Tuesday, July 31, 2012 | By: Lynn

Tools of the Trade

Simply put, to write writers need only something to write with and something to write on. Right? Writers don’t need lots of tools of the trade.


Cavemen used charcoal (maybe) to draw on cave walls. In earlier days, school children wrote with chalk on slate tablets. We can use what we have available to express ourselves. So if what you’re writing is a note or letter you need only a pencil and paper. If you’re writing a journal you would probably add a notebook to your arsenal of writing tools. But writing a story is a complex task, one that can require more than a pencil and a piece of paper.
When I first started writing – way back when – I wrote in longhand with a pencil in a notebook. I crafted my first “book” that way. That story will never see the light of day, but the point is, it can be done and feeble attempts are not the only product those kinds of tools can produce. Writer Mike Shea made it a project to find writers who hand-write because he is one himself.
“For some odd reason I became fascinated by authors who hand-write their novels. Sure, Orwell wrote 1984 longhand, he sort of had to, but what about modern authors who handwrite?”
Well, I'm not one of those authors. I moved on from writing by hand to an electronic typewriter that could store data and displayed text a sentence at a time on a small “screen.” I loved it. But quickly I realized the limitations of that small screen and limited storage capability, so the next tool of the trade I acquired was a word processor. That was heaven…until I got my first PC. Yeah! Greatest writing tool ever. Well, right up there with the Internet and its vast resources.

The list can go on and on. Just as doctors and plumbers and school teachers and astrophysicists utilize various tools to help them practice their trade and do so with expertise, writers have many tools to help them. So we can go old school, and sometimes jotting down notes on the fly is perfect so we don’t lose that wonderful description that just popped into our head, but there is so much to think about when it comes to filling your writing life with tools of the trade.

Office Supplies Rule
I not only am in love with my technology tools, I love sticky notes, pens, paper clips, and more. If I’m having a block in my writing, a trip to an office supplies store can light up my life. Enough cannot be said about gel pens, cute pocket-size notepads, and legal size pads of paper, not to mention folders of all sizes that help organize my drafts.

Technology is Tops
Writers can be attached to their laptops and notebooks. I know I love mine. I don’t like to travel without it and almost suffer separation anxiety if I try to leave home without it -- even though yes, I have a smart phone, which I also love. I think one reason I’m attached to my laptop is because it is connected to the feelings that come from writing and creating. With my fingers on the keyboard my thoughts pour, sometimes easily and sometimes in spurts, but my laptop’s patience is infinite and contains inputting as well as deleting in a flash. And there is the fact that my laptop connects me to the Internet. From there I can search and learn and use info, definitively or as a launching off place.

But there’s more.

Writers are getting help from technology tools in ever-better ways. A list at Novel Writing Software suggest the variety to consider. Author Victoria Smith found the Snowflake method to be effective. My son likes mindmapping and especially likes XMind. Look around and you may add writing software to your tool bag.

Books are Big
My bookshelves overflow. They are filled with reference books, quote books, writing instruction books, and of course, lots of all kinds of fiction. Books, good and bad, help writers learn about the craft, what they like and don’t like, what works and what doesn’t. I love the feel of pages of a book, so simply holding one can put me in the mood to write. I carry a book with me nearly all the time.

I also love the feel of my Kindle. I have tons of books in my Kindle as well, and carry it with me when I’m reading from it. With my Kindle, I can carry more than one book at a time and not break my back toting it. When I’m finished with my current book, I can purchase and download a new one from Amazon in nothing flat. Voila! I’m ready to read. Instant gratification.

Space is Special
Writers can write nearly anywhere, and they do. They can be found in coffee shops, parks, libraries, and at the kitchen table. Still, having a space reserved for your writing and equipped with writing tools can be very important, as writer Diane Lee  points out.
“A well lit, clutter free, quiet work space to write in can be as valuable a tool as any. I often work with a television playing, a dog barking or a spouse interrupting me. But unless you can tune yourself away from such things it’s easy to lose your train of thoughts. I try to take full advantage of whatever quiet time I can. I find it a necessity to have a light over my work space. It’s just as important to be able to see your keyboard as it is to see your written notes and outlines. And speaking of notes and outlines, it’s hard to find these handy if your desk is over flowing with other projects and you don’t even know where you put the notes you took. I’ve been there and done that and often find myself in the same mess all over again. But I can tell you it’s easier if you’re organized to some degree.”

My writing space in my house is near a window. It’s cluttered. It has objects that inspire me sitting around. It works for me. But your space may be the dining room table or the living room couch. Your space is what you make it.

Exposure is Exciting
It’s all fine and good to sit at your laptop or desktop and pound out stories. Writing is all about doing the work on the page and many writers are solitary sorts. But exposure to the real world, beyond the world in your heart and mind, keeps the writer grounded. Exposure can “excite” your imagination. An afternoon out with friends can expose human frailties you might not have thought about. A walk with your dog can expose you to human interactions that can inspire interesting twists in your plot. Participation in a writers’ group can help you persevere. Being open to exposure to many things allows creativity to flow unimpeded.

Sharing is Helpful
Office chairs that don’t hurt the body. Effective productivity programs and easy to use character charts. Informative websites and blogs. With all the tools of the trade to choose from, it’s helpful to know what other writers have found useful or just a waste. What tools of the trade are you in love with? What tools of the trade do you find pointless? Share?

Image from Dreamstime