The Warm Up Act

Why writers need to behave like athletes

A couple of months ago I went searching for a new writing app, and stumbled across Novlr. One of the things I like about Novlr is the dark background which is easier on my eyes. I’ve been using it for my work ever since. It also has a fantastic free writing course, the Couch to 80k Boot Camp by novelist and poet, Tim Clare.

In my experience it’s all too easy to forget how important it is to warm up with our writing every day. I’ve wasted countless hours staring at a blank page or screen, groaning under the strain of trying to force my writing muscle into action when it very clearly wants to sleep. Yet since discovering this course, with just ten minutes of writing a day, I’ve found that when I do now sit down for the main event I’m so much more limber and agile and I have a new-found confidence in what I’m doing that I never had before.

It really is a brilliant course. I can’t say enough about it. The clever way in which it slowly builds on itself and navigates so many areas of the creative writing process without you even realising how much you are growing is simply thrilling. Clare is a master when it comes to teaching, and listening to him prattle on a bit only makes it more disarming and accessible.

The fantastic news is that there’s more even after the course has ended. Clare is a prolific podcaster and his Death of 1000 Cuts podcast is available online and via iTunes. This is such a gift to us as writers and I’m extremely grateful to him for providing us with so much inspiration and for helping me warm up my writing muscles.

There’s more inspiration to be found all over the Internet and in many book shops, if you know where to look. For example, the San Francisco Writers Grotto have produced a book called “642 Tiny Things to Write About.” Whilst a bit more random, and not as sequential, as Clare’s warm ups, they can certainly breath new life into a tired mind.

Above all else, warm up! It’s not wasted time, quite the contrary. It helps you save time later by giving you the life and energy you will need for the big race. It has helped me learn how to play, have fun, and think outside the box. It has helped me grow in confidence, and not to strain my brain in trying to force it to run before it can walk. What I find it prefers to do now is dance. I hope you find it works for you too.


Apps for Writers

Scraps of paperFor the longest time I lived my life surrounded by scraps of paper. Whenever a thought would come into my head I would scribble it down using the back of receipts, napkins, and even the back of my hand. I then progressed to notebooks and still take one everywhere to this day. I say one, what I actually mean is over a dozen in various bags, in the car, and around the house. When I want to find a thought, an idea or a scene I’ve scribbled it can sometimes take me ages to find it.

Then I started using notes on my phone. This helped a bit, but I still found myself actually hand-writing anything of length because whilst the phone keyboard is great for knocking out tweets it’s a little tedious for anything beyond the length of a Limerick. I still have the problem of multiple things on multiple mediums and never easily accessible at the right time.

I finally started to investigate apps for writers. There are a multitude out there with various features and strengths and weaknesses. After reading what other writers thought I finally settled for Scrivener and began working through the tutorial.

Not being the most patient of people I kept wanting to jump ahead so created a blank template alongside the tutorial and began playing around with it as I went. I did the shortened version of the tutorial but can always refer back to it for more info if I need to.

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What is it about writing apps that make them so useful and appealing to us writers?

1. You can use the app across all your devices

This is providing you have the same operating system on each, so as an Apple fangirl it works perfectly for me with my iPhone, iPad and Mac Book. I only had to buy Scrivener once, and have downloaded it on all my devices. Then, using Dropbox, I can access everything I have saved wherever I am with any of the three devices. Brilliant!

2. Scrivener allows you to use multi media

The files and folders you create within a given project can be everything from plain text to videos. If you saw a  picture of someone who looks like your character you can add it in the research file. If you watched a video on a location in your book, again it can be added easily. If you have a random thought while waiting at a bus stop you can add it to the binder from your phone within seconds and come back to it later while sipping on a large coffee in front of your laptop. Everything is there and it’s easy to find.

3. Templates

First there is the main template – manuscript, e-book, poem, screenplay etc. There are plenty to choose from and you can also create your own. Then there are the templates within the binder itself.

There are two main templates that come in a manuscript – the character outline and the location description. However you can make templates of your own (I recently made myself an editorial calendar for this blog using the table format), and you can import templates that other Scrivener fans from across the globe have created. You can also copy and paste other templates from other mediums such as Google Docs. The list is endless in terms of the types of templates and files you can create and then use again and again.

4. Compiling

I don’t know about you but when I write my first draft I sometimes find that I need to add scenes, delete scenes, and move scenes around. If I work from just one text file this can be a laborious task. If I write from a series of separate chapter files I can get confused when it comes to putting it all together and formatting it properly. The good news with Scrivener is that it does it all for you. You just click and drag everything into the order you want it to go in and then Scrivener collates and formats it for you. Amazing!

As I’ve only been using Scrivener for a few months I still have loads to learn about it. What nifty tools have you found? Do you use a different app? Are you a paper purist or a tech embracer, or something in between? Tell us what you think!