Apologies for dropping off this letter for a bit. It’s absolutely bonkers out there right now, isn’t it? It’s despot-o’clock in various nations, a health crisis still has the world in a choke-hold, while the climate crisis makes its way to our doorsteps (the air in Tucson is still spiked with smoke from California’s fires). And through this, we are meant to battle our own personal issues! I, for one, have had so much stuff happen in my life—publishing and otherwise—this September that right now I’m just happy to still be breathing. But I still don’t want September to go away without sending you something, so I decided to break from the ongoing letter series and share with you, today, something helpful to smoothen this rough life a bit: 5 Tools That Make My Author Life Easier.
Before then, though, just want to let you know—and you heard it here first!—that the cover for my forthcoming epic fantasy novel, Son of the Storm—which is currently available for preorder—will be released on Monday next week, along with an excerpt! So keep your eyes open for that, and please share when you come across it!
Now here are those five tools.
Use to: Show your available times for meetings, appointments, etc where people can schedule independently without bothering you
When you work in an industry where everything is meetings and appointments, then you need Calendly (or any other meeting scheduling tool of your choice). Basically, this solves the problem of, “Oh, what time are you free? Ah, gaddemit, I’m not free then.” Especially when you have to do this across time zones. Calendly allows you to setup, once and for all, all your free/available time for meetings each week. Then people can book accordingly, just by receiving a link from you (you can even have this in your email signature). You can attach the location for the meeting, or, like me, embed a meeting tool of your choice (Zoom, Google Meet, etc). When a meeting is scheduled, a calendar invite with a link to that tool’s meeting room is automatically set up. Either of you can also reschedule without bugging the other person. You can also organise these into slots.
Free/Paid? Both. Free version is limited to one meeting slot type per account, but you can create different accounts if you need multiple.
How I use mine: 3 meeting days weekly, 15-to-30minute slots, Google Meet/Zoom.
Use to: Keep track of both daily/weekly and long-term tasks/goals, checklist style
If, like me, you’re tired of misplacing all the notebooks where you keep your checklists, or don’t like to-do lists scattered everywhere in your wallet, these two apps help. Google Tasks is particularly good for recurring tasks, as you can set up a periodic task that repeats at the same time daily, weekly, monthly etc. even after you’ve checked off the last one. You can set up reminders for these tasks too, and you can have various separate lists.
Google Keep is more of a note-taking app (much like Evernote), but with checklist ability. I use this to store longer-term stuff, and since the desktop version and mobile app both sync, I can basically take notes or add items to my checklist anywhere I am. Whether it’s getting my story idea down in the middle of a bike ride (even via audio!), storing a URL to use for research later, or remembering to add greek yoghurt to the shopping list, Keep’s got me.
Note you can also employ other checklist/note-taking tools for this, if you wish.
How I use mine: Tasks for recurrent goals (e.g. daily word counts or, say this bi-weekly newsletter) and Keep for longer-term goals (e.g. filing my not-$750 taxes, lol)
Use to: Write. That’s it.
If you’re a writer of any sort, get Scrivener. You don’t have to use it all the time or for everything, but I can assure you it does at least one thing you’re already struggling with. Some folks use it just for outlining and not for writing; some folks use it just for revision; some folks use it for formatting and export; some use it for everything. Some folks even use it to self-publish, because you can export cleanly to vvariuos formats: EPUB, MOBI, PDF, etc. Whatever you end up using it for, Scrivener is a powerhouse that will meet at least one of your writing needs.
Free/Paid? Paid. A one-time fee (circa $50) that’ll earn itself in the long run.
Mobile/Desktop? Desktop, but the Apple version has a mobile app, I believe.
How I use mine: Mostly for the grunt work of writing. I outline in Google docs, then I write in Scrivener because I don’t have to worry about formatting, which can be fixed with one simple export. Further revisions, I often do in MS Word (stable enough) to prevent crashing.
Use to: Well, uh, schedule emails?
Whatever email client you use (I use Gmail), if it can’t schedule emails, then you’re really missing out on some flexibility. Imagine having to write an email (not newsletter, regular email) and have to wait until the next morning to send it (gasp!). Could never be me. If an email has to go out tomorrow, I have my 1 hour for writing emails today, and I write that email and I schedule it to go out tomorrow morning. Done, dusted. It could really help you work to your demand rather than with the demands of others.
Free/Paid? Free, if you’re doing it right.
How I use mine: If, say, I know that emailing my editor on Friday means my email will get lost in weekend mails & spam, I schedule it to drop at 8:00AM on Monday morning, so it ends up at the very top of their inbox. Sneaky, eh?
5) Cloud Storage & Documents
Use to: Storage and backup
You do not know pain until you’ve put together a cool idea/plan/document and suddenly…can’t find it. Either you deleted it or didn’t save changes or you lost it somehow. I’ve experienced this twice, and that is why I have sacrificed my life to Google and worked with GSuite ever since.
GSuite is the collective term for a myriad of tools from Google Drive (cloud storage) to Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc, document suites which have parallels in Word, Powerpoint, Pages, the likes. Microsoft has a similar idea in Microsoft 365 (you type in Word on your PC and it updates to the web) and I believe the Mac/iOS has something similar too. Either way, the ability to (A) create documents directly on the web, edit and store them there, and/or (B) upload/backup documents you have created locally to the cloud for storage, is unparalleled. You don’t just want that, you need it. Never again can your dog eat your homework, even if they eat your laptop. The cloud and it’s accompanying suite(s) have got you.
GSuite also contains a ton of other apps (Forms, Meet, Calendar, Keep, etc) if you’re looking.
Free/Paid? Free, if you’re doing it right.
How I use mine: Specific folders in my PC are set up to backup periodically to Google Drive, especially those folders containing my ongoing writing. I do all my planning directly into Google Docs & Sheets, cos I don’t want to have to back those up; I just keep them in the cloud. When you change writing devices often, this comes in handy too, as I can add to them from anywhere.
What tools do you use to make life that little bit easier? Hit me in the comments below 👇🏿 with your alternatives. Always happy to hear from you!
Catch you in a few, when we return to our series with Part IV: Learning lessons.
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