Tools

Software

In order of how much I use them.

Vellum: I learned of Vellum’s existence from Joanna Penn’s podcast (see below) and nothing in my publishing life has been the same since. Vellum was initially just for creating ebooks, but they’ve recently added the ability to create print interiors. The print stuff is still just a little rough in places, but Vellum ebooks are beautiful.

And more importantly, they’re easy to make. The Vellum algorithms are pretty good at picking up chapters and headings, then translating them into its own RTF structure. Once your manuscript is loaded, just select the template for how you want the ebook to look, and export.

Word: Aron and I use Word as our workhorse program. It’s basic and reliable. You know MS Word does, and you probably either love it or hate it.

Marked 2: This one is slightly weird. Marked 2 is a markdown preview tool. If you don’t know what that means, that’s fine – you don’t have to. With one exception: Marked 2 doesn’t let you create or modify files. It just displays text files. So what the heck would I need that for? Because it has the ability to highlight repeated words in a paragraph or document. Thanks to Marked 2, I can find and cut words I use too often.

Scrivener: I love Scrivener. There’s no better writing software for managing large amounts of research and worldbuilding. It’s got built-in version comparison and control, as well as a number of other excellent writing tools.

Sadly, I don’t use Scrivener anymore. I need to transfer my files between myself, my coauthor and our amazing assistant, and Scrivener makes big, complicated files. We had too many file conflicts and lost data moving the files around… We had to stop using it. But if you either work solo or don’t often need to email files around (or share them through Dropbox/Google Drive), it’s hard to beat Scrivener.

InDesign: Up until Vellum released their 2.0 version to include print, I used InDesign to create the interiors for my paperbacks. It’s an amazing and robust program, but fussy as hell and difficult to learn. If your serious about having fine control over your print files, use InDesign.

Podcasts

Writing Excuses: A craft-centered podcast by Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler and Dan Wells. Writing Excuses runs only about 15-20 minutes and is packed with great writing advice. If you don’t have much time for podcasts but want to improve your writing, this is the show for you.

The Self-Publishing Podcast (SPP)the-self-publishing-podcast-1024x1024: SPP is maybe 25% craft, 75% publishing, and 100% hijinks. These guys –  Johnny B. Truant, David Wright and Sean Platt – are nuts. SPP has recently been cut down to 1 hour, but they produce it every week, in addition to a huge and growing collection of other podcasts. SPP and the other Sterling & Stone podcasts are informative and funny, with lots of swearing.

The Creative Penn: Hosted by the eponymous Joanna Penn, The Creative Penn is classy and clean. Or maybe it’s just Joanna’s beautiful English accent… Regardless, this one is mostly a business podcast. Sometimes Joanna even reads my tweets during the show intro. This may be my closest brush with fame!

Ditch Diggers: This podcast is a pure craft- and trash-talk. It’s hosted by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace. It’s crass, it’s mean and it’s a blast. They pull no punches (from Morgan Freeman’s Fight Club basement) when talking about writing. And the traditional publishing industry, I guess. Okay, there is a business element to Ditch Diggers, but it’s directed at those who want agents and publishers. If that’s you, listen to Ditch Diggers!

I Should Be Writing: Mur’s other podcast. ISBW is much gentler and introspective than Ditch Diggers. Mur uses it to talk listeners and herself through the sometimes soul-crushing slog of writing and publishing a book. It really helps on my bad days to know that a “real” writer struggles with all of the same things that I do. Warning, though – within 2 episodes, you’ll really want to give Mur a hug.

Grammar Girl: Not a writing podcast per se, but weekly quick and dirty tips on grammar and word usage. Grammar Girl is short, fun and won’t eat a lot of your day. Like Writing Excuses, if you’re short on time but really want to learn something, add Grammar Girl to your podcast feed or channel.

The Writership Podcast: Writership isn’t quite like anything else on this list. It’s hosted by Leslie Watts and Clark Chamberlain. It’s an editing podcast! Each week, Leslie and Clark read out five pages of a submitted manuscript and edit it on the air. The website includes copy edits (spelling, grammar, etc.) but the podcasts addresses about broader issues like pacing, characterization and setting. I forget if I heard Leslie talk on The Creative Penn or SPP, but I’ve been listening to Writership ever since and trying to get my nerve up to submit a few pages.

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