Every writer has favorite tools that help them hone their craft. From fancy computer programs to simple notebooks, here’s a list of tools I use or have used in the past, and what I like about them.
- Pen and Paper – the old standard is still necessary for writers today! Even though I do most of my drafting with a keyboard rather than a pen, a good notebook is essential for brainstorming, outlining, and questioning a story. Often when I find myself stuck on a given work in progress, it isn’t until I go back to a pen in my hand and work through a bit of a draft long form that I am able to pull out of the slump. I use rollerball pens, and my favorite notebooks are the softcover ones with the stitched spines, like these.
- Caffeine – the writer’s vice. But hey, it’s better than alcohol, right? A good cup of coffee or tea is nectar from the writing muse.
- Headphones or earbuds – sometimes I will sit at a desk or table for a half hour or more and wonder why I’m not making any progress – just can’t get into the swing of the writing thing. Then I realize, wait, there’s no music! Plug these babies in and watch the word count rise.
- Pandora – what to listen to? I usually don’t enjoy writing to music with lyrics, unless it is a specific genre to help me get into the right mood or headspace for a certain character or setting. My standby writing music comes from two Pandora stations. The first one is made of action movie soundtracks, and gets my blood going for those stories or scenes with a lot of action or tension involved. The second is comprised of piano-based music. I love this type of music because listening to the keys of a piano helps my fingers to keep typing away at the keys of a keyboard.
- Rainy Mood – if, for whatever reason, I don’t want to listen to music but I want some background noise, I use the website RainyMood.com, which plays a variety of rainy day sounds, from a light drizzle to a downpour to a thunderstorm.
- Scrivener – if you haven’t heard of Scrivener before, it is a computer software especially for writers. You can split your manuscript into easily accessible chapters and scenes, tag sections by setting, character, or timeline, link character profiles, store research and notes, view a “pinboard” or longform outline… and so much more. Yes, that’s a lot! This program can be overwhelming for me, especially in the drafting phase. It is easy to be so distracted by all the different settings, color codes, cross-references, etc that hours can go by without any actual writing happening! I think it is a great program that is really useful for lengthy WIPs that include multiple points of view or timelines, and a lot of characters.
- Microsoft Word – the basic word processor, MS Word is still my preferred place to type and format a manuscript. Since agents and publishers will expect Microsoft Word files if they request your work, it’s nice to know that my manuscripts are already in the correct format and meet publishing world standards.
- Write or Die – this free tool is really useful if you are on a deadline or trying to meet a self-made goal. The online program is free, and it provides a text box where you type for a given amount of time and attempt to reach a certain goal. If you stop typing, the page gradually turns red, and eventually plays and obnoxious sound to get you typing away again. Just make sure you save your work at the end!
- Pinterest – when I’m working on a manuscript, especially in the beginning stages, I like to create a Pinterest board to collect images that put me in the headspace of that story. Whether it’s photos of people who remind me of my characters, images of settings I plan to use, artwork that fits the mood of the story, or links to websites with useful information and research, it’s nice to have it all in one place. If I have to take some time away from a WIP, I like to go back and look at this board to get into the right frame of mind before starting up again.
- Library Card – writers read, and boy am I glad we can do it for free.
- Bookstore – as wonderful as libraries are, they can have a bit of a clinical feel. People have meetings, do homework, come in to use the computer, etc in a library, so there’s something nice about bookstores – where the focus is solely on books purely for the sake of books!
What tools do you find important to your writing process? Any that I didn’t mention? Let me know!