Guest Post: 5 Apps for Writers

I would like to thank Charlotte Rains Dixon for having this guest post on I find her to be a phenomenal writer with a lot of wisdom to impart on her readers. In addition, the website is fantastic and I would recommend this article on basic writer mistakes, because it is important to review the fundamentals every once in a while. (Editor's note: I did not pay her to say this, I swear!)

Depending on your niche, freelance writing can be a very competitive career path or an extremely competitive career path. Either way, you need every edge you have that is coming out and that means to be a successful freelance writer these days you need to be in the know when it comes to apps and technology.

One of the benefits of having the smartphone you almost certainly need for your career is its customizability and versatility. Has your smartphone replaced your notebook and pen? Has your smartphone even replaced your laptop in certain instances?

Phone in hand

Here are 5 apps you should be using to make sure that you have the technological advantage in your freelancing career:


One of the best calendar and to-do list applications out there, TeuxDeux is great for freelance writers that have a lot of trouble organizing their busy lives and managing their deadlines. This app is probably the closest to pen and paper out there, and editing tasks is easy and moving them around is even easier.

This app is useful for the freelance writers who merely want to get other aspects of their lives under control as well, as the recurring tasks feature allows you to set up weekly tasks for yourself (for example taking out the trash or doing laundry). Great for carving out a balance between work and other things in your life, or for managing time and making personal business decisions.

Advanced English Dictionary and Thesaurus

Not too much needs to be said about the Advanced English Dictionary and Thesaurus app, as the value of a good dictionary is self-evident. While you can always look online for words, with this application you won’t have to worry if you can’t get a connection. Another bonus is that you won’t have to deal with ads, and this app goes a great deal deeper than most thesauruses out there. This is great to have by your side when writing on paper.


Evernote is probably the best note-taking app out there in general, considering the great range of ways you can put notes into your device. In addition, writers will like that the account can sync up from anywhere you input information. This way, you won’t have to fish around for information you wrote on your phone late at night in a moment of inspiration when using your laptop. It even allows for alarms and different file types other than text.

While there are subscription options out there which allow for greater data usage within the app, a lot of users won’t need to bother with them and just stick to the basic application. Even if the limit is met for some users, the premium options are not all that expensive.


If you are a freelance writer you will at some point deal with client data that is sensitive and should not be released to the public. If this data were compromised it would cost you the client and a good deal of your reputation, not to mention the time you already spent on the project. In addition to this, your own personal data is just as important to maintain your brand and your financial stability.

To protect this sensitive data, you are going to want to get a Virtual Private Network application on your smartphone. It will connect your smartphone to a secure server via an encrypted connection and guard you when you use public networks (where your important data is most vulnerable). In addition to this, it will mask your location data and your browsing to anyone who wants to take a look at what you are doing or any website with regional restrictions. This can be extremely beneficial to a journalist or a travel writer of any sort.


WordPress has a mobile app, and of course you should be using it if you have a blog. You should most certainly have a blog. It is a way that you as a writer can connect with an audience all your own and a hub that people who are interested in your work can travel to in order to find your other work.

While no app is perfect compared to the website that it is based on due to the limitations of a smartphone, you can expect a great deal of options from the WordPress application. In fact, you won’t really be slowed down much at all other than having to deal with a smaller screen than you are normally used to and your typing speed on a smartphone. This is an absolute recommendation for any serious freelance writer.


Thank you for reading, and keep on writing!

CassieCassie Phillips is a technology enthusiast and blogger. She enjoys writing about all kinds of technology and gadgets but has a special interest in internet security.

Do you use any of these apps?  Have any other favorites?

Writers, What's On Your Christmas List This Year? 25 Items to Add

Santa_Saint_Nick_265629_lAnd now, suddenly it is Christmas.  

I'm not complaining--I love this time of year.  Love, love, love it.  (And, weather gods, I'd love it even more if we got some snow this winter.  Just sayin.)  It just seems like only yesterday was Halloween. And Thanksgiving, as always, is gone in a flash of turkey and stuffing.

So here we are, in the first week of December in a very short Christmas shopping season.  Perhaps you, as a writer, are looking for some ideas to put on your Christmas list?  I have just the ideas for you. Because I am of the opinion that the best gifts are sometimes the most subtle, I've included a mixed bag of things to ask Santa for.  You'll see what I mean.  Let's dive in.

1.   Focus.  This is number one on my list this year.  I want to hone my ability to focus intently on my writing.  Without focus, the writing doesn't get done.

2.   Patience. You'll need lots of it to stick with making a writing life.  It doesn't happen overnight.

3.   Moleskine journals.  My favorites, bar none.  

4.   An old Thesaurus.  You might have to buy this for yourself.  Though I now often rely on the online thesaurus for a quick idea, I adore my ancient Roget's which is an old-style (I'm sure there's a name for it, but I don't know what it is) thesaurus in that you first look up the word in the back and it leads you to entries in the front.  Between the two sections of the book, your mind will be blown with all the word choices it contains.

5.   A Get Your Writing in Gear session.  Jump start your writing!

6.   Index cards (Great stocking stuffers.) Perfect for stashing in your pocket on a walk, using to storyboard a plot, or keep a stack by your computer to grab for a quick note.  Some people use them for research, too.

7.   Books about craft and creativity.  Two I've liked this year are the Wonderbook and the Creative Compass. Read more about them here.

8.   Books like the one you're writing.   If you're writing a novel, read novels.  Writing a memoir, read memoirs.  Writing short stories--you guessed it, read short stories.  Read as many of them as you can--inhale them.  There's no better way to learn to write than to read, read, read.

9.   Pilot G-2 pens.  (Another great stocking stuffer.) I prefer the purple ones, but this multi-colored pack is a doozy.  

10. A digital recorder.  I love my little Sony, and use it for interviews all the time.   Also useful for capturing ideas when driving or walking.  There's a gazillion fancy (and expensive) models of these babies, I chose a simple one because, well, I'm not very tech minded.

11. A stack of spirals.  Because, if you're like most writers, you need a ton of them. 

12. Enthusiasm.  Gotta keep the enthusisam for the work going! Christmas_ornament_green_268996_l

13. Coaching.  Get help, motivation and support for you writing.  Check out my coaching page here for more information.

14. Energy.  Yeah, I know, you sit at your computer all day.  But exercising the brain takes a surprising amount of energy.  You'll need a constant supply of it.

15. Guided meditation CDs or downloads.  Every writer needs a mental break once in awhile. As a matter of fact, why not take one right now?  You can get a bunch of free podcasts and downloads here.  And, if you have a wealthy benefactor, ask for the Dreamweaver app from Deepak Chopra. 

16. A writer's retreat.  France, anyone?  I'm leading a week-long workshop/retreat in Pezenas this year, wouldn't it be fun to join in?  Learn more here.

17. Post-it notes.  (Your stocking is going to be bulging with useful items).  I cannot live without these. I also adore their cousins, the little colorful taggy things you can use to mark places and so forth.  

18. An office-supply store gift certificate.  Choose someplace elegant and cool like Levenger. (Levenger catalog=writer porn.)

19. Passion. A prerequisite for all writing, not just the romance variety.

20. A coffee mug.  No, don't ask for one!  If your house is like mine, mugs breed like rabbits behind closed doors.  It doesn't help that my husband has an incurable thing for buying mugs everywhere he goes.

21.  A fountain pen.  I love me a beautiful fountain pen.  So much fun to write with one.

22. A new computer.  Yeah, you can dream big.

23. Ink.  Whether for the afore-mentioned fountain pen (it comes in crazy colors) or just for the work-horse printer.  

24. A tablet.  Not the kind with wide-ruled lines that little kids write with pencils on, the electronic kind.  I love my Ipad mini, and I have my eye on the Surface for more serious work.

25.  A book to help you with your fear of writing.  Try Milli Thornton's book.  And read more about her 10K day for writers here.

Okay, beloved readers, those are my suggestions for the writer's Christmas list this year.  What do you have on yours?

Santa photo by LeoSynapse; tree photo by mammuth.  Both from everystockphoto.

The Writer's Notebook(s)

Storage-44155-mI am a total nerd for office supplies, and my most favorite kind are notebooks--spirals, perfect-bound journals, and binders, big, medium and little.  You name it, if you can write on it and its bound together in some form, I love it.

Part of this love, I'm certain, is because notebooks are tangible.  They exist.  They are real.  You can point to them as an object in this world--which is far different from the place I usually live, which is in my head, in worlds that don't exist until I put them on the page.

(Brief aside: I'm in LA staying with my friend Suzanne who bakes gluten-free goodies for a living. Helping her do even the most tedious of tasks, like washing dishes or boxing crackers, is actually fun for me because it is working with the tangible.)

I've always got a gazillion notebooks of various kinds going, and the thought occurred to me to write about them.   I've always loved the idea of the main character in Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook, who keeps many notebooks as a symbol of her fractured mind. By the end of the novel, she's healed herself and keeps only one notebook--the golden notebook. Or so I hear.  I've never actually made it all the way through the damn lovely book.   I will never, ever be able to consolidate all my notebooks (I have three of them here with me on this trip) into one.  To wit:

Types of Writer's Notebooks I Have Been Known to Keep.

1.  The journal.  Duh.  That place where you put everything and anything, where you explore private thoughts and ideas related to your writing. (Unless, like me, you reach a point where you're writing so much about your writing project that you create a dedicated notebook for it.  See below.)I have 5, maybe even more like 10, huge tubs of journals that I've filled over the years.  I'm actually planning to dispose of them all soon--but that's a topic for another post.

2. The novel notes notebook.  (Or memoir notebook, or whatever you are working on.)  This is the place where I jot notes about ideas that occur to me, where I line out scenes, write snippets of dialogue, etc.  I cannot live without a notebook dedicated to my novel.  I'm five chapters into a new novel, and I've already almost filled up one steno pad notebook full of notes.  I find myself flipping through it often to remind myself of ideas about themes, characters, settings, and scenes.

3. The novel free writing notebook.  (I know, this is getting ridiculous.  Please bear in mind I'm very right-brained, which should already be obvious.)  This is a bigger spiral notebook in which I have more room to do free writes related to the novel.  I find if I keep the free writes and the notes all together in the same notebook, they tend to get lost.

4.  The daily log.  When I'm working on a big project, I like to keep a daily log.  This is a simple word count tally, along with a note about which chapter I'm working on.  It's great for when you think you haven't been accomplishing much, because you can look back over it and see what you have gotten done.  At the moment, since I'm getting a lot of notebooks going (ya think?) I keep this in the back of #2.

5.  A three-ring binder.  This is handy for printed out chapters, if you like to do that, or I put the critiqued manuscripts from my writing group in there.  It can also be used for research, images of the characters (if you've not done a vision board) whatever you find useful.  It's a place to corral things that have gone beyond the note stage.

6.  The carry-around notebook.  Holy crap, I nearly forgot this one. I always carry around a mini-spiral, or something that's easy to stash in my purse.  (In a pinch, I make notes on my phone.)  This is handy for ideas, brilliant thoughts, recipes, overheard dialogue, notes in church or meetings or lectures.  

Okay, that's it, I swear.  What kind of writer's notebooks do you keep?

Some other posts on this topic:

8 Essential Tools for Book Writing

The Writer's Notebook: Loving Moleskines

Writing Notebooks

Image by ppdigital.

Two Crucial Writing Tools

Sometimes the tools I use as a writer are so integral to my work that it doesn't occur to me to write about them.

Even though writing about writing is part of what I do.

Tool Number One: The Book Journal

Case in point: On Saturday, the local writing group I co-lead hied ourselves off to a mountain cabin for a snowy (yay) day-long mini-retreat.  (Thanks, Renee, for the use of your wonderful place.)  In the course of our discussions that day, the idea of keeping a journal or some kind of notebook in which to write about your novel (not on it) came up.

And apparently, I was the only one who did this.  Which flabbergasted me, because I could not live without this tool.  I'm constantly scribbling notes about my characters, plot, setting and so on.  Thoughts I have when I wake up in the middle of the night but don't have time to put into play.  An idea for the end of the story.  And so on.

Let me repeat: I could not live without some kind of notebook to corrall ongoing ideas for my novel. But it's so much a part of my process I never think about mentioning it.  I just thought everyone did this.

If you don't do this, I recommend you start.   You'll find it a wonderful way to get your brilliance out of your mind and onto paper when you don't have time to actually work on your book.  Along the same lines, another thing I sometimes do is open a "notes file" on the computer in which to dump ideas about a project.  This might work as well or better for you.

By the way, John Steinbeck kept journals about his ongoing writing projects. You can read about one of them here on Amazon.

So that's tool number one.

Tool Number Two: The Hold File

This tool also came out in discussion on Saturday: the hold file.   I create one for each project and label it as such: Hold for Blue Sky, Hold for Emma Jean, and so on.  Then, when I delete something I copy and paste it to the hold file.  This is handy in case you want to put something you deleted back in.

Though mostly that never happens.  But what does happen is that the hold file allows you to feel okay about deleting stuff, because you know that should you mourn that fabulous sentence too much, you can always retreive it.  I'm working on revising an old short story and I've cut five pages from it--all of which are safely stored in my hold file so that I can access them when I panic.

So those are my two crucial tools that it never occurs to me to mention.  What are yours?  Tell us about them in the comments--it helps other writers so much.

Tool For Writers: Attentional Training

I'm finishing up Uncertainty, the book by Jonathan Fields, and last Friday, after I wrote about Everystockphoto_172114_mprocess visualization, I promised a post with another tip that'll help with your creativity.  That tip is attentional training.

As mentioned earlier, Fields likes to give fancy names to things we've all heard of and are familiar with. 

Thus, attentional training = meditation. 

Or similar activities.  Or, as Fields puts in, "techniques that create certain psychological and physiological changes in your body and brain."  Like I said, meditation.

What captured my attention (hahaha, funny pun) was his discussion of active AT.  What, pray tell, is that?  He says "This is how the vast majoritiy of people get their AT in," and further, that many people engage in this kind of AT without even realizing it.  For instance, when you're painting, or playing music, or knitting, or engaged in sports.  The hallmarks of active AT are:

--a repetitive, deliberate activity that does not require constant attention (I'm way synopsizing here)

--an activity driven by novelty, speed or intense bursts of concentration.

I'm way good at the first kind of active AT, such as knitting or sewing or weeding, all that repetitive motion stuff.  And I've been advocating it as a route to creativity for years.  There's just something about the repeated motions that jars ideas loose from the brain.  I can't tell you how many times I've stood up from the computer, done for the day, and picked up my knitting, only to rush back to the computer because of the rush of images that suddenly flood my mind.  Other activities in this category are running and biking.

The other kind of AT that Fields discusses is mindfulness AT, things like meditation, in all its various forms (including zazen, insight, mantra, and so on).  Over the last few decades, there have been studies galore that sing the praises of meditation for its mindfulness properties.  Here's the deal about it: you do it just for the sake of doing it, but the benefits of it are legion.  Because the more you train yourself to sit in meditation and empty the brain, the easier it is to sit and focus on your writing.  And its good for your state of mind and your body as well, but who cares about that crap as long as it benefits the writing? 

I like meditation because it gives me a break from the ongoing and exhausting rushing craziness of my story.  Now, I'm the first to venerate the power of story, but when I'm caught up in my crappy story, the stuff I've told myself over and over again so many times I want to vomit, it doesn't feel very powerful or uplifting.  So getting a break from it is pretty wonderful.

And let me just offer up the single most important thing I've learned about meditation: even if you're lousy at it, however you're doing it helps.  I used to think that people who meditated didn't deal with the mind chatter that assails me.  But they do.  And that is why we meditate.  To quiet the mind chatter so that we can listen--and hear the still small voice within, or perhaps the voice of God, giving us marching orders.  The key is to keep at it.  Even when your mind chatter interrupts you a million times in the five minutes you've given yourself to meditate.  Even when you think its not helping.  Because it is.  And it gets easier. 

Do you practice meditation?  Or any kind of active AT?  How do you feel it benefits your writing?

***Another great way to foster creativity is to make a vision board for your book or writing project.  Download my free ebook to find out more, just fill out the form to the right of this post and you'll also receive a free subscription to my bi-weekly newsletter, The Abundant Writer.

Photo by keithcr, from Everystockphoto.

Tools For Writers: Process Visualization

I'm almost finished reading Uncertainty, by Jonathan Fields.  The sub-title is: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance.  Make no mistake about it, this book is about creativity.  I'm gleaning some good stuff from it, and one reason I love it is that Fields mentions stuff I've been doing (and writing about) for years and gives them actual names.  That same propensity for naming and categorizing is actually probably my main dislike of the book, too, just because I tend to be a loosey-goosey type when it comes to creativity.  But that's a minor quibble.

I want to share a couple of these techniques with you, one today, and one on Monday. 

Today's technique is something Fields calls process visualization. 

Fields says that traditional visualization is not good for the early stages of a creative project because that's when there's a lot of uncertainty, and attempting to pull your brain into line at this point does more harm than good.  He calls this kind of traditional visualization outcome stimulation.  Its when you create a specific picture of an outcome in your brain and visualize it often.  Key word here is outcome.

But when you switch it up and focus on process visualization, crazy good things can happen, and this apparently has science to back it up.  What you do is visualize yourself writing.  (Or painting, or creating a business, whatever your creative idea is about.)  So, if you want to get up early and work on your Nanowrimo novel, you see yourself happily opening your eyes to the alarm, getting out of bed, grabbing your coffee, and getting right to work.  The words flow easily and well for you and you complete your quota and get on with your day.

I've actually done this off and on for years.  I remember reading about it in a book on writing (minus the fancy name) back when I struggled to have courage to put words on paper.  I tried it with success and have returned to it whenever I've had a difficult time motivating myself.  So I urge you to put it in your toolbox and consider pulling it out when need be.

A note about visualization in general: as you might have noticed, I offer a free Ebook on creating a vision board for your book.  (It is yours for the taking, all you have to do is fill out the form to the right.)  So you might be wondering how that jibes with the whole visualization thing.

The kind of visualizing Fields says he doesn't like is the type where you envision the finished project.  I think there's a place for that, definitely, and it thinking about having your novel done and in the bookstores can spur you on to get it done.  What I advocate in my Ebook, however, is using a vision board as a way to gather and coalesce ideas and images that will help you throughout the process of writing the book.  It is an process of opening up, not closing down.

So, tell me.  Do you ever use process visualization in your work?  With what results?

And by the way, don't forget my upcoming class on gathering ideas and using them to set goals.  Read more about it here.

PS.  Sorry for the lack of a photo.  I've been battling a headache all week and I just don't have it in me to go look for one.  Hey, here's an idea--you can visualize your own image to accompany the post!