I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Friday, July 27, 2012

My Secret Weapons and Gadgets

I admit it, I have secret weapons.

Every writer does. We have gadgets and new fangled things that help us make writing more productive, accurate and hopefully easier.

Here are six of my most used and favorite resources:

And no, it's not the thesaurus or dictionary. Although  the link should take you to a pretty good one online.

Check your story’s date. Chances are, you’re writing either in the past or future, but not in the right now. In order to keep the timeline of your story in order, you need to keep documentation. That’s where your calendar comes in. You can go to several websites where you plug in the year your story is written in and then you can print out the entire year calendar. I recommend printing out one month per page like an actual calendar. Write in the spaces what each character did and when. Even if it never makes it into the story.  

You can also print out calendars that will tell you when the full moons and new moons are as well as sunrise and sunset for that time of year. This lends a bit more authenticity to your tale. Especially for you historical writers out there.

What about the area where your story takes place. Does it really have hills or is it flat?

Google Earth is a free gadget that uses current (within 3 years) satellite photos. Be careful with this one. Some bodies of water or other landmarks did not come into being until the 20th century so you still need to do your homework on historical sites for that city and state.

  I got this tip from writer DiAnne Mills when she wrote her Leather and Lace historical romance. All kinds of info can be gleaned from this source and if your library does not carry it and you like to write historicals, you can pick up a set for around $200 on E-bay for a 26 volume set.

I have a site I use to calculate what something was worth then compared to now and vice versa. It helps when you're trying to figure out how much your hero would have paid for that ring back in 1855. Or how much that horse would be worth by today's standards.

5. Civil War Archives
I write historicals and for that authentic feel, I like to browse letters of soldiers so I can get a feel for the language of the times, as well as movement of troops etc. There's a lot of info here that good people took thousands of hours to document.

6. Words of the Times
No matter what timeline you write in, chances are you want to put expressions into the character's mouth that by etymology research, they could not have said. At least in that way. A good Etymology source should be open on your desktop at all times for quick reference. Why? Because like other kinds of research, we have some pretty smart readers out there who will know.

Okay, I've given you my top 6 now what's yours?

ginger r. takamiya


  1. Absolutely awesome post, Ginger! Such practical suggestions. Why didn't I already think of them? duh! lol

    I do use a large desk calendar for my stories since they usually take place within a week or so.

  2. Oh cool, fun tools!

    The secret weapons I'm going to mention aren't as story-related, but they certainly help with my focus:

    -Freedom--a software (only costs $10) that allows me to turn off my Internet (without having to mess with modem, router, etc) for however long I want so I can totally focus. Love it.

    -My iPhone Timer with the elephant alarm--don't know why, but I love that elephant alarm. And it's motivating to me to set a timer and force myself to write, write, write like crazy until the time runs out and elephant blares. :)

  3. Love your secret weapons, Ginger! I've been doing the calendar for my contemporary in my head. I think I'll follow your example and print it out and write on it. And Google Earth--never thought of using that. Great idea!

    I use You Tube to find how certain things are done. Watching it is oh, so helpful for this visual girl. :) Dancing, laying hard wood floors, you know. :)

  4. Great tips, Ginger.

    The calendar is one of my favorite tools as well. At the beginning of a new year I stock up on free calendars from stores, banks, etc & use them for tracking timelines.

    A gadget I can't do without is my laser printer. I found it's far more cost effective to print from a laser than inkjet--you can usually find an inexpensive printer at office supply stores, and the toner usually lasts a few thousand pages.

    Another tool I use is WordPerfect. I don't type of manuscripts using it (anymore), but its thesaurus is more extensive than Word's or what you find online.

  5. I love your secret weapons, Ginger!

    I write contemporaries and one "gadget" I'd add is weather. Besides the calendar and knowing the phases of the moon, I google the weather in the area of the country so I know if it's rainy, sunny, cold or hot. I like knowing what my characters feel for that season.

    Thanks for this great post!

  6. Interestingly enough, I discovered one of my favorite secret weapons earlier this month, when the power supply on my computer failed. Ten days without my primary computer, where most of my files are stored.

    What secret weapon did I discover?

    First, pen and paper and easy chair. I've written countless pages by hand in the days since that failed power supply. I still write daily in this old fashioned way even though the computer is back online now.

    Second, the power switch on said computer. Some days, I just don't turn the computer on!

  7. My secret weapons:
    Google (like you)
    I especially like the images, which helps me find just the kind of Jeep my hero and heroine drive (yep, they are both into Jeeps), or the kind of clothes they wear, or what kind of furniture they have ...
    Catalogs are good for this too ...
    Pinterest is also great for browsing clothes and furniture and places ...

  8. Wow, you ladies have some great secret weapons. It's exciting to add to my list. Would love to see another post on this, *hint hint* :)

  9. Great post, G! I loved it. M-Tagg, I totally relate to the elephant, except my alarm is quacking ducks! So funny.

    Love, love, love it, G!

  10. Love those tools G!
    My secret weapon? Hiding. Seriously, if they can't reach me..either visually or by phone or email, I can write! :-)

  11. These are great! I'll be checking them out! Thanks for sharing.

  12. Great tips. Thanks!

    I just started using a calendar earlier this year. I got confused on my time frame and grabbed the closest calendar. Later my husband took the thing and flipped through it and stopped at October. He said he had no idea what I did to October and was afraid to ask.

    My other trick is not to answer the phone.

    Thanks again!

  13. Thanks again ladies for all your wonderful tips. I learned a thing or too as well :) Love his community!