Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Must-Have App for Writers!!!

I know not everyone has an iPhone...so if you don't and you're a writer, I'm about to make you really, REALLY wish you had one. :-)


Since the dawn of smart phones, I've been on the lookout for a phone that would allow me to work on my manuscript. It seems like a crazy way to work, but I was imagining all the times I was stuck at boring sports events or waiting at a doctor's office... All I needed was a way to write a few paragraphs here and there, then import them once I got back to my computer.


First, in the Sprint store, I eyed what was then called a "pocket PC." The pocket PC had both Word and Excel on it. I can't even remember why I decided against it but I ended up going with Sprint's iPhone imitation for a couple of years, which of course had NO apps for writing on your phone (or anything else, for that matter). Finally, this year, I got the iPhone and, after a few months, realized there was nothing I could possibly want to do in this world that I couldn't do on my phone. Including, WRITE!


A tiny bit of research led me to Manuscript for iPhone*:




It wasn't free...$3.99 to be exact. I'm the type who HATES to pay for anything on my phone but after reading the reviews, I couldn't resist. I pressed the "Buy Now" button and within seconds, I was writing.


ON MY PHONE!


(Can you sense the giddiness I felt over this?)


With so many people buying iPads, it makes sense to have an app like this...but I figure if I want to be able to write on my phone, others probably do, too. Manuscript is more than a notepad, though...it also allows you to outline, do research, or just type out a few little notes about your future progress. It even creates a cheap little mock-up of your work in progress:




Your work will look like this:




When you're finished, you can e-mail a copy of your manuscript to yourself or you can export it via Dropbox...a handy little app that allows you to sync your phone with any computer where you have your Dropbox app installed. As soon as you finish exporting your work to your dropbox, a box pops up on your computer telling you a new document has been added. You never even have to hook your phone up to your computer. It's like a wireless jump drive. (And it's free.)


Okay, so writing on one's phone isn't for everyone. But, for me, it beats having to drag a notebook around to write longhand. People tend to give you really strange looks when you're writing longhand these days. Having your nose buried in your phone while your thumb moves over a keyboard isn't quite as attention-getting these days! Plus, when you work at a job (as I do) that often requires you to sit at someone's computer for as much as 20 minutes at a time, waiting for software to load, you need SOMETHING to occupy your time.


If you're interested in Manuscript for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, it's available here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/manuscript/id339910826?mt=8M. And, no, I'm not being compensated in any way for writing about this. I just LOVE it and want to help out other writers who are as compulsive about writing as I am!


*Images courtesy of the iTunes store.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Writing is Like...Working Out?

In my mid-30s, I spent a lot of time at the gym...and NO time writing. At the time, I had nothing better to do, honestly. All my friends were workout fiends and, living alone, you start to do anything to avoid going home to your empty apartment every night. So you hang out at the gym with the other "steroid heads." (My affectionate nickname for these guys):




I didn't want all that. I just wanted a toned, thin body so I could wear summer clothes without feeling flabby. I learned something from all that working out. The entire process of building muscle involves tearing that muscle. You tear, then it builds back stronger. You tear some more, even stronger. And so on.


When I returned to novel-writing after a three-year hiatus (which I spent obsessively blogging), one of the first things I did was join an online critique group. I posted one chapter and was promptly skewered. The chapter, in a word, sucked. Okay, they used a whole bunch of words for it. By the time they were finished ripping it to shreds, I figured it was unredeemable. Better toss it aside and start over on a new book.


But then I stopped myself. Was I really avoiding this criticism? Criticism is what built my talent in the first place. I spent most of my 20s in and out of critique groups, where my writing was labeled 'shallow,' 'trite,' 'contrived.' I had editors tear me down, while telling me they loved my voice. The story just wasn't working for them.


And with each new book I took that advice and applied it. Sure, the negativity weighed me down at times...and I could have given up. But I had enough encouragement to stick with it, plus I'm one of those writers who can't NOT write. It's in my blood. Even if I were never published, I'd still be happy as long as I wrote something every day of my life.


When I think of that naive girl I was at 24, starting my first young adult series about teens working in a movie theater, I feel a bit of nostalgia. Oh, to be so foolishly confident again. I had no doubts at that time...no fears at all. I was sure I'd put "The End" on my manuscript, ship it off to a publisher, and be the next Francine Pascal in no time.


Then came my first rejection.


More rejections followed. I found Romance Writers of America and co-founded the first Nashville chapter of the organization. I attended workshops -- GAVE workshops. I met published authors and unpublished authors. I read everything I could get my hands on about writing. And I suffered rejections like you wouldn't believe.


But with each one, I grew stronger. They tore my writing muscle so it would grow back stronger. And that, my writing friends, is why you don't toss the detailed critiques of your contest entries into the trash without reading them. You read every word. You feel the pain and move forward. You read it over, scream in anger and say you're never writing again...then, once you've calmed down, you go in and take the advice of these strangers. Because your work will become stronger for it, but even more than that...YOU'LL become stronger for it. Because in order for that muscle to grow back stronger, it must first be torn down.