10 Things Needed To Set Up A Writing Area

MyComputerAreaWhether it’s a corner in a room or a full-scale office with all the luxuries, every writer needs a writing area. This is the place the writer goes to allow his or her creativity to soar. If you write there every day, especially if you schedule a time to write, you’re training your subconscious that this is the time for you to be creative. This is the time and place for the words to soar.

The important thing is to be creative about your writing space. If you can have an office, that’s great. But there are certain items every writer needs in her writing area.

1. Computer: The days of the typewriter are over. Thank God. Make sure you have a good computer that’s easy for you to use. I recommend a laptop. That way, you don’t have to carry around a jump drive if you’re away from home. An Ipad with a Documents to Go app and a portable keyboard is also a great tool for when you’re on the road.

2. Internet: Internet is essential for writers in today’s world. It gives us marketing tools, email, online writer’s communities, writer’s tip blogs, research at our fingertips, and access to publishers’ and agents’ websites. The only caution here is to schedule when you’ll be on the internet and when you won’t. You may want to schedule a certain chunk of time for the internet. I have the internet running all day, but I only check it once every couple of hours, and if I’m not done writing (unless I’m doing research), I don’t stay on it longer than five minutes.

3. Library: Every writer needs a library that includes writing books, a dictionary, a thesaurus, and books he enjoys reading. Some of these books may be on-line. Some won’t. See this link  and this link  for the books I believe every writer should have.

4. Files: Every writer needs a place she can file research, plot outlines, character sketches, ideas, agent lists, and other important information. Some writers use online files such as MS One Note. Others like hard copies. But you need somewhere to store information.

5. Online computer back-up: Don’t take a chance. Subscribe to an online computer back-up service. They aren’t expensive, and if anything happens, you’ll be covered. Schedule the back-up to automatically back up your files at least once a week.

6. Music: Whether you use an i-pod, your computer, a CD player, or some other device, you’ll want something where you can play music or some kind of white noise. Some writers like it quiet when they work, but even they benefit from listening to music before or after writing. Also invest in a good set of headphones that will be comfortable to wear for hours and will block out most noises including the phone ringing.

7. A comfortable chair: You’ll want a chair where you sit up straight, your feet are flat on the ground, and your back is supported. Don’t prop your laptop on your legs while you type in a recliner. Your back will thank you later.

8. A desk or table: Don’t use one of those portable lap desks unless it’s short term. You need something you can put your computer on even if it’s a card table or a TV table.

9. No distractions: If you really want to escape into the world your writing and let the prose flow, you’ll need an area without television, video games, or a telephone ringing. A door that can be closed is even better.

10. A notebook: Keep a small notebook with you to jot down ideas. If you have an IPad or a memo app on your smart phone, this works even better because it will always be with you. Before you begin writing, record these ideas in your idea folder.

So that all you need to begin writing. Other than the computer, most of these items are free or can be purchased for very little money. Make this investment in your writing career.

MS Word Features For Writers: Template, Find & Replace, Bookmarks

Many writer’s use Microsoft Word, but they don’t use it to its fullest advantage. This week, I’ll post a series highlighting features that benefit writers in Microsoft Word and Microsoft One Note. I am giving instructions for Word and OneNote 2007, but many of these applications are in earlier versions as well.

Templates:

If you’re good at making your own templates, you can do that, but Microsoft has two templates you can download for free that will work for formatting your manuscripts. These templates work for Word 2003 and above.

Book Manuscript Download  http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/TC100830161033.aspx?CategoryID=CT101445101033

This book manuscript download will give you the basic format you need for your novel or non-fiction book. You may want to tweak it a little to fit you formatting needs. You can do that by selecting the style you want to change, then click modify style.

Short Story Download   http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/TC100830151033.aspx?pid=CT101172711033

You can use this format for short stories or magazine articles. Again you may want to tweak it to fit your needs by selecting the style you want to change, and then clicking modify.

Find and Replace:

Find and Replace is an important tool. Use it to find words that you use too often and words you need to eliminate. You can type ly in the find window to look for all the adverbs in you manuscript. You could also use it by typing all the words in the post, Words Writers Should Delete. It’s helpful for other things as well. If you decide to change a character’s name, you only need to type the name in the replace windows instead of looking through your entire document.

Caution: Don’t automatically replace something without going through and checking every instance. You might find it changes some words you didn’t intend to replace.

Bookmarks:

Some writers spend money on programs to separate scenes and chapters easily or they use excel charts to keep track of those scenes. All you really need to do is use the bookmark feature of your MS Word Program. At the beginning of every scene, click insert, then click bookmark. Type something to describe the scene, then click add. When you want to find that scene, click insert, bookmark, and go to the scene you want. 

This is also helpful when you’re editing. You can insert a bookmark labeled edit to show where you left off.

Another way to use bookmarks is to mark places you need to come back to and change when you do more research or if you need to look up a name or other information. That way, you don’t have to stop in the middle of the story to try to find out the name of a town.

If you’ve found other helpful ways to use templates, find & replace, and bookmarks, please comment so we can learn from each other. Wednesday I’ll feature more helpful tips about using Microsoft Word.