07-14-18 Cassandra O’Leary

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

All in the Timer (and other tools)

A simple kitchen timer is my favorite writing tool. I don’t use the digital ticker to keep track of how long I write—I use it as a device for discipline. You see, I have a form of adult ADD—that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. For me, the hardest part of writing is getting started. While the idea of sitting at my keyboard for an hour can be daunting, sitting for fifteen minutes is definitely doable. Thus the timer. Once I get started, I keep resetting my fifteen-minute segments and—you guessed it—I lose track of time.

I do have a few other tricks up my sleeve, or rather in my ultrabook. Using the spell checker goes without saying, but many writers don’t take advantage of the wonderful grammar options included in MS word. Word will actually track your passive sentences, clich├ęs, and sentence structure.

Isn’t the thesaurus the best tool ever? If you don’t like the one that comes with Word, you can upload your own—or go to www.dictionary.com. And no serious writer can do without “Find & Replace.” Change a character’s name—no problem. Just type the old name in the find and the new name in the replace and make the change with a single click. You can also use this feature to get rid of those double spaces after a period.

Likewise, the comments tool can be used for much more than telling your critique partner no man would say, “Let’s talk about your feelings.” Use the comments during your first draft to find those spots where you need to add verbiage. Highlight words you want to double-check the meaning; it’s much easier to click the “Next comment” icon than to search through your document for notes or highlighting. Even better, my new computer came with a “sticky notes” tool. Works just like the 3M product for your electronic document.

And if you’ve ever lost a document, keeping backups becomes a way of life. In addition to the flash drive and zip drive I use to back up individual documents and my entire writing directory, I also mail a copy of my documents to myself. The good thing about emailing your info, is that you can access your documents from anywhere. However, make sure you password protect your documents.

Just to prove I have a life outside writing, here’s a couple hints for the kitchen:
--Use clothespins to reseal everything from bread to chips. An entire bag typically costs less than a single chip clip.
--Store your leftovers in plastic bags instead of bowls or Tupperware. Less dishes—thus more time for writing.

Okay, okay. Maybe I don’t have much of a life outside writing, but I hope you found at least one tip that makes your day easier. Do you have other writing tools you can’t live without?


Linda Lovely said...

Robin--Interesting suggestions. Haven't tried Sticky Notes yet. I use all of the Word tools though I do get annoyed by Word's find of alleged grammar errors. Use office clips for my chips. Cheaper and sturdier.

Melissa McClone said...

I love timers. I'm becoming more attached to writeordie.com. Makes me concentrate on drafting and not allow myself to be distracted!

Diana Mcc. said...

I like the clothespin idea! Chip Clips are costly and not as versatile. I like all the word tools. Great post!

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Robin,
Great blog. Anything that saves time so we can write more is a winner with me.



Judith Ashley said...

Hi Robin,

Where did you learn to use the Word tools? I'd love to have it check for passive sentences. I have the sticky notes but didn't know they could be used in a doc.

Using the 'track' thing drives me nuts. I need to have it 'look' like the finished product in order to write the first draft - but, these tools would sure help with rewrites/editing.

Paty Jager said...

All great tips, Robin!

Sarah Raplee said...

Maybe we should use your timer method to get some house cleaning done! Fifteen minutes would be less daunting.

Great idea about using Comments feature to plan edits!