While the idea of just paper and pen may have been the tools needed back in the day for writers, most of us have more requirements now.
So here is my list of writer tools that I find useful. We are all different and so you might not need all of these, but I think at least some of these are good for every writer to have.
A computer is a must in my opinion, especially if you hope to become a published writer. Editors and publishers will not look at anything that isn’t typed these days. Not to mention computers allow for easier and neater editing and saving.
Whether it’s a laptop that you cart around with you or a PC that’s stationary make sure you get one that’s working well and has a good word processing software that is kept updated to reduce the risk of sudden crashes.
A laptop is good because it’s battery means if there’s a sudden power cut, you aren’t going to lose any work.
I like being forced to write in one location. A laptop while good for writing on the go, was never great for me because I didn’t like the security risk of it getting lost or stolen while out. I also liked having a “writing space”.
So I’m using my laptop on my desk connected to a large monitor and a separate keyboard and mouse.
Pen & Paper
Just because technology in the writing world is necessary, does not mean the old pen and paper is obsolete. Get yourself a stack of pads and some pens. I prefer firm but not hardback covered ones, and spiral bounds mean you can write in it easier.
Get some pens that can be hooked or tied to your pad. (I also carry small pencils with me, I prefer to write in pen but if they die or leak I have a trusty pencil to save the day!)
Now put a pad everywhere – next to your bed, in your handbag, in your car, in your locker, in your desk.
Add the date before you write your ideas. Put everything down whether it’s a full scene, name suggestions, character idea, an emotion, a landscape, a plot idea, a question etc.
If you have several stories on the go at the same time, you could get yourself one of those “multi-pens” where you slide down different nibs depending on which colour you want.
That way you can alternate between colours and have them corresponding to different stories.
Technology is known for failing us. These computers can crash, they can reformat and they will eat your work! If you have been lucky and never had that happen, great! But don’t tempt fate thinking it never will.
So invest in something else. Personally, I have an external hard drive (1Tb) and a number of small (encrypted) data sticks usually around 16GB which is enough to keep me going for years.
Don’t forget to move with the times. Years ago, floppy disks were the backup of choice (showing my age now) then it was CD-R/W but now they are obsolete (even CD’s are on the way out with fewer laptops having CD drives).
The same goes for software, MS Works was once the software everyone used now it’s more likely to be Word (with these two barely being compatible).
A Quiet Place
This is for actual writing, note-taking and idea brewing can be done anywhere (usually the muse strikes when you least expect it).
However, writing needs space, quiet from distractions.
But you can’t write as successfully in a communal area with phones ringing, people talking, animals running around etc. Or maybe you can, who’s to say. I personally can not.
If you can’t find/use a specific room to be your “writing den” then set up an area in another room such as your bedroom that is just for writing.
Move any clutter away, get yourself a comfy chair, a well-sized desk and space to put your notes (even if it’s on a fold-out table that can be folded away later).
Folders, Files, Binders
Whether you use all three or just one, you will need something to organise your notes, scenes, profiles, ideas, plots, timelines, maps etc.
Writers generate a LOT of paper and the rest seems to breed on its own! Keep yourself afloat amid this sea of paper by getting organised.
Books! Yes, those things that came before the internet. Let me say this one again BOOKS! Every writer worth their salt usually has a stack of books and I’m not talking fiction books (though they are needed too). You will definitely need:
- An up to date Dictionary (the small pocket-sized ones are best I find)
- Thesaurus (again small pocket-sized is good)
- Book of baby names (brilliant for getting character names and also meanings of names!)
- The Writers Handbook (current)
- A book on grammar (if it’s not your strong point)
Do NOT trust your spell check to catch everything or your computer thesaurus to give you the best word. They are rarely as good as the actual book versions.
As well as the above start a collection of reference books – almost all novels need research. So whatever you are writing about, get some books on that subject.
If you aren’t sure, consider this – if you are writing fiction and creating a whole world, get some atlas books to get details of other countries to help inspire you. Get books on geology, the desert, forests etc and learn about their climates, weather patterns, types of creatures that live there.
Look at books on culture and religion to give you an idea of how different people in different places view the world that could be connected or worked into your own novel?
If you don’t have space for all these books then get them on a kindle. I prefer actual books for reading but some of the larger reference books I like on Kindle as they just save me space.
Diary or Calendar
If you have a problem keeping up with timelines, get a diary or calendar and use if for your novel.
Even more so if you are writing a journal-type novel like Bridget Jones Diary. Make a note on each day that something happens.
Monday night – the Gypsy camp is raided and burned by town guards. Tuesday morning – survivors are put on trial. Saturday morning – executions are held.
See? This can stop you from getting lost on how many days have gone by, what time things happened. Too often timelines blur in a novel and a writer can have everything happen “at night” in several chapters and the reader isn’t sure if it’s the same night or many.
This way you can be sure you stretch things out more realistically. It can also help if you have a quest – if the desert takes two weeks to cross, make a note in your diary of when they should see the next town etc.
Anything that happens in the desert needs to be within these two weeks (but remember your research books – if the desert takes two weeks, how much water is needed – will they lose some of the camels and horses? etc)
This is not a must-have but personally, I found this to be a big help. If you go anywhere, take a camera. You could find yourself wandering through a park and finding a little glen that is very inspiring and will become part of your novel.
Snap a picture, have it printed and pinned up. Old dead trees, empty wastelands, a busy town bustling with life – it might inspire you and thus allow you to create a visual image of your novel.
Again I prefer an actual camera to a camera-phone because if you are visual and need to print out your photos and pin them up I’m less likely to do this with the photos on my phone.
I love empty walls (though I rarely have any these days). If you can get yourself some empty wall space and then build! If you are world-building and have created maps make them A3 and pin them up.
Get the photos you have taken and pin them up. Any notes or timelines you’ve completed, get them pinned up. You will be seeing your work all the time and believe me it really starts to help the creative juices flowing.
Turn your wall into an inspiration. Did you find a picture of army men running across an open field in a magazine? Did it give you ideas for a military plot? Get that on the wall. Add notes and suggestions and pin them up too.
If you don’t have an empty wall try and get a notice board or a dry erase board or both.
This is a tip someone suggested to me and I have to admit it works. If you are writing a novel/story and have some questions you need to answer but are struggling with, write each one on a post-it.
Stick them EVERYWHERE – on the fridge, on the mirror, on your computer monitor, on your door, on your cupboard…. And every time you pass them, read them and think over the question.
It’s better than just keeping them in a pad and not revisiting them often enough to actually think over them. When you’ve answered one, take it down (don’t forget to write down the answer).
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