Tricks of the Trade

Folks are always asking me, “What’s your secret, CJ? How do you get so much done?”


They don’t mean secret as in secret handshake or genie in the bottle. They’re talking productivity. Something I never considered as an author until I found myself juggling several deadlines from separate publishers. Which meant finding ways to streamline my work.


So here are the tricks of the trade I’ve discovered. Feel free to share your own in the comments.


I used to start a book with character sketches and folders filled with pictures and research ideas torn from magazines and stacks of hand written notes on legal pads. Now I use Scrivener which allows me to do all that virtually, organized in one magical file that I can access AS I WRITE!


Scrivener tripled my productivity! I had no idea how much time I was losing looking things up but now they’re just a click away–even better I can do a split screen and have my research directly in front of me while I’m actually writing a scene. Talk about magic!


Scrivener now allows you to export your work directly into ebook formats (as well as many others like screenplays, etc) making my life even easier. I am a fan for life.


Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn did a great post on how she uses Scrivener HERE.


So, when I’m not writing, where do I find and organize all those nebulous pieces of info that feel right for a book–just not *this* book? I know some folks use Evernote but I’ve been using Ubernote for the past few years and loving it. It lets me grab articles either by their URL or their entire content (my choice, being a paranoid thriller writer who expects essential info to vanish just when I need it the most) with the click of a button.


They host it on the cloud and you can export your files at any time. You can also tag and organize and all that jazz, but it’s way too much bother for me.


For you Kindle users, I’ve found another way to backup my research–there’s a app called Send to Reader that with one click grabs pages and emails them directly to your Kindle so you can read at your leisure.


Do I sound like someone paranoid about losing data? Yep, you betcha. I used to use Mozy but it got rather cumbersome since I work on several computers (office, home, travel) so I finally bought a TimeCapsule from Mac. Expensive, but I figured if it saves me even one lost manuscript, it’s worth it. And it’s painless–I don’t have to remember a thing.


I also use Dropbox and SugarSync for cloud backups. I love them both but they both have drawbacks. With Sugarsync you can sync folders across multiple computers, PC or Mac (I use both), but one wrinkle I just discovered is that you can’t delete files without deleting them from your hard drives as well! Yikes! Not good–and thus you end up eating up tons of storage with old or duplicate files.


Dropbox is brilliant and I use it for collaborations, synching and sharing large sized files effortlessly. My only problem with it is that you need to move the folders/files into the dropbox rather than simply tagging them to sync like with SugarSync.


I also email important files, like manuscripts, to myself and practically live out of my yahoo email account. I keep my to-do list there, calendars, folders with tasks and reports and all sorts of important stuff. Once I triple-whammy-protected my hard drives I began to search for a way to back up my email. At first I imported to a gmail account but that’s a one time thing that doesn’t update or allow for synching.


Then I found Zimbra, a free PC or Mac utility that will sync your emails to your hard drive (internal or external) with an initial backup followed by daily syncs. It  has all sorts of other fun stuff like the ability to work on your email off line, sync calendars, and a Dropbox like “briefcase” feature as well.


So, there you go, my Tricks of the Trade. What programs/apps have you found to be indispensable?


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  1. Wow CJ. Thanks for all the links and tips!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this information, CJ. I read the “Secrets” in one sitting and it was very uplifting. I invite you to post this link on my FB friends page. There are a lot of writers and readers there.
    BTW, I downloaded one of your books recently and didn’t mean to read it quite then, but made the mistake of opening the first page…mistake. It grabbed me and yanked me right in. You should print a warning label.