattered to have your online storage be so, well, scattered? I found myself signed up for several of these online storage services (again to try them out in an effort to find the one I liked best, or sometimes because of a promotion offering extra GBs for free). It got to be a bit much. So I made a list of all the services I was signed up for and started to cull the list where I could (again, closing the accounts of anything I no longer planned to use). I still find myself with multiple accounts--Google Drive, iCloud, and a few others can be unavoidable--but the ones I've kept each serve a distinct purpose and now that I've got myself organized, I can start to use each one more effectively than ever (including the use of a highly secure service, Tresorit, to back up my most sensitive documents).

3. Email. Oh email. You started out so simple once upon a time. I had one email address to meet all my needs. But that has somehow spiralled out of control to the point where I have several. As with cloud storage, there is a certain amount of necessity to it, with different emails being used for different purposes, but still, there are extras that can go. Again, I made a list of all the email accounts I've accumulated over the years so that I can decide which ones to keep and which to shut down. Even if you find yourself keeping several, as I did, it's good to have them catalogued in some way, to have them on your radar, and again, to take the opportunity to strengthen any passwords that you created back before online security was the issue it is today.

4. Which brings me to my final (for now) note about digital baggage--if you're anything like me, you have more miscellaneous online accounts than you can account for (see what I did there?). It's not easy, but it's really important (and ultimately very rejuvenating) to make a list of all the online accounts you can think of, make sure that you close accounts you don't use anymore, and securely lock down anything you do (especially if it's linked to personal information or banking info). Trust me, the very act of having an inventory of all the accounts you own goes a long way toward feeling more organized and in control of your digital footprint.

Now that that's taken care of, I can focus on writing my next WIP, and because of the work I put into cataloging/culling things now, the exercise of tidying things up again next year should be a breeze :)

What do you do to keep your digital baggage from getting too heavy?