Writing: Catching What the Muse Flings at You

I’m not sure about the rest of you, but ideas rarely come to me when I’m sitting peacefully at my desk and can write them down in organized fashion. No, no, nooooo… My muse prefers to toss ideas my way when I’m in the middle of something else, usually without access to pen and paper. (Yes, I prefer this old-fashioned method for taking notes. I still remeber the day (pre-smartphone) when I went running around Walt Disney’s Polynesian Hotel looking for something to write with as a scene unfolded in my head. Ended up buying a Minnie Mouse notepad, but I was able to write it down. If you’re a writer, you know that when your characters start taking, you’ve got precious little time to record what they are doing.) 

This month, I’m blogging on writing tools, and I’ve decided to share a few “writer’s life hacks” that helped me record and organize my ideas even if I’m nowhere near a pen and paper. As long as you already own a smartphone or tablet, all of these (except one) are free.

Writer’s hack 1: Put MS Word on your smartphone. I’m not sure about androids, but MS Word is free if you have an iPhone or iPad with at least iOS 7. I use Dropbox (more on that next) to store my writing manuscripts and notes. I can pull up any Word document on my my phone and work on it. I can also start a new manuscript on my iPhone when the ideas strike. Working on huge novels I nearly impossible, but short stories or just taking notes from brainstorming work well.

Writer’s Hack 2: Use DropBox (or any other form of google docs/cloud storage). As mentioned earlier, I keep my writing files in Dropbox. I can access them on my smartphone, tablet, and any computer with internet access. Better yet, the original documents are stored in my hard drive. DropBox acts as a backup that I can access anywhere.

Writer’s Hack 3: Your smartphone’s Notes app. I’m not as familiar with Androids, but iPhones come equipt with the Notes app. It’s really simple. Open app. Click the Add Note symbol. Write note. Close app. I use Notes dying those times when I don’t have internet access,  but I need to get that scene in my head written down somewhere. (A little celeb tip: you can also type out a paragraph, take a screen shot, and use that as an Instagram post…)

Writer’s Hack 4: Evernote. Evernote is marketed more towards businesses, but it has great applications for writers. Evernote lets you organize your notes and ideas into notebooks. When you get an idea for a novel that is three books in the cue (my cue is huge!), you can add a note into that future novel’s notebook. You can access your Evernote account through a computer or your smartphone/tablet. My favorite part about Evernote: if I’m doing research on my computer, I can clip an entire webpage into a notebook. I keep all my web research for novels on Evernote. I also save random articles that might come in handy for hard to research topics, such as steampunk technology into Evernote. Evernote has a few downsides, however. The free version only allows you to upload a certain amount of data per month. Also, unlike Dropbox, all your notes are saved in Evernote’s system instead of your computer, meaning they can do what they please with it. When they bought Pentultimate, they literally deleted most of my notes, and I lost half of my ideas for The Elysian Chronicles Book 3. (You’ll notice I don’t have Pentultimate listed here. I’m still furious.) 

Note: I started using Evernote before I could put Word on my phone and access everything with Dropbox. Now, I mainly use Evernote to capture web data, and I’m using Word the rest of the time.

Writer’s Hack 5: Aqua Notes. For some reason, most of my ideas occur in the shower, probably because it’s the only time I actually relax enough to pay attention to the muse. Before I discovered Aqua Notes, I would think up wonderful patches of dialogue and scenes, but I’d lose them by the time I could write them down. Then I discovered Aqua Notes: a notepad with waterproof paper–I kid you not! It has suction cups, so it sticks to the shower wall (as does the included pencil), and the individual papers stick to the tile as well, meaning I can use both sides. Aqua Notes have saved my writing life quite a few times. Note: these actually cost money, but if you are a shower thinker, they are worth it. 

Obviously, when all else fails, pull out that pen and paper you keep with you for emergencies…

What about you? How do you capture the ideas your muse flings at you?

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About M. B. Weston

Award-winning author M. B. Weston is one of the fantasy genre’s new, emerging voices. The Elysian Chronicles, her flagship fantasy series about guardian angel warfare and treason, has been referred to as, “…filling a big part of the void that will be left by the final Harry Potter,” by award-winning author, Vincent O’Neil. Weston’s writing attracts both fantasy and non-fantasy readers, and her audience ranges from upper-elementary students to adults. The Elysian Chronicles is being adapted into a graphic novel, and her newest book, The Sword of the Vanir (working title), is due out in Spring 2013. A gifted orator, Weston has been invited as a guest speaker to numerous writing and science fiction/fantasy panels at conventions across the US, including DragonCon, BabelCon, NecronomiCon, and ImagiCon. She has served on panels with such authors as Sherrilyn Kenyon, J. F. Lewis, Todd McCaffrey, and Jonathan Maberry. Weston has spoken to thousands of students and adults about the craft of writing and has been invited as the keynote speaker at youth camps and at several schools throughout the US.
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