Today, I’m sharing with all of you writer types some resources which I affectionately call useful shit. I keep them in the top drawer of my writer’s toolbox at all times and use them nearly every time I write.
The warmth of the sun infuses your skin as you lie back on a thick carpet of freshly mown grass. You breathe in its scent and let it comfort you. The blades tickle your bare shoulders and legs, and you shield your eyes as you stare up at a bright blue sky, interrupted only by the swirling, transforming images embodied in the billowing clouds.
Sigh . . . .
Wait! These are the not the clouds I mean. I mean cloud computing.
I know. I’m sorry. I’m such a tease.
You may already know about cloud computing, but in case you don’t, it’s the equivalent of the great big hard drive in the sky. Back in the Jurassic era, dinosaurs backed up their documents, music, photos, etc., to physical, external hard drives plugged into their computers via USB. We modern folk send everything over an internet connection to mass storage that we can access from any computer anywhere in the world. And most cloud services are free up to a set storage amount.
If you are not in the habit of backing up your work, slap yourself in the forehead right now. It is imperative for writers!! Nothing sucks worse than writing a ten-page short story only to delete it, accidentally empty your recycle bin and have no way of retrieving it (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything).
I am an Apple enthusiast, and I have multiple Apple devices, so I began with iCloud. Everything made by Apple that can connect to the internet syncs with the iCloud. For instance, if I add something to the calendar on my iPad, it automatically syncs with the calendar in the Cloud which syncs with the calendar on my Mac. Quite convenient. For documents, however, I have to manually save them to the iCloud (unless I buy Mountain Lion), which I never remember to do, so for those I use . . .
Google Drive creates a folder on your computer’s hard drive to which you save all your documents. Then, each time you make edits and save, the document automatically updates online in Google Docs. Automatically is the operative word here.
I saved all of my longer works in both places. I never, ever want to have to reinvent hundreds of thousands of words. Besides, you can’t be too careful.
To choose a cloud storage provider, there is a long comparison table on Wikipedia here.
Why anyone would use a physical dictionary or thesaurus in this day and age is beyond me. I use dictionary.com on a daily basis. Here’s why.
By way of example, I’m going to look up the most overused word in the English language right now, “amazing.” No, everything is not amazing, okay? Nor is calling something amazing very descriptive or helpful.
Anyhow, I open dictionary.com and type in “amazing.” Here’s the definition: causing great surprise or sudden wonder.
If there was a word within that definition that I did not understand, I could click on it and get its definition. Fortunately, nothing about the definition of “amazing” is amazing, so I’m good on that point.
Now, if I would like to stop using the word “amazing” to describe every single freaking thing in existence, (and for God’s sake, could we please stop doing that?), I simply click on the little “thesaurus” tab at the top, and I’m taken instantly to a long list of synonyms. If there are unfamiliar words on that list, I can click on them and get definitions as well as more alternatives. (May I suggest we replace “amazing” with “stupefying?” Maybe I could start a new trend.)
The same process with a physical book would require much more time and all kinds of page flipping, and, honestly, I probably wouldn’t bother.
The best part: there’s a dictionary.com app. And no, it is not amazing. It’s STUPEFYING!
First, turn off grammar check, especially if you’re writing fiction. Otherwise, you’ll see that godforsaken squiggly green line all over your document, and you’ll feel compelled to make your interesting, varied sentence structure into something staid and boring. Plus, grammar check is often wrong.
For questions about grammar, try Grammar Girl. I mean, with a tagline like “Quick and Dirty Tips,” how can you resist? Just beneath the grammar girl header, you’ll see menus for grammar, punctuation, word choice, and even style. A word of warning, however. The search feature will search the entire web and not just the Grammar Girl site.
I check here almost as often as I do dictionary.com, most recently to determine when to use lay or lie and which one is past tense or participle, or blah blah blah, because I can never freaking remember. The site offered a handy little chart which I promptly forgot.
As the tag line implies, her tips are quick, to the point, and generally easy to remember (unless you’re me). Needless to say, there’s an app for this, too (and yes, it’s stupefying).
This is all the useful shit I can think of to share with you people, which is sort of sad, really, but I digress.
Go forthwith, writers, and conquer. And don’t forget to use “stupefying” at least three times a day. We too can be trendsetters.