When I imagined myself being a professional author, I thought I would be sitting around all day  in my velvet dressing gown with my fountain pen and posh notebook, writing reams of perfect words in a Jane Austen type way. Of course in 2018, life isn’t like that at all.

Even though I do still write with a fountain pen (Lamy, italic nib) some of the time, I also have to embrace technology. I am no techno expert though and I’d be grateful for any tips from other authors on things they find useful in their daily life. Meanwhile here are a few things I have had to get to grips with to some extent or other.

Jo Franklin Fountain Pen

PC/Laptop/MaC equivalent

Okay, every author needs one. In fact many have two. Desktop for home use and laptop for everything thing else. Some use their laptop at home but I prefer to have a proper desk set up with large monitor and full sized keyboard to help with the ergonomics of being a writer. Many authors suffer from RSI or shoulder and neck problems and when they discuss their agonies on Facebook it soon becomes clear that they spend their writing hours on the sofa with a laptop balanced on their knees. So I keep my laptop for travel. It is gradually being usurped by my ipad mini and bluetooth keyboard which is smaller, lighter and works sufficiently well for me.

All the software that goes on the above

Gah! Where do I start?

  • Windows – version I don’t know
  • Microsoft Word to type up and format my scruffy words
  • Excel for my accounts and other things
  • Powerpoint for presentations.
  • WordPress – for my website and blog which I created myself – cue, round of applause.

I really struggle with image manipulation. I recognise the need for good quality, wide ranging, not too many megabyte pictures for my website, business cards, leaflets, banners etc But I think I have spent more time grappling with this more than I have on writing all my books together. The whole thing around image storage, the interface between my iphone, the cloud and the pc and anything to do with image manipulation is a mystery to me so don’t ask me what programs I use because I really don’t know. I stumble through a forest of clicks and end up with something.

Then there’s the (mostly) free apps or pc programs like

  • Canva which is good for the layout of leaflets etc I used it to create my website banner.
  • Jotform which I have used to create an online booking form for CWISL the author group I belong to.
  • Bitmoji which is a fun way to create a cartoon character that looks a little like me. I’ve got to liven up these blog posts somehow!

Jo Franklin bitmoji reading

  • Teleprompter which is a free autocue app on my phone, an essential addition to my repertoire for making videos. That reminds me …. I need to start getting to grips with making videos. Did I tell you I’m an author? I’m beginning to think that maybe I’m not.

Of course there are other products available. Do let me know if there is an app or pc program that you find invaluable as an author, teacher etc

Advanced features of the above software

One thing is certain, software programs are getting more and more sophisticated and it easy to think that you won’t ever need those advanced features but you’d be wrong. Even in Word an author needs to know how to use ‘Track Changes’ with confidence as this is often used as the main way for editors to communicate their thoughts to the author. Track Changes is ghastly! Probably because I don’t really know how to use it properly and I’m always worried that the editor is going to be able to see my feeble earlier drafts and all my spelling mistakes. My spelling is getting worse. Particularly with homophones.

Styles, Headers and Table of Contents are also really useful features in Word too. I use these in particular in my planning documents . It is clear when I try and explain these features to my students on my plotting course that they have never used them. Suddenly I have to turn into a Microsoft trainer and try and explain these features which is really difficult. There are loads of great tutorial on You Tube.

The navigation pane is also really useful. It is muddled up with the find and replace feature but it’s brilliant if you have used headers for each of your chapter titles. You can call up the navigation pane and have listed all your chapter headings on the left hand side of your screen. With one click you can navigate to any chapter you want to. This is also why I give my chapters names rather than just numbers. I need to be reminded what the chapter is about so I can navigate my way around my own manuscript.

Jo Franklin navigation pane for Help I'm a Detective

Navigation pane for my next novel Help I’m a Detective

Videos, video editing, YouTube

One of my good intentions for 2018 is to get to grips with videoing in a time efficient but effective way. Ha, ha, ha! I’ll get back to you later in the year on how I get on with it or whether I gave up.

So if you are an aspiring author looking to fill the hours while you wait for the rejections to come in, first of all write another book and secondly try and develop your tech skills so that when the day comes, you are ready to be an author in the 21st century. When you’ve worked out how to do all this stuff (and more) let me know will you, because I am still struggling. Bring back the quill pen!