Using Technology to Find Time to Write

posted Sep 6, 2014, 12:05 PM by Martin Roy Hill   [ updated Aug 5, 2015, 8:32 AM ]
In interviews I’m frequently asked, “What is the hardest part of writing?” For me, I say, it’s finding the time to write. Like most novelists, I don’t make my living entirely from royalties. I have a full-time job as a military analyst.  Between that and family commitments, I don’t have a lot of free time. I try to carve an hour out of a day to write, but sometimes even that’s difficult to find. That’s why I use technology to help me find the time to write.

I plot out my novels using Scrivener on my laptop. Among other things, Scrivener offers templates for character and scene development. However, I am particularly enamored with Scrivener’s corkboard app. If you’re not familiar with Scrivener, the corkboard emulates an old fashion method of plotting — writing down plot points on 3x5 inch index cards and arranging them on a bulletin board in the proper plot sequence. 

The problem is I hate lugging my laptop around with me. It’s a hassle to pull it out, find a place to plug it in, and boot it up. Instead, I take advantage of a number of apps on my Kindle Fire and iPhone.

When I’m plotting a book, I use two iPhone apps that provide the same functionality as Scrivener. A Novel Idea, by Svacha Software, provides templates for developing scenes, characters, and locations. The app also allows you to link characters to scenes and scenes to locations.  When I’m finished, I upload my work to Dropbox and then download it to my laptop and copy it into Scrivener. The app is available on the iTunes Store for $2.99.

But, you ask, what about my beloved corkboard? For that I use an iPhone app called Index Card Board, by Wombat Apps LLC, which provides the same ability to jot down ideas on electronic cards and arrange them on a corkboard. I currently have corkboards for two novels I’m working on. When I complete a set of cards representing a scene or a chapter, I send the card deck to Dropbox and download it to my laptop. (You can also send it to your iTunes account or email.) Once on my laptop, I copy the cards into Scrivener. Index Card Board is available on the iTunes Store for $2.99.

For writing I use two apps. For smaller projects, such as short stories, I use My Writing Spot, a free writing app that links to your Google Drive account and syncs your writing to all your devices. My Writing Spot allows me to work on a project on my laptop, my Kindle, or my iPhone without the need to export or download files.

What’s nice about having these apps on my iPhone is the opportunity to work on a project whenever I have a free moment. Waiting for a haircut? I can work on my plotting. Waiting for a meeting to start? I can write a few lines of prose for my short story. When others are checking their email or texts, I’m writing. Each time I do so adds to my daily goal of 500 words.

One of my favorite places to write is a coffee lounge like Starbucks or Pete’s. I carry my Fire and a small Bluetooth keyboard in my ruck wherever I go. Together the Fire and keyboard weigh a fraction of what my laptop weighs, and I don’t need to base my seating choice on which table is close to an outlet. (I also carry a small rechargeable power pack just in case.)

I use OfficeSuite Pro by MobiSystems Inc. on my Kindle Fire. OfficeSuite Pro contains apps that are compatible with Microsoft Office’s Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. I can move files back and forth using Dropbox or email without the need to convert them. OfficeSuite Pro is also available for iPads and iPhones.

Utilizing these apps helps me remain productive even without having to neglect the rest of my life and responsibilities.