Category Archives: Tools for Writers

Tips for Better To-Do Lists

Shows to-do list in the background. List states "to do....everything!" and has a stickman holding his head. The post title, "Tips for Better To-Do Lists' is superimposed on the top.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

I have become something of a to-do list aficionado.  I’ve been religiously using lists since having children.  That’s over 20 years of list making.

I’ve changed the way I’ve handled lists over the years and have adapted other people’s methods into my own process.   I frequently return to an article written by Eric Barker for Time Magazine: “The Morning Routine Experts Recommend for Peak Productivity.”   It makes a lot of sense to me, from the ‘magic hours’  to the ‘starting ritual,’ to the ‘3 things that matter today.’

The low-tech list: For a while I was using an app to help me prioritize (135 List, which is free and works well for anyone trying to get in a habit of prioritizing). Now I’ve made the process even simpler.  I have a Notepad (digital…comes with PCs) text file saved for every day of the week:  Monday To-Do, Tuesday To-Do, etc.  I put the three big things I most want to accomplish at the top. Then I put the things that could be shifted to another day’s list at the bottom.  If errands are on my list, I copy-paste the list to my online calendar.  At the end of the day, whatever didn’t get accomplished is portioned out to the following day (or other days, if the next day is too busy).

Reevaluate the list in the afternoon: I realized 4 years ago that one list per day wasn’t really going to cut it for me anymore.  I needed to reevaluate in the early afternoon because some things became less-important and some things became more pressing.  This way, I’m still being thoughtful about my list and my tasks and not simply reacting to things that pop up. But I’m also incorporating things that pop up (sometimes they are important and need immediate attention).

Set timers to avoid a time-suck…or procrastination:   I use timers a lot: both for writing and promo.  I just type ‘set timer for 7 minutes’ into Google and let my computer keep track.  Timers work well for me for two reasons: one, it helps me avoid procrastination. If I know I need to update my website, seeing that I’ve allotted ten minutes for the task makes it a lot less-daunting.  Another reason timers work well for me is that they help keep me on task and focused.

Don’t  turn your list into a braindump:  There is definitely a place for an all-inclusive list…a braindump of a list that includes writing, promo, blogging, the dog’s vet checkup, Christmas shopping, etc.  But my advice is to have that master list separate from your to-do list.  The whole idea is to make the daily list manageable and approachable.   Then work in tasks from the master list to the daily list (breaking them down into bite-sized bits, if needed).

Are you a list person?  How do you set up your lists?

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Photo credit: john.schultz via Visualhunt / CC BY-SA

Draft2Digital’s Free Templates

A quill pen and inkstand are in the background and the post title, "Draft2Digital's Free Templates" is superimposed on the top.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

As an indie author, I have a good team for all the things I don’t do well or need help with:  cover design, editing, and formatting.  But I also like to know about tools that help me to fill in the gaps in areas that I can work on.

Draft2Digital has been a big help to me in a variety of different ways (I’m not affiliated with them in any way, except as an author-user).  I especially needed ways that I could update my books’ back matter easily and inexpensively (more on their free conversion tool in a later post).

When I was a traditionally published author, interior design was very important to the total book package.  Section breaks in my Memphis Barbeque series, for instance, had little pigs as scene dividers.  When I became an indie author, at first I sought out more elaborate interior design for my ebooks.  Years later, this became a problem when one of Amazon’s devices didn’t display the design correctly…this issue included the title page, chapter headings,  dedication, and drop-cap.  Continue reading Draft2Digital’s Free Templates

Instafreebie’s New App

A hand is holding a cell phone and the post title 'Instafreebie's New App' is superimposed on the left side of the photo

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

In the early days of digital reading, we had to carry a device around to read on.  I still have two very early model kindles at home.

But now it makes so much more sense to be able to read on our phones.  We’re already carrying the devices and we’ll always have something to read if we have an app…no need to try and remember to bring an extra device along.  I’ve found that I get so much more reading now that I’ve got my book with me wherever I go (and reading is vital to writing).

The problem my mother had with devices and phones was how to get her book onto the device. I wrote her a detailed set of instructions, but it was still difficult for her.  She had librarians show her how to put library books on her kindle account, but it never really sunk in.

During giveaways, I’ve found that there are plenty of my readers who faced similar confusion about transferring the books to their phones or devices. I tried to walk them through it, but it was always tricky.  I’ve found that Instafreebie has helped a lot.  I’m able to provide readers (giveaway readers, ARC readers, the occasional disgruntled reader) with links to the free books and Instafreebie’s instructions (and support) are usually enough to guide them through the process. Continue reading Instafreebie’s New App

Keeping Organized as a Writer

Colorful paper and folders are in the background and the post title, 'Keeping Organized as a Writer' is superimposed on the top.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Being a writer can involve a lot of clutter.

And I don’t even print things out. I’ve trained myself by this time to work as well on the computer as I used to on paper (that way I don’t have the time-consuming process of transferring notes or manuscript text to the computer later).  But there’s a lot of computer clutter.

I’ve found if I can keep my files organized, it helps me to write a lot faster. That’s because I can quickly access the information I need and keep writing my story without getting distracted by something else on my computer (hello, internet).

Here’s my (current) method, using Word.  I’ve gone through a bunch of different iterations and I’d be interested in hearing how you’ve set your own files up. Continue reading Keeping Organized as a Writer

Reading More in 2017

By Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

In 2016, I worked in more reading than I had in 2015. I love reading, but for some reason in 2015 I ended up with a bunch of abandoned books (I’m not one of those who feels I must finish reading a book I’m not enjoying).

Not only do I love reading, I know that reading makes me a better writer. That’s why I’m pushing myself to read even more in 2017 than I did last year. I’ve got new ways to make that happen, which I thought I’d share with you.

There are a few things that I’ve done differently:

Used a Goodreads account. I opened a Goodreads account under a different name so that I wouldn’t appear to be using the site to promote other books–I only wanted to use it as a reader. I’ve learned that it’s a very helpful site when it comes to reading. So frequently I’d read a book and then forget the author or title. This way, I can follow authors and learn when they have new releases. Goodreads also sends me newsletters with suggestions for other books to check out.

Spent more time at the library. I got out of the habit of writing at the library in 2015 because I was being productive at home. But I’ve found that I can make even more progress on my book…plus find things to read, myself.

Taken advantage of my Amazon Prime Kindle First benefit. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can choose between four (usually) selections for free each month. There have been some good choices. Even better, some of the choices have helped me read books in genres I might not otherwise have read.

Used OverDrive more. This ties into my library time, but it’s online. I request books from my library’s OverDrive site. Popular titles have a waiting list, but I never seem to stay on it very long before getting the book. It’s delivered right to my device and I don’t have to worry about returning it to the library.

Used an extension to find out whether a book I’m interested in is at my library. Jane Friedman mentioned this cool extension in one of her Electric Speed newsletters. It’s called Library Extension and currently just for Chrome browser users. When you’re browsing books on Amazon, it will check your library’s catalog to let you know if the book is available (check first to make sure your library is supported–they support 3200).

Develop ‘for later’ lists and wishlists to always have something to read next. It’s not the reading that takes the time…it’s the finding something to read. This is ironic, since there have never been more books on the market. But not all books are good fits. Not every book makes me want to sit down and read.

What are your reading plans for 2017?

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