I love hearing about which apps writers use to be productive. I’ve learned about and tried many of them in order to be as efficient as possible in managing my writing career.
Again, I offer this list in the context of: I work full-time and manage a writing career part-time, while raising three children. Here is what works for me. Some of these may not work for you, while others may change your work habits and your life!
1. Google Docs (Purpose: Writing!): I admit that I spent years wondering what the cloud was and why everybody wanted to store stuff in it. However, Google Docs has changed my workflow and my work habits for the better. I keep all my active working documents – novels, stories, query letters – in Google Docs open in active browser tabs so that I can jump across from one to the other. I can also hop on to my phone using the Google Drive app and do some outlining or light editing that way. I use the spreadsheets in Google Drive to keep track of things such as where I’ve sent my stories, articles, and pitches, as well as my expenses and income. I pay an extra fee to Google every month, just a $1.99 to access extra storage.
2. CamScan (Purpose: Scanning): This is a scanning app that allows me to snap a picture of any paper document and save it as a pdf. I can send the newly created pdf right from my phone as an email, a text, or other message with just a few more taps on my phone screen. There are other scanning apps that can work, but CamScan is free and quick, and it also saves all your pdfs for future reference, so I can recycle the paper document. This particular app is such a tremendous time saver: When I am invited to do a reading or speaking event, there is often a lot of paperwork involved, and so I can save time by scanning my signed contracts or W9s. It also helps with my editing: when I am editing a story or essay for a friend or student, I prefer to mark up the page in pen, then use CamScan to scan and return their manuscripts.
3. Square (Purpose: Taking payments): When you are at a book event, you need a selling app on your phone to handle on-site sales. I use Square, which allows me to take credit card payments. It’s also useful because it has an invoice feature, so if someone orders a book from me online, I can send them an invoice via email, right from Square, and they can make their payment at their convenience. Square also runs reports on sales for me, which I can use for tax purposes.
4. Toggl Track (Purpose: Timer): There are any number of iterations of this concept – an app to set a timer that will help you stay on track when you write. I use Toggl Track, which allows me to have a Pomodoro-style timer. I set it for 15 minutes, during which I write without interruption, and then give myself a 5-minute break before doing it again.
5. Otter (Purpose: Dictation): I use the dictation function on my MacBook Air for a lot of this, but I also have a separate dictation app on my phone. It’s called Otter, which is free and works quite well. There’s another app that I’ve tried, Dragon, but I find it too expensive for my purposes. I also sometimes use the good old voice to text function on my cell phone. I use dictation a LOT – mostly to dictate ideas into notes for story ideas, blog post ideas, and emails.
6. WordPress (Purpose: Marketing): This website is hosted on WordPress, and I use the app to check messages, upload blog posts, etc.
7. Libby (Purpose: Audio book listening): When you’re being productive, it’s important to fill the well. When you start exercising, you need to also increase your intake of water. Similarly, when you start writing more, you should increase your reading to fill the creative well, and audiobooks are an easy and intriguing way to do that (esp. when books are narrated by the authors or talented actors).
8. Social Media (Purpose: Communication and Marketing): Ok, I’m cheating because this category encompasses at least 3 apps. I will be writing a forthcoming post on using social media to enhance your writing career, but I have a true love for it. It really connects me to readers, as well as to my editors and people in the publishing world. It also helps me build relationships with other writers in order to build a strong community online. The three important social media apps that I use daily are Facebook, Instagram, and, of course, Twitter. I have also dived more recently into LinkedIn (I’ve always had an account with them, but only recently have I been playing around with their platform).
9. Mile IQ (Purpose: Track mileage): When you do any kind of travel for your work (driving to a reading or meeting with your editing group, for example), you can deduct those miles as part of your expenses. An app like Mile IQ (there are many others) make it easy to track which miles are for personal business and which are related to your writing career so that you have an accurate record.