WFMAD Day 5 – Finding the Right Tool, Part 2


OK. I've meditated and thought very happy thoughts about how this WordPress blog will be completely cooperative today. Keep your fingers crossed!


Many of you have written to me with your frustrations about not being allowed to post your comments here because the Evil Capthcha will not let you pass. Others say the Captcha let them in some days, but not all. Please accept my humble apologies. My website has been hacked a couple of times this year so we've had to increase security and position archers on the ramparts to keep out the bad guys. Keep trying!

On to Tools – Part 2!


Scrivener is a WONDERFUL tool (for Mac and Windows) that allows you to organize the structure of novel, keep your research in reasonable order, and even write the book, if you want. (That's a really bad description. They do a much better job on their website.) I wouldn't have been able to write CHAINS and FORGE without Scrivener. (Note: I only use it for outlining and the early draft, then I shift over to Word.) Giant Hat Tip and hugs for author Holly Black, who turned me on to this very functional tool!

The same company also makes Scapple, a free-flowing mind-mapping program for brainstorming. I've tried it a couple times, but find I prefer a giant pad of paper and a good gel pen.


I'm kind of a ducky-bunny writer. I get most of my books done by bribing myself with popcorn or hunks of half-melted brie topped with apricot jam. But not everyone responds to that. Some writers require threats of hell-fire and damnation to keep their butt in the chair and their fingers flying across the keys.


You want Write or Die, the first draft tool that "puts the Prod in Productivity." You get to set the parameters about how long you need to keep writing and how long your pauses are allowed to be. You also choose the consequences that rain down upon you if you screw up:  a gentle reminder, an annoying noise, the words you are typed vanish – FOREVER, or a dragon shows up and eats your car. (I made up that last one.)

Even though I prefer brie and jam to battling dragons I must admit I am thinking of trying this with a few picture book ideas that have been kicking around my noggin.




Two more tools that work with positive reinforcement instead of dragons are Chains (built around the Jerry Seinfeld approach to life mastery, "don't break the chain"), and Lift, whose irresistable tag line is, "Build better habits. Change your life." I strongly suggest you check them both out. Writing can be lonely and uncertain. I find the tiny rewards these apps offer make the going easier.

In the past fifteen years, I've written seven novels, a series about a vet clinic for young readers, and a half dozen picture books, not to mention way too many posts on various social media sites and this blog.

Hello, Carpal Tunnel!



My lastest tool is Dragon Dictate, dictation software that allows me to speak into a headset and have the words magically appear on the screen, without causing the muscles in my forearms to shriek in pain and despair. I haven't been using it long, but I'm beginning to love it. You'll need the latest upgrades to your operating system and Word for it to work, and the instructions could use a little tweaking, but once I figured all that out, it was super-cool.

Are there other tools that you'd like me to feature here?

Non-fiction prompt – write about a time when you were injured or ill. Focuse on the adaptations you had to make to accomodate whatever the problem was; walking on crutches, writing with your other hand, only seeing out of one eye, etc. After digging out highly specific details, explore how the experience changed you.

Fiction prompt – write about a character who is slowly losing his/her ability to move her fingers, then arms, then legs in the middle of a world that thinks s/he is faking it. Great opportunities for dialog here!

Fifteen minutes.

Fifteen minutes spent writing today could change your entire life.

Scribble… scribble… scribble

4 Replies to “WFMAD Day 5 – Finding the Right Tool, Part 2”

  1. Oh my goodness. So many tools! I like the tag line of LIft and you're the third person who recommended Schierver so I'll check those two out. Right after I finish my 15 minutes of writing today. Or else I may just need to have a dragon chew my ear off. Incidentally, I am dragon (and that makes my inner critic one too, doesn't it?) and she chews me up pretty regularly already so maybe I don't need an external one.

  2. Love your nonfiction prompt. I have written a novel with a quadraplegic and how she decides to live her life. I call it The Mindstalker and it is free on Kindle, Saturday the 7th. I am working on another novel where an abused woman has lost a lot of her ability to move and is regaining it. I've never written where the character loses and ability a little at a time. I will be definitely be by again to read more about the tools. I have Scrivener but the learning curve was a little too steep at the time and I will be trying it again. Chains and Lift sound interesting to me. Thanks for the challenge.

  3. I've found StorySkeleton, an iPhone app that lets you take notes that will import into Scrivener, very useful for those inspiration-on-the-go moments.

  4. I stumbled upon the 2010 blog posts for the 15-minutes-a-day challenge (accidentally, looking for this today's post), but I liked one of the writing prompts from the earlier posts so I used it for today's 15 minutes. I don't usually write poetry but I really enjoyed giving it a go…. I'm including a link at the bottom to the painting I used as inspiration in case you're wondering how I got to such a dark place! 🙂

    A Portrait of Grief

    Freak-eyed fool, desperate in his grief.
    Bludgeoned by an aneurysm of sadness,
    his brain floats in his skull cradle –
    swollen, useless, incapacitated.

    Whiskers push outward of their own free will,
    proof that blood still flows and cells still replicate.
    Hairs, tears, snot, blood: all shoved to the surface
    by the overwhelming, unremitting force of loss.

    Soul-drained, gutted and flayed…
    Purged yet full to overflowing.
    Nostrils flare and gasp for air.
    His heart pounds against his nonexistent will.
    Life goes on even when it doesn’t.

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