Tools For Masonic Writing

masonic writersRegardless of whether you are writing a blog, a research paper, newsletter or publishing a book, here are some tools and tips that may be quite helpful.

Organizing Your Thoughts and Ideas

One on the hardest things to do in the writing process is to capture your ideas. There are 3 basic apps that I use to capture ideas: Wunderlist, Evernote, and RedNotebook. Wunderlist is a free app that is available for phone (iPhone or Android), tablet, laptop and desktop. It is primarily a to-do list type app but you can use it to organize your thoughts. You can create folders and store items with descriptions for later use. A handy feature of this app is that it saves data to the cloud and it automatically syncs all devices so you can use it anywhere.

Another cloud based app that is almost free is Evernote. This app can also be used on any device and your data is saved to the cloud. The basic package allows up to 60MB a month in storage which is generally sufficient. In Evernote, you can create folders and notes within each folder, adding a little more flexibility than Wunderlist since you can save photos and other media for later reference.

RedNotebook is somewhat different than the other apps. As far as I can tell, this app is not available for phones but can be used on some tablets, laptops, netbooks and desktops with ease. It is more of a journal than a notepad, however it has a unique method of storing and cataloging information. Data can be stored locally but if you want to use it on more than one device you will have to store your files to the Cloud. RedNotebook gives you the option of creating keywords or labels by using hashtags, allowing for easy retrieval with the search tool. Since your data is stored as simple text files by date, the app searches all the entries quickly and accurately. RedNotebook is completely free with no restrictions.

Using The Cloud

Sometimes “stuff” happens and your hard drive will crash and burn or your power goes out and you lose your work. If it’s ever happened to you, you know that it can be frustrating and downright discouraging. Another hazard that you might encounter is the ever present virus that corrupts your files. In recent years I have learned to avoid those possibilities by saving my critical data on the Cloud and backing it up locally as an extra precaution. Some would suggest that I am doing it backwards and should be saving locally and backing up to the Cloud, however, since I access these files from various devices, I like to work with an active copy, rather than a backup.

There are two utilities I like to use to save my critical file, the first is Dropbox and the other is OneDrive. Both of these utilities allow for sharing links or complete files with others. A third utility that I sometimes use for photos and media is Google Drive.

Dropbox allows for 2GB of free storage per account. If you need additional storage you can create additional accounts but that makes it difficult to navigate. It is much better to purchase more space for a nominal fee. You can also get more space by recommending Dropbox to others. Google Drive gives you 15GB of free storage per account with an option to purchase additional space. This should be sufficient unless you are writing an encyclopedia. OneDrive becomes available when you purchase Microsoft Office. When I purchased Office, I bought the 5-license deal so I would have it for all my devices. As a result, I have 1TB of space available for storage. The cost for this is around $95 US per year. This price includes the use of Office on all devices.

When you activate any of these utilities, they install a folder on your device allowing access through Windows Explorer or any software. The storage area is available on your computer as any other folder and you can move files into or out of the Cloud with ease. You can save any document, or media, or just about anything to your Cloud just as easily as saving it to your computer. You can make links available to your individual files or directories for downloading and you can even use these directories to collaborate on a project. When you want to work on your project on any supporting device, all you do is access the file as you would a locally saved file and save it when you’re done. This process is safe and very easy. The only drawback is that you cannot access the files without internet connection.

And Finally, the Actual Writing

About a year ago, I stumbled across a writing management type program called Scrivener. After playing with it for a couple of weeks, I was amazed at its flexibility. The software was developed by Literature & Latte and was designed for any type of writer. Whether you are a linear writer (from start to finish) or a random writer (whatever pops into your head – like me) or anything in between, Scrivener is for you.

The functionality of the software is so extensive so I will only cover a few items in this post. Scrivener has a 30 free trial download so you can play with it for that period and decide for yourself. If you choose to purchase a license, I believe it is still $40 US. Don’t be discouraged when you see the interface. My suggestion is that you take a look at some of the instructional videos on YouTube before you blow it off.

Scrivener is available for Mac or Windows PC and it is my understanding that there is an iPhone app with Android under development. I haven’t looked at either since writing on a phone is not my style. I would much rather be sitting on my porch with a laptop, great cigar, and a cup of coffee, but that is fodder for another post.

The interface is split into 3 screens: binder, writing/outline, and inspector. The center screen is also used to organize your thoughts on a cork board. When you have an idea for a topic or subtopic, you create an index card with a title and brief description. You might consider your topics as chapters or sections and your subtopics as sections or parts of the main chapter. By viewing them on the cork board, you can visualize the entire project and move cards as you choose.

When you move any of the index cards it automatically makes the adjustment in the binder section of the interface. The binder section is similar to looking at a Windows Explorer view of your project. You can also use it to move sections and subsections as you choose. The binder is divided into 3 parts: manuscript or draft (these terms are used interchangeably depending on the template you are using), references, and trash. You can drag anything to the trash folder, however it is not connected to your computer recycle bin and is saved in your project until you manually delete it. The Reference folder is the place that you can store documents, media, URLs, or just about anything that you refer to as you work on your project. One advantage of Scrivener is that you can split the screen and actually view your reference material while you write. This eliminates the need for opening and toggling between windows.

The Inspector section on the far right of the screen allows you to make notes and reminders about a topic or subtopic or change the description on an index card without opening the cork board. These is a tab that will actually use the text in the section for the description on the index card if you are on the lazy side. There is also a snapshot feature that allows you to save different versions of the same section in the case you want to undo a deletion or change.

The center pane is the writing area where you enter your actual text. Scrivener allows you to break your writing project into smaller projects and then has a feature where you can view multiple sections or files in the same screen, with the added feature of being able to edit any one of those files in either screen. The writing screen is just like any word processor and has the functionality of MS Word.

Finally, Scrivener has a compile feature that enables you take your entire manuscript and produce it in various formats: PDF/printing, text/MS Word, Open Office, HTML, eBook (mobi & ePub), to name a few. The end result will be a perfect project every time. Scrivener also can create a format that you can upload into Amazon Create Space with little or no editing.

And for all you control freaks, there is even a production goal setting function that allows you to set word or time goals on your writing. Say that you are writing a 50,000 word non-fiction book. You can set your daily production at 2,000 words and complete your project in under a month. A little green bar flashes when you achieve your goal. If the red bar flashes, that means that you are procrastinating so beware!

and, Finally (really)

There is a science to the creative process. Don’t sell yourself short. All you need is an idea and a desire to create a masterpiece. Even though your story may have been told before, you can add something to it that has never been said and can never be told without you. Your project may appear to be a monumental task but you can use the tools described above to break it down into small, achievable parts. Remember, Zig Zigler said that you can eat an elephant one bite at a time.

Start now – we are waiting to read your story.


About leader

District Deputy Grand Master Saratoga-Warren District 1998-2000; Grand Lodge Leadership Services Committee; Leadership Development Course Coordinator; Vice Chairman Grand Master's Educational Task Force; Vice Chairman Grand Lodge Child ID Committee; District Deputy Grand High Priest 14th Capitular District; Grand Master of the 1st Veil 2010; Grand Master 2nd Veil 2011; Grand Master 3rd Veil 2012 Grand Royal Arch Captain 2013 Grand Principal Sojourner 2014 Grand Captain of the Host 2015 Warren County Historical Society Board of Trustees; Queensbury Masonic Historical Society Charter Member; State Chairman Lodges & Buildings Committee Deputy Grand Master's Advisory Committee
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