Friday, July 13, 2012

Writing tools, backups and whiskey...Oh my!

Happy Friday the 13th!  My first blog back in April was also on Friday the 13th and I discussed my Triskaidekaphobia (the fear of the number 13).  I am happy to say, I've conquered that fear.  But there is a fear that still remains...the fear of losing my work in progress.

Many years ago, my laptop crashed and it cost me $800 and a bottle of whiskey to have the data recovered.  I met the man in a dark basement of his non-furnished house, in a remote town, an hour away.  I brought a friend for protection once I heard the words "bring whiskey".  

Times have changed and the way I go about writing has too.  My tools were once a notebook and pen.  I upgraded to a desktop, then to a laptop.  Now I have an entire tool bag to work with.

iPhone - I love smart phones for on the fly note taking, photos and minor digital recording. Last year I wrote my entire NaNoWriMo manuscript on my iPhone using two apps. Dragon Dictation (free) and My Writing Spot ($2.99). A 50,000 word rough draft was completed in 12 days. It's amazing what the proper tools can allow you to accomplish.

Kindle Fire - I recently eliminated stacks and stacks of research materials by utilizing the Adobe app (free) and the built in documents feature. I can grab it and go and even make edits if I need to with the QuickOffice app (free). I save a bundle on printing and paper costs, never mind the lack of clutter. I even receive most of my magazine subscriptions on it. Added bonus, it's very green!

Notebook and pen - I have notebooks of all sizes stashed everywhere. My bag, my truck, my exercise equipment, the nightstand.

Multicolored index cards - Each book gets its own color. I'm currently writing a series so this makes it super easy to keep track of what characters, locations, animals, etc. are in each book. When time permits, I transfer everything into a spreadsheet.

Laptop - My main writing source. This one stays home.

Netbook - My travel writing source. It's small and light, easily fits in my bag and the battery lasts an entire day without charging. I've written 4 manuscripts on mine.

USB drives - You can never have too many of these. BACK UP YOUR WORK! Either that or get the whiskey ready...for you...avoid the shady guy in the basement. I use mine to transfer work from my laptop to my netbook, as well as all those research photos I took with my iPhone.

iPod - I visualize everything as a movie. Similar to a soundtrack, a particular song helps me capture the mood as I write a scene.

Digital recorder - This is my favorite tool. I have the Sony UX512 and I never leave home without it. Since it's fully customizable, I have a folder for each book I'm working on. I can record story ideas into a specific folder at the touch of a button. I find it imperative for dialogue. I literally perform every word before it hits the page. I can record it, play it back and see how it sounds.  If it doesn't sound natural, out it goes. I even record my read-throughs after my edits are completed. Essentially, it's my own audiobook. It enables me to catch things I may have missed. It also makes for comical grocery shopping. I left my iPhone in the car a few weeks ago, but my recorder was in my bag. I had a story idea and I was afraid to lose it. I whipped out my recorder and in the middle of the toilet paper aisle I started talking into it. Oh, the looks I received could stop a clock! Being the ever loving trouble-maker than I am, I raised the recorder to my mouth and said, "we will need to amputate all limbs, stat". The gawkers couldn't get away from me fast enough. They either thought I was a deranged doctor or a serial killer. Probably the latter of the two.

Post it flags - Can't live without them. Perfect bookmarks.

Click Free backup drive - BACK UP YOUR WORK! Can't say it enough. The Click Free plugs in and back up your entire system. No hassle, no worries, no need to buy that bottle of whiskey.

Planner - I have a separate planner just for writing. This one is the size of an index card and goes everywhere with me.

I am constantly on the go.  My ideas usually strike at the most inopportune times so it's nice to have these items at my fingertips. Now, I don't carry everything with me all the time.  The laptop and the Click Free stay home, unless I'm running from a hurricane (I live in the south and these things do happen).  Everything else tucks nicely into my Dooney Florentine bag.  It's not the weak or meager.  Empty, the bag weighs 5 lbs and with all my daily crap, we're looking at 10-12 lbs.  A few months ago I pulled a muscle using the shoulder strap and it took 3 weeks to heal. But everything fits with room to spare. Injury be damned, it's my tool bag, my handbag, my everyday bag.

One last piece of advice when it comes to backing up your work.  I always email a copy to myself at the end of the day.  The email account has to be one that uses a cloud type of mailbox.  Yahoo, Gmail, etc. allow email and attachments to remain on their servers so in the event of a computer crash and the lack of a backup, you can easily retrieve your documents from any computer.  I use a separate email account that only I know about (to eliminate hackers and theft). There are many cloud services to choose from. Most of them are free.

And then there are some days when technology ticks me off and I just need to unplug for a while.  There's something to be said for the simplicity of an old fashioned notebook.

That's my writer's tool bag ... what's in yours?

Amanda Renée
Betting on Texas (March 2013)


Leigh Duncan said...


I've always lived in fear of a computer crash or some disaster that would destroy my work in progress. For years, I backed my work up to disk each week and stored a copy in our safe deposit box. Much to hubby's dismay, I kept a huge tote box in the back of the car, filled with notebooks & printouts. Thank goodness for flash drives! They've become my my favorite tool. Since I started using them the tote box has been retired and I no longer visit my bank nearly as often.

I alternate between using my laptop or desk pc, but at the end of the day, every day, I back my work up to the flash drive and copy it to both machines. Then, the flash drive goes in my case I have to make a quick get away.

Amanda Renée said...

Oh I love it! I am so glad to hear I'm not the only one poised for a fast escape.

The irony of this blog was when I was half through writing it yesterday it suddenly went "poof" vanished off the screen. There was no getting it back. Autosave failed me. I always cut and paste my work into a Word document as a precaution. Not yesterday. So there I was, preaching about backups and once again, I didn't do one. My half hour post became a 5 hour ordeal. I almost reached for the whiskey! LOL!

Tammy Yenalavitch said...

Hi Amanda,

I am not a writer, but I loved reading about your tool bag. Wow- you have a lot of stuff in your bag. Happy Friday the 13th

Amanda Renée said...

Thank you, Tammy! It's always nice seeing you on here. Sometimes I don't wonder which is easier to carry. My 20lb Schnoodle or my bag. I think I've come close to the 20lb mark with the bag.

Happy Friday the 13th to you too!

Anonymous said...

I'd hate to ask what's in your purse. Happy Friday the 13th.

Amanda Renée said...

LOL! Actually, my purse is a wristlet. I go to extremes. When I'm working, the Dooney is in use. When I'm out for pleasure, I use a tiny wristlet with very little room for anything.

linda s said...

Wow! What muscles you must have carting your tool bag. After my computer based email was virused, I switched to the email feature on my service provider which is very secure and stores all my email on their server. We are just converting to wireless and dd is certain I need an IPad.

Laura Marie Altom said...

Holy crap, you're efficient!!! I'm now even more in awe of you, Gorgeous Girl!!!

Happy Saturday!!!

Amanda Renée said...


Sore muscles. Very, very sore. LOL! I'm certain you need an iPad too. The Fire and iPad each have their advantages and disadvantages. Because I have the iPhone, the Fire made more sense for me. Either or, they are great tools!

Amanda Renée said...


I live in a small beach bungalow - storage is sparse. Too much clutter overwhelms me and then I need a shot of rum. I start to clean, get frustrated, have another shot. Multiple rum shots mean no writing. My solution - no clutter + save the rum shots for later = happy writer. :) And thank you :)