“I really want to start writing my book, but first I need to get a new laptop / create the perfect writing room / free up more writing time…”
Writers often tell me they need certain items or setups before they can start writing their books or stories.
Two of the most common ‘essentials’ I hear are the right office space or computer.
And while I’m a huge fan of crafting the creative conditions that most support us – we can start without them.
They may make life easier and the process more enjoyable – but they’re not essential to begin.
We can agree that it would be heavenly to have an idyllic writing room and all the technology and uninterrupted time that we all crave for our writing.
And – even as we create those things, or wait for them to appear – we can choose to begin where we are, with what we’ve got.
We can still hold that lovely, inspiring vision of our Ideal Writing Conditions.
And we can begin writing now, even before they arrive.
So, if the perfect conditions are on your Writer’s Wish List, pursue them by all means – but remember that you don’t need to wait for them.
If you have a book in you that is calling to be written, you can start now.
And to help you, I’d like to share how you can begin – today – using whatever mobile device you have to hand…
How to begin writing that book. Today.
Obviously, you could begin writing your book using the barest of essentials; paper and pen.
However, with our busy and highly mobile lives, this isn’t always the most practical solution for the modern writer.
(Carting piles of notebooks with you wherever you go could soon take the shine off your writing dreams…)
So, for convenience and ease, we can harness our ever-present tech devices as helpful writing allies.
They can help us plan and outline our books, or even write the whole manuscript.
But which device to use?
It is possible to use a phone or handheld device as a writing partner.
Popular blogger Leonie Dawson began her multi-million dollar business single-finger typing her blog posts on her iPod during the hours she spent feeding her baby.
Man Booker Prize Shortlist author Fiona Mozley wrote her debut novel Elmet on her phone during her daily commute.
Marketing legend Frank Kern claims he never sits down to type a single word for his books – he dictates everything into his phone and has it transcribed.
So, if you have a smartphone, you have all you need to get started on that book.
But whilst it is possible to write your book on your phone, it’s not the ideal tool for extensive typing, crafting or editing.
However, if you have an iPad or tablet, I believe you have the perfect writing partner.
It’s much more ‘typing-friendly’ than a phone, especially if you invest in a keyboard case, yet it’s still portable enough to keep it to hand or carry it with you on your travels.
Having a user-friendly and portable writing device means you’re more likely to catch those inspired ideas that appear during day-to-day activities, and more likely to collect them in your writing projects.
It also means you can quickly and easily dip in and out of your book – this regular attention keeps it in your mind and keeps your creative senses tuned into the project.
Your book doesn’t need to be written in a series of official ‘sitting at writing desk’ sessions.
Books can be created from notes, snippets and inspired musings that grow into chapters, outlines and working drafts.
Books can be built from what starts as a jumble of collected thoughts, ideas that are worked and crafted and edited and polished into a finished, coherent work.
And you can do all of these writing stages on an iPad, anywhere and with any time you have available to devote to your writing.
I wrote my first books using a combination of note-taking on my iPod (a first generation iPod touch that I still use) and my desktop computer that I used for work.
These days though, I prefer not to write at a desk – I write in various spots around the house, as well as in cafes and outdoors.
And ever since I bought a keyboard case for my iPad, I write much more often, more quickly, easily and comfortably – wherever I am or choose to go.
(After much research, I finally chose this one which I love.)
I now find that my iPad, keyboard-case and writing apps are the perfect partners to help me to collect my ideas and to easily keep working on them as I turn them into my next books.
And this seems to be an increasing trend for a number of writers.
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of Rest (and regular traveller) told me that he writes 90% on the iPad now.
“There are still a few things I need a desktop computer for,
but most of the time, with a little planning the iPad
(plus a good keyboard) is all I need.”
So, if you’re postponing that book project until you have the perfect conditions, laptop, office etc… I hope this post will inspire you to use your current devices as writing allies to get you started now.
Then you can start to enjoy some lovely soul-soothing progress with
And to help you see precisely how to create a book using an iPad, here are the apps and the processes I’m using to write my next book.
The iPad apps I’m using to write my next book
I love the Notes app that comes with all apple devices. It’s simple and all I need to jot down those ideas that like to arrive while I’m going about my daily life.
And now that it syncs across my phone and iPad, I use it to both collect and sort my ideas and writing snippets.
I’ve dabbled with other basic note-taking apps but this is the one I always come back to.
• • •
**UPDATE: Wunderlist has been discontinued. I’m currently using its replacement Microsoft To Do for my lists, along with my new find: Trello for outlining. (See picture below.)
List-making can be very soothing for the brain and a good antidote to creative chaos.
I enjoy more calm and creativity when I get all the ‘brain flies’ out of my head and into some coherent order.
So I use my list app for the many different aspects of my life.
But I also find it helpful in organising my ideas and the many To Dos that crop up during any writing project.
I can collect relevant links and articles online and keep them all together in a project list.
I can make a list of all the actions I could take to help with my book ideas.
And I can make a list of chapters, sections and outlines, and then shuffle these around into Idea Buckets and Project Buckets.
This is how my books evolve – not just from dedicated composing, but also from lots of rearranging and developing of threads and ideas.
• • •
Evernote is useful for longer writing sessions.
If I feel inspired to write an entire section or chapter, I’ll open a new Evernote page. (Wunderlist notes are limited in length)
I also like the ability to create notepad stacks in Evernote, so again I can shuffle and sort my collection of notes into coherent sections and chapters, and ultimately, my first completed draft.
(I’m always amazed how books seem to come together all of a sudden! As though they reach a point when the pieces all start working together and everything falls into place. It’s always a good writing day when that happens. 🙂 )
• • •
I’m new to Dropbox paper but I am enjoying how clean and simple it is.
Cloud syncing is essential when you’re an avid note-taker – otherwise, you can become overwhelmed with too many notes and so much chaos that you don’t know where to begin. (So you don’t…)
I speak from experience.
I’m currently using Dropbox paper to collate my polished drafts – so I can clearly see what I’ve got in a good stage of development.
• • •
I use Workflowy for outlining.
After years of searching for an outlining tool that worked for me, I was overjoyed when I discovered WorkFlowy – so much so that I wrote a blog post all about it.
What I love is that it is infinitely zoom-in-and-out-able – meaning I can begin with a general idea, then drill down into more specifics.
For example, I can begin with a book idea, which I can then breakdown into an outline, then I can break each of those points into a chapter and so on…
I can even use it to outline paragraphs so I can be clear on the goal of each section.
I’m finding this a fantastic tool for outlining but I am a nonfiction writer – I don’t know if it would work as well in writing fiction.
If you’re a fiction-writing Workflowy user – I’d love to hear from you. 🙂
• • •
I have been a keen mind mapper for decades.
I used to create paper mindmaps at schools, and then at art college we would do ‘mood boards’ using collage.
These days I mindmap on my iPad using the app from the father of mind mapping – Tony Buzan.
I like to keep it simple – I don’t tend to colour code or use images.
All I use this for is to collect my ideas, brainstorm and get everything out of the spinning loops in my head and onto a virtual page where I can see everything and tease it into some kind of order.
Again, I love that these are infinite and can take off in any direction (like my brain tends to do) and there are no paper edges to limit the flow of ideas.
These mindmaps also serve as useful reference guides when I get lost in the process – I can check back in and see what I was trying to achieve.
Sometimes though, just the act of mind mapping helps to create clarity and spark ideas, even if I never go back to review it.
• • •
And finally, the last stage of my books is to compile all those ideas, all those worked up and edited notes into something that resembles a first draft.
It may seem like my writing goes through a number of processes before it reaches this stage – and sometimes it does, that’s just how I work and how I most enjoy the process.
Of course, it’s entirely possible to write a book using Scrivener alone – I know it includes places for research and supplementary information.
For me though, I like to keep my Scrivener documents clean and clear – the book proper, so to speak.
I like to shape and plot and plan elsewhere, and then when my work makes its way into Scrivener, I am clear on the outline and the premise of the book.
Of course, there’s still the editing to be done and the polishing of future drafts.
But at least by this point, it feels like a book, or a book-in-progress.
• • •
So, that’s the behind-the-scenes process of my book-writing process.
It’s just one way of writing a book on an iPad – you might prefer a different collection of writing apps, but I hope just seeing what’s possible is helpful for you.
And if you’d previously believed that to write your books you’d need better tools or resources, I hope you’ll begin to rethink how you could begin to start making progress right now.
There are many, many ways a book can evolve from idea to first draft.
I’m sharing my process to show how books can be written without the conventional desk time or traditional linear process.
And after many years of testing other methods of writing, composing, crafting etc… I’ve found that this method of capturing, exploring, shuffling and then crafting is the most aligned with the way my mind works.
This may not be the fastest way to write a book, but it ensures the journey is easy and enjoyable (which ensures I write!) – and it keeps the projects moving.
It also has some benefits in bypassing resistance, eg avoiding the paralysis that can occur when you ‘sit down to write your book’.
In other words – it works for me.
I invite you to experiment, cherry-pick, tweak and test until you find what works best for you.
And I hope some of these apps and techniques will spark some new ideas for how you can adapt your writing process so that you can start writing now – and writing more freely and more often.
If you like the idea of writing your next book on your iPad, I hope you’ll play around with these ideas – most of the apps are free, so you can easily try them out to see which ones work best for you and your creative process.
Good luck! And happy writing.
Let me know when you’ve written that book. 🙂