The blog of D Kai Wilson-Viola

Author, advocate, designer, mental health advocate and parent. 

Making it easier on myself

Making it easier on myself

D Kai Wilson-Viola, 2010


I’m infamous for biting off more than I can chew – it might be the Scottish in me, it might be the fiery red hair – even though in that picture of me I actually had black hair ;),  it might just be that I always feel I have to make up for *something*.  Goodness knows what, but I’m highly competitive with myself mostly.  What I do know is that for about two months now I’ve had this growing list of things that I need to take care of – I was midway through designing my hosting site when Christmas pounced in my house, I’m trying to do the fly lady project, make over my son’s room, and lots of other things – I’ve always been a bit ‘butterfly’ in my approach to stuff, but I’ve definitively gotten worse since I fell and banged my head a few years ago.

So, I’m making it easier on myself.

First rule got instituted this weekend with the arrival of a really nice case for my iPad – with a keyboard.  Night times are for writing/editing/fiction – so no more laptop unless I’m on a tight deadline.  Or if I want to veg, I can.  I don’t veg nearly enough, and I’m beginning to think it shows.  Right now, I’m using the opportunity to get my blogging schedule back on track and plan as much of the next few weeks, which leads me to…..

I’ve got a list in word, called ‘the never ending todo list’.  It’s now six pages long, but I’m not going to panic if I can’t get it done straight away.  Instead, once a week, I’m going to print it, stick it on my clipboard and mark it off as I go.  At the end of the week, I’m going to move what I managed to the ‘always growing accomplished list’ along with a record of my word counts and edits and everything else I do so I’ve got a work diary of sorts, plus I can see how my work ebbs and flows for one of the projects I keep putting off.

In other news, Phillip Pullman, one of the writers I grew up reading, and greatly admire, just about sums up how I feel about the INSANE government cuts to libraries.  In Gloucestershire, where we live, we’re losing 11 libraries – I don’t talk politics very often (because of readership + neutrality, to a point) but this is just mad.

Now, wish me luck, for I head out to the doctors to find out what in the merry heck is wrong with my poor arm – I suspect I’m going to be told that something has gotten into my vein, but that doesn’t explain the ominous bruise on the other hand…..sigh.

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Toys and tools for writers – part 2 – the novelist

Toys and tools for writers – part 2 – the novelist

Ok – so, one way or another, you’ve got the tools I recommended – whether you went with all free, or a mix of free and paid, or you’re ready to experiment with each.  Or you’ve got your own go-to tools, that you work with – that’s ok too – the list I provided wasn’t exhaustive (though, if you think I’ve missed something, please let me know – I’d love to hear about other tools people use).
I also didn’t list ‘Write or die’ – deliberately – that goes under a whole ‘nother section – writer’s block.

Anyway – tools for novelists and why they work well together.

For idea collation I suggest Evernote – simply because it’s search able and is as handy as your mobile phone (if you’ve got a smart phone).  It lets you store notes, inspiration, voice recordings, images, the works.  This is crucial, because there are occasions you won’t be able to stop and grab a piece of paper, but you might have your phone with you, or times when you’re in the middle of writing something else, and need to take notes.
I suggest having a couple of tags to categorise ideas – I’ve got ‘story idea’, ‘snippet’, ‘research question’, ‘blog post’ and ‘misc’.  I categorise them at home on my laptop because it’s easier to catch them that way than tag on the fly.


If I’m writing a novel, I pick the tool that best fits the job as soon as I get settled, but I tend to do my outlines and other basic work in Word, just because sometimes it’s hard to tell which is ‘best’ to use.

I’ve found though that it pretty much splits into two easy categories – serials, in which case I find it easier to work in Liquid Story Binder (and will explain that on a later post :)) or stand alone which works best in Scrivener.  If it’s a stand alone with lots of notes, Scrivener copes, I’ve just yet to adapt to writing longer serials in Scrivener.

I edit though, in Word – simply because it’s easier to do cohesive line editing in there – though, again that comes down to personal preference.
Other tools a novelist needs – books in the genre they’re writing in – so they can keep their ‘finger on the metaphorical pulse’ and some support.  I recommend finding a crit group to chat about your writing, and get feedback.  I like OWW-SFF but your mileage may vary.

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Toys and tools for writers – pt 1

Toys and tools for writers – pt 1


Image by Okinawa Soba via Flickr

One of the things I’ve noticed is that writers are really into their tools.

I’m constantly looking for something to streamline how I write, when I write, where I write and how easy all the different iterations are to use.

This assumes a couple of things – that you either own the ‘tech’ listed, can modify the tech you own to work for you – or in the ways I’ve listed, and have no compunction or issue with buying the software if you like what I’m describing.  To be fair, most of the things I use are free, to a point, so you can either try before you buy, they are totally free, or are almost instantly justifiable.  I apologise if my probably cavalier attitude to software is distressing, but in deference to sensibilities and the current economic climate, I’m not exactly rich myself and save for everything I own.  That said….

Advertising disclaimer
All links marked with a bold * are affiliate links.  They go towards supporting the site, but are only used when I can genuinely recommend the product.  In most cases there is a review on the product on one of my sites, or there is a review being moved to one of my sites in the near future.  I manage my affiliate links with a keyword plugin, which is why they aren’t plain text links like the other resources listed.

What you need:

A computer – laptop, desktop or netbook. Nothing I use needs much memory at its basics, but given the writing world is rapidly becoming an online resource system, so I’d be at least end of life specs (which I believe is XP for Windows and some sort of fuzzy Leopard for Mac  – I know the iPad won’t sync below Leopard).

The free computer stuff

Dropbox (* – this is a great backup system, and if you click on the link I’ve provided, I get extra space to store my stuff.  And if you *do* sign up, let me know and I’ll give you access to my free ‘chapter samples’ folder – if you’re interested in my books that is 🙂

EvernoteEvernote is a free, always accessible notes system – a bit like Dropbox, you can share and allow others to have access to your notes what I adore about it is I can run it on my iPhone and take snaps, make notes, and store stuff so that I can use it later.  You can also pay a low monthly subscription and extend its features.
Ywriter ( – no frills, very snazzy word-processing system that lets you work in ‘scenes’ instead of one document.  Saves all information in RTF as well, so it’s easy to access in other software.
If you’re selling work, a tracking system such as Sonar ( or
WinSAMM from (please note, this site has been going since I started looking in 2001, and I don’t think the software has ever been updated – up until very recently it was also my manuscript tracking weapon of choice).
Rough Draft is also a great wordprocessing program, again free, again, I don’t know when the last update was, and the site is currently down  🙁
Oom is also free, but is so new to me I haven’t tested it – it’s linked in the resource links at the bottom 🙂

Not free software

I’ve got three pieces of software that I consider must have, for different reasons.  You can however choose just one – all three work well as a single writing program.

Word or Open Office (free) – the difference between Word and Open Office are now so negligible, that you can’t really tell which a document has been written in, at least till you start importing and exporting between them.  Word however, is not cheap, so if you’ve got a limited budget, I recommend Open Office – I’m listing it in the ‘not free’ however because you may need to procure templates, depending on what you’re writing.

Liquid Story Binder – this has an affiliate scheme, but I’m just posting this because it’s playing up, – has been my must-have writing product for nearly five consecutive Nanowrimos, and is my favorite writing software when writing serials.
Scriviner – I love, love love this software. (that’s the windows link).  Again, it’s not an affiliate link.  It’s great for stand alone stories.

I’ve also tested and enjoy Write-way – – it’s good for either style, but I’m happier with Scriviner/LSB.

*please note*  Ywriter works equally well, just has less bells and whistles.

Not free tools

eBook reader or books – The  *Kindle and the *Apple iPad are the best two tools, IMO out there, but I’ve got nothing against the Nook, or the *Sony eBook Reader ,  having owned the latter and think the colour screen on the former kicks ass.   Alternatively, you can go paperbacks – libraries are a great way to read serious amounts and save money.  You need, as a writer, to read at least five books a month, in my opinion.  Opinions and mileage may vary, of course, but if you’re not devouring other perspectives, you’ll find it difficult on some occasions to express your own.  And this doesn’t include research books – I’m just talking ‘for fun, to stay on top of the trends of the genre you’re writing in.
BONUS – if you’re targeting a specific press, go all out and read their books – remember though, the goal isn’t to emulate these writers, but to make your writing as compelling as theirs.

Separate from this – Writing Books – like it or not, you’re not a perfect writer.  I’m not a perfect writer.  Getting books that help you perfect your writing style will allow you to be your editor’s and Agent’s darling in later life and give you a real sense of accomplishment.  I’ve been writing for…er…27 and a bit years now, at a guess, and I’m still learning.  I’ve probably done my 10k hours and then some.

Notepad, pens, diary – basically anything you need for organising yourself.
AND – a wall.  This last one I’ll have to explain in a final post.

Next article – the combinations for bloggers, writers, scriptwriters, poets and special uses.

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A tech dillema – iPad and Kindle

A tech dillema – iPad and Kindle

Amazon Kindle eBook Reader
Image by goXunuReviews via Flickr

I’ve got a bit of a dilemma. When I had my Sony e-reader, my reading increased about 10 fold, back to the levels of when I was working in a supermarket and studying in college. Which meant I was getting through about 12 or 14 ebooks of fiction a month, and about 5 non-fiction ones, minimum. We ‘side graded’ to an iPad (most would consider it an upgrade, but really, it’s just a step off into a different tech tree) and my reading picked up a bit more and now has entirely dropped off. Unless I’m reading something specific in my Kindle app (like post apocalyptic stuff (because the book in question doesn’t exist in print format) ), I find it very difficult to use my iPad as a reading device because you can do *so much more* with it.  I read on my iPhone, on the bus, but whipping out my iPad seems to cause quite a fuss, even on campus, so I don’t take it with me very often.
I’m fortunate enough to be in the position to be able to afford a Kindle too – it’s basically less than the cost of another 20 paperbacks, but the problem I now have is justifying it – even for work – how could I, when the iPad has a kindle reading app?

The reasons for it are basic – I need something that will encourage me to read more, but is as portable as my Sony eReader (which I gave to a friend). It would need to sync with my kindle app so that for the times where I am sneaking in reading on my phone or my iPad, I could do so, which effectively rules out the Sony eReader and the Nook etc.

The reasons against it – I’m spending money because my willpower sucks. And is getting worse the more iterations of tech I encounter. I’ll admit that the idea of owning an iPad *and* Kindle also comes down to the ‘I wants’. I like the idea of owning a Kindle – it’s not so much a status symbol as another element of geek credentials – it would allow me to edit and work on my ebooks more readily, as that’s one function I’ve discovered as lacking in the Kindle app.
Also, I’d be able to read magazines in electronic format, via Amazon, which is something they’ve effectively kept locked down as a proprietary Kindle feature, if you buy via Amazon. I don’t think you can even read them on your PC, which really, is what’s rankling me most at the moment. I’d love to spend a couple of pounds a month and get my sci-fi mags delivered direct to my desktop/reading device, but right now I can’t because it seems to be ‘Kindle only’.
There’s also the guilt factor – I know I work really hard for what I own – but I’m also highly aware that there are people in the world that would dearly love access to *one* reading device, or to the internet regularly, or don’t even have clean water to drink, or proper food to eat. I mean, I’m the sort of person that sits and cries if I go out and buy new clothes, I feel that guilty. My partner just brought me something I’ve been after since I saw it, a Kinectimal’s collector’s edition. I mean the game is *nice* but I wanted the tiger teddy! And sat and cried when he came in and handed me it this morning.
I’m spoiled and I’m well aware of it – which leads to the guilt of whether I should even get it, or just teach myself more self-control on my iPad. Having had it for roughly six months, I don’t think that’s going to work…..
Anyway, the dilemma. Do I get myself a Kindle, primarily for work sake (both as a writer and as a copywriting business owner) or do I need to look at the inner conflict that my iPad causes me, and learn to read on there instead, and do without e-ink versions of some of my tools (effectively cutting them out of my plans entirely?).  I mean, as it would be for work, I’d be able to write it off as a business expense (yes, I work in a career where reading is prerequisite 😉  Writing novels means books are a business expense!) but on the other hand, it’s not exactly austere, is it?  And it’s not an ‘immediate’ purchase either – it won’t be till later in the month/end of the month minimum, so it’s not as  if I’m buying it on impulse.

Thoughts other than ‘bloomin’ heck girl, grow a pair!’ 😉

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Tech – obsession or relationship?

Tech – obsession or relationship?

iPad with on display keyboard

Image via Wikipedia

I’m into a lot of things, when it comes to tech. Computer based, I’m PC and through choice – it’s not that I don’t *like* Apple, and it’s not the expense, but that most everyone I support, tech wise, is on a PC. It makes sense that I stay on the PC too.
But when it comes to my phone, my tablet? Apple all the way! I’m an iPhone nut, having briefly toyed with the Android (G1), messed with the Blackberry,worked with one or two of the other leading contenders.  I can’t see myself with anything else to be honest.

And I’ve got an iPad too – in part because it’s one of those things that I’ve wanted since it was announced, but also because it works for me.
But I can’t help but wonder where all this tech leaves us – which I guess I have to explore in more than one post – right now I wanted to touch on something I read in the ‘does bad grammar’ post linked at the bottom of this post.

The idea that we refer to our tech as animate instead of inanimate objects (basically, dropping the ‘the’) or considering our tech as persons rather than things isn’t a new idea.  I view my laptop, my desktop, my phone and my tablet as an extension of me – more importantly, I view them as having ‘personalities’, lives and ‘jobs’ of their own.  It’s not as if I’m arguing sentience for them – I’m not – I know they are tools – but they are tools with emotional investment.  I ‘treasure’ my tech in ways I probably shouldn’t.

I have learned in the last few years to separate myself from my tech – for various reasons I could spend days immersed in tech and felt antsy when I wasn’t online because we were on holiday, because I was in hospital – because I was unable to ‘connect’ for whatever reason – my disconnection from ‘my world’ has ironically faded despite my ‘world’ being more portable.  Now, it’s not quite like that, but like every relationship that has shifted, I’ve grown to love my tech.  It’s kinda like the difference between loving and being ‘in love’.  There’s that depth of relationship with my tech – with the tech I guess – it’s more than being connected to the world, though that facet of it makes the relationship more beguiling, but I know, like everything else, I need some space from it – and the rest of my tech sometimes.

What do you think?  Do you consider your tech as inanimate, or do you have an ‘odd’ relationship with what is, effectively, plastic, metal and a touch of electricity?
Blogging for the 30 day blog challenge – you can too!

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