by Laura McClellan
As a not-yet-published newbie novelist, I don’t feel qualified to advise on writing techniques. But I am a diehard tech geek, always looking for tools that will help me be more productive. I thought I’d share four digital tools that have been indispensable to me as a writer. In no particular order, here are my current top four tools for boosting my productivity (click on the hyperlinks for more info):
1. Evernote: This is my digital filing cabinet, replacing most paper files. Evernote is a cloud storage solution that synchronizes with apps on every platform. Just about anything I would want to refer to in the future is kept in Evernote–research materials for current and future books and articles; receipts for supplies, materials, conferences, and other business expenses; manuals for my equipment; lists of ideas for future blog posts, novels, and other projects; clippings of online articles. Besides the web access, Evernote has apps for iOS and Android, so my reference materials are available on the go. Evernote has a free option, but the paid subscription ($45/year as of the date I’m writing this) offers additional features that are well worth the price.
2. Dropbox: Another cloud storage solution, Dropbox is where I keep documents that I’m actually working in and might need to be able to access from multiple locations. When you open a Dropbox account, you have a “folder” you can access via the web, but it also puts a corresponding folder on your computer or device (Mac, Windows, or Android based). The folders are synchronized whenever you have internet access, so changes made to the version on your home computer will be visible in the version on your mobile devices and in the cloud. I have Scrivener set to save the primary file for my WIP to a subfolder in Dropbox. This allows me to work on my novel on my home computer, save and close (making sure to let the file sync), then pick it up on my laptop when I’m traveling. As long as I make sure I’ve been connected to the internet and allowed the files to sync, the changes made on one machine appear on the other, almost like magic. (Dropbox does some other pretty cool things, too, but I’ve got limited space here.) Again, you can start with the free version, but the paid version ($99/year) gives you more space and other features.
3. LastPass: A couple of years ago I was one of those people who used basically the same password for every online account I opened. It was convenient, but incredibly risky. If someone hacked one of my accounts, they would have access to all my others. With the high-profile hacks that have occurred in the last year or so (Target, anybody? Adobe?), it’s become more apparent that we need unique and complex passwords for each of our online accounts. Remembering them, though, is a feat for better minds than mine. Enter the password manager. This is a program that will (a) generate complete passwords on request, then (b) store them with your user names in a secure location, and (c) automatically enter them when you want to log into an account. You need only remember the password for your password manager. There are several around. I use LastPass. Again, it has a free version, but the very inexpensive paid subscription (a measly $12/year as of this writing) offers some useful features.
4. Backblaze / CrashPlan: If you’ve ever lost a manuscript to a hard drive crash, or a flood, or a stolen laptop, you know how important it is to back up your work. You can, and should, back up regularly to an external hard drive, but by definition that backup is vulnerable to the same natural disaster (or theft) that might take out your computer. Experts recommend an offsite backup in addition to your connected external hard drive. There are a number of services available. I use CrashPlan ($60/year) to back up my laptop and Backblaze ($50/year) to back up my home iMac. Both run automatically on a schedule I’ve designated, whenever the computer is connected to the internet. Both seem to work equally well. I haven’t yet had to retrieve my files from one of these services, but the peace of mind that comes from knowing the backups are there is priceless.
What programs from your digital toolbox would you recommend?
A lawyer by day and a lifelong bookworm, Laura has been published both in professional publications and inspirational magazines. Laura is member of American Christian Fiction Writers and at My Book Therapy. She’s polishing her first women’s fiction manuscript, a winner in several fiction contests, and blogs on her website at www.laura-mcclellan.com.