Posts Tagged ‘iPhone’

Daddy’s Little Helper

Posted: December 15, 2016 in Writing
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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Writers write — they don’t let little things like lifestyle get in their way.

I work seven days a week and have a family, including three kids, two cats and a wife. When the family is awake I’m not writing, and sometimes I don’t get home from work until 11:00 pm. So how did I manage to write a whole novel in under two years? When do I write?

Whenever.  I developed the same habit old soldiers develop around sleep — any time you can catch a few winks.*

Most of the time I do my writing between 11pm and 1am.  But I often try to write on my lunch hour at work.  I’ve made Dropbox an invaluable part of my writing arsenal, because I can access my WIP from any device at any time, and always be sure I have the very latest draft.  Autosave is a huge timesaver. Microsoft made Word available as a free download for smartphones, and you don’t even need a 365 subscription to use it, so I can open and edit the same Word documents as those I access on my office PC.

I discovered a whole chunk of unused time, however, and recently took steps to remedy that. My second job is retail, and when I work on the weekends I get a half-hour lunch and one or two 15 minute breaks, but I don’t have a PC at my disposal.  When I work in the evenings, I just get one break.  However trying to write using the on-screen keyboard on my iPhone is not particularly efficient.

So for my birthday I treated myself to an iWerkz folding bluetooth keyboard.  It only cost $30 on Amazon.img_1089

The notch you see in the case holds a iPad at a convenient angle, and there is a little pull-out tab on the case which holds my iPhone in landscape mode (as above). And the best part is that I can easily carry this in my back pocket on the sales floor, so when I get a break I don’t need to waste any time running to my locker.  I can grab a beverage and be writing in 2 minutes.  My laptop takes longer than that to boot up.

I may not get a lot of writing done in 15 minutes, but I get some done.  Mostly I use this time to review what I wrote last and polish it. Best of all, I keep the story fresh in my mind between bursts of writing.

So if you find yourself using lack of time as an excuse to not write, here’s your opportunity to give that excuse up.

 

 

 

*Unfortunately, I developed the same habit around snacking.

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Okay, I know I already wrote about how I like to write using my iPhone, because I always have it with me, and so on and so forth … you can real all about it.  Yeah, that’s all still true.

But I got an iPad for my birthday.  And suddenly the world (the small one my writing lives in) is a whole new place.

I’m writing this on my iPad.   This isn’t really much different that writing it on my iPhone, except that in the past when I chose to compose a post on my iPhone, I usually just used the on-screen keyboard.  Now, I’m usoing my bluetooth full keyboard.  In both cases I use my Thinkstock app to locate and download the stock images I use in my posts (subscription required), and Dropbox to manage all of my files.  Oh, for those of you contemplatig doing this, let me recomment composing your posts in a browser, rather than using the WordPress app.  The tools are much richer on the web, which seems odd to me, but that’s how it is.

Working with my novel manuscript is where thigs have really changed for me.  And not only because of the new iPad.  Up until now I’ve been using an app called Documents to Go, which is a little pricey for an iPhone app ($16.99) but it lets you manage, create and edit Office documents right on your phone, and iitegrates seamlessly with Dropbox.  This was a match made in heaven for me.  The Word editor is a little light, in that you can’t work with headers of footers, but it is rich in other features such as text style and size, paragraph justification, bullets, etc.  Which Microsoft’s latecomer Word for iPhone had even less of.  Plus, I didn’t need to pay a yearly subscription fee to use it.

Literally the day after I got my iPad Microsoft released a new suite of Office apps for iPhones and iPads that do not require a subscription, and are still feature-rich.  Plus, it integrates with Dropbox.  Now, I can view an entire full page of my manuscript — including footers and headers — on my screen.

This is huge.  And I only have an iPad Mini.  (See what I did, there?).

And all the other writing-related things I have been doing on my phone are much better, too, on an iPad.  The book on life in medieval Europe I’m reading — and heavily highlighting — is full-size, now.  Books were always very readable on my iPhone before, but now I get the whole page all at once.  Viewing PDFs is suddenly practical, because unlike in an e-book reader, PDFs do not reflow the text to fit your screen.  You have see the whole page in miniature, or you have to look at small bits of it through a retangular window, and scroll around a lot.

I’m very happy with the Mini.  I think a full-sized iPad would bee too big to conveniently carry around.  But that’s me.  Up until now I have been telling myself that I was going to take part of my advance for this book (because I live in an optimistic fantasy world) and but myself a Macbook Air, and write it off as a business expense.  So I was going to be perfectly fine carrying that around.  But now … I don’t think I’ll bother.

Love Thy Brother®

Posted: October 1, 2014 in Writing
Tags: , , , ,

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This post will be a bit of a departure for me. Those of you who are regular readers or who have popped in once or twice to see what I have to say will know that I usually talk about my middle grade novel. Sometimes I talk about the process.

This is one of those. Kinda, sorta.

A few months back I confessed to my addiction to my iPhone and how I use it for everything, particularly with regard to my writing. Well, over the weekend I just enabled myself. They say the first step is admitting you have a problem, right?

As it is, between my iPhone, my wireless keyboard and my Dropbox account, I can write just about anywhere and anywhen. I even write my blog on my iPhone, and find and download the illustrations, too. As for research, I use a combination of ebooks, Wikipedia, good old-fashioned web searches, which I save very conveniently and tag using Pocket or Evernote. Right now I’m reading The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England. In iBooks I can highlight the passages I want to remember (in multiple colors) and make notes, which I can search through later. Is it any wonder I never want to put my iPhone down or leave home without it? Oh, and there’s games.

Am I bragging? Yes, I am.

But the one dark spot in all of this technological glory has been the fact that I could not easily print from my phone.

“Aha!” I hear you cry.

Okay, first of all, calm down.

Second, I’ve filled that void. And for only $100.

Meet my Brother®.

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Our eight-year-old inkjet printer finally expired peacefully in its sleep, last week. So I drove down to my local office supply store and picked up this brilliant little laser printer. He prints at 1200 dpi. He prints on both sides of the page, so we save paper. He’s completely wireless, so no more standing in the corner holding our laptops at the end of the USB cable to print anything. And for $32 I get toner that will print 1,200 sheets. The inkjet cost me $65 for all the colors and I got a couple of hundred sheets if I was lucky.*

And I can print straight from my iPhone. Which, to be honest, it completely cool. It even reformats everything to the proper paper size without me having to do anything. This will come so in handy the next time I need to print off a Groupon. Or an e-mail attachment.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have stuff to print.


*Sorry if I sound like a commercial. I’ve been watching a lot of Top Gear, lately (on my iPhone), so this kind of running specs list is coming very naturally. Imagine I’m writing this with an English accent.

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I think I have this under control. Really.

See, I spent a lot of money to buy my iPhone because I needed the 64G model*, so now I feel I should use it as much as possible to justify the expense. I mean, it cost me as much as a cheap laptop, so shouldn’t I use it as much as I would a laptop?

And that’s the thing. I keep it with me everywhere I go because, hey, who doesn’t like instant gratification? The problem with instant gratification is that you tend to get used to it and miss it when it’s gone. My laptop takes too long to boot up (#1stworldproblems). So I reach for my iPhone.

A lot.

What does this have to do with being a husband and father of three holding down two jobs, and an aspiring author with a half-finished middle-grade novel? Everything, actually.

Successful writers and writers who teach (not always the same thing) will tell you that the first rule of writing is that you need to carve out at least two or three hours every day for uninterrupted writing. I first heard that in college, before I had two jobs, a wife or any number of children. I couldn’t manage it then, either. Now, I typically work at least part of the day seven days a week, and when I do have any time off on the weekends we do things together as a family. My kids don’t see me as much as any of us would like, so when I get home from work on any day I am typically claimed by one or the other of my children for Dad-time. On those rare occasions when they are otherwise occupied my wife can always use a hand around the house until dinner. The point is that I cannot carve any number of hours out of my day for writing without sacraficing family time, which I will not do. So I have to nab writing time where I can find it, on lunch breaks or after everyone else has gone to bed. Sometimes I can only manage 20 minutes between bites of lunch at a place where I do not have access to my laptop.

But I do have my iPhone. And it boots up in a fraction of a second.

The second rule they will tell you is that you need to establish a space that is conducive to your particular writing habits. Arrange for good lighting, an inspiring view or music to get the creative juices flowing, and privacy from intrusion. Have everything you might need at hand so you will never have the excuse of having to get up and interrupt your writing to go get it.

Some day, maybe. Right now I manage much of my writing in the break room at my local Barnes & Noble, while others are eating or while a shift meeting is going on. But even with just my iPhone I do have some of the above: I have music, I have all of my notes, and I have instant access to a dictionary, a thesaurus, Wikipedia, and all of the rest of the Internet.

But how can you type a whole novel on that tiny touchscreen keyboard? I hear you cry.

I don’t. Instead I use this nifty full-size bluetooth keyboard I bought from Apple over a year ago. It still has the original 2 AA batteries in it, too. And I found a lovely hard case for the keyboard that opens and folds back in such a way that it becomes a perfect stand to prop up my iPhone.

But the iPhone doesn’t have Microsoft Office on it, or any way to store documents! I hear you cry.

I have an app called Docs2Go that lets me open, edit or create Office documents, including Word, and lets me store them in my free Dropbox account. So when I do get home to my laptop or have some time during lunch at my office, I can open the latest version of my WIP and instantly pick up where I left off.

But … rules! I hear you cry. You can’t be a successful writer without rules!

You mind keeping it down? My kids are asleep. In fact I’m writing this on my iPhone in bed. In a minute I’m going to post it using the WordPress app, just as soon as I locate a suitable image using the Thinkstock app.

Then if I’m still awake I might watch something with the Netflix app, or read my favorite book in iBooks, or work on the video from our day at Six Flags that I’m editing with the Pinnacle Studio app. Or maybe I’ll just play Words with Friends.

Rules, shmules. I’ve got this under control. Really.

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*Because I actually need 286 applications and 1200+ songs.