Here are a few of my favorite tools that you can ask Santa for this year. If Santa neglects to bring them, treat yourself.
1. Nuance PDF allows you turn documents into PDF documents within Word for Windows: just select Print, Save as PDF, and voila - done.
2. Word Web Pro brings up a dictionary and thesaurus within word with a click of Control-W. It includes pronunciations and usage examples, and has helpful spelling and sounds-like links.
3. Smart Edit goes beyond the many editing tools available in Word for Windows (as outlined in Story Building Blocks III) to make your prose the best it can be before you turn it over to an agent or editor. If you are an independent publisher and can't afford an editor, at least give your manuscript a run through with this tool before hitting upload.
4. Natural Reader reads your work back to you. The readback voice is not the quality that allows you to make an audio book, but it beats reading your manuscript back to yourself. You can purchase additional "voices" beyond the basic two.
5. Serif Web Plus provides website building for the HTML challenged. There is no need to learn code. If you can operate a photo manipulation program, you can build your own website with this user-friendly gem. You can utilize a template or build your own from scratch once you get the hang of it.
6. Interior Templates by Create Space creates a template based on the selected trim size. If you can use Word for Windows, you can modify the template to fit your needs. The precalculated gutters and margins keeps your text where it needs to be. You can customize the headers, footers, and fonts.
7. Cover Creator Templates by Create Space allows you to use any photo manipulation program or Adobe Photoshop to create stunning covers. It generates a template based on the trim size and page length.
8. Calibre helps you create an e-book with ease. It supports all the major e-book formats. It can rescale all font sizes, ensuring the output e-book is readable no matter what font sizes the input document uses. It can automatically detect/create book structure, like chapters and Table of Contents. It can insert the book metadata into a "Book Jacket" at the start of the book.
9. Scrivener: there is a learning curve, but it is an excellent way to organize your plot and works perfectly with the Story Building Blocks theory of story structure and character creation.
10. Story Building Blocks Series: learn how to structure a plot, build believable characters, craft believable conflict, and revise like a pro with this set. One fan called it a Cliff-note MFA.
Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflicts examines the core building blocks for plotting your book and their relationship to the different genres.
Story Building Blocks print book
Story Building Blocks for Kindle
Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict introduces you to sixteen character prototypes that can be warped and tortured to create realistic characters your readers will care about. It helps you create psychology-based conflict amongst the cast members of your story.
Story Building Blocks II print book
Story Building Blocks II print book
Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers takes you through high-low revision techniques to remove the plot holes and speed bumps from your first draft and basic editing tips so your agent and editor won't cringe while reading it.
Story Building Blocks III print book
Story Building Blocks III for Kindle
Story Building Blocks: Build A Cast Workbook uses the sixteen mannequins from Story Building Blocks II and offers a "fill in the blanks" format to flesh out your cast.
Build A Cast Workbook print book
Build A Cast Workbook for Kindle
Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.