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Many years ago, about 1994, in fact, I read Linda Hall’s first novel, The Josiah Files. I loved it, but although I’ve forgotten the story by now, I will never forget the strange and unlikely—so I thought then—technology of characters carrying small handheld devices on which they could communicate and read. I wished with all my heart that I could have a device that carried books and could be accessed anywhere, anytime.

Well, what do you know? Last night I was unable to sleep, so I grabbed my iPhone, and with a few clicks, accessed a novel I couldn’t wait to finish. How the world, even my little world, has changed over the past twenty-four years.

 

 

There are varied responses to these innovations in our world:

  1. Some people conceive the ideas that become new technology
  2. Some people embrace these changes
  3. Some people struggle to keep up with the latest tools/programs
  4. Some people choose to ignore the changes
  5. And some refuse to accept or be involved in using technology

I’m definitely not the first type, nor the second. Nor the fifth. You’ll catch me on #4 and then grudgingly moving up to #3 most of the time. Because I really don’t want to be left behind.

In my writing life, I’ve had to accept some changes. One publisher I worked for expected his authors to learn and use social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Scribble, Scrabble, Bing Bong, etc. (Please don’t look up those last three.) Whatever was available, we were expected to go with it. I did my best, eventually settling on Facebook and Twitter, with LinkedIn as a more silent partner. I have to say it was good for me. Stretching is a good thing, and although I have always disliked the phrase “getting out of my comfort zone,” it was a necessary and beneficial exercise.

A couple of years ago, I decided to embrace the independent publishing scenario. It took a lot of research, observation, questioning and faith, but I jumped in and still have my head above water. I think. Just this week, I heard more about a company I’d been interested in but didn’t understand: Ingram Spark. After emailing with friends, I decided to give it a whirl for the sake of one of my oft-neglected goals: book distribution. I now have an account and we’ll see where that leads.

There will always be technological obstacles in our lives, personal and professional, and it’s our choice how we respond. But maybe, just maybe, we will be able to benefit from some new technologies or programs. My personal line: “If technology is a car, I’m hanging onto the back bumper by my fingernails. I can’t let go, because I’ll never catch up again.”

Whatever the next obstacle, I’ll deal with it…or ask for help to understand. Because times will continue to change. I hope you will also keep on learning and experimenting.

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old twitterAt my stage of life (swiftly approaching the sixth decade, she mutters through gritted teeth), I have seen a lot of changes in the writing life. Are those changes threatening or freeing?

When I began writing seriously in 1989, just mastering the use of a computer as a writing tool was looked upon with admiration. I started with a small Mac, then a “pizza box” variety, then the huge blue iMac and finally a laptop.old computer

Along with the progression of computers, I’ve learned much in the field of writing itself through on-line courses and websites at little or no cost and with easy accessibility.

Besides the actual writing, which used to be the main concern, there is the changeable nature of the publishing industry. Many longstanding publishing houses have been bought out or incorporated by others, or have folded. The self-publishing industry has evolved into an acceptable if unwieldy entity. What used to be the realm of specialists has become available to the individual writer.

There’s much to learn, and the information is at our fingertips. If we wish to self-publish an e-book, we need only search the internet for information and/or take a course on the subject, and our book is out there. One of the results of this freedom, which is being explored by royalty authors as well as unpubbed writers, is that of quality and standards. Are these standards changing too? How will these changes affect the written word?

One of the most challenging changes for me is social media. Although many people are currently and justifiably pleading with the general social-media-obsessed public to put away their devices in favor of eye-to-eye contact, there are good sides to social media. Like many other things in life (food, drink, entertainment, etc.), we must master them instead of allowing them to master us. Use the good; stamp out the bad.

I have “met” many interesting people through social media who I would not have met in any other way. For an introvert, the idea of connecting with a couple thousand people via my blog is much more acceptable and practical than trying to reach people in person.

A writing colleague is currently creating an e-book about Twitter. I’m excited to learn so I can make better use of that media connection. Let’s not be afraid of the possibilities.newer twitter

Will we ever learn all there is to learn? Of course not. Is it worth the effort? I believe it is, whether to improve our skills, promote our work and that of others, or to keep our brains busy. My hero is my mother, who at 91 years of age uses her iPad for internet searches, you tube, reading, listening to music, checking the weather and keeping up with family. More power to you, Mom, and thanks for the example. Life is a-Twitter with possibilities.

 

 

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blog-hop-for-writers imageThe writing tools I use can be divided into several categories:  those that are essential, those that are convenient or beneficial to efficiency, and the extra things that are nice to have.

Essential Tools:

  • My MacBook Pro – my first introduction to computers was to Apple, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
  • Paper and Pen/Pencil – of course a writer needs a scratch pad nearby.
  • The World Wide Webhttp – my connection to the internet is always on (thanks to changing technology that took me from one phone-line and dial-up to designated line and wi-fi).
  • Resource books – my Webster’s Dictionary and Roget’s Thesaurus.
  • Words – my love of words is why I write; without them I could not communicate what’s on my mind and heart. I discovered a cool website while researching for this blog which reinforces the importance of our basic word-tools: http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/newsgathering-storytelling/writing-tools/76067/fifty-writing-tools-quick-list/
  • My Day Planner – I found a lovely, thin, coil bound planner this year with each month day plannerdisplayed on a two-page layout. It’s not for the detailed hour-by-hour details (which I don’t do) but for the daily and weekly and monthly reminders and commitments in my writing world. I’m a visual person, so it helps to see my calendar in larger format than on my iPhone.
  • Quiet – I’ve tried the coffee shop thing but it doesn’t work for me. Maybe I don’t get out enough, but I end up staring and get no work done. My small balcony office at home is best for this introvert.
  • Social Media – Not that long ago I would have consigned these to the extras list, but with forced introductions to some of these I have begun to see the important and even essential nature of social media. If we want our writing to be read, we must make it accessible. In this area, I include:

My Website / Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Pinterest

Amazon Author Page

Convenient Tools:

– series of writing books from Writer’s Digest Books:  Plot & Structure by James Scott     Bell, Scene & Structure by Jack M. Bickham, Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott   Card, and many more.

  • Scrivener Scrivener Logo– my favourite writing software (there are inexpensive courses online—see Gwen Hernandez—as well as Gwen’s book, Scrivener for Dummies). Scrivener is a reasonably simple and effective way of keeping all elements of a project in one virtual unit that includes scenes, summaries, organizational tools, research files, picture/internet files, conversion tools, etc.
  • Online photo sites like iStockphoto and Shutterstock where I can look for character images.
  • I came upon a site that includes a lot more software for writing and publishing at http://cooltoolsforschools.wikispaces.com/Writing+Tools
  • Index cards – Once my first (or second) draft is completed, I like to write a very brief summary of the scenes, one scene per card, arrange them on my dining room table (with the extra leaves in) and work with them. Again, it’s a visual thing. Can’t trust my brain anymore so I have to resort to more physical methods.

Extras:  (or maybe these are convenient…or even essential?)

  • Tea – I’d love to drink coffee but it plays havoc with my body, so I opt for tea. I have a handy cup-warmer at the far side of my desk (never keep beverages close to your computer, she said from experience).
  • A comfortable, ergonomic chair and footrest –  it’s hard to stay in the chair if it’s uncomfortable and bad for your back.
  • A moderately sized blanket for times when you get chilly. Mine’s one of those velvety soft things that never moves from my writing chair.
  • Charts and tables – As a visual person, I need to organize my writing so I can see the whole project. Scrivener is good for this, and the index cards are another step, but I still branch out to charts, especially when I’m stymied and need a diversion.

I’m sure these lists will adapt to changes in my world, but these are currently my most cherished writing tools.

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