Blog As Writing Tool; or Making My LiveJournal Earn Its Keep

(This posting originally appeared on The Melt-Ink Pot)

Anybody besides me out there still using LiveJournal? Blogger’s cool and all, and Facebook and Twitter have their uses, but I still love LJ. Because it lets me do things none of these other tools can do.

Confession time again: I’ve been using my LJ to keep track of my story ideas for a couple of years now.

It started one day when I was at work, and a really cool story idea popped into my head. It was in the B.N. days (Before Netbook), so I couldn’t just whip out my netbook (which does come with me to work most days) and add it to my existing ideas file. (Everyone has an ideas file, right? Someplace to keep notes about all of the cool ideas you haven’t had a chance to write into stories yet? If you don’t, you should start one.)

Now, I had choices. I could have e-mailed it to myself, or saved it in a Word document and put it on my data stick, or even just written it down on a sticky note. But all of those things required that I follow up later and take the idea from wherever I’ve left it and put it into my ideas file.

Instead, I jotted a quick sticky-note to myself, and then on my lunch hour, I went out to my LiveJournal and posted it as a private entry. So I can see it, but nobody else.

This also has the advantage that I can add a tag (“Story Ideas”) so that I can later sort by that tag in order to see all of my ideas. And it means that as long as I’m in range of a computer, or have a few data hits left on my phone for the month, I can save my story ideas before they wander off.

Private entries are good for other things as well. I’ve written entire story chunks as blog entries, as well as story outlines, when I couldn’t get to my netbook for some reason. Handy stuff.

Another LJ feature that I’ve used a couple of times in the past is polls. It’s fairly easy to create an LJ poll and use it to poll your friends list to get input for a story. In the past, prior to NaNoWriMo, I’ve put up polls of story ideas and asked which should be my NaNo project for that year. And for those who missed it, there was the whole saga of “Naming Nicholas Fletcher,” where one of my characters expressed dissatisfaction with the name I’d given him. I used LJ to garner suggestions, and then ran a poll to see what the final name should be.

Nicholas still shows up once in a while to kvetch about how I’m writing him. And the dialogues we’ve had have been an excellent way for me to get to know his character better. So that makes another handy way to use LJ as a writing tool.

Finally, I also participate in an on-line critique group where all of our work is done via LJ. LJ works really well for this sort of thing; you can create a community, and then post entries that are only visible to the community. That keeps our work private, and allows us to avoid the whole question of whether or not first publishing rights have been violated. And then, we leave our critiques for each piece in the comments.

So I guess, aside from word processing programs, LJ is my favorite writing tool.

Do other folks have favorite software/utilities/applications that weren’t designed as writing tools, but that you find handy anyway?

(p.s. This entry? Written ahead of time and stored on LJ until it came time to post it here…)

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About sheilamcclune

Aspiring author, sharing the tidbits I've learned along the way.
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