Store your document in the cloud
Whatever you do, don’t store your document (only) on your computer. Upload or synch it in the cloud, on your Dropbox, Google Drive, Apple iCloud, or other external location. Don’t think: “I’ll do that later”, or “I’ll make regular backups”: make sure you set it up NOW to sync automatically. You don’t want to lose an hour, a day, or even more work. Believe me!
Many writers prefer Microsoft Word because they are familiar with it. We all know the struggle with long text documents, with a lot of scrolling and little overview. Or working with different separate documents, switching between the various parts, and the hassle with ‘version management’. All this is wasted energy. As a writer, I want to focus on the content of my book, not the hassle of documents.
That’s why I was so happy when I discovered Scrivener. This software has been developed specially for large writing projects with long, complex documents, such as a book or a screenplay. It is ideal for the process of outlining and structuring, it helps to keep an overview.
I’m probably only using a few percent of what the software can actually do. The option to structure the different chapters alone is worth purchasing Scrivener (one-time cost 53 euros; there is also a free thirty-day trial: bit.ly/tryscrivener) Be sure to check out the demo video on their website. 99 percent of all the people I help with their book are as excited about this program as I am.
There is also free software bibisco.com, which has some similar features. You can then put your research next to your document where you write. Not as good as scrivener, but if you don’t want to spend money you can try this one.
Make sure your outline is visible
Both in Google Docs and in Microsoft Word you can use H1 and H2 headers for the titles of your chapters and paragraphs so that the ‘document outline’ on the left-hand side gives you an overview of your document. Google Docs has the advantage that you work directly in the cloud and that you can also make your document available offline. I myself increasingly opt for Google doc: it is free, simple, and convenient.
The central place for all your documents
Some people keep all their research and notes in Evernote. This program recognizes text, also in photos, and has a great search function. You can also save everything related to your book in a folder in Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive. It’s nice to have everything together in one place where it’s accessible anytime, anywhere.
If you are working on your book with others, Google Docs is a good option, because you can work with more people in one document at the same time. Unfortunately, Scrivener and Word don’t have that option.
Do you often use the same words or expressions? If you want to type less and ensure a uniform spelling, program shortcuts on your keyboard or, for example, with TextExpander (with this link you will receive a 20% discount: bit.ly/textexpander-discount). This ultimately saves hours of typing and many errors. I have even set words that I often mistype as shortcuts to the correct spelling: for example, ‘Eshter’ automatically becomes ‘Esther’. They seem like small things, but all in all, it saves a lot of time, energy, and ‘brain space’.
Spell check and edit help
Use your spell check! Nothing is more annoying than spelling mistakes. Be consistent in your use of language. The ‘find and replace’ function is useful to look up different spellings of a word in your document and replace it with the desired word. Be careful with this: for example, if you want to replace Jan with Pete, and you don’t turn on ‘case recognition’ and/or a space after the name, then ‘January’ suddenly becomes ‘Peteuari’ in your entire document! 🙂
If you write in English, Grammarly and the Hemingway app are great resources. They check not only grammar but also style and suggest improvements.
In short: find a program that meets your requirements, that you enjoy working in, and get to work with it. Don’t get overwhelmed by all the options. Make sure you have a good (automatic) backup and keep all your files in one place.