Posts Tagged ‘FocusWriter’

Time to prepare for NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month

It’s November and among all the other festivities such as Autumn, leaves falling and the annual turkey eating contest, it’s also time to try and write down that novel you always said you wanted to write. Each year people gather to try and make that dream a reality.

While I don’t have a secret novel tucked away inside, I fully support NaNoWriMo and love the idea of it. We need more people writing. We need more people reading. There are still plenty of stories to tell and sometimes we just need a push in the right direction to get us moving.

I’ve already written about several writing tools that can help in the writing process – OneNote, AllMyNotes Organizer, RightNote, Judoom and KingOffice, but now I want to offer up a couple of thoughts on how to get started and how to approach the writing process. From a technical perspective here’s some workflow ideas that might help.

Before you start make sure you have a backup plan in place. Literally. Nothing would be worse than to reach your goal or get a substantial amount of work done only to have it disappear because of hardware failure.

Set up a Dropbox account and install the small client. Pick a folder or multiple folders to sync and those will be backed up to the cloud. Every time you save your work, a copy gets saved to the “cloud”. This works for just about everything, OneNote files, TXT, DOC, database files, etc.

Dropbox also “versions” your files meaning you will have multiple copies of the file. If something goes wrong and you want an earlier version of your work you can restore it. If you make way too many edit or cut out something you later want back in, just grab an earlier version and you’ll have it back.

It takes less than 5 minutes to set up and you’re all set. I have several years worth of writing and dozens of documents stored in my Dropbox folder. I also copy it all to a thumbdrive from time to time.

As far as writing tools go, I find myself writing almost everything in OneNote these days. It automatically saves, I use the tabs to organize my subjects, I write ideas on the right side of the page and the actual content on the left. One side is for plotting my course while the other is for the finished product. I then copy and paste my text into another for “presentation”. I use OneNote 2007 which can save as a Word doc or export to PDF, but no export to plain text. It’s easier to copy and paste the text into something else. OneNote is my choice for getting that First Draft done and for writing the blog articles you see here. It’s also perfect for putting together chapters. It’s not mean to produce a completed document but the writing space is excellent.

If you don’t have OneNote, and it is expensive and I wouldn’t get the latest versions anyway, FocusWriter or Judoom combined with AllMyNotes or RightNote would be my next choice. Especially if you have two monitors. I’d put AllMyNotes on the right screen and Judoom on the left. In that configuration you’d have your notes and outline at the ready and writing space available.

I’m more familiar with AllMyNotes so I’d outline my work in there, with all sorts of descriptions of what I wanted to write about, key points to hit, any specific text I wanted to include and then start writing it all down in my editor while my notes are clearly visible. And again, all my tools would point to my Dropbox folder so everything I did would be backed up.

For the final prep work I’m not sure what to tell you. This is uncharted territory for me. Scrivener is usually the tool of choice you hear about, but I haven’t used it enough to really know. I know it has a slew of features to help pull all the pieces together such as formatting and multiple format output. I would probably take the lazy way out and use either Word 2007 or Kingsoft Writer to pull all my pieces together into one final doc. I’d be just as inclined to use PagePlus to finish off my work and export it out as PDF, .Mobi or .ePub.

But that’s for the big finish, there’s plenty of time to mess around with that sort of thing and those tools later. The first part is to write and write often. For the initial writing I’d stay away from a full featured word processing tool. Go for something far more basic. Don’t get tangled up with formatting options, page layout, or anything else that distracts from writing. You don’t want to waste time learning software.

I’d also recommend saving in the TXT format. No matter where you go or what device you use, they all understand what a TXT file is. Mac, PC, iPad, Android, they can all use it. This will cut out all your formatting, but it’s too early to worry about formatting.

If you haven’t gotten started yet or didn’t know where to begin hopefully this offers a couple of useful ideas. There are lots of writing tools out there, perhaps more now than ever before. I know a lot of people see Word as the ultimate choice, but Word has turned into more of a desktop publishing tool not a slim, easy to use writing tool. I’m my opinion there are a better choices.

Good Luck!!

For quick reference here’s a list of Free or nearly free software you can use to help write, outline and organize your writing. These aren’t stripped down Time Trial versions. They are real programs that you can keep on using. If you don’t have OneNote I believe a combination of Judoom and AllMyNotes would be really good.

FocusWriter – Free
RightNote by BauerApps – Free/$35
Judoom – Free Tabbed Word Processor for Writers – Free
Kingsoft Writer 2012 – Free/$20/$65 for Office Suite
AllMyNotes Organizer – Free/$9.86 with INDIA71 coupon code

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A year without Microsoft Word

As I’m building and rebuilding machines, I’ve come to realize it’s been nearly two years since I’ve used Microsoft Word. I’m being quite serious here, it’s been nearly two full years since I’ve actually written anything using Word as my editor.

At the end of 2011 I discovered software known as distraction free editors. FocusWriter became my tool of choice and since then I have used it to compose just about everything I’ve written since then. That is two full years of writing website articles as well as writing documents for work. I just simply don’t have a need for Word 99% of the time. Unless you are actually editing an already heavily formatted Word document, there simply isn’t a need for Word.

A tool like FocusWriter serves my needs much better. I can simply write without worrying about menus, formatting, styles, headers, bullets or any of that. FocusWriter lets you get the idea down. It’s what you should be using to get that first draft done. Styling and formatting come right at the end, after everything else is complete. Word almost makes you work backwards by forcing the presentation on your from the start. That doesn’t help get ideas on the page.

So much of what I write doesn’t need formatting and when it does, half the codes from Word don’t translate to the web. It’s easier just to set the formatting as needed.

That ideology started me using FocusWriter and OneNote. Oddly, I don’t like Word 2007, but I love OneNote 2007. I’ve never liked that Ribbon Bar and it’s only gotten worse. OneNote 2007 uses the old menus and looks like a regular, clean and simple application.

OneNote lets you type in the resizable “text box” and if you have a big enough monitor you can two of them side by side. It’s fantastic for writing notes in one and the actual document in the other. All the topics you want to cover are right there next to you. Additionally, it makes it very easy to cut out pieces you don’t need without actually throwing them away. If you have a good idea that simply doesn’t work in your current context, just cut and paste it off to the side. You preserve the flow of your writing and keep good ideas for later.

Unfortunately, OneNote 2010 took on the Office Ribbon Bar which I didn’t like although the functionality was still decent. 2013 looks horrible and I simply can’t use. That primitive UI is offensive.

I just find it interesting that writing down ideas in FocusWriter and organizing and writing ideas in OneNote is so much more beneficial than using the actual word processing tool. I think Word has turned into a quasi desktop publishing app and really isn’t for writing anymore.

Anyone else find that Word has too many features that prevent you from getting work done with it?

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FocusWriter Theme – Flaming Pumpkin

This might still rank up there as my most spectacular flaming pumpkin. The pumpkin itself was a massive 20 pound shell onto which I cut four separate patterns. It was done for the pumpkin carving contest at work. And as luck would have it, it won. I think this took me four hours over two days to clean and cut. Then that night it fulfilled it’s ultimate Halloween destiny. I took this over to a friend’s house as a showcase. I upped the anty just a little and used a paper towel roll instead of the normal toilet paper. It didn’t last nearly as long, but it was visually stunning! This is nearly a 7 foot wall of fire shooting out. Not just out of the top, but obviously out of the sides as well. It was brilliant.

flaming-pumpkin[1] – FocusWriter Theme – Flaming Pumpkin

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