A Writer’s Biography, Volume III, Part 7: How Much Are Dreams Worth? A Consideration.

I was going to try and do a review of one of the publishing/writing/designing tools that I’ve been doing research on for the past few weeks. I still might do that later. However, I decided I wanted to talk about what happened with me this week.

In case you didn’t know, my current efforts to get published are by no means the first. I once managed to secure the services of an agent for a now long-forgotten young adult book. $120 and a year later, if I recall correctly, I told her thanks for her efforts, whatever those might be, and we parted ways.

Then there has been the recent publication of my book, The Holy Fool. I have nothing but thanks to them for giving me a chance to get published, and even if I’m not the biggest bestseller, at least I got farther than I have before.

During my recent research into self-publishing and related systems, I came across the radar of a company that provides services to self-publishing authors. I will not name this company here. Suffice it to say that through my research and investigation of the company, I was convinced that they were a legitimate company that truly believed that they could provide resources that that could turn me into a better-known author that could make a living at writing.

It was because of that I found myself on the phone last Friday evening with a representative of this company to discuss the plans I had for a possible series based on a project I have already written.

The discussion was quite amicable, informative, and to the point. During our conversation, it was clear that he had researched my book and its success as far as being widely known was, to be honest, extremely modest. I established that I knew little of book cover design and also little of search engine optimization and keyword usage. He gave me a couple pieces of advice and some complimentary research materials.

Eventually, it came down to cost. It always does underneath these circumstances, when a company approaches a person rather than the other way around. In this case, $6,000 for full services, or perhaps three payments of $2,400 every three months. After a few pleasantries and sincere thanks, we ended the call.

What sort of price do you put on a dream? How do you justify spending that amount of money on something when, until very recently, being able to scrape together just $1,000 on short notice without resorting to a loan was not a guarantee.

“There’s got to be a less expensive way to do all that,” was the thought of my wife Laura after the meeting. I’ve stayed married for 25-plus years because I tend more often than not to listen to my wife.

And that wasn’t even the biggest amount I would have paid to a publishing company. Another company that will not be named seriously quoted me a number of $20,000 for a full service package. Again, however, how do I justify investing that much into my art when I have a life and family to maintain?

That’s not even touching on how this conversation made me think about the difference between writing as a business and writing for writing’s sake. If my experience with fan fiction has taught me anything, it’s that I can find artistic validation and satisfaction totally absent a profit motive. (That question might be worth its own entry.)

So, anyway, I’m back to where I was, investigating future possibilities. Might my path be perfect and lead to fortune and fame? It might not. However, it will likely be something that I can manage to afford, and I am hoping it will be totally mine.

Searching… For A Plan?

Once again, I’m finding that I’m able to write these blogs a bit better on my phone because of procrastination. You know how that goes.

Once again, I think that I get into the situation where I try to do a whole bunch of things at once and then it turns out that I don’t focus on getting every single thing done. And again, I’m writing this late on Saturday night. At least it’s Saturday rather than Sunday.

I went and looked back at the list I first set up about two weeks ago and laughed a bit in despair and ruefulness. I might as well review what did (and more often did not) happen.

1. Continue to set up the email list, especially this “landing page.”

This got stalled out to be honest. I’m getting the idea that I might be able to try and do an email list with someone other than ConvertKit or whatever it’s called. If you asked me what that alternative was, I wouldn’t be able to tell you what it is.

So, the new goal will be, make sure the ConvertKit account is fully set up and start looking into alternatives to it. 🤷🏻‍♂️

2. Look into Canva. I suck at designing things.

Like I said before, I’m signed up but haven’t really messed with it. I’m considering whether getting the paid subscription might be a good idea, at least for a little while. It seems like it would give me more access to other designs and clip art. Anyone who has used it, feel free to let me know if it was worth it.

3. Set up a query letter for my new project.

Totally blew this off. I need to take a look at the synopsis I typed up of it and see if I can turn that into something.

4. Get more writing done.

🤣🤣🤣 …anyway…

Yeah, I was on a cold streak for at least the past three days. I think this is due to me spending a bit too long in fanfiction. I’m beginning to feel a little bit of obligation to continue it, and I will because I feel like I started something that I need to finish. However, I want to also start on my original work, the work that the A Song Of Ice And Fire world sparked in me. I’m getting close to having the main story finished, and after that… I think that I will be able to take things at a bit of a slower pace.

I will say this about fan fiction, however. So many people have classified it as illiterate nerds trying to fulfill whatever fantasies their favorite books, movies, or television series sparked in them. There is a bit of it there – I will say that a bit of wish fulfillment was the reason I started writing it. I’ve been writing and judging other people’s writings in different circumstances for around 25 years, so I think you can trust what I’m about to say. There are more than a few examples of fan fiction writing that were as accomplished or more accomplished than many published authors of original content that I’ve ever read, and that’s the absolute truth.

5. What I did rather than what I said I was going to do…

I signed up for Substack and Gumroad. I was a bit disappointed to find out that I wouldn’t be able to do print on demand through them, so it would have to be through Amazon self-publishing or maybe another service. I don’t just want to sell electronic copies of my books, I want to have some physical copies as well.

It’s going to take me a while to figure out the best system for me. It’s probably going to take a bit of trial and error. Whelp, such is life.

Next week I think I’m going to give a review of one of the pieces of software that I’m going to experiment with. At least that should give me plenty of material to write.

Also… I’m trying to read a new series, and that is giving me a some fits. It might be worth another blog about my feeling on spoilers.

On a totally unrelated note, I found out that I got my 1,000th “like” on this blog. So, I’ve got that going for me, which is nice, as Bill Murray once said.

Writing Journal 11.3.2021: Sliding out of October

Not too much to talk about, so I’ll keep it quick. Well, this turned out to be not exactly what I expected. Let’s carry on, however.

As I sit here at the beginning of November, I’m wondering if I have enough time to pull together a decent writing year with two months of 2021 left to go. I think there is a chance that I might be able to finish strong this year, but whether I finish comparable to 2019 or 2020 is up in the air. Like I analyzed back in January, I wrote more words in 2020 than 2019 and a lot more than 2018, but the percentage of times that I met my writing goals during the year fell from 78 percent in 2019 to 62 percent in 2018.

In the end… it’s a little difficult to exactly pinpoint the reason for the drop-off last year and this year as opposed to 2019. I’ve tried to think about it more than a few times.

There was the move to south central Iowa that disrupted my routines and stalled out any momentum that I’ve tried to build with The Holy Fool coming out in 2019. My connections to my little writing community I had been starting to develop in eastern Iowa and Muscatine over the course of many years got severed, and the COVID-19 outbreak also put a lot of potential public events out of reach for at least a year. It has only been recently that I have been trying to rebuild my writing community out in the Des Moines area because that is the biggest community within driving distance for me to find fellow authors. I think this is leading me to more gradual (and I hope permanent) changes that I am starting to make aimed at growing myself as a writer and as a brand. It would be nice for there to be a good writing community where I am currently living (Lucas County, Iowa), but due to the population out here, I don’t think I can count on that. In addition, I think I am at a different place than I was when I first became involved in writing communities. Before, I was concerned about finding people I could bounce ideas off of, get writing advice, and show me how I could become a better writer. I still want that, but I also really want to try and push myself forward, becoming someone who could turn my writing into something that could at least become a nice little side gig, if not a full-time calling at the moment. The people I have met in Des Moines have been published multiple times. I don’t think I’m going to have that level of experience in little Chariton of Lucas County, as compared to Des Moines.

Once I moved out here last year to Chariton, my mental state was honestly not the best, not necessarily because of the move but because of the working environment I found myself in. By the end of my time at this particular school district, I was even questioning my dedication to continuing teaching, as so many of my colleagues both at that district and other places have done. However, my wife (Laura) encouraged me to keep my mind open to other teaching opportunities. As of this writing, I’m in the second quarter of the school year with my new school district. While it is by no means a perfect job, I find myself being in a far more positive mind set than I was at all during the last school year. Whether it is the smaller school district environment, positive and supporting administration and staff, or a combination of them and other factors, I am usually quite happy with my job. I never understood writers who said they couldn’t write in a depressive or down condition. I usually find writing when I am emotionally not in the best space to be a very taxing situation, much like weeding a lawn.

This fan fiction work that I’ve been doing during the past two years has been rewarding emotionally, and I think I’ve learned about my writing during that process. However, I think that the momentum of that work is starting to wind down. What was doing to be just two stories has now branched into an entire series that will run well over the 500,000 word mark when it is done, I believe. That has been great, but I think I also want to develop and support my OC writing material, with the fan fiction work continuing to be an occasional side hobby. However, for the sake of being complete and not able to let go of an idea, that work will continue while I try to get on with things.

Anyway, here’s the stats. Hope we have a good writing week to come.

Writing Statistics for the week ending 10.30.2021:
+2,536 words written.
Days writing: 5 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 0 of 7 for 0 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 3 of 7 days.

A Step Or Two Forward And A Step Back

Decided to type this out on my phone because it takes me a bit to get upstairs and we’ve got trick or treaters in our modest south central Iowa town.

Ahead of time, I want to apologize for these past few non-journal posts being a bit talkative about me just experimenting with stuff. However, I guess that’s better than me just doing my journals, so… I think I’m improving? It’s a long process.

Looking back a week ago, I set myself a few goals to try and accomplish. So, I figured that I might as well look back and see how well I accomplished them (since I’m low on ideas at the moment, lol).

1. Continue to set up the email list, especially this “landing page.”

Well, I certainly worked at that. If a few of you noticed how the look of the site was changing a bit. Part of that was trying to see if I could get something set up with that email list.

However, I wasn’t able to quite get it set up. Apparently the easy way to do this would be to sign up for something that would cost me $25 a month rather than $8 a month, and the question becomes, how much do you spend on something that is a bit more than a hobby but not quite a business.

It’s a good question… but also not a question that I need to answer right away. I might want to experiment with a couple other mail clients other than ConvertKit. (You can always email me over at jasonliegois@liegois.media if you wish).

2. Look into Canva. I suck at designing things.

Signed up for Canva and also got the app. I figured why not, since I’m not an artist and I don’t know anything about Photoshop. (How much does that cost nowadays anyway? Maybe I need to check into that). Anyway, if Chuck Tingle manages to design his own covers it might be easier for me to try my hand at it if I’m seriously considering trying to self-publish. They have a “prime” paid membership, and it might be worth it if I can do some decent work with it.

3. Set up a query letter for my new project.

Actually, I might have already done this, but I might have misplaced that/didn’t look around for that. I’m vowing to do that tonight.

4. Get more writing done.

Whether I got that done this week, well… I’ll have to check out the journal on that to be sure. But, I think I’ll do better this weekend than last weekend, at least. And I got this post out late Saturday night rather than late Sunday night, so that’s a minor victory. If I manage to post early Saturday evening I might be starting a trend.

Well, I think some additional progress on projects 1-3 are in order. Plus, I’m planning to look into Substack and/or Gumroad.

Publishing the follow up post to this post before 8 pm next Saturday might be a good goal too. 😉

Learning By Reading, Or Trying To Figure Out How To Be A Professional Blogger

Since I happen to be at a writer’s retreat today in Des Moines sponsored by the Iowa Writer’s Corner, I decided to have a nice photo of the state capitol on this blog post because I’m trying to be topical without oversharing. You’re welcome. It has been great to hang out with my fellow writers that I’ve gotten to know and just write, revise, and shoot the breeze with them. It’s been a fantastic experience.

I’m the awkward looking dude in the green cap in back.

I’ve also been working to try and see what I can do to turn this blog into something more… professional? I’ve been working to try and continue the research that I began to just dip my toe into a few of weeks ago. I think I’m… slightly less nervous about starting a good email list than I was last month, and I’m eager enough that I want to actually get going on putting it together.

There have been a lot of things that have rattling around in my head. I now have at least one writing project that is not only “shovel-ready,” as they call construction projects – one book all but done, and an idea for at least two sequels. (One of the common pieces of advice I keep getting is that series are a good sell. One-shots, not so much.) I’m trying to get my head around the idea of actually trying to send it out to possible publishers or agents. Trying to find the perfect audience for a sports drama with an LGBTQ theme might be interesting. I’m not sure that there are too many publishers, for instance, that have a sports emphasis. There are more than a few LGBTQ-oriented publishers, however, but it would be interesting to find out if they would accept a project from a straight cis-male author.

More and more, however, I’m beginning to wonder at this point in my life whether it makes sense for me to just move forward on the self-publishing route. It’s a lot more straightforward to do it these days with all the technology that’s out there.

But then… I’ve always said that I always considered myself more of a sergeant than a general. When I was a reporter, I never could imagine that I would ever sit in an editor’s desk, making the big decisions. I definitely never want to be a principal at a school rather than a teacher. If you think it’s work running a classroom, try and run an entire school. It seems like all of the principals that I ever worked with had really packed schedules and lives.

And going into business for myself would be, at least a little bit, me being in charge. It’s something that’s a bit intimidating for me, and that’s an old feeling I’ve had. But as time goes on, I’ve begun thinking about what I’m waiting for. Maybe I’m not going to be a massive bestseller for my books, but at least they’ll be published. I’d rather have a group of books to talk up rather than just one.

So, that means getting onto ConvertKit to see if I can even begin to set up an email list and figure out what kind of goodies I need to give out to those who decide to sign up. It means looking into Gumroad and seeing if that is a good alternative to Amazon or whether the latter is the best bet. (It’s nice that I already have an Amazon page). Also on that list is Substack, Campfire Blaze, Canva, Netgalley, and Booksirens. (If anyone has had positive or negative experiences with any of those platforms, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.)

With that in mind, I’m moving forward. For right now, that means doing a good investigation into these programs, at least one every two weeks. I’m not going to get everything right, and not everything is going to work. However, I want to keep making progress, even if progress for one day looks like trying to get access to an old PayPal account.

More coming up.

Well, I Accomplished A Little Something This Week (The Positives Of Limited Goals)

Once again, I’m writing this blog post on my phone because I am trying to get more than one thing done at the same time. In this case, I’m trying to get at least one round of grading done for my students to at least get some class work done ✅ and off the checklist for me. I like to think I don’t try and wear myself out mentally during the course of a school year, but I truly have to admit that a good portion of the real reason for this is that when I do try to get schoolwork done outside of school, I tend to procrastinate about it even worse than when I’m writing. I’m still doing all right keeping up with things, however.

When I finally put together Wednesday’s writing journal entry, I get the impression that the word count and the stats will not be kind to me. I have an idea 💡 as to why that is, but I think I will save that general observation for the actual entry.

The fact that I’m getting this entry out tonight means that I accomplished one of my very modest goals I set last week. As I said at the time, I tend to do better when I set modest goals and attempt to reach them rather than try and accomplish a lot of goals or large goals all at once. I try to break up big goals into different parts. I also have found that taking on goals a couple of them at a time rather than several at once tends to help me with being able to complete them.

I did get some research accomplished regarding getting an email list set up. I read some articles about the process written by Jeff Goins and other authors. (By the way, this quote from him recently fit my mood.) From that research, I think I will have to look up the program ConvertKit for that process. I also wound up getting signed up for Reedsy as well, so I might be able to meet fellow creatives there and get future advice as well.

So, that will be another program I will be having to research. Currently, I’ve got notes to check out Substack, Campfire Blaze, Canva, Gumroad, Netgalley, and Booksirens. I’m not going to get to all of those in a single week. Small steps, right? (Once I have a chance to check out each of them, those would be some easy material for blog posts.)

I did not manage to write that extra article this weekend that I wanted to do. My plan is to get started on putting that together now with the idea of posting it next weekend. (I have the advantage of knowing what I want to write that article about.)

All right, I feel good about this tonight. Hope your Sunday went well too.

Moving Forward

Well, this is the second week in a row I rolled into the weekend without an idea of what to write about. Hopefully this is not a trend.

Again, I’m facing a bit of inertia, as I once wrote about. The situation is that I am, in a sense, in between projects. There has been more than a bit of uncertainty for me for at least the past two years. Unfortunately, the work I did to get my first novel out stalled over the past two years due to both the COVID situation and my moving away to a new location. I’ve been trying to find my footing ever since.

Also, the uncertainty over what I was going to be doing this fall (teaching or not teaching) was sort of weighing on me. I’ll be honest, I sort of bugged out between June 4 and July 4 of this year after I finished up the school year. I was looking forward to actually getting things done… but, as I detailed, I have to admit that I didn’t use that time wisely. i think last year in the classroom, for many reasons, was very tough for me. I was prepared not to teach full-time and instead to tread water as a substitute (and substitute teachers are in big demand throughout the state, especially due to COVID absences). However, I managed to find a job at a small school district near my home… and I’m enjoying the classroom this year. I think it is a good environment and that is good, although once again I am back in the teaching bubble where I end up noticing little but the classroom and everything supporting that work. Working as a teacher and commuting to work can quickly dominate your life, but things are still much better for me now.

Now, I have to consider what is next for me. There are a few things I am facing.

  • You may remember that I have a project that longer readers of my blog, or readers willing to go back and read my older work, might remember as Project A. This has been written, revised, and professionally proofread. With the lone exception of one last small revision and some slight editing on one issue, this is ready to go.
    • I like the project very much. I have at least two other ideas to make this into a trilogy. But, as I’m considering whether to submit it to any publishers – I’m just dreading the long, drawn-out process. And, I’m seriously wondering whether I shouldn’t just try and go the self-publishing route, which I have long considered but I have never tried.
    • Right now, I’m sick of my inertia on this. I just need to get moving on seeing what it would take to get this published on my own because I’m really tired of calling myself a writer and I’ve only done one book that has been published.
  • For the past couple of years, I have been concentrating on fan fiction projects. This has been something that has revived my interest in writing and has been an irreplaceable experience. I’ve connected with so many readers and fellow writers, and discovered so much great fiction that isn’t in traditional publishing. I’ve really been amazed with the response that readers have given my work, and I will always treasure the opportunity I have taken.
    • However, I do think I need to give some more priority to my original content (OC). I am hoping that after I finish up some parts of the series I am working on, I will reduce the amount of time I am working on those projects. I am planning on continuing to write some stuff on AO3 (the main fanfiction site I use), but it will not be my main creative focus. I do think that the particular fanfiction I have been working on (A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones) has given me a strong interest in producing some of my own fantasy writing.
    • I also need to finish reading Lord of the Rings. I started that early during the pandemic and I let that fall through the cracks. Maybe I need to add it/adapt it to my podcast that I just started.
  • Also, I need to release some more episodes of that podcast on a regular basis, similar to what I am (trying) to do with the blog. I need to sort that out, but at least I have plenty of old blogs that would be great to build up some material.
  • I need to do some research into building some email lists and how that can help with promoting my writing. That I need to do more work on.

There’s plenty of stuff I can be doing… but I’ve learned the hard way that trying to get too many things done in too short of time is a recipe for a disaster. So, I think I will concentrate on getting the writing journal done, writing one article about my experience with the legendary Alphasmart, and another about what I might be thinking of regarding a mailing list.

That would be a great start, I think.

Writing When You Don’t Feel Like Writing

I call myself a writer. I am a writer, in the past, now, and in the future. But there are days when I really don’t feel like writing.

There were years in times past where I never wrote anything except news articles and the odd lesson plan. Those memories of the old days make me always a bit guilty when I go a day without writing.

I’m a little irritated that I haven’t done a new podcast recently. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, since it’s not like I’m trying to monetize it (yet) or that I’m that experienced at it. But if I consider myself a creative person, I need to create and hustle, right?

It’s sort of like some aspects of teaching for me. There are times when I have fun in the classroom, especially teaching writing. (That likely will be worthy of at least a few later posts). However, I can take or leave having to sit down and grade stuff.

The point is that there always are things that you can take or leave about any job or any passion. Sometimes you get in the groove and can write for hours and hours. And there’s other times that I can stare at that screen and want to do anything else.

There’s times when I just need to get distracted, to be honest. Today I wanted to just relax before getting back into the groove of the teaching week. (Last year in the classroom was massively stressful for me. I’m feeling much more comfortable in my new district.)

So, I sat down for the day. I checked out the Italian Grand Prix, as I’ve started to get into Formula One this year. I watched Liverpool beat Leeds today 3-0 and saw poor Harry Wilson get his ankle done in. I saw Aaron Rodgers and the Packers get whipped, and now I’ve got Football Night In America on.

For the later part of the day, I’ve had my son back home for the day after he moved to Des Moines for a new job. I enjoyed watching the games with him and dinner, even if he snoozed through a good part of it.

And, all this time I thought I didn’t really have anything to write about. Maybe this wasn’t the perfect post, but at least I wrote something.

Sometimes that is good enough.

Writing Gear: Notebooks

OK, finally getting to this. If there was someone actually waiting me to write this throughout all Labor Day today you have my deepest sympathies. (Joke.)

I might have mentioned previously that I was probably a member of the last generation of Americans not to have access to a computer or the Internet growing up. When I first started to get ideas for writing, I put them down into what I had – notebooks. Basically, collections of paper with a waxed cardboard or maybe a leather cover if someone is lucky that you can use to write down ideas with.

The ones I had access to and made use of were the same spiral-bound, 8.5 by 11-inch notebooks kids buy every year for school and which I still see in my own classroom. Most of the abortive tries I made at fiction now reside in several such notebooks tucked away in plastic totes for safe-keeping.

For me, it was just what I had available. If I was able to get my hands on a typewriter for my room, I would have been all over that. I remember reading about L. Ron Hubbard using two electric typewriters at once to write a book and he would be using one while the other went to the typewriter shop for maintenance. (That was years before I knew anything about Scientology. And no, this is not going to turn into a Writer’s Biography piece.)

Anyways, that was just what I had, so I used it. It would be many years before I started getting desktop computers and laptops to finally start putting my writing together. I eventually strayed away from the pen world, except for when I used to take notes during my journalism days. Occasionally, I would use a small spiral-bound notebook similar in construction to those old school notebooks, although unlike them, they could fit into a hand. With that and two pens or mechanical pencils, I was set.

Occasionally I would work for an organization that would provide their own journalist notebooks that were double the size of the regular ones. They were steady, but a bit unwieldy to carry around with you. Of course there were tape recordings or digital recordings, but you never wanted to rely only on technology to carry you through in the field. If you could get it down on the page, you were safe and not have to worry about missing information.

Years after those journalism days I started wandering through a Barnes and Noble when I found Moleskine notebooks and fell in love with them. Shoot, if they were Earnest Hemmingway’s favorite notebooks, I didn’t see why they couldn’t be mine. I loved the construction of their leather covers, those nice little ribbons you could use for page-holders, and the elastic that kept them closed. Just good enough for a minor writing snob like me (a Moleskine devotee but one who is more into genre writing and sci-fi/fantasy than “mainstream” literature).

I guess I like the classic design best, but I’m also a fan of the really small ones they make as well. Those I can tuck into my pants pockets or even the breast pocket of my shirts or t-shirts. That makes it really convenient to use.

Of course, I don’t write novels with those notebooks, but I often write down ideas for those stories, or on the rare occasions that poems come to mind. Despite my love for new technology (I like the idea of making multiple copies of my works and words) it is nice to have something not reliant on electricity to make it work. So, I have those options always available for me.

That is, when I don’t get on my phone. I’ve got an iPhone 11 mini right now. That one fits in my pockets well, too.

What I Write With: Software (MS Word, Google, or None of the Above?)

I talked a little last week about my writing gear. I wanted to get a bit more into detail regarding writing software, and some of the choices I’ve made in the past and present regarding this.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This is not quite what I started writing stuff on.

When I first got started with serious writing, it was likely in college. I went to the University of Iowa for my undergraduate studies. (Yes, it is the University of Iowa that has the famed Iowa Writers’ Workshop that Hannah briefly attended in Girls. No, I sadly never got into the Workshop, which is quite competitive. I eventually decided on more of a journalism track. OK, enough of that before this turns into another Writer’s Biography piece.)

Anyway, I was probably the last college student in the USA to not have an email address, or I didn’t use it that much. Me and my future wife were exchanging actual letters, not emails and not much on the phone because this was back when long-distance calling was an actual service rather than a commodity that is virtually free now.

The point was, computers back then were a novel thing. I was strictly a pen/pencil and paper guy until I got to college. Not everyone had a desktop computer or – even fancier – a laptop. Computer labs were the big thing – our dorm had one with maybe a couple dozen late 1980’s model Macs for our use from 8 a.m to 12 a.m. or something like that.

I think they looked like this if I recall correctly.

Back then years ago, I used MacWrite. It was the first word processing program I can ever remember using. During that time many people still were nostalgic for typewriters.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As for me, whatever itch I used to have for my own typewriter disappeared the first time I fired up one of those Macs and got MacWrite working. I could format my documents, choose different fonts with a click of a mouse, and I think it even allowed me to spellcheck. I also loved the fact that, unlike with paper, it was easy and cost-effective to make however many copies of my writing that I wanted and store it in separate places. (With how often computers or external hard drives have died on me, this has been an invaluable tool.)

However, by the time I was an upperclassman at Iowa, MacWrite was on the way out and Windows 95 was about to dominate the computing universe. With that came Microsoft Word, the word processing program that I ended up using more or less exclusively for two decades.

I have enjoyed using MS Word. It basically fulfills all of the needs I have for a word processing program. You can alter it for paragraph formatting, you can keep track of your word count, and I loved it when it added the grammar feature. Anything an aspiring writer might have need of, MS Word could provide.

For a while, I had been hearing that Google was coming up with some online equivalents to the Microsoft Office Suite. I was a little nervous about relying on the Internet for access to my writings. It’s similar to the current arguments about streaming – do you really own something that you couldn’t immediately access and hold in your hand (albeit in a flash drive)?

It wasn’t until about six years ago, when I began to teach special education, that I began to experiment with Google Docs as a classroom teaching tool. They days when they carted a single computer around elementary school classrooms so everyone could get a chance to use it were long gone – ever since I began special education teaching students each have their own laptop or chromebook.

In using Google Docs, I was impressed with the ability to instantly save files, download files if needed, and everything that MS Word had done for me for years. As a teacher, I was also impressed with the ability for more than one user to access and edit a document. This wound up being an excellent way to help students revise, edit, and otherwise improve their writing. The main disadvantage, of course, is that it requires Internet access for you to get to your files.

My most recent writing set-up, although I have a Dell laptop now instead of an HP.

As of right now, MS Word is still my primary writing tool. It’s worked well for the past couple decades, and I’ve not really seen a need to change. However, I am continuing to utilize Google Docs for my writing as well. It is especially helpful for helping to back up my files, and I occasionally find myself doing first drafts of my fiction on the system.

There are other electronic tools I have made use of over the years. I used to love the Alphasmart company. Their word processors were portable, not connected to the Internet, simple and so easy to use (simple on-off switch, save as you type, and the ability to download to conventional computers). I used to have an Alphasmart Neo in my possession for years, but it eventually died on me. It’s a shame the company has stopped production of them nearly a decade ago, but I am in the hunt for a used one.

Alphasmart Neo

I’ve used some other programs to help develop my writing, taking notes, collecting other media like images and other things. Microsoft OneNote has been helpful, but again, I prefer to use the version that I can save those files on my computer. Scrivener I have experimented with, and I like the “cork board” way that you can organize notes, but I never got into using it as a pure word processing program like some writers have. It just doesn’t have as natural of a feel of a word processor as MS Word or even Google Docs.

I have heard of another suite of planning software called Campfire Blaze. I may take a look at that and see if it might fit my needs, and there might be a review of that software in the future if I go for it.

That’s it for now; stay safe everyone and all the writers keep writing.