I still consider myself a newbie at this writing fiction thing, so I'm still discovering what tools work best for me and what tools are out there in the tech world. So I figured I'd share what I've learned so far.
My favorite non-tech tools are these little spiral bound notebooks that I get from tech conferences. Some of them have pages with perforated edges, making them easy to remove when desired. Couple those with my plethora of ringed binders that I've accumulated over the years – most sized like a Franklin Classic daily planner – that are perfect fits for the notebook pages. I can jot down notes wherever I am, no power required. The con with this tool is that I have notes for my various books kind of scattered about my house, trucks, and various laptop bags. This necessitates an organizing binge every few months as I look for a note that I know I have somewhere around that's relevant to the scene I'm currently working on.
Other favorite non-tech tools include some really nice notebooks that are similar to the Moleskin ones you see in Target now. And Post-It notes. I feel in love with Post-It notes when they first came out and were only available in yellow. I can jot a quick note down and stick it pretty much anywhere, but then I loop back around to the same issue I run into with notebooks in general.
White boards are a favorite among every IT geek I know. They're great for jotting down lists of things you need to work on and organize your thoughts. Problem is, once erased, your information is lost.
I love my BlackBerry. In the IT world that makes me a bit of a dinosaur, but I don't care. I really love the keyboard on my BlackBerry and can effectively make notes and lists with just one hand. My favorite app on my phone is it's MemoPad. I have several notes in there already and better yet, BlackBerry devices come with the Desktop Manager software that allows me to backup ALL of the data from my BlackBerry to my PC. And I can transfer it to another BlackBerry device if I wish.
On my Windows 7 boxes, and my SUSE Linux boxes, I love the StickyNotes apps. StickyNotes showed up first in the Linux world and I fell in love immediately. How cool to be able to pull up a virtual StickyNote, jot down some info, and place it somewhere on your screen, or close the app but not lose the data. In Windows 7, not only can you drag the notes around on the screen, stack them on top of each, but you can change the colors. This helps me keep track of notes for my different book series. For instance, Jess gets Purple, Collie gets Green, The Scot gets Yellow, Merie gets Pink, and my blog post notes get White.
The only problem with the StickyNotes on Windows 7 is that most backup solutions won't copy it because it doesn't reside in the Documents folder, and many users have no idea where the little data file is stored. That means, if you're machine has to be re-imaged (i.e. Windows has to be installed from scratch) you may lose that data. The good news is that all of your StickyNotes is in one little file and it can simply be copied to an external drive, USB stick, or CD; take your pick. The file name is StickyNotes.snt and it sits in the c:\Users\curentusername\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft (where currentusername is who you log in as).
iPads and other tablets have a plethora of freebie notepad type applications. I don't use my iPad often for writing as the virtual keyboard and I have some “issues”. There is the default notepad that comes with the iPad which works fine, but I also like Bamboo Paper. The caveat on Bamboo Paper is that it's designed for right handed writers, not “lefties”. There are a ton of free and paid for apps out there and it really comes down to personal preferences. Check out the reviews and be prepared to try out several ones to find the one you want. But rest assured, you can find a nice freebie somewhere.
For my actual word processor, I prefer LibreOffice. It has a very simple interface, can read mutliple formats and has a word count formula that closely matches NaNoWriMo. It can also export into a multitude of formats, including PDF. Better yet, it's free.
Several of the GRRWG members are using Scrivener, and others are using WriteWay (hope I have that name correct). Scrivner provides you with a organizational tool that can help you organize your novel while keeping track of your various notes and research pieces. I just checked and you can currently pick it up for $40 USD. Or, you can run the free trial and see if you really like it first. Scrivner is also available for Mac OS/X. I'm currently running the trial on Windows.
There are several websites available out there for writers, such as www.writing.com, that allow you to post your writing to the world at large. I haven't used my account since I started my blog. I find it's just too much to keep track of.
Speaking of too much to keep track of, I found this nice freebie site a year or two ago that lets you keep track of your agent letters, who you've contacted, read reviews on agents that you may be considering, and offer reviews on agents you've contacted. The www.QueryTracker.net site is free to use and quite simple to get around. There are other free sites out there as well. Do a little research to find one that may fit your style.
One last thing to check into is Kaspersky's ONE Universal Security package. For the cost of one license you can cover up to 5 devices, including smartphones, Windows PCs, Macs, and Android Tablets. Considering how much hacking is going on these days, it's a good idea to have all of your devices covered. I use this at home to protect our phones and multitude of PCs. Now if they'd just cover my iPad.
So, there's my $5 worth of my favorite tools. Hope this helps someone.