My Writing Tools

Since the interview I had with Arthur Macabe was published, several people have asked me to elaborate on my writing tools. So here we go…

Liquid Story Binder XE

Liquid Story Binder XE

About fifteen years ago, I used a program called Liquid Story Binder XE by Black Obelisk Software. I loved it. It was an incredibly versatile program that combined word processing with various organizing tools (outliners, mindmaps, etc.) and the whole thing could be run off a thumb drive.

I used the program for a decade, writing short stories, articles, my work on Tonight @ 11:30, and to organize the hundreds of Kenneth Snipps letters into a manuscript. But the software’s developer stopped updating it in 2011, to focus on writing his own novel. The result was the program began to slip into obsolescence.

That’s when I found Scrivener.


Scrivener

Scrivener

If I could only use one writing program, it would be Scrivener. 

The software was developed for writers, by writers, and it has almost everything I need. The binder allows me to organize my writing, research, characters, notes, and everything else, exactly how I want.

Originally Scrivener was only available for Macintosh computers. But in 2010 a Windows version was released and I promptly purchased it.

The big criticism of Scrivener is that it’s got a steep learning curve. I suppose that may be true if you just dive in and try to figure things out for yourself. But the program includes a brilliantly structured tutorial that takes you into all the various features that it offers. It takes a couple hours to work all the way through it, but it’s time well spent. The greatest thing about Scrivener is that it allows you to work in whatever way is most productive for you.

Since the release of the Windows version, Literature and Latte (the software’s creators) have also developed mobile versions of Scrivener that can run on iPads and iPhones. 

Scrivener for OS

By saving my Scrivener files to Dropbox, I can pick right up where I left off on my laptop, home PC, or with my mobile devices. It’s seamless and works perfectly.

The Compile function in the current Windows version of Scrivener can be a bit wonky. Setting things exactly the way you want can be difficult. However, it is being revised for the next upgrade. 

Version 3 of Scrivener is now available for Macs, and the Windows version is currently in beta. You can download it and check it out for free HERE.  


Microsoft Word

Word is the industry standard for publishing. Professional editors, literary agents, and publishers all require it. It’s an essential piece of writing software.

Microsoft Word 2010

I create my first draft of a manuscript in Scrivener because it’s better at holding all the various thoughts, notes and research that I have on a project. But once the first draft is complete, I compile the file into a Word document, and that is where all my subsequent drafts and revisions occur. 


Editing Software

I am atrocious when it comes to grammar. So I utilize two different programs I’ve discovered compliment each other.

The first is Grammarly, which is available in a free version that has some limitations.  I pay for the full version which includes a desktop app, as well as built-in error checking in emails, social media posts, and just about everywhere else. 

Grammarly interface

My first editing pass begins with Grammarly. The software isn’t perfect, and it’s also no substitute for an actual, professional editor. But what it does is get the stupid mistakes out of way. It also catches redundancies, passive voice, and other things that weaken writing. 

Once I’ve made the changes, I next run the document through ProWritingAid

ProWritingAid interface

This software is like Grammarly on steroids. It analyzes the manuscript and generates a detailed report breaking down Style, Grammar, Readability, and much more. It’s remarkably thorough. 

Why use ProWritingAid and Grammarly? 

If I was only interested in correcting my manuscripts, I could just use ProWritingAid. But the reason I use both is that Grammarly catches mistakes in my daily correspondence in real-time. It also works with a plug-in for Microsoft Word. For me, both are important parts in making my writing better.  


MasterWriter

MasterWriter software is marketed as a go-anywhere word-processor with cloud storage, but I don’t use it for that. I pay for the subscription because it includes the best thesaurus and dictionary I’ve ever used.

MasterWriter’s dictionary

There are obviously no-cost options available online. But this one has no annoying advertising, and more importantly, it lets me dial into exactly what I’m looking for, in a way the other services can’t touch. The options are extensive. If you work as a poet or songwriter, you will love the versatility it offers. You can find words based on their number of syllables, rhymes, alliterations, and much more. It’s has a clean, easy to navigate interface, which makes finding what I’m looking for a breeze.


Evernote

All the other software I’ve discussed here is used in the actual process of composing and editing a manuscript. But perhaps the most important application I use on a daily basis is not actually a writing tool.

Evernote is an organizational and note-taking program that allows you to keep track of just about anything.  When I first started using it several years ago, it was to have quick digital access to all the cooking recipes I had compiled over the years. It can save data files, mp3s, images, and also includes a PDF viewer.

The more I used it, the more I realized it was the perfect tool to keep track of all the various pieces of my writing work. I created folders for each project I was working on, and that made it easy to drop in quick ideas that popped into my head, no matter where I was. In an instant, I could jot down a great piece of dialog, or character detail, and easily find it when I needed it later.

The desktop app makes research a dream. A widget called “web clipper” can save an entire web page to any folder I want in my database. 

Evernote interface

I can use tags to refine my searches, and the software uses text recognition so that even handwritten notes that I’ve added as photographs, can be quickly scanned and located with the search function. 

The software runs on every one of my devices: Home PC, laptop, tablet, and phone. It’s available in a basic version for free. I’ve paid for the yearly subscription which allows for unlimited storage and costs about $5 a month. The service is rock-solid, and after years of use, I’ve never had an issue. It’s also constantly being improved. It gets my top recommendation. 

Finally, just to be clear, I’m not compensated in any way by these companies. I’m not a spokesman. I paid for these services out of my own wallet, and I recommend them only because I’ve found them to be effective tools that help me do my job more efficiently. 

So, there you have it. These are my tools of the trade. What about you? Is there some software that helps you work better? I’d love to hear about it. Post a comment or send me an email using the button at the bottom of the page. 

Interviews from the Void

I’m thrilled to have been selected as the subject of one of Arthur Macabe’s Interviews from the Void. It’s a long-running series, hosted on his website, of discussions with writers about their background, technique, style, approach, and tools.

Arthur is a novelist himself, and in addition to conducting these interviews on a weekly basis, he is also developing a science fiction podcast. 

Arthur Macabe
Novelist/Interviewer/Podcaster

In my interview, we talked about the advantages of crafting short stories and screenplays as a warm-up to novel writing. Although these conversations are geared toward other writers, I think there are interesting things for people who just enjoy reading too.

Something else included is the article is a bit of information about the origin of the short story I “co-wrote” with Stephen King, back in 1984, called Skybar. Subscribers to my newsletter were able to read that story last October. If you are not yet a subscriber, CLICK HERE.

Photo from 1984 newspaper article about Skybar.

It’s a huge honor to be included in Interviews from the Void. I hope you’ll check out my episode, and the others on the site as well. 

Write Like You’re Alive 2018

For the third year in a row, I’ve spent a month of my summer, working to create something new every single day, as part of the 31/31 creativity sprint hosted by Zoetic Press.

My final numbers and results for this year are in.

WLYA 2018 was, by far, my most productive yet. In the 31 days of July, I generated 33 new pieces. I wrote 19 submissions (17 short stories and 2 poems) totaling 10,243 words. In addition, I also submitted 14 new photographs.  

Summer Leaves by Michael K. Hill

Beyond by Michael K. Hill

Hope by Michael K. Hill

The writing was a real mixed bag of genres:  science fiction,  humor, drama, flash fiction, experimental, and non-fiction.  The two poems were a surprise. I know I’m not a poet, but the challenge of trying a couple of different forms was fun.

None of my photography was selected by the editors for the anthology which publishes in November. But they did select one of my written pieces. I was surprised by the story they chose.   

It’s called Report, and it was an experimental piece, written in the style of William S. Burroughs’ work in Naked Lunch.

William S. Burroughs, Novelist

At the time I wrote it, I thought it was just a filler piece and not likely at all to be selected for publication. Goes to show what I know.

Once again it has been a thrill to compete in this 31/31 challenge. I’m very grateful to the editorial staff at Zoetic Press for hosting this event again. I’ll post another update for this when the anthology is released.  

A Different Time

I’ve completed my first romance novel, A Different Time, and I’d like to take a moment to thank some people who helped out tremendously. 

My editor, David Taylor, did a fantastic job, and I can’t thank him enough. An editor is expected to catch mistakes, and clean up the prose, but David did much more than that. His suggestions and guidance elevated the quality of my book. I’m eternally grateful. 

Also, a huge thanks to my team of beta readers, who took the time to go through the manuscript and provide their thoughts and opinions:

  • Beth Hill
  • Michael Hand
  • Amy Castolene
  • Tracy Thielman
  • Robbie Mills
  • Beckie DiGiovancarlo
  • Alex Hareland

You’re feedback was crucial and instrumental in shaping the story. Thank you for your time and effort.

The book is about two people, separated by time. It’s my first foray into romance stories, after spending most of my life writing horror and science fiction. I’m now submitting the manuscript to literary agents and hope to secure one soon. 

I’ll keep you posted on the progress. 

Newsletter

Last year I used my newsletter as a way to share some unpublished short stories with my readers, including the Stephen King collaboration, Skybar, along with photographs, updates, and info I didn’t post to the website. 

It’s been several months since I released one. I’ve been focused on completing my new novel, and going through the editing process. But now with that done, I have several new short stories to share, so it seems like the right time to prep another newsletter. 

By subscribing you’ll get exclusive content that isn’t available on the web, and be eligible for giveaways and promotions. I do not spam my readers, or sell the list to third parties.

If you would like to be added to the newsletter list, please send me an email (using the link at the bottom of this page) with the subject heading: Newsletter. Include your name and the email address you want the newsletter sent to, in the body of the email.

Write Like You’re Alive

Beginning in 2016, Zoetic Press started hosting a creativity sprint for writers called Write Like You’re Alive.  The event was hugely popular, attracting dozens of writers from all over the world.

The challenge was to spend an entire month being creative. Every day participants were expected to upload some new form of creative output, it could be a short story, flash fiction, poetry, song writing, photography, and even audio or video content. 

The event was so successful, that despite their plans to only host it once, they brought it back for a second go-around in 2017, and now it’s returned again this year too.

Each time, Zoetic Press has published an anthology of the best work created during the event and made it available for download. I’ve been fortunate to have my work selected for the first two anthologies, and I’m currently in the process of creating my work for consideration in the third.

This year’s event has been very exciting for me. My output is higher than in any previous event. I’m on pace to create 31 pieces in 31 days, something I’ve never done before. I’ll update once the challenge has concluded, with my total output, and info on whether or not a piece has been selected for the 2018 anthology. 

In the meanwhile, below please find links to download the first two anthologies. 

If you are interested in downloading the 2016 anthology of Write Like You’re Alive, which includes my short story, What Time Is It?, click HERE

If you are interested in downloading the 2017 anthology of Write Like You’re Alive, which includes my short story, Sprinting Again, click HERE.

Anansi and Beyond: Short Stories, Magic & Nightmares

My first collection of short stories is now available internationally from Amazon in both soft-cover printings and Kindle editions

Magical creatures, guardian angels, monsters under the bed, soul collectors, artificial intelligence, lovers lost in time, and a giant spider who is the keeper of all tales, are waiting to make your acquaintance.

These stories were the result of my first participation in the creative sprint called Write Like You’re Alive hosted by Zoetic Press

One of these short stories has since been expanded into my first romance novel, A Different Time. I’m currently in the process of securing literary representation for that book. I’ll keep you posted on the progress. 

I would like to thank all my beta readers who helped me prepare this for publication: Beth Hill, Michael Hand, Amy Castolene, Tracy Thielman, Robbie Mills, Beckie DiGiovancarlo, Dirk Brentwood, Jonathan Sims, Alex Hareland, and David Taylor.

If you would be interested in being a beta reader for future projects, please let me know. I would appreciate the help. You can post a comment to this page, or send me an email by clicking the link at the bottom. 

Old episodes of “Tonight on the Radio” now available

Begining in 2005 and ending in 2010, I hosted a weekly radio show called “Tonight on the Radio.” It combined an eclectic blend of music from both unsigned artists and musical legends. In between, there was original comedy material featuring a wide array of talented performers.

The later episodes of the show have been lost. But a recent discovery on one of my old production computers revealed a stash of earlier shows that I thought were gone for good.

I’ve uploaded them to Mixcloud for free streaming.

You can find the episodes HERE

“Where is everything?”

For more than a decade, I’ve maintained my personal website on GoDaddy. It was an affordable option that (for the most part) met my needs. But as I began to expand, adding a website for my business, and then creating a site for the content from Kenneth Snipps, issues began to develop. 

The collected websites started to bog down, loading errors became frequent, and after dealing with it for several years, I finally had enough. I shut down the web hosting and all the sites went dark.

I took about a month off and weighed the options of whether I would re-launch the sites with a new web host, or scrap the whole project. The final decision was a bit of both. I closed down The Gamers Box and the Snipps site and chose to focus on just my writing site for now.

This newly designed blog is hosted by a different service, and I hope the load issues will now be a thing of the past. Unfortunately, rebuilding the site from the ground up means that hundreds of posts from the old site are gone. I’ll do my best to add the most interesting ones here. But if I omit something you would like to see, please let me know. 

I tried adding a feedback box to the site, but it was immediately bombarded with spam. So I’ve pulled it out. If you need to contact me, there is an email button at the bottom of this page. Please use that.

Thanks,

Mike 

Updating my website from that keyboard doesn’t appear to work. 

Hello!

Yes, everything looks different.

My web hosting service has changed, and I’m in the process of tweaking the layout, adjusting the overall look, and adding content.

For regular visitors of the old site, welcome back! You’ll notice many new things here. I would love to get some comments and feedback on it.

If you are a new visitor, hello and welcome! This is where you’ll find info on my latest writing projects, publication news, writing tips, reviews, videos, audio clips, photographs, and more. I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can leave a comment below, or send me a direct message by clicking the email button at the bottom of the page.  

Thanks,

Mike