What goes boom, eek?
Week ten of the Tech Savvy Writer posts. As we come to the end of this series of blog posts, I’ve saved the best to last.
Getting words on the page is hard. Creating entire worlds, and people and throwing them into precarious situations so they can grow takes time and skill… and more time.
I’ve had periods of time where picking up a pen, or putting my hands on a keyboard, was physically impossible, as I’d done too much the day before.
When that happens, it’s time to find another way to fill that blank page.
That’s where dictation comes in.
Dragon Dictate is probably the best known dictation software around. Starting at $240, but there is a free 7-day trial for Dragon Anywhere. I know of people who do the majority of their writing using this software. It’s progressed a lot since the early days, and continues to get better.
If you’re flinching at the price tag, Dictation.io is a free option on Chrome. The only difference between the two is that you can train Dragon to recognise your voice. Dictation.io doesn’t seem to have that option yet.
One that I’m currently trialling on mobile is Otter. The basic plan is free, and Premium starts at $8.33 a month. With the basic plan, you get 600 free minutes – or ten hours of transcription.
But, what about the fun stuff?
I always thought that fonts were super tricky to make, and that only programmers would be able to create them.
I have learned that I was wrong. There’s a great website called Calligraphr that enables you to download a template, fill it out and upload it again to make your own font! For those of us who are wanting special fonts for our off-world cultures, this is a brilliant way to create a customised font.
Of course, anything done by a designer will be a thousand times better, and it’s not something you can publish an entire book in, but it is super fun to play with.
You know what else is fun? Games!
I’m a gamer from way back. I have my husband to thank for that! He built my first PC for me, and handed me a copy of The Sims. I created a world for Shari and the gang, and was hooked.
I mostly play RPGs (Roll Playing Games), and have been crowned the Tetris Queen by my family, although writing leaves little time for that these days.
But sometimes, it’s hard to get motivated to write, and it’d be so much nicer to just play a game for a bit. Sound familiar?
What if I told you you can do both?
There are a few really great ways to gamify your writing tasks.
4thewords is a gaming platform where you defeat monsters by writing. Now, if you’re a gamer like I am, it’s the perfect combination of writing and playing. Worth having a look at their free account if it sounds interesting. Use my referral code to get free crystals: JYLZL28778
If you like tracking your word count, WriteOMeter could be just the thing for you. You can set up your goals and track it on a daily basis. You can also set goals and reminders to kick your writing day off.
I hope you’ve discovered something new over this series of blog posts. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a line.
Week nine of the Tech Savvy Writer posts. Today, we’re covering miscellaneous helpful tools.
There are a few more things I want to cover before you’re released back into the wilds of the internet.
Distractions on the internet are very real – social media, gaming and virtual window shopping can eat away at our time, not to mention all of the streaming sites.
If you find that distractions are ruling over your writing, internet blockers might be helpful.
Mac users win out here – Macs reportedly have their own built in internet blocker called Self-control. I can’t give you much more info than that, as I am a windows and android user. I don’t use macs or iPhones in my writing life. I do know of quite a few writers who are Mac users that swear by it.
For the rest of us, there’s Rescue Time, which offers a Lite version for Free. Plans start at $6 a month.
Another option is Freedom. It’s great because it works on Desktops and on mobiles. There’s a free trial, and plans start from $7 a month.
Table Top Audio is the premier, advertising free / free-to-use, user supported ambient game audio site on the web.
It’s an amazing site that offers up situational audio files that you can customise within the site using SoundPads. Well worth a look.
Sometimes, just the hum of voices is enough to get the creative juices working. If that’s the case for you, try Coffitivity. It recreates the ambient sounds of a cafe to boost your creativity and help you work better. There are loads of free ambient sounds – or you can go premium for $9 a year.
If you don’t have a stable internet connection – or prefer to write offline – and you’re an Apple user, try Coffitivity’s offline version instead.
Stay tuned for next week, when I’ll share the final instalment of this blog series, and the one that you’ve been waiting for – Words and Gaming.
Week eight of the Tech Savvy Writer posts. Today, we’re covering publishing tools.
Authors everywhere are groaning after my ending on the last blog post. There is no magic button when it comes to publishing a book. Or a graphic novel, or magazine or anything else you’re wanting to publish.
Ronah took 17 years to write. Partly because life got in the way. As I was heading towards the end of my university studies, I really wanted to hold that book in my hands.
Tears, callouses and creative cursing are usually involved in the end production. If you’re wanting to find out where to start, these tools will give you a beginning point.
But there are programs that can help you hold your dreams in your hands.
How to make a book:
I researched, and found a print on demand company that printed out the first draft of Ronah. There are only five of these books in existence. And they probably belong hidden in the bottom draw for the gremlins to devour. Why did I go to all that trouble? Because I didn’t think I would go any further with it. I just wanted to see what it would be like to hold it.
And now, 15 drafts and two editions later, Ronah has led me here. It’s still a bit surreal.
If you’re like me, and you’ve worked your fingers to the bone creating that book and want to hold the finished copy, how do you go about making it?
I start with setting up a template in Microsoft Word. Make sure that your size and margins are correct for the type of book you’re after. If you’re using special fonts and you want to make sure that they’ll actually work, make sure you go to:
- Save As
- More Options
- Save Options
- Make sure that under Save, Embed Fonts in the File is checked.
To save it as a PDF that will be printable, you need to go:
- Save As
- Choose PDF from the drop down option
- Click More Options
- Then click Options
- Make sure the PDF/A box is ticked
This doesn’t automatically happen if you just go File – Save As PDF. You have to go the long way the first time you set it up on a computer – and if you’re using a public PC, it’s good to check that option is ticked each time.
InDesign part of the Adobe suite – if you get Photoshop, InDesign is also worth it. Like most Adobe products, there is a fairly steep learning curve, but there are lots of excellent tutorials out there to walk you through how to create a book. Fully customisable, InDesign delivers beautiful results, but is a very labour-intensive way to format your books.
As we discussed before, Scrivener is also able to not only help you write your book, but it can also create both print and ebooks with relative ease, if not with the beautiful customisation of InDesign.
Vellum is a tool that is recommended by a lot of authors, but it is designed exclusively for Mac users. At $250, it produces both print and ebooks, and is reportedly easy to use. There is a work around for Windows users – but it involves ‘renting’ a Mac In Cloud – that costs roughly a dollar per hour. There is the option to trial Vellum, but you can’t generate files in the trial version.
How to make an ebook:
Sometimes though, even if the urge to hold a book in your hand is strong, there’s an even better reason to set up an ebook instead. I have a friend who edits by creating an ebook and marking notes in her Kindle.
Vellum and Scrivener, as we just discussed, are great at creating both print and ebooks. There are other ebook creating tools that you can use as well, but the two that I’ve used are Caliber and Draft2Digital.
I find Caliber a bit is messy. I love the fact that it’s free, but I struggle to figure out the interface, and to make sure that I am actually editing the correct part. There are many authors who do it flawlessly, and I’ll be honest and say I haven’t given a great deal of time to learning how to use it to create ebooks. It is, however, a great free, ebook reader.
Draft2Digital is the main one that I use. If you have pretty formatting in your ebook, you aren’t going to like it. Or, at least, I don’t. Draft2Digital is brilliant when you’re starting out, or if you want to use it like my friend does to edit. It’ll put in all of the formatting, drop caps and section breaks for you once you upload your word doc. You can pretty much sit back and watch it happen. You may have to tweak things, but it is a far less labour intensive way to create an ebook.
Once you have all the formatting done, it’s time to print the book out and hold it in your hands.
Where to get printed/published
I’ve found that Blurb is the cheapest as far as printing and shipping within Australia. Like many of the other places, wait for the sales – there’s always a sale. They also have amazing customer service, so if anything goes wrong, it’s usually just a matter of sending an email away and it’ll get sorted.
Ingram Sparks has a setup cost that you can get waived if you complete the Nanowrimo Challenge. They are quite a bit stricter with what files they will accept compared to Blurb. The wait time for Ingram is also significantly longer than Blurb, but if you’re wanting to reach more people, Ingram is the way to go.
If you’re wanting a hard cover book with more options, you should really check out Lulu. They offer some beautiful hard cover choices, complete with a linen cover under the dust jacket.
I can’t give you prices on any of these, as it all greatly depends on the size and format of the book, how many pages it is, and what paper you choose. All of them offer calculators for you to check the price before you commit to buying. Or selling.
Stay tuned for the next blog, when I’ll share some helpful tools, including internet blockers and music.
Week seven of the Tech Savvy Writer posts. Today, we’re covering editing and beta reading tools.
Once you’ve got your first draft, it’s time to start the editing process. Now, some authors really don’t like the bit, but I love it. This is where your work beings to represent the final product. Let’s look at a few tools to help you on the way.
Before the story changes, I usually run the manuscript through a few different Spelling & Grammar tools.
Grammarly has a free basic plan, and a premium plan with more functionality from $12 a month. There are quite a few sales through the year for half price – and it’s worth waiting for.
The brilliant part of Grammarly is that you can add it to your browser, and your apps. Just by writing a twitter post a day, you can use Grammarly to improve, well, your grammar.
It’s fully compatible with Word, Evernote and it’s currently undergoing beta testing for Google Docs. To get Grammarly on your android or iOS device, you’ll need to download the Grammarly Keyboard and follow the instructions on the Grammarly help page to activate it.
Pro Writing Aid helps you to edit faster, fix style issues, find the right words and learn as you edit. I love it because of the learning factor. Realistically, you could get away with either Grammarly or Pro Writing Aid, but I use both. That’s partially personal preference, and partially because I’m dyslexic and I like knowing I’ve got all the help I need at the click of a button.
Pro Writing Aid has a free trial period, and is compatible with Word, Chrome, Scrivener, Windows and Mac. There are extensions for the Firefox, Chrome and Safari web browsers as well. If you try Pro Writing Aid and end up falling in love with it, you can get a monthly subscription for $20 all the way up to a lifetime subscription for a one-off payment of $240. If you are a Nanowrimo participant, there is usually a code for half price.
Now if the price is a turn off, there is always the Hemingway App. It’s a great free alternative. The drawback with this web base application is that it can only do small chunks of text at a time. There’s no way that I can copy the entire 112000 words from Rakemyst into the app and have it work.
They have also got a desktop app available, for $20, which is still cheaper than Grammarly or Pro Writing Aid – but I’d give it a go first to see if it works for you.
Beta readers & Editors:
There’s pretty much only one way that I work with Beta readers and my editors – and that’s using Track Changes in MS Word.
If you go to the Review tab on the ribbon you’ll be able to turn Track Changes on and off. If you ever read some one else’s work using Word, the very first thing you should do after opening the document is turn Track Changes on.
When you’re reviewing what someone else has to say about your work, it will show up as comments on the side like this.
To accept or reject a comment, you just click on the most appropriate button – accept or reject.
Stay tuned for the next blog, when I’ll show you how to hit the publish button.
Week six of the Tech Savvy Writer posts. Today, we’re talking about cover creation.
If you’re already thinking about the cover, remember that it really is best left to the professionals.
Burst is another site where you can download free, high-resolution images.
You can use images from these stock sites in Canva to create your cover – but make sure you check the copyright and the way you can use them first. Canva is a great option for everything from business cards to book covers.
Once you have your beautiful cover, you can check out what your book will look like before you even hold it in you hands by using what’s called a mockup.
Mockups are basically a virtual version of your book. In this case, mockups can give you an idea of what it will look like when you’re holding it. You can get mockups of almost anything you can think of. From books, to billboards, tshirts to posters. There is a mockup for everything – and they are most commonly used in advertising. I like to use the book mockups to see if the cover fits the way I think it will.
Bookbrush is a great site where you can create a mockup in your browser. Bookbrush takes your uploaded cover, and applies it to a predetermined book or ebook. You can register for free and use some of the options, but like lots of other sites, you have to pay to unlock the premium features. Prices start from $8.50 a month.
Covervault is the perfect option if you have access to Photoshop. It’s possible to use it with free photo imaging software like Gimp, but the result is nowhere near as good. Covervault has a wealth of freely downloadable templates for all shapes and sizes of books. The only real cost is Photoshop, which, admittedly, is not on the cheap side, but is well worth it if you use it quite a bit.
A bit of shameless self promotion using the Covervault mockups:
Stay tuned for the next blog, where I cover editing and beta reading tools.
Week five of the Tech Savvy Writer posts. Today, we’re covering maps and images.
Maps and can prove to be really helpful during the writing process. If you’re wanting to see the town or dungeon your characters are walking around in, or if you want something a bit more realistic than the character creator generator, this is for you.
As far as maps go, the One Page Dungeon generator has to be one of my favourites. In Rakemyst, I used this generator to come up with ideas for certain scenes involving Tania and the beings who wanted wormy dirt. There are some other really brilliant generators on Itch.io, but this one is my favourite. I’ve also used this artists Medieval Fantasy City Generator to get ideas for the layout of towns.
Where can you find images to use on book covers, or for character or story inspiration? Pixabay has free images & royalty-free stock, and Unsplash states that it is the internet’s source of freely usable images.
They will have similar sorts of images, although I’ve found that Unsplash has become my go-to for stock images.
Stay tuned for the next blog, where we talk about cover creation.
Week four of the Tech Savvy Writer posts. Today, we’re covering generators for characters, maps and images.
Generators are used to power ideas – not to copy and paste. Check out the resources listed below to see what ideas they spark for you.
Characters can make or break a story – or a writer. Sometimes you can get horribly stuck on a name. I’m in the middle of writing book three in the Lissae series at the moment, and one of my characters still has a placeholder name – Tall. It’s a descriptor. I know who she is, and I know I need to go back through and carefully replace any reference to Tall in the manuscript when I can finally figure out what she’s called.
But if you’re writing on the fly and you don’t want to get bogged down and loose the flow, you can always use generators.
My favourite by far is the Fantasy Name Generator. It’s a bit of a misnomer, as it can generate way more than just names. With over 1300 generators, you can do everything from find the perfect name for your Pegasus to creating blueprints. It’s a brilliant resource. Something I always do, is pick the generator I’m after, and then press the “Get names” button three times, then I’ll take part of the name from one bit, and part from another and another and adapt it all at the end. I use this site for inspiration, not for just mashing ideas together and forming a story.
Charactercreator.org is brilliant if you’re a visual person, and want to be able to describe a character after looking at one. You can randomise or choose the features that you want your character to have. Like all generators, it’s going to have it’s limits, but it is pretty fun to play with.
If you’re more text based, and you need a background character with a bit of detail,Quick Character Generator is the way to go. Choose by gender and age range, and it will spit out basic details, Personal status and views, traits and favourites. Again, like any other generator, adapt and change as you see fit. These are all a starting point, not the end goal.
Character-generator.org.uk gives you options to focus on particular parts of a character without having to go through the entire process. Although there is also the option for a detailed profile.
Stay tuned for the next blog, where I cover places to get maps and images for your writing needs.
Week three of the Tech Savvy Writer posts. Today, we’re covering merging the old style – writing with a pen – and new – electronic storage of information.
If you still love the appeal of writing by hand, but hate the thought of buying countless note books, Evernote has an option in the app where you can write on the screen. It’s super handy, but you may find it easier to use a pen designed for your device, rather than your finger.
The downside of this, of course, is if you have messy handwriting, it can by hard to read later on.
Evernote, and other apps, are working on handwriting recognition which will translate your handwriting to a generic, editable font – which is something I really can’t wait for!
The other alternative to old meets new is the Rocketbook. Starting at $35 and requiring special pens, the Rocketbook is the alternative to carrying around a dozen notepads for all of your different writing ideas.
Rocketbooks have a few variations – from ones that you can erase by putting in the microwave, to ones that you wipe down with water. They all have a limited number of pages, but are able to be used again and again. You’re also able to click and upload your items to either the Rocketbook app, or to Evernote.
There are now a multitude of notebooks like this out there, but I use the Rocketbook Everlast (now called the Rocketbook Core). It’s really simple. It’s a matter of:
- writing or drawing what you want with one of the Pilot Frixion pens
- marking an X in the location bar at the bottom where you want the info to go – which you do as part of the setup
- scanning your pages with the Rocketbook app
- then uploading it to the cloud.
Evernote will also automatically scan your Rocketbook pages in as well, without needing the Rockebook app.
You can see here one of my notes, taken directly from the app and uploaded to Evernote. Once you set it up, it’s an automated process that all happens behind the scenes.
Speaking about automated processes – sometimes, writing doesn’t happen as freely as we’d like. Sometimes I get stuck on a name, or a description, or an image. Stick around for next week, where I talk about some super handy generators.
Prices correct as of 20 February 2020.
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