Writing Tools: Whiteboard Paint (Uses and Review)

Whiteboard wall: uses and product reviewFor about ten years now, I’ve been using a semi-unconventional brainstorming technique. I write directly on my wall. I can’t tell you why it helps so much with my brainstorming process, but it does. This all started when I learned that chalkboard paint existed. At the time, I had two whiteboards that I used for brainstorming, but they always filled up too quickly. I was planning on using the chalkboard paint until I got to the store and saw the whiteboard paint sitting on the shelf. As you can probably guess, I have always been more of a whiteboard girl, so when I saw that this was an option, it was a no-brainer.

I wanted to take this post to share a little bit about how I use my whiteboard wall for writing and give you some product pros, cons, and application tips in case you want to give it a try yourself!

Side note: This page does contain affiliate links, which means if you purchase something using the product links on this page, I may get a small commission. This comes at no extra cost to you and helps keep this site running. Thank you!

The Product:

Rust-Oleum Dry-Erase Paint

How I use it

Typically when I have a story idea, I play around with it in my head for a month or two before I ever start writing anything down. (I like to think of it as letting my story “cook.”) Then when I’m finally ready to get some ideas out, I go to my whiteboard wall. I’ll use it as a mind map, or sometimes a freewrite. I can’t tell you why it’s more helpful to freewrite on a wall than it is in a notebook, but it is! I also feel like it makes me a more active participant in my story. It gets me up and moving and I feel like it makes the whole process more hands on.

And because I’m completely engaged, it can be especially helpful when I’m having a hard time focusing or when I’m struggling with a project. Being able to slow down and see my project off the page and computer screen stimulates my creatively in a way I never expected when I first decided to invest in this paint. It’s also just a lot of fun to write on the wall, which I think helps the process–especially when I’m hating my project with a passion.

Product Pros

  • If you follow (all most all of) the directions, it’s a simple application. Once the paint is cured, you’ll have an entire wall of space to map out and brainstorm your stories.
  • This paint has been on my wall for nearly ten years and I have yet to have an issue writing or erasing. (I did repaint it once, but only because I was painting the rest of the room. The wall itself still worked great.)
  • I use standard Expo Markers, so once the painting is done, you don’t need anything fancy to write on it.
  • If you’re a whiteboard brainstormer, this is a one day project that your creativity will thank you for every time you use it.

Product Cons

  •  Like any whiteboard, it can get a little discolored over time. However, I honestly didn’t notice this until I was repainting the room and decided to repaint the whiteboard wall too. When I had an “after” to compare the “before” color to, it was clear that it was discolored. But had I not decided to give it a fresh coat, I never would have noticed.
  • You’re sacrificing a wall of your house. (I consider it to be a worthwhile sacrifice, but it’s something to consider.)
  • If you don’t choose your wall carefully, everyone who comes over will be able to see your ideas/what you’re working on.
  • If you aren’t careful in the application, it won’t work like it’s supposed to.

Applications Tips

I have done this process twice and never had a problem. But if you read the Amazon reviews, you’ll see that it can be hit or miss. Here are three things I did that I think made it work:

  1. Follow the directions. Use the specific type of roller and other tools they suggest. Give enough drying time between coats. Don’t write on the wall until they say it’s safe to. It will be torture to wait, but try to be patient.
  2. Don’t mix the paints like they recommend. This is the one direction you shouldn’t follow. The paint kit comes with two cans. A larger can of what appears to be regular white paint and a smaller can that “activates” the whiteboard quality. The directions say one of the first steps is pouring the small can into the large can and mixing before you start. I didn’t do this. Both times, the directions said I needed three coats of paint, each of which had to dry for 20 minutes. It also said that once the paint is mixed together, it will only be good for an hour. It knew it would take about 15-20 minutes to do a coat. This meant once I considered the time to dry, I would need the paint to last more than an hour. Because of that, I poured about a third of each can in a paint tray and mixed it there before each coat.
  3. Check the expiration date. Each kit has an expiration date. If the paint is expired, it won’t work like it’s supposed to, and you may have a problem erasing. The image above in the “Product” section is an Amazon link, but because of the expiration date, I would strongly recommend going to your local hardware store if you can. If you can’t (or they don’t carry it), make sure you check the date before you open the product and be prepared to exchange it if it’s out of code.

The process may have changed since I last did this. So if you have any questions about the application, you might want to think about calling the company for clarification before you start.

Photos!

Freshly Painted Whiteboard Wall

Freshly painted!

Full Whiteboard

Full and happy whiteboard wall (blurred to protect ideas).

I hope this gives you a good idea of how a whiteboard wall can work for you!

Now it’s your turn: Do you use a whiteboard to brainstorm? Have you used whiteboard paint before? If you have, what’s been your experience? Tell me about it in the comments!

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Writing Tools: No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty

No Plot No Problem book reviewI first read No Plot? No Problem? by Chris Baty when I was working on my MFA. It was my first class in grad school, and the entire purpose of the class was to draft a complete novel from start to finish during a single semester. This book was our guide. I’ve found it so helpful that I’ve read it multiple times and constantly recommend it to others.

Like before, this review will be broken into four sections: What this book is, what this book isn’t, how it can help you, and do I recommend it.

(Side note: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase something using the product links on this page, I may get a small commission. This comes at no extra cost to you and helps keep this site running. Thank you!)

No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty

What this book is:

Baty is the founder of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This book is essentially a guide book on how to write a novel in a month. But beyond that, it’s also a writer’s guide to drafting. If you are planning to draft your book in a month, Baty tells you how to prepare, how to find the time, how much to plan your book before hand, and what to expect on a week-to-week basis. Personally, I’ve found his tips and assessment to be helpful for anyone looking to get a draft down quickly, even if you take longer than a month.

This book claims to be “A low stress, high-velocity guide to writing a novel in 30 days,” and as far as I’m concerned, it’s exactly that. Baty’s book is as encouraging as it is practical. The book is broken into two sections. The first discusses how to prepare for your writing journey. The second is a week by week guide on what to expect and how to persevere. Baty pulls on his own NaNo experiences, but also includes plenty of drafting tips from NaNo participants around the world, so readers get a variety of drafting advice. Completing the first draft is often the first major hurdle for any writer–new or seasoned. This book is designed to help you power through.

What this book isn’t:

Like some earlier books I’ve reviewed, this book isn’t a guide to getting published. It doesn’t give career promises or guarantees. This book doesn’t include prompts or exercises but does make plot and character suggestions from time to time. It also isn’t a super technical craft book. As in, it doesn’t spend chapters dedicated to breaking down character, plot, or point-of-view. Some of those topics are touched on in different capacities, but the true purpose of this book is to encourage and inspire you to get a completed draft down as fast as possible.

How it can help you:

This book is for anyone who has ever struggled to power through a first draft, even if you no desire to ever write a novel in a month. It also does a really good job of reminding readers that writing is a process, and part of that process is to simply get a complete book written, regardless of how bad or messy it is. This book gives you permission to write with total abandon and strictly for your own amusement. You’ll also get tips on how to turn off your inner editor so you can focus on reaching “the end.”

Personally, the approach preached by this book totally opened up my writing process. Before, I was pretty good at drafting as long as I knew where my story was going. As soon as I lost the thread I would stop dead. I often wouldn’t pick my project back up again for months. This book taught me the importance of powering through even when you don’t know where you’re going, or if what you’re writing is going to work. It also helped me let go of my inner editor and focus on simply writing until I have a complete first draft–even if it’s a hot mess.

If you want more specifics on how this book can help you tackle your first draft, check out the post 6 Tips for Finishing Your First Draft.

Do I recommend it?

I gave this away in the intro, but I’ll say it again here. Yes! I recommend! This book played a key role in stimulating my writing process. It taught that there are stages in writing where quantity is genuinely more important than quality, which can be a difficult lesson for a writer to learn. It taught me that first drafts can be messy, but also a lot of fun. This book is the reason I can draft quickly and badly and enjoy it. If you’ve ever struggled to get a draft down as quickly as possible this is the book for you!

(With that said, it’s also important to keep in mind that drafting quickly might not suit you or your process. And that’s okay too! But if any book is going to get you there, it’ll be this one.)

I hope this gives you a good idea of what to expect from No Plot? No Problem!

You can check out previous book and product reviews here!

If you want to learn more about NaNoWriMo, you can visit their site here. NaNo takes place every November, so if you’re up for the challenge, this book can definitely help get you ready.

Now it’s your turn: Have you read this book? If you have, did it help you? If you haven’t, do you want to? Tell me in the comments! You can also let me know what you’d like to see covered more in the future.

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Writing Tools: The Right to Write by Julia Cameron

I first found The Right to Write by Julia Cameron when I was in college. It was an assigned book for my writing class. We were only assigned sections of it, but I have since read the whole thing twice. I’m going to come right out and say that it’s one of my favorite books on writing I’ve come across.

Like before, this review will be broken into four sections: What this book is, what this book isn’t, how it can help you, and do I recommend it.

(Side note: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase something using the product links on this page, I may get a small commission. This comes at no extra cost to you and helps keep this site running. Thank you!)

The Right to Write by Julia Cameron

The Right To Write CoverWhat This Book Is

The subtitle of this book is “An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life,” which is incredibly appropriate. I had always thought of this book as a type of writing life guide before I even realized it was right on the cover. This book does, in fact, invite you to write and give you the tools to get started. It’s broken into 43 short chapters that discuss common issues most writers face.

In each chapter, Cameron first discusses the issue, giving her thoughts and advice, while including some personal stories from either her friends, her students, or herself. Then she ends each chapter with an initiation tool, which is designed to get you writing while confronting the issues she discussed in the chapter. These tools can also help broaden your perspective and build good writing habits.

The bottom line: The Right to Write is a positive, supportive, and encouraging guide to living a happy writing life. I think it can be helpful to all writers, no matter where they are in their writing journey.

What This Book Isn’t

Like Bird by Bird, this book isn’t a guide to getting published. It doesn’t give career promises or guarantees. This book doesn’t have prompts or craft-based exercises but does include initiation tools as mentioned above. It also isn’t a super technical craft book. As in, it doesn’t spend chapters dedicated to breaking down character, plot, or point-of-view. Some of those topics are touched on in different capacities, but Cameron’s focus is more on getting you writing and helping to build a happy and productive writing life.

How It Can Help You

The biggest way this book can help you is by taking the pressure off of writing. Each chapter has a singular idea or focus. Cameron explores these ideas on the page and gives advice on how to apply her ideas to your work. She has this way of simplifying writing and making it feel incredibly accessible. What makes this book so helpful is that Cameron doesn’t just tell you that you should use some of her techniques and approaches, she actually tells you how. The initiation tools at the end of each chapter are specific tasks or mini assignments designed to help you implement the chapter’s focus into your own writing practice. These tools can help you think about your writing differently, and maybe even unlock an area of your writing life that you’ve been struggling with.

This book can help you grow and give you a healthy, positive outlook on what it means to be a writer.

Do I Recommend It?

Clearly, I recommend this book. The first time I read it, I was swept up. Cameron’s philosophy is one that has always resonated with me. If you like writing attitude and approach you find on this blog, then I’m sure you’ll appreciate this book just as much. Julia Cameron has something for everyone, no matter where you are in your writing journey. If you’re new to writing, Cameron is the perfect motivator. If you’ve been writing for years, she can remind you why you started in the first place. This book isn’t just about how to write; it’s about living your best writing life. Early in the first chapter, Cameron says, “Writing is like breathing. I believe that.” I believe that too. It’s the core of my philosophy, and I believe it’s the core of Cameron’s too. It’s a big reason why I can’t recommend this book enough.

I hope this gives you a good idea of what to expect from The Right to Write!

You can check out previous book and product reviews here!

Now it’s your turn: Have you read this The Right to Write? If you have, did it help you? If you haven’t, do you want to? Tell me in the comments! You can also let me know what you’d like to see covered more in the future.

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Scrivener Review: 6 Reasons Why I Love This Software

Six Reasons I love ScrivenerAbout six years ago, I first learned about a writing software called Scrivener. I was on the fence about purchasing it, but after some research, I decided to take the plunge. It’s a decision I have yet to regret. In fact, this software quickly became one of my most essential writing tools.

I’ll probably do a full review of Scrivener down the line, but since it’s pretty clear that this is a product I recommend, I thought it might be more helpful to give you a product overview that highlights my favorite features. If you’re on the fence like I was, or just curious about the program, this is a post for you! I included some screenshots–click on the images to enlarge.

(Side note: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase something using the product links on this page, I may get a small commission. This comes at no extra cost to you and helps keep this site running. Thank you!)

The Binder

Binder

Before I found Scrivener I’d written books in both Word and Final Draft. Two of the biggest inconveniences of both of those products was: 1) the need to scroll in order to get from one section of the book to another and 2) the need to copy and paste every time I wanted to restructure my book. Scrivener’s binder feature fixes both of those problems.

The binder is located on the left side of the screen. For each chapter of your book, you create a folder in the binder. Then within each chapter folder, you add your scenes. If you want to jump from the beginning of the book to the end, all you have to do is click on the scene. And if you want to move a scene or chapter from one part of the book to another, you simply drag and drop. (I can’t tell you how much time this saved me when I had to restructure and reorder my last book.)

Additionally, you can store all of your drafts in their own separate file folder right inside the binder. This means you don’t have to juggle multiple versions and files on your computer. Everything is in one place!

The Word Counter

You may have seen this word counter floating around social media. This was a selling point for me. It makes it so easy to track your writing and monitor your progress. It manages both your daily session and your overall progress simultaneously, so you always know if you’re on target to meet your goals. You can keep it docked on your screen or check in from time to time.

Auto-Save

This was another massive selling point. I’ve been burned by a crashing Word document too many times for this not to be an essential feature. One of the biggest reasons I used the scriptwriting software Final Draft was because it could be set to auto-save every five minutes. Scrivener takes this to the next level. I currently have the software to auto-save when it detects two seconds of inactivity. Even if the program crashes on me, (which it never has) the most I’m likely to lose is a paragraph. If you’ve ever lost hours of work because you got too wrapped up in your story to hit save, I think you’ll agree that this feature alone makes the product worth it.

File Converter

Scrivener makes it easy to convert your Scrivener document to almost any file format. This includes word processors like Microsoft Word and Open Office and e-reader files like Kindle and iBooks. This means you can easily share your documents with people who don’t use Scrivener. And while I’ve never tried to self-publish, this feature seems like it would be ridiculously helpful with that if it’s something you’re interested in.

File Converter

Screen Space

One thing I underestimated when I first started using this program is how it uses screen space. The set up is designed to help you be the most effective writer you can be. The binder is always docked on the left-hand side, the editor (typing area) takes up the center, and the right has a couple different notes sections that you can use as needed. This set up makes it easy to double check a fact that you dropped in three chapters ago or jot down a quick note about your scene/chapter without losing your momentum. You can also completely customize what goes in your sidebars and how much or how little of the sidebar/binder you see.

Project Versatility

This software is designed for writers and novelists specifically, but it’s also prepared to handle project by screenwriters, poets, lyricists, and students who just want a quality word processor. Basically, it’s the only writing software you’ll ever need.

Also Worth Noting

There are a host of pre-writing features that I don’t use (I’m more of a pen and paper brainstormer). But if you’re a digital brainstormer, Scrivener has you covered there too! The program has a digital corkboard you can use to brainstorm and arrange your scenes, then easily access that info while you write. There are also areas to keep information on your characters, locations, and research.

If you want to give Scrivener a try, it’s available for Mac and Windows. (There are also discounted education editions for both Mac and Windows open to students, teachers, and scholars.)

If you want to learn more about any of these features, I would suggest hopping over to YouTube and searching for Scrivener demos to see the program in action.

I hope this gives you a good idea why I love Scrivener!

Now it’s your turn: If you’ve used Scrivener before, what’s your favorite thing about it? If there’s anything you didn’t like, tell me that too. If you’ve never tried it, what questions do you have? Let me know in the comments! You can also let me know what you’d like to see covered more in the future.

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Writing Tools: BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott

There are tons of craft books on the shelves for writers. They can be a great investment–many are written by accomplished authors and writing teachers, and they’re cheaper than a writing course (free if you get them from the library). But with so many books to choose from, how do you know which are best for you?

To help, I’ll be periodically reviewing some of the craft books I’ve come across. I’m going to do my best to give you a good idea of what to expect from a book before you buy it. I’ll be breaking my reviews down into four sections: what this book is, what this book isn’t, how it can help you, and if I recommend it. That way you won’t just hear about if I like a book, you’ll also know how it can help you.

First up, the much-loved classic, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

(Side note: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase something using the product links on this page, I may get a small commission. This comes at no extra cost to you and helps keep this site running. Thank you!)

What Bird by Bird is:

This is a book full of writerly wisdom and camaraderie. It’s broken into four sections with a series of related essays in each section that explore what it means to grow up and live as a writer.

The subtitle of the book reads, “Some Instructions on Writing and Life,” and it’s one of my favorite things about reading this book. Lamott mixes writing lessons with life lessons that are both hilarious and relatable.  She also preaches some very important writing philosophies that I adore. Her chapter on Shitty First Drafts is one of her more famous philosophies (odds are if you’ve only heard one thing about this book, it’s Shitty First Drafts), but there are so many more. She talks about the dangers of perfectionism, gives tips on developing the right mind frame, and gives tons of advice on where to look for help.

Lamott also spends a fair amount of time acknowledging and discussing the struggles of writing, which I think is a great comfort for any writer who is under the impression that they’re alone in this. This book offers support and guidance and is written from a place of honesty.

What Bird by Bird isn’t:

This book isn’t a guide to getting published. It doesn’t give career promises or guarantees. This book doesn’t have prompts or exercises. (Lamott does share some exercises she finds helpful, but at no point did I get the impression that they were the main purpose of this book.) It also isn’t a super technical craft book. As in, it doesn’t spend big chapters dedicated to breaking down character, plot, or point-of-view. Those topics are covered, but Lamott’s approach is more gentle and big-picture, as opposed to up-close and nitty-gritty.

How Bird by Bird can help you:

This book can help you if you’ve EVER struggled with any part of writing. The copyright on this book is from 1994 but it’s still seriously relevant! Lamott has tips on finding the right people to read your work, what to expect if you sign up for workshops and conferences, the importance of listening to your characters, managing perfectionism, improving each draft, and how to handle when you just can’t get your book to work. She also gives many reasons to write beyond publication and dispells a fair amount of publication myths.

It can also help you a lot if you feel like you’re alone in this whole writing endeavor. I know, I touched on this earlier, but I think it’s worth mentioning again. Personally, I’ve always been pretty lucky. I’ve always had people around me that either get writing and/or creativity. Yet, there were still sections of this book that had me think, wow, it’s not just me! I can only imagine the power this book may have if you’re someone who doesn’t have people who understand what it means to create.

Do I recommend Bird by Bird?

This book is a classic for a reason. I recommend it if you’re looking for something that expresses solidarity in writing struggles, while still be encouraging. It’s the perfect book for any writer who’s looking for someone who understands what it means to live a writing life.

I also think this would be a really good first “craft book”. Anne Lamott talks about writing and the writing life in a way that is accessible and easy to follow. I will say, I think parts of this book focused slightly more on the unfavorable aspects of the writing life than I usually care to, but those moments were rooted in an honesty of a writing experience that I think is relatable to many.

I hope this gave you a good idea of what to expect from Bird by Bird.

Now it’s your turn: Have you read Bird by Bird? If you have, did it help you? If you haven’t, do you want to? Tell me in the comments! You can also let me know what you’d like to see covered more in the future.

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