Writing Tools

Some of these things are obvious and many people use them. I’m a completist, though, and as I was putting this list together, I wanted to paint a comprehensive picture of things I use to help me get my story from “Once upon a time” to “Happily ever after”. Every one of the items on this list has been essential in my writing process, though I’ve been finding I don’t use some of them as well as I should.

Does making a checklist of tools and using them effectively guarantee success? Of course not, but it’s a helpful to have a list that reminds me of the items I have at my disposal. Others may find a similar list helpful, too.

Idea File: Stored on the laptop, hard drives, and cloud. Full of dozens of ideas for plots, characters, quotes, story names, words, creatures, and places. The perfect cure for writer’s’ block. Sometimes.

Notebooks – Endless notebooks. I’ve got notes going back to high school, some written in a three-ring, others on old dot matrix printer paper. I have a notebook or two in my luggage. Another waits in my work bag. I have a stack of them in the spare bedroom. Some of the information has been entered into the computer, but much hasn’t. That’s a problem.

Moleskine notebook – I was given a pocket edition by my wife. I wanted to save it for really important notes–after all, it is a world-famous item and should be used appropriately. It sat empty for months. I have now used one page.

Samsung Galaxy smartphone – My honorary appendage. Use it for email and writing and research and Facebook and Twitter and WordPress and note-taking and setting reminders.  I hear it can be used as a phone, too.

On Writing by Stephen King – This was a nice change from other books, in which the author tells you how to do things. King just tells you what worked for him. Some things I can relate to, and others I can’t. I’ve read this more than any of his other works!

Mother Tongue English & How it Got That Way by Bill Bryson. If you like to challenge the rules of grammar or try new things in your writing, this book has some great context.

Elements of Style by Strunk and White – Everyone says every writer needs this.  Every writer needs this.

The Wall Chart of World History from Barnes & Noble – I love the timelines this book shows. They allow me to see what else was going on in the world during important events in world history. Perhaps more importantly, it gets my writer’s mind thinking about what else is happening in my fantasy world.

The Lord of the Rings soundtracks – Perfect for writing fantasy and folklore.

Braveheart soundtrack – My first writing soundtrack. Really puts me in the mood for folklore. Star Wars (anything by John Williams, really), Dances With Wolves, and Pirates of the Caribbean are also fantastic.

Clannad and Enya – there’s an ethereal, RenFest feel to their music that I’ve always found inspiring. I’ve been listening to Clannad since high school.

Facebook – I’m setting up a page to display excerpts of stories and writing-related posts. In the past, when friends have found a story they like, I send them a draft for review. My aim is to get feedback from many points-of-view, which helps me determine whether key story elements are landing with different kinds of readers. Any feedback is great.

Twitter – Use it to talk about my writing and to connect with other writers. I also ramble on about grammar sometimes. Also considering Tumblr and LinkedIn.

Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com – I used to carry Oxford’s combined dictionary/thesaurus everywhere before this app was available on my phone (my wife thinks I should still carry the book, but she loves English, too).

Evernote – It’s great to have online space to save notes and ideas, but I’m finding that once I save to Evernote, I’m never going back.  Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.

Laptop or tablet – I want to write everywhere – on the couch, in bed, on the deck – not just in the spare bedroom where we used to house the desktop computer. I brought my table and a Bluetooth keyboard to Mexico, which was super convenient.

Cloud Storage – As someone who has lost several documents and had no back-up (including the final paper for my History major), I highly recommend back-ups. Previously, I’d store these on secondary hard drives, but version management was a PAIN. However, grabbing one of the drives when evacuating for a fire or zombie attack (after the wife, kids, dogs and pajama bottoms), would have been a challenge.

Microsoft Word – I’ve been writing with Word for nearly 20 years now.  Still learning new things.

WordPress – I’ve been using WordPress for a few years – and varying purposes. I went with WP over a Google site because I feel the visibility to new readers is higher.

Google Maps – very convenient on the go – when thinking about my own geography – despite my love of a good atlas.

**Updated 4/9/16