Posts Tagged ‘mind maps’

Writing is a craft, and writers need the right tools to write a book that builds their brand. Here are some of the high-tech and low-tech tools you can use to write your book as efficiently as possible.

Low-tech tools

Simple tools can be very effective. For example, one of the most important is a 3-ring binder, a supply of 3-hole punched paper, and a couple of packages of tab dividers. This will make it easy for you to consolidate print-outs of everything associated with your book in one handy location.

I recommend choosing a binder with plastic inserts on the front and along the spine. This allows you to create a cover and spine identifying the notebook. The spine is especially important if you will be placing your 3-ring notebook in a bookshelf. I recommend a 2 ½ or 3-inch binder; smaller binders won’t have the capacity you need, larger binders are awkward to handle.

Choose a package of blank tab dividers that you can use for making it easy to locate your book proposal, table of contents, and documents such as your publisher’s writer’s guidelines. Choose a set of numbered tab dividers to use indicating print-outs of each chapter of your book.


Another recommended low-tech tool is a simple clipboard which you can use to bring home worksheets and print-outs. The clipboard keeps things organized, and provides a solid working surface for taking notes or filling out worksheets in your car, while watching TV, or reviewing your next day’s writing goals in bed.

Google calendar

As mentioned before in my previous post – How to make time to write your book, I highly recommend authors use an online calendar, like Google’s, to set aside time for working on your book each day. The advantage of an online calendar is that you can access it from any online computer, and you can share it with co-workers and family, letting them know when you’re not going to be available. You can also print-out daily or weekly views of your time commitments and writing goals, and save the current week’s printout in your 3-ring binder.

High-tech tools (Software recommendations)

Here are some suggestions for software that can help you save time while working on your book.

  1. ŸMind mapping software. Mind mapping software, available from numerous vendors, permits you to visually display your book’s table of contents or your marketing plan. You can collapse mind maps to show just the top-level topics (i.e., chapters or marketing activities for individual month), or you can expand mind maps to reveal the details associated with specific chapters or projects. After you’re through, you can export your work to word processing, project management, or presentation software programs. Be sure to visit the comprehensive Product Directory at Chuck Frey’s Mind Mapping Software Blog.
  2. Keystroke substitution software. Productivity software programs like Buzz Bruggerman’s ActiveWords save you time by eliminating unnecessary typing. For example, let’s say the title of your book is Looking Good in Print: A Guide to Basic Design for Desktop Publishing. Wow! That’s 69 characters! With ActiveWords, however, all you have to do is enter LGIP and the words are automatically inserted, saving you 65 characters! You can use ActiveWords to load and exit programs, address e-mail, insert boilerplate, and enter passwords. Best of all, your keyboard shortcuts are available throughout all of your Windows software programs. Download a free 60-day trial or read more here.
  3. Speech recognition software. Speed recognition software, like Nuance’s Dragon Naturally Speaking Solutions, eliminates the need to type every word of your book. Indeed, you can use your voice to open files, launch applications, dictate, and surf the web. You can also use it to transcribe ideas and short chapter segments typed into a digital voice recorder while stopped at traffic lights.

Mastery of word processing program

You likely have a word processing software program, but, Are you using it as effectively as you could? In my experience, few authors take full advantage of the tools already available in Microsoft Word. Here are a few examples of Word features that are typically under-used:

  1. Tables. I’ve created several worksheets based on tables to make it easy for clients to brainstorm and organize their book’s table of contents. With a 3-column table, for example, you can use Column 1 for Sections, Column 2 for Chapter titles, and Column 3 for the main ideas associated with each chapter.
  2. Sort. Word’s Table>Sort feature allows you to sort lists and tables on up to 3 variables, i.e., Column 1, Column 2, and then, Column 3.
  3. Keyboard shortcuts. You can create a highly efficient writing environment by using Word’s existing keyboard shortcuts to execute most commands, and you can also create your own keyboard shortcuts. I use keyboard shortcuts to apply text formatting to subheads, lists, and body copy. This allows me to format text without taking my hand off the keyboard and reaching for the mouse.

Here’s where you can take a free online assessment to test your knowledge of Word’s writing tools.

An invitation

The above just barely scratches the surface of the tools that efficiency-oriented authors and business owners use to write more in less time. There are hundreds more, most of which can be tried out for free. What’s your favorite writing tool? Which high-tech or low-tech tools do you use to get the most writing done in the least time? Share your suggestions as comments, below. We can all benefit from each other’s willingness to share our favorite efficiency tips and tools.