What I thought I would do this week is share some of the tools/random things I use while writing or planning that have helped me in hopes that it might also help some of you. I have not been paid to endorse any of these things. I just like them and would like to share.
I hate making spreadsheets. Some of you are very talented and patient. I am not, so I like to outsource my spreadsheet needs.
- WorkingWriterBiz spreadsheets– I bought these last year when I started to get my author shit together. This Etsy seller has so many fantastic spreadsheets. I use them to track my sales, social media numbers, and word count trackers. You can even make your own 3 book bundle, which is awesome. They work on Excel and Google Sheets, and you can save them as blanks and use them year after year.
- Svenja’s word count spreadsheets– I love Svenja’s spreadsheets so much. If you only write like one project a year or don’t want to separate word count data by project, these spreadsheets are fantastic. They are pay what you want and have beautiful background art from Lord of the Rings, Once Upon a Time, and much more.
- Sarra Cannon’s Heart Breathings Youtube channel/newsletter/resource library– You have to sign up, but it is worth it. Her Youtube Channel, which will be mentioned below has been so helpful to me (she will pop up a few times here). She has sprint trackers, a plot outline sheet, and so much more. Besides being a great teacher, she also takes into consideration chronic health problems, mental illnesses, etc. when discussing being an author. There’s positivity, but none of it is toxic or of the hustle variety. You can find the link to her newsletter on her website/YT channel. Personally, her resource library is *chef kiss*
- The Courtney Project on Youtube– Courtney is one half of the romance writing duo Kennedy Fox, and she has some really good info on being a full-time author, how to up your game, etc. She’s a bit more down to business than Sarra Cannon, but sometimes that is necessary.
- Music to Write By playlist– This is something I whipped up for myself and for my students. There’s a lot of fantastic ambient music and long tracks to help you focus while you work. Tinnitus scrubbers or colored noise has been a godsend for my ability to focus.
- As a side note, while I have not watched it, I know Brandon Sanderson (aka the fantasy author I have also not read) has his entire course on writing scifi/fantasy for free on Youtube if you are interested.
- A word of caution- There are tons of resources on Youtube, but there’s a difference between enjoying someone’s authortube content and coming to them for advice on writing/publishing. Obviously vet who is posting because learning from someone who is below you in skill or are not ahead/in line with you career-wise isn’t particularly useful. People who haven’t finished and/or edited a book might not be the best people to get writing advice from if you are trying to publish your work.
- Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel by Hallie Ephron- pretty self-explanatory. If you’re at the intermediate/advanced stage of mystery writing, this is below your level but useful for someone like me who strays into suspense instead of mystery
- Structuring Your Novel by K. M. Weiland- truthfully, all of K. M. Weiland’s books are phenomenal
- Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody- another book on structure that is incredibly helpful
- Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes- for the romance writers who also need structural help
- I Give You My Body by Diana Gabaldon– the author of Outlander also has a short book on writing sex scenes, which I found helpful from a sensory/choreography level
- Newsletter Ninja by Tammi L. Labrecque- this book and its sequel helped me increase my newsletter subscriber list significantly. I haven’t used all the advice, but the vast majority of it (in both books) were very useful.
I’m not including buy links to these because they’re sort of open-ended, but these are things I use all the time when I’m working on my books.
- Blue light blocking glasses- to save your eyes from computer screen glare. Plus, I think the yellow helps me focus, even if I panic that my dogs have jaundice (FYI it’s the glasses, not them)
- A notebook to write ideas in or to write on the go- I use a 5 Star grid paper notebook most of the time. It’s the perfect size for my normal handwriting, fits a lot on the page, has a spiral, etc.
- A bullet journal- if you like staying organized, I highly recommend having one or a planner to keep track of your publishing/writing to-do list
- Kanban Board- same thing as above, though this is paired with the HB90 method (see Sarra Cannon’s channel or my past blog posts for more on this)
- Washi tape, markers, stickers, highlighters, etc.
- Your choice of pen that is conducive to writing- for me, this is Pilot G2 pens (of various colors, sometimes I use the one color only for one book) or Sharpie S-Gel pens. If the pen doesn’t write well for you, use something else. Yes, I do get hung up on pens and the color sometimes.
- Reverse outlining– I write very vague outlines on an act-by-act basis, but you can find more about reverse outlining in a past blog.
- Forest app– this is an app on my phone that I use to time sprints all while growing cute little plants. I also use it for grading papers and doing any other thing I don’t feel like doing. Will do work for cute trees.
- Miro– this is a very flexible app where you can make mind maps or just organize notes in a nonlinear way. I use it for chapter or timeline planning.
- As an aside, a lot of people like Scrivener to write on. I find it difficult to use and fiddly. If you’re thinking about it but aren’t sure, I highly recommend getting the free trial and then seeing if it clicks with you or not. For me, it did not, but I prefer Word.
- Skillshare- I do not have a Skillshare subscription currently, but in the past, I had a 2 week freebie period and I was able to watch a lot of videos on writing, marketing, etc. You can find these free trial codes pretty easily online, so I highly recommend grabbing one (and setting a reminder to cancel it). They also have courses like learning ASL, various art media, etc.
- HB90- this is Sarra Cannon’s course on planning, getting your shit together, realistic goal-setting, etc. It’s not being offered currently but will be in March, I believe. I highly recommend it if you’re trying to organize your life a bit better and actually make progress toward your goals. Once again, it isn’t about hustle culture. Her mindset is inclusive of those who are chronically ill or neurodivergent, which I appreciated.
- Publish and Thrive– this course was pivotal to me getting my shit together and doing so well with my launch of The Reanimator’s Heart. It is a 6 week course on indie publishing that is stuffed with fantastic information that you can watch at your own pace and have lifetime access to. When I took it, I ended up with over forty pages of notes and a plan for how to market my books better and set myself up for success. It’s great for those who are new to indie publishing, those getting back into it, and those who feel like they’re career is stalling. Sarra is only offering this course once this year, and it is currently open for enrollment. It starts February 4th, 2023, and while it is pricey, it was worth it and she offers payment plans. As a past student, I have an affiliate link if you would like to sign-up. Feel free to reach out to me if you are thinking about it but have questions!