Welcome to my first ever post! To start, I’m Lauren. I’m a web designer and indie author with two books of flash fiction, Bump In The Night and Morning Musings, and currently three Kindle Vellas ongoing called Other Realms, The Circle, and Whisper In The Air. I’ve gained a lot of knowledge over the years, both as a web designer and indie author. Some of my knowledge comes from other authors who have been at it much longer than I, but my goal with this series is to synthesize and present my author knowledge with my web design experience and present my unique take on these two subjects.
So you’ve decided that you want to write a book. Great! Now. What does one need to write a book? If your first answer is “a pen and paper, DUH”, you’re on the right track. However, if you’re like me and many people in the world with carpal tunnel, general repetitive stress injuries, or other factors that might limit your ability to write for long periods or even at all writing a book isn’t so simple and easy to do.
My goal in this is to compile tools that make the act of writing a breeze. I am only human, though, so I will miss useful tools that others may use in their writing career. Please let me know about these tools as everyone can use accessible tools!
So! What are the tools? Well for one, I LOVE dictation! There are several apps and features in apps that you can use for dictation. Personally I use an app called Otter.ai. there is a free version of the app for Android, iOS, and their website that you can use. There is a premium option that gives you more minutes of audio to transcribe in a 30-day cycle, but check out the free version first to see if dictation is for you.
The reason I specifically recommend Otter.ai is how it compares to the highly recommended Dragon software, priced around $500. When looking at a dictation software, I wanted several things:
It could transcribe imported audio files
And a copy of the audio file from live dictation
In my quest to find a dictation tool to use, I tried a couple of different methods. I tried the record app from the Google Play Store; I tried using the dictation integration with my phone and my computer into Google Docs, and I tried the Dragon Android app. The Recorder app from Google was the closest to what I wanted: a recording AND transcription available at the same time. The trick with Google Docs only transcribed my speech, and it riddled the result with mistakes that I had to hope that I would remember how to fix since there was no recording to check. After a few minutes, the Dragon app turned off the microphone and made long sessions impossible. The Dragon app was also only available on my phone, which I didn’t like. I wanted more options.
I came across the Otter.ai app from watching a YouTube vlog from the author Katie Wismer. Since I hadn’t heard of that app yet, I went to check it out and the free version ticked my main wants from a dictation app: a copy of the audio file from the dictation and live dictation. The free version was exactly what I wanted, and the reasonably priced next tier up included the audio file importing I was looking for too.
I have yet to use the audio importing feature though since I’m liking the base features of the app, so I think the free version of the app is totally serviceable if you are dipping your toes into dictation. Dictation gives us the possibility to free ourselves from our desks or a noisy home if writing while alone on a walk suits your writing style better.
Next on the list of tools is the word processor!
I use a couple of different tools for housing my work: Scrivener and Google Docs. I honestly don’t use Scrivener in the.. Correct way, I think. I use the sections to keep track of word count for the day. The reason I started doing it this way and haven’t stopped is that it makes it simple to keep track of my word counts for NaNoWriMo. I’ve never deviated from using the sections this way, but I’m definitely going to explore the sorting in the future, specifically because of Scrivener’s compile function.
As it stands now, I’ve played with the compile function to moderate success. I need to do some more research on the best way to sort a Scrivener project because I think that will be the key in taking full advantage of the compile feature. So, I keep mentioning this feature, but not really going into what it actually does. The compile feature takes your Scrivener project and formats it into one file for publishing. You can format it into a text file if you really want to, but its strength and complexity lies in it being able to make files ready for publication for ebook or print formats.
Personally, I think there are more intuitive applications to do this, such as the Vellum software for Apple. A quick disclosure: I don’t have a Mac so I can’t attest to its ease of use, but I’ve only ever heard praise for the app. There is also the app Atticus, which is a formatter and word processor that works on Windows and is much cheaper than Vellum and is available on the web and is a onetime payment. I have not used Atticus, though, so I can’t give an opinion on it.
That said, in the past I have formatted my books directly in Google Docs using the free Page Sizer add-on to make sure everything looked right on the print size for the book. My friend and fellow author Angela Nicole Chu (http://theangiechu.net/) formats and writes her novels directly in Microsoft Word, no special software needed.
You can find a good video playlist on how to format your novel for publishing in Word on Bethany Atazadeh’s YouTube channel (FORMATTING A BOOK — What you NEED TO KNOW: Introduction to Novel Formatting Series for Writers).
The next tool I’ve used is called ProWritingAid at https://prowritingaid.com/. This tool works in your browser as an extension or their website and they also have a desktop app. You can use their desktop app to open up your Word or Scrivener. It will save files and any changes saved while the files are open through ProWritingAid to the actual file. Now, why did I go with ProWritingAid and not Grammarly? Well, beyond ProWritingAid being repeatedly recommended by authors specifically, but also because, as a winner of NaNoWriMo one year, I received a discount code for the lifetime version of ProWritingAid. Pay at a discount once or have a subscription fee potentially for years? The lifetime license made way more sense to me in the long run. And the coupon definitely helped!
The next tool on my list is Spotify! Or YouTube, whichever mode you use to get music to help set the mood. As someone who gets distracted VERY, music by like Peter Gundry, all instruments with no lyrics and kind of chill vibes, are perfect for me when I want to zone everything else out and write. There is, of course, the LofiGirl on YouTube or any of the other myriad of channels and playlists for lofi, fantasy, epic, moody, upbeat, and inserttypeofmusic here for your listening convenience.
Now for the actual writing. I did already cover dictation, but that won’t suit everyone’s style of writing or possibly even genre, depending on your comfort level with speaking graphic scenes out loud where others might hear. Say you’re like me then. I can only physically write for maybe a half hour at a time before my hand cramps and hurts. If I push myself beyond my limits, my fingers can get tingly, and the pain stays much longer. (take breaks and stretch kids) My way around this is to type and dictate. For typing, I’ve written a novel in a couple of modes: on my laptop like I am now writing this script, on my desktop with my oh so satisfying clicky keyboard, on my phone in the middle of the grocery store into a Google Doc, or (also in a Google Doc) on my iPad.
For my phone and iPad I mentioned using Google Docs, I want to mention that one NaNoWriMo I had my full novel in one Google Doc and towards the end of the month the doc was so large that the app would crash on my phone. I’m not sure if this was the app not able to handle the length of the document or my phone not being able to handle it, but ever since then I have tried to split my projects into smaller docs when actively working on them. I usually title them for the day that I am working on them, which is incredibly useful when tracking my words on the go for NaNoWriMo.
For writing on my iPad, at first I used the on-screen keyboard, which definitely worked for me for quite a while, but as soon as I could I invested in one of those cover/keyboard combos so I could have the full screen for the document instead of only a little at the top of the screen since I typed with the iPad long side horizontal.
My iPad was incredibly useful when I was still going to the office for my job. I could write in the morning before my shift without lugging my much bigger laptop around. Now, the keyboard is cramped because I had a small iPad, but it helps me get more writing out, which is exactly what I wanted!
Lastly and, I think as a serious author you NEED to have a website. Now, yes I’m a web designer specifically for authors, so call me biased, but I VERY much believe that serious authors need to have their own home on the internet. This can be 100% free if you wish, however I think if you are going to spend any money on a website first buy a domain. Google Domains are usually only $12 for an entire year. Get it in a .com if you can, but, as evident by my site, a .net works just as well, especially if you have a common name like mine.
Google has instructions on their site on how to hook up your domain to most sites and whatever host you choose should also have documentation on how to do this. If you have trouble with this, you can reach out to your host’s support team, but you don’t need to let that stop you from using your domain. With Google Domains, it’s easy to make your domain forward to a different web address. So if you bought yourname.com, but your WordPress is yourname.wordpress.com. You can tell Google to forward any traffic to yourname.com to yourname.wordpress.com. They have documentation on their site to do this as well.
I’ll go into more details about what to include on your website in the future, but for now we’ve covered the basics: dictation, word processors, editing aids, technology, and your author website.
I hope you enjoyed this first of many planned posts from me! I look forward to any of your comments. If you would like to support this show and get episodes and transcriptions early, you can support me on Patreon at patreon.com/lewright. I hope you found this useful!