Embracing Technology

Any writer who has been on submission, whether querying agents or having your manuscript out with editors knows how tied you can become to that refresh button.  Somewhere along the way my laptop moved into the family room and my writing email account got a permanent home on my cell phone.  Even when the process ends, it's hard to break the bond you've formed with your inbox, and stop twitter stalking certain agents and editors. 

And while I feel like I am finally recovering from my refresh addiction (although its a bit like dieting-you can't just give up email altogether), I find that I've also acquired a taste for gadgets.  It used to be that a trip out of town required a computer bag containing exactly one laptop,and a charger.  These days, I have a laptop, a netbook, an iPad and a Kindle.  Duplicative?  Maybe, but each serves a special purpose when it comes to meeting my writing goals.

The Laptop:  This is my go-to computer for writing.  It's got my music library and playlists, my writing software and a big easy to read screen.  Most often, I can be found on the left corner of the couch clacking away while my real life love interest watches sports.  I like it because is big enough to work on for long periods of time (I typically write on weekends- in 6-10 hour stretches) without hurting my eyes and has a full size keyboard.  It has every version of my manuscript handy, as well as my outlines, and Scrivener files. 

I beta tested Scrivener for PC, and it had some wonderful tools to help me brainstorm a major rewrite.  It has a notecard/bulletin board function that I loved.  And while I enjoyed having the ability to keep every chapter and scene as a separate file, I also found the word processing functions to be lacking.  Eventually, I moved the outline into a Word document and charged ahead, but I still go back to Scrivener for my character and scene notes and folders, and I can see using it again to plan the next manuscript.

I utilize a simple back up system for my manuscript.  At the end of a writing session, I email myself the document, so it's safe and secure on a gmail server that I can access from any computer, even if my hard drive crashes.  I've also started using Dropbox, which allows me to store the latest version of the document in one easy to access location.

My laptop is the one bit of writing technology I could not do without.

The Netbook:   I bought the netbook on a whim last fall before a cross-country trip.  My laptop is awesome, but it is too big to open from a coach seat.  The only way to write while flying was to snag an emergency row seat or bulkhead, which I could never count on.  Often times I ended up with my laptop in my laptop in my lap at a weird angle so I could see the half-opened screen.  I'm surprised I haven't done permanent damage to my wrists. 

I love that little Netbook.  It's portable and cute, and I feel comfortable writing on it in an airplane, a coffee shop, or just about anywhere.  The keyboard is small, and I had to try a lot of keyboards in the the store before I found the one that felt the most comfortable for me to type on.  The screen is also smaller, and that takes a little getting used to, but it's very manageable.  The netbook fits in my purse, and I can open it and work from any seat in the plane.  For $300, the netbook has already paid for itself in terms of productive writing time while traveling.

The Kindle:  I love e-books.  I know, don't tell anybody, okay?  I received a Kindle for Christmas, and I've read more books this year because of it.  At first, it felt a little impersonal and cold.  No beautiful cover?  All the books look the same on here?   After the first book I read, I thought that it could never replace a real book because it lacked personality.  Was I ever wrong.  It turned out that I didn't love the Kindle, because I hadn't read a book I loved on it yet.  Once I did, my feelings for the book started to transfer to the Kindle, and I realized that the magic of books is in the writing and story, not the form of delivery.  I love that I can buy books anywhere and get them instantly.  I can finish a book and download the sequel seconds later.  I can carry 500 books on a trip across country without breaking a sweat.  When I was on vacation earlier this year, I even read my Kindle at the beach in full sunlight.  

But the best part of the Kindle is that it accepts manuscripts in Word format, and allows you to make little notes as you read.  I love this feature, because it allows you to review your manuscript in a different format and font then you wrote it in.  In fact, it looks just like a real book!  It's easier to catch mistakes this way, and you can keep track of them as you go.  I reviewed an entire manuscript on a plane ride, and was able to keep track of the notes and incorporate them into the manuscript when I got home.  It's less expensive than printing, and it's easier to take on the road.  One caveat- the "keyboard" is tiny, and so extensive note taking is out of the question.  The Kindle works best at the final proofing stage.  I wouldn't recommend it when reading a manuscript before a big rewrite. 

I've used the Kindle to beta read others' manuscripts as well.  It's much easier than trying to read something on a computer.  This is a great tool in my writer's arsenal.  I wish I'd  had one sooner.

The iPad:  I know, laptop, netbook, Kindle, what do I need an Ipad for?  Let me tell you....  I got the iPad for work, but I'm finding that it's good for all kinds of things.  I use the iPad primarily for communication.  It's much better than the cell phone for checking email (not only does it refresh anywhere, but it allows you to actually read and respond without killing your eyes).  It's also my morning "paper" which I use to read blogs I follow and check out the state of things on Twitter (with the free Twitter app). 

I have a "Kindle" app which gives me access to my entire Kindle library on my iPad.  It seems redundant, but it's not.  The Kindle is great for everyday reading because it doesn't strain the eyes.  The iPad has a lit screen that is better for low light situations, and since my iPad is always in my purse, I can pick up the book I'm reading anywhere I happen to be.  The only issue I've had with reading a book on both devices is that the iPad and Kindle don't keep track of each other, so the books don't advance pages that you've read on the other device.  It's a minor inconvenience that's more than made up for by the convenience of having my books on hand at all times. 

The iPad also gives me internet access 24-7, without being dependent on wi-fi.  I know I had this with my smart phone, but it was always too slow and small to be any real use.   So far the iPad has been great for reviewing content, but I'm not sure it's the ideal tool for creating content.  That said, I did just get a wireless keyboard, and I'm going to download Pages and try working off Donna's set-up (*apologizes to netbook*).  I still think the netbook will be better for writing on the small confines of a plane, but I like the idea of using the iPad to write.

Last year, my writing technology consisted of one email account, one laptop and one work processing program.  This year, I've got three more gadgets, and I feel that they all have added to my enjoyment of the craft.


This is so much fun! Katy did voice recognition software, which I've always been curious about, and I've long been searching for someone to talk about the specific uses of the Kindle for reviewing manuscripts. I don't like printing out a crit partner's entire novel, but I also don't like reading on the computer. Thanks, Talia.

Beth, the Kindle is perfect for reading manuscripts, but it's hard to take detailed notes. I usually read on the Kindle and then I make comments on the Word Document in the computer later.

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