My Writer's Toolbox: The Tools I Used to Write my Book

This post is part of First Time Author, a series of blog posts in which I share my journey going from having an idea for a book to (traditionally) published book. Learn more here.

Before I move on to talk about publishing, I thought I'd do a short and sharp post about the tools I use for writing. I see a lot of questions popping up about this in Facebook Groups and other online forums, so I figured you might be interested in knowing which tools I used to write. Here is my list.

Writing my book: MacBook Air + Microsoft Word

I write on my MacBook Air laptop, which is perfect for me. It's light and portable, which is important given I travel a lot and often write and work in different places, and it has all the other tools and apps I need to write.

Even though I switched from PCs to Mac computers many years ago, I never quite managed to let go of the Microsoft Office suite. I'm very familiar with it, so Word was the obvious choice for me to write my book. I like how easy it is to set up heading, tables of contents, references, and much more. I also thought it would be a safe bet in terms of compatibility. Almost all other platforms are compatible with Word, most people have it installed on their machines, and everyone knows how to use it. So I figured it would be the platform to write on that would give me the most options in terms of sharing my work or uploading it to other platforms, for example, self-publishing ones.

Editing and Fine-tuning: Grammarly

It took me a while to come around to Grammarly (mostly because I hate their annoying ads), but I do have to say it really did help me improve not only my book but my writing in general. I wrote my whole first draft in Word but then used Grammarly for editing. I uploaded it to Grammarly chapter by chapter and worked through it. Grammarly picked up on some spelling mistakes Word Spellcheck had missed. But more importantly, it quickly highlighted some common grammar mistakes I was making – mainly around punctuation but also some sentence structure aspects that could be improved. For example, it helped me to figure out when to use commas before "and" and when not to, and it also pointed out a few sentences that were long and wordy. I feel Grammarly not only helped me to polish my book and fix mistakes, but also made me a better writer overall (once you've fixed the same mistake for the 12th time, you remember it for the future…)

Backing up my work: Dropbox and external hard drive

I am obsessed with backing up my work! And I think if there is one thing you want to obsess about, this is it. I'm pretty sure everyone who has ever lost a big chunk of work would wholeheartedly agree with me. Imagine spending hours and days working on your book, feeling awesome about the ideas and your writing – and then losing it all (AAAHHHHHH!!!) I actually had several nightmares about this…

So I obsessed about backing up my work. Every time I finished a new significant section, I would upload a new version to Dropbox. In addition, I would back up my whole laptop at least once a week. This was important to me because I didn't only have the draft document to worry about, but also sources, articles, references, and other parts of the research I was doing. By backing up my whole laptop once a week, I would at least be able to get most of it back. That harddrive became my treasure. I would hide it in my van or houses I was staying at so that if someone would break-in, they would, hopefully, not find it. I even took it on a few hikes with me when I felt it would be safer with me and being left behind.

Like I said, I definitely obsessed a bit about backups J

Capturing random ideas in the moment: Notes (iPhone App) + old school notebook

We all know this situation, you're driving in your car, or you're at the supermarket, out for dinner or just going for a walk, and suddenly you have this fantastic idea for your book. Or you read something that you think will be relevant. In the beginning, I use to think I would be able to remember these ideas given how awesome they were. But it turns out my memory is not that good.

So I started to use the Notes App on my iPhone. It worked for me because I usually have my phone with me, and because the voice to text function meant I could dictate ideas while driving. I also have an old school paper notebook that I take everywhere with me so occasionally I would write ideas in there.

Brainstorming: Post-it notes

Honestly, I have no idea how many post-it notes I used during the brainstorming phase for my book. It must have been hundreds. I love them. Writing ideas, headlines, concepts and topics on post-it notes during the brainstorming period helped me to work out the structure for my book. The fact that you can easily move them around on a wall (or a big piece of paper) means they are perfect in this early stage. And I also love that they come in so many bright colours J

Managing my time and staying on track: Mostly my head + Todoist

I like organising and structuring things, and I love plans. I really liked the idea of using some kind of project management tool to keep track of what section I still need to write, which require another review and all the other little things I had to do. I tried a few at various stages of the writing process, but I never found one that worked for me. I'm naturally an organised person, and I just couldn't find a tool that I felt offered something I couldn't do in my head – and do it well enough to justify the time to enter data. So in the end, I mostly kept track of where I'm at and what needs doing in my head.

I did (and still do) use Todist as my general task list tool. I use it for my work to keep track of what I need to do for my various clients, and I also use it for important personal chores. So when I felt like making a list of what I needed to do for my book, I would usually do it in Todoist.

Keeping my energy up: Coffee! Lots of it J

I'm pretty sure my book would not exist if it weren't for coffee!

Alright, now you know what tools I used. In my next post, I will start to talk about publishing and specifically self-publishing vs. traditional publishing.

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