Technology and Writing – Pitfalls Await

Technology isn’t scary, at least for me, since I’ve worked in various industries either implementing and/or managing IT systems for over 20 years.  However, my overconfidence in technology systems led me down the wrong path on several occasions as I worked to establish myself as a self-published author.  In the areas of publication, revising, editing, and marketing, I discovered instances where I tried to leverage technology (something I was comfortable with) over tried and true methods.  For the benefit of others, I decided to throw out a few tidbits of my experience on this post.

Planning and Execution

Sure, you’ve heard it before, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.  Specifically speaking of technology, make sure you have a computer and software sufficient to the task coming.  Since I’m a Windows/Linux trained person, I can only speak to those operating systems and associated applications.  I defer to Apple users for other tips.

  • Computer/Laptop/Tablet – since the majority of your efforts will be focused on inputting your thoughts and ideas into a word processing software, make sure your hardware can fit the bill. The advantage of current technology and the Internet means you’re not locked down to a local PC in your office.  However, with such diverse access, you will need to be systematic in your approach.
    • Most Linux and Windows OS based hardware will work together on a network and the Internet, however, the applications many times won’t across the platforms.  It’s even harder to find software which works with Apple and Windows or Linux.  For example, if you run Windows on your laptop and suddenly your techie aunt drops off her Fedora (Red Hat) PC, you might want to consider putting a little money into the gift and move it to the same version of Windows you currently use.  The benefit is saving yourself hours of time to learn a new system.  The downside (there’s always a downside with technology) is the need to dump more money every time Microsoft updates to their next version and increase their shareholder value.
    • Moral of the story, stick with what you know and what you’re comfortable with.
      • While my son can type fairly quickly on his Ipad with his thumbs, I’ll suggest old school with a keyboard (connected with bluetooth or cable).  For me the goal is to get the ideas into the computer so I can review/edit and begin work on the next story.
      • Plenty of RAM (laptop/PC), at least 4 GB and plenty of room on your hard drive.  Upgrading your hard drive at a minimum takes away writing time plus you can potentially lose your important information.
      • IMPORTANT:  A backup solution is REQUIRED for your hardware.  Your thousand page manuscript and all of the supporting material can be lost forever with a hard drive crash.  There are plenty of solutions online which can be free or minimal cost.
        • For those concerned about security, putting your manuscripts into a normal online backup is probably not going to be an issue.  The online backup solutions I’ve seen are encrypted and safer there than sitting alone in your hard drive which might fail.  Hackers are typically going after softer targets.
  • Applications – Word Processing
    • Is your application compatible? Remember what I covered about downsides above?  It applies to spending money on applications as well.  MS Word can be purchased for PC/laptop or you can rent it monthly online as well.  In order to save money, you might decided to use the “free” community software like Libra Office or WPS on Linux.  Be warned, I discovered some Linux word processing applications do much of what MS Word will do, they are not EXACTLY alike so I spent many hours of time learning about how the formating differences can screw up your entire manuscript.  This tidbit is especially important for self-publishing.
      • IMPORTANT:  Pick your publishing application (Kindle, Createspace, Lulu, Nook, Ingram, etc.) and then download their specific template which are created for MS Word.   If using Linux versions of Office, modify those downloaded templates for use on Libra or WPS for your manuscripts and keep a copy available for your next story when you have the modifications correct.  Trust me, this type of upfront work will save you loads of work trying to clean up AFTER you put your novel into the MS Word version template.
    • Grammar Checking Online applications – I’ve found several online applications for grammar checking of my manuscripts.  I strongly recommend using these types of apps to help your current word processing reviews.  Grammarly and Ginger are the apps I have experience with and I’ve centered on using Grammarly as my primary tool.  I recently heard of others which I will be taking a look at.
      • IMPORTANT:  Don’t rely on MS Word and Grammarly alone to review your manuscript.  They are designed to help, not replace a thorough editing.  I’ve found waiting 60 days after finishing your story and re-editing your work can work wonders over a pure technology solution.

Self Publishing Websites/Blogs/Marketing Efforts – I’ll discuss my experiences on these other technologies on my next post.

In the meantime, my latest mystery print book (Infinite Loop) is available from this website at 40% off.

infinite loop web front 300px
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.