5 Life Hacks For Writers

Every writer I know is already working harder than they ever thought possible. They sacrifice evenings and weekends with families to make their writing dreams come true. Since we can’t work faster, we need to work smarter. Try one of these writer hacks–or try them all. Either way, you will enjoy a boost to your work output.

Mary Shelley's FrankensteinUse soundtracks to fuel your creativity.
(I’ve talked about this before.) Lots of writers create playlists for working on their novels, but I love soundtracks. Movie scores are expressly created by professional musicians to invoke a mood. There are years of research and experience behind these scores. Why not use all that science to spark your own writing? Since I’m in a gothic phase, it’s all about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for me, but in the past I’ve used The Mummy and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and many others. Pick your favorite movies as inspiration, or find one that invokes the right mood for your project and get your grove on.

Dell Monitors with RotationGet a monitor with the portrait display feature. Even better, get two.
Yes, I know everyone is on laptops these days, but not me! I own a laptop for when I want to hit the road, but I will never give up my colossal Dell monitor with portrait mode or my full-sized keyboard. Both items are not that expensive and make a writer’s life so much easier. Portrait mode lets you see at least a full page of text on one screen, even at the 100% setting. Seeing huge chunks of text means you will catch more mistakes. The repetitive word uses jump out at you. You’ll see that 30% of your sentences all start the same way. We’re all in the habit of using landscape, but writing is one activity where a quarter turn make a world of difference.

Get a standing desk.
This one is easy for those working on laptops, just stand at a kitchen breakfast bar. Or buy yourself a nice patio bar and enjoy some fresh air while you work. According to the Harvard Medical School Review: Too many writers are risking their health by sitting all day. I have my desk set up with double monitors and keyboard tray so I can stand or sit depending on my mood. But I have my eye on a treadmill desk, that way I could walk my way to better heath and better writing. Increased circulation also boosts mental acuity and memory. Take a stand, writers. It’s good for you.

[important]   Standing also burns 30% more calories.  [/important]

Use a split screen viewing feature.
This is a trick I learned years ago from my editor and it’s brilliant! Rotate your monitor back to landscape (don’t worry, it’s easy to change back) and configure your screen to show two files side by side. This feature works great for just about any type of revision work. It lets you compare two different documents, or two different versions of the same document. It’s perfect for comparing the feedback of two beta readers. Or you can put up the example of a successful query letter (there are tons of examples online) and compare it side by side with your own query letter. Comparing an old draft against your latest draft helps you track your changes and prove to yourself you really are making progress.


Trello-LogoFind great tools and use them!
I don’t know what you need to make your writing life easier, but I know you need something. And the chances are pretty good someone has already created that tool for you. It might be Dragon Naturally Speaking you need, a great voice recognition program for when your brain is going faster than your fingers.

Freedom ScheduleIt might be an internet blocker you need, like Heather’s Freedom. Or maybe you need help planning your projects. If so, grab my favorite tool Trello. If it’s a better word processing program you crave, maybe give Scrivener a try. If Twitter is getting you down, try a program like Hootsuite, TweetDeck or Buffer. Find your perfect tools and stick with them.

Do you have a writer hack to share? Or a favorite soundtrack you can’t live without? Please include them in the comments so other writers can benefit from your experience.

Author: Robin Rivera

Robin trained as a professional historian and worked as a museum curator, educator, and historical consultant. She writes mystery fiction, with diverse characters and a touch of snark. She's currently working on two new manuscripts that started off as NaNoWriMo projects. You can follow her on Facebook(https://www.facebook.com/robin.rivera.90813). However, Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/RRWrites/) is where her inner magpie is happiest of all.

25 thoughts on “5 Life Hacks For Writers”

  1. Treadmill desks are super cool (been dreaming of one for a couple years now), but it’ll have to hold off until I’m a “real adult” with my own place.

  2. The more I go into the revision of my novel and the more I realise I need tools for doing so.
    Recently, I discovered at this stage (I’m on the seventh revision) I can’t see problems with my novel the way a used to a couple revisions ago. So I started using spreadsheets and other tools to check sturcture and other things.
    You never think you need these… until you need them!

    I use Liquind Story Binder, which is very similar to Scrivener, and it has a feature that looks a lot like Trello. That really saved my second draft 😉

    1. I love hearing about new tools! I’ll give Story Binder a look today. Thanks for sharing the tip. : )

  3. I love the idea of rotating the monitor! Sadly, I’ve got an all-in-one for my desktop computer, and it wouldn’t be so happy with me if I put it on its side 🙁 But, that is an idea I will have to think about putting to use!
    I have a sitting/standing desk at work, and don’t use it for standing nearly as much as I probably should, but my feet and ankles keep being a problem for me so I can never use a standing desk for too long… one of these days…..
    I’ll have to look into Trello — always looking for new tools! I love Scrivener — I’ve found myself slowly moving to more scene-based writing (at least for drafts) and I’ve found it’s great for organizing all my materials. I have a feeling that, once I get all the scenes strung together correctly I’ll probably hope back to Word for more editing.

    1. Hi Allison,
      If you’re standing even some of the time, you’re way ahead of most people. : ) I broke my left foot a few years back, twice and in the place. So I get the whole standing hurts my feet problem. It might help if you get a really good shock absorbing pad for the floor. And supportive shoes are so important. I like Dansko, but there are tons of others brands out there. Talk to other people who stand a lot and get recommendations from them until you find a brand you love.
      Good luck with your Scrivener project. I’m not using it. I did the 30 day trial while doing NaNoWriMo a few years back and just didn’t have time to learn. But I want to give it one more try since Heather raves about it.

    1. Treadmill desks do sound strange, but the research results are amazing. People lost weight, lowered their blood pressure, felt great and increased their productivity! I have no space in the place I’m working now, the mudroom off my kitchen, but I’m building a real office in the bonus room out back of my garage. Unfortunately finding a huge amount of dry-rot slowed the project down to a crawl, but when it’s finished, I’m getting a treadmill desk in there!

  4. It’s so funny you post this now, because I’m in the market for a new computer and was thinking of a desktop. Love the idea of turning the screen to catch typos, etc. I’ve heard others rave about standing desks, too. Since I walk everyday I think I’d like the sit/stand option, like you use. Great tips, as usual, Robin!

    1. I like to sit down when I’m using reference books and such, it’s the spread out factor. : ) And also if I’m doing something with the kids. Sitting makes it easier for them to see. My goal is to stand at least 50% to 60% of the time. I love having a screen that rotates! And once you have the drivers set up it’s as simple as pushing three keys at once to swap back and forth. Good luck with the computer shopping.

  5. I love writing to soundtracks when I work on my novel! Actually, it’s gotten to the point where it feels to not do it. With this particular story, I’ve been rotating between the LOTR and Hobbit soundtracks, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, and (somewhat random, but the score is gorgeous) The Lion King. Pretty clear I’m working on a fantasy, right? 😉 As for how I choose what to listen to, it all depends on the type of scene I’m working on and what emotions I’m trying to convey. And so far, it’s been incredibly helpful.

    1. Okay, I’m currently blasting the Prince Caspian soundtrack and flipping Lovin’ it! Thanks for the tip! A lot of writers can’t listen to anything with words when they work, some even start typing the words they hear in the songs. Yikes! Soundtracks are the perfect solution. Great music and no distracting words. : )

  6. I want a standing desk, too. Probably going to be one of the first things I get in Canada! With an exercise ball to sit on instead of a chair, since I like to squirm a lot when I sit, anyway. 🙂 The monitor idea is a great idea, too!

    1. You will love standing! It’s so much better for your body. Just make sure you keep the heights and angles correct so you protect your hands and wrists. I swapped over to a rotating monitor during a major editing phase about two years ago and I’ve never looked back. I LOVE it!

  7. Hi – Great tools! However, as someone who can’t even mix walking together with chewing gum (kidding!), I seriously doubt I could get used to a treadmill desk.
    @dino0726 from 
    FictionZeal – Impartial, Straighforward Fiction Book Reviews

    1. I do worry about the learning curve on a treadmill desk, it sounds petty scary. But I’m going to do it anyway for the sake of my health, and my husband’s health. We plan to trade off using it.

  8. I’ve never heard of a treadmill desk, but now I want one! I have a PC and though I use two monitors (I’ll upgrade to portrait at some point), I sit down far too often. I’ll have to give this some thought. I like the idea of being able to stand and stretch my legs.

    I often use ProWritingAid to check through chunks of text, just to give me an idea of how passive a section might be, or how many of those pesky adverbs sneak their way in! It’s quite useful, just as a quick reference. I like Scrivener for keeping my notes handy, but I don’t use it as I should, because I use word and not the Scrivener word processing element. I’ve tried using Trello, but found it a little overwhelming. I have a giant white board and jot my character notes on that, but am always on the look out for a good programme to track character histories. I sometimes use Excel and create my own tables, but viewing can be a problem.

    1. I never did swap over to Scrivener either, but Heather loves it! As for Trello it’s all in the set up. Look for public templates to get you started. Or get in touch with me by email and I’ll help you. I use Trello for character notes all the time, I should be able to whip you up something helpful. However, I do love my dry erase board too, but for relationship mapping.

      1. Thanks, Robin, that’s so kind. I will have another play over the next day or two and check out those public templates. Then, if I have any problems, I’ll shoot you an email 🙂

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