Tag Archive for: Writing Tools

Dreaming of the Perfect Writing Tool

By Barbara J Eikmeier

I wrote an entire novel in my dreams the other night. It was a suspense thriller with a mysterious murderous. The plot was riveting and the characters vivid in my dream world imagination.

When I woke, I knew I’d dreamt a novel but didn’t remember a single detail. How frustrating is that?

Whenever I have a clever idea for a story, I make notes. If it’s for a current project I prefer 3 x 5 cards, a holdover from my college days where I learned to write nursing care plans on little cards. In novel writing I use them for scenes – it’s easy to shuffle them around as the narrative is coming together. And I’m a big fan of spiral notebooks, although it’s sometimes hard to find my notes when I need them, and it takes extra time rewriting as I type into the computer. If only there was a tool that would convert my hand written notes to digital text.

I went so far as to buy a second hand gadget without really understanding what I was buying. (Oh the woes of buying second hand!) It had a small tablet sized screen and an electronic pen. Surely, it would work. I asked my techno-savvy daughter to teach me how to use it. Alas, it was a graphic design tool, not intended for text at all. A graphic designer herself, my daughter happily took it off my hands.

Like most writers, I conduct informal research in airports. I’ve observed the introduction of all sorts of gadgets by watching what people are using on flights. Do you remember the short lived series of Samsung phones that were the size of an Ipad? The only place I ever saw anyone use that phone was on an airplane. Then there was that time I thought a lady had left her dental floss on the seat. Her visual relief at noticing the small white case seemed out of proportion for dental floss. Come to find out they were $100 ear buds, common place now, but cutting edge at the time.

On a flight a few months ago I saw a businessman using a slim notebook sized gadget with an electronic pen. When I ran into him in the terminal during a connection I asked him about it. He gave me the name, along with a glowing review. Then he surprised me by pulling it out of his carry-on and showing me a few pages during a 3 second tutorial. I wrote ReMarkable 2 in my spiral bound notebook and proceeded to my next gate where I jumped on the internet and looked it up. 5 Star Reviews across the board. I sent a text to my daughter who replied instantly, “I’ve heard it’s good.”

Using a bit of mad money I had stashed away, I order the ReMarkable 2. I’ve had it for about three weeks now. I’m still learning which features are best for me, but so far I’m loving it.

Is this the tool that will replace my towering stack of 49 cent spiral notebooks? Will it clear my kitchen counter of endless to-do lists? After all, I can still handwrite those beloved lists on its opaque paper like surface. Will the text conversion work well enough for me to cut and paste into a manuscript or in Skrivner, finally breaking me of a decades old habit of using 3 x 5 cards?

I think the answer is yes, it will do all those things. What it won’t do is capture that complete novel from my dreams.

Do you use a digital notepad? Has it increased your productivity?

Barbara J. Eikmeier is a quilter, writer, student of quilt history, and lover of small-town America. Raised on a dairy farm in California, she enjoys placing her characters in rural communities.

Tools of the Trade for Writers

My recommendations five years in –

1. Buy a computer, flat screen monitor, and printer. (Okay, the flat screen monitor is not strictly necessary if your eyes are very young. Buy a computer with as much RAM, processor speed, and hard drive storage as you can afford.)

2. Buy and install Microsoft Word. (Yes, you can use other word processing software, but this is my list and that’s my recommendation. Plus most agents/editors/publishers want your manuscript delivered in Word. I hear you grumbling, but I too used WordPerfect for years and was able to teach myself Word. You can learn to use it. And the Home and Student version is not that expensive.)

3. Set up an internet connection. (Hopefully something faster than dial-up since the writing, finding an agent and acquiring a publisher will provide more than enough frustration). Make sure you have up-to-date virus protection. I don’t care for “security suite software.” Too many programs to slow down your computer. Between pop-up blockers, phishing protection, and extra firewalls – surfing the internet can become more like sitting on a leaky air mattress and paddling with your hands. Yeah, you’re safer but it’s not much fun. McAfee Virus Scan, kept updated, along with the firewall that comes with your computer operating system is usually more than adequate unless you troll the bad part of town a lot. If you like Norton, great. But if you ever want to change to something else, you’ll find Norton has buried itself into many of your software programs and is almost impossible to remove.

4. Build a website. If you’re ever lucky enough to have readers, they’ll expect you to have a website. Lots of places on the web will host your website for a small monthly fee. They have software on site so you can build your own or you can hire a web designer to do it for you. If you have extra cash hire the web person. If not, you can learn to do it yourself. There is an enormous amount of information on the internet about websites available. Hey, if you’re a writer, you should be a reader. So read … you can learn just about anything by reading and practicing. (I’m also giving myself a little pep talk with this blog. I’m trying to learn how to animate graphics. Four hours and now I can make a dog wink.)

5. Set up a MySpace page and make friends. Every friend you make is a potential reader of your book. Plus, you meet some great people. Sure you’ll get the occasional spammer or crazy person, but you can delete them with a single click. Much easier than dealing with your obnoxious next door neighbor.

6. Buy photo software, install it, and learn to use it. Not a day goes by, that I don’t use photo software to resize my bookcovers for promotional items and postings. Did you think that Irish Wolf hound changes hats by herself? I like Microsoft Digital Image Suite 9. It does everything I want it to and is very user friendly. Yes, Adobe makes some great photo software that will do more, but I was looking for something with a short learning curve and something inexpensive. Microsoft Digital Image Suite 9 is just right for me.

7. There are some wonderful books on writing. Read some of them so you know what you don’t know. The more I read about writing the more I realize writing is like anything else, you get better with study and practice. It’s a craft. Just because you want to write, doesn’t mean you can. I’ve got a list of books that I found helpful – email me at evelyndavid@evelyndavid.com and I’ll send it to you.

Since I’m using Word to type this, I know that I’ve got 565 words at this point. More than enough for my Thursday blog. I’ll run spell check before I cut and paste this into “Blogger.”

Did I mention blogging? That should be item number 8. Maybe author newsletters should be number 9. But I’m not sure you really need to do both even though Evelyn David does. You have to save some time for the actual writing.

Okay. Time to wrap this up. I’m headed back to the animation drawing board. My goal is to get a dog’s tail to wag.

A writer’s life is so exciting.

Evelyn David