To start writing you need three things; something to write on, something to write with, and an idea. But that makes it sound easy, and writing is not easy (fun, fulfilling, wonderful yes. Easy? Hell no). So frankly there’s nothing wrong with using anything you can to help you out. Read on for nine of the best tools I think a writer can get.
1) A timer
A cheap kitchen one from the pound shop, your phone, a browser extension – timers come in many forms, but they’re an invaluable tool to help you focus. Simply set it for however long you want and write. Knowing you have a set period of time before a guaranteed break can help you to stay motivated. And during your breaks, you can fit in any tasks that might be playing on your mind, or keep yourself well with a short walk, bite to eat or drink.
2) Internet blocker
Egads! The Internet! The Devil’s digital handiwork! Ok not quite (although certain corners of it are run by his lesser demons). But it’s always there, ready, waiting, tempting you to…just…scroll…some…more. Fear not, for help is at hand with a whole host of browser extensions available to download for free. Set them up however you see fit, be it to block the whole internet or just certain websites. You can usually set them to work at specific times too, so you can still browse when you’re not writing.
3) Hemingway App
There’s nothing wrong with being verbose in your writing. But it’s easy to fall into the trap of over-writing, especially when you first start out. The Hemingway App is a handy, online tool to quickly check your work. I use it for my day job as an online copyeditor and writer, but I’ve also used it for my fiction and blog posts too. You may not choose to change what it highlights, but it can help to show where you could be more direct.
4) A notebook
Or two. Or three. Or 38. Your basic all-purpose notebook has been the standard go-to writing tool for years. And I do think having more than one is a good idea. Keep one beside the bed, one in your bag, one by the shower – wherever you need them. They never need charging, you’ll never accidentally delete them, and they come with a variety of wonderful covers.
5) Name dictionary
A standard dictionary and thesaurus are a given, but if you’re a fiction writer, add a name dictionary as well. Get one that has names from a variety of different cultures and their meanings to really give extra depth to your characters.
6) Writers & Artists Yearbook
If you’re looking for publication or representation, this book is the bible. It lists publishers and agents along with details on what genres they cover and how to submit your work, plus each addition has handy articles to help you in your quest. You can access a lot of the information online, but many writers still like to have an actual copy and the information usually stays in date for years.
7) A subscription to a writing magazine
My subscription to the writing magazine is my literary caffeine. If I’m struggling to get motivated, I just pick up a copy and start reading. There are a few options out there, including digital subscriptions so you can save paper and storage space.
8) “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White
Really Wordlander? This book again? Yes, this again! I go on about this so much because I truly believe all writers can benefit from this slim, yet effective book. So if you haven’t got it, go get it.
9) Post-it notes (or digital equivalent)
Whether you’re a planner or a pantser, Post-it notes (or their online equivalent) are always useful. Use them to plan your story, move events around in your timeline, create traits for your characters, remind yourself of a plot point to update later, remind yourself to eat – the possibilities are just endless.
So there are nine useful tools, but I’m sure there are plenty more. What tool do you swear by? Let me know in the comments!