Writing Wednesdays: Tools you need to be a writer

July 13, 2016
What tools do you need to be a writer? Is there a special program to use? A special notebook? Some trick you're missing?

I get asked this question a LOT. I’ve always thought it’s a really bizarre thing to ask – but there are no stupid questions, and if this is something you’ve been wondering about, read on.

You do not need a specific notebook.

It doesn’t need to be wide-ruled, with margins, and spiral-bound. If you want to use a notebook for writing, then just find one you like and that you like writing in. I’ve got a ton of notebooks I love, but the one I keep for my writing-related things is a cheap, black fake-leather one with plain paper and a little ribbon to mark the page, and a bit of elastic to hold the pages together. Literally, just find a notebook you like.

You don’t need a specific pen, either.

Again – whatever you like and whatever feels comfortable.

You don’t need a certain device to write on.

It doesn’t matter what brand your computer is, or whether you write on a Mac desktop or use a Samsung tablet with a wireless keyboard. Whenever I’ve had to get a new laptop, I always test the keyboard before anything else: it needs to be one that I feel comfortable with.

There’s also no ‘right way’ to format your work.

Maybe you have to write an essay that’s Times New Roman, Size 12, Double-Spaced. But writing is a lot less restrictive. If you like Calibri, use Calibri! If you like Times New Roman, use Times New Roman! But I would say that Size 12 is a pretty safe font size (rather than like, Size 48) – I’d say one A4 page in Word like that is roughly 1.5-2 pages in a paperback. I personally like to use justified alignment on all of my documents – I just think it’s neater that aligned left.

“But how do I write a text or an email from someone in my book?”

However you want. Maybe it’s in a different font. Maybe you’ll design the entire email, in a box, on the page. Maybe you’ll just italicise it, or put it in speech marks and say it’s a text. Totally up to you.

It’s cool if you want to print it out to make notes and edits.

You might find it easier to read through a paper copy of your manuscript and mark things you want to change in a red pen, or not. Up to you. When I’ve had proof manuscripts of my published novels, I’ve been sent them on paper; but when it’s just main edits to the draft of the novel, it’s on the computer.

“But how do I make a book cover?”

You don’t necessarily need to. Yes, if you’re posting your book online/self-publishing. No, if you’re trying to get published traditionally (the publishing house will have someone to do this for you). I’ve covered this in this post, but to recap: Canva is probably your best friend, and you can find tons of cute free stock images with some googling. I made the Writing Wednesdays images in Canva with a free stock image, in case you were wondering.

If you want to find writing apps or websites to help you, that’s cool too.

I like Trello for storing story ideas (and blog post ideas!) and there are lots of writers who like using various other apps or websites for their writing.

You might also like this post about free online tools you can use as a writer.

Typically, I think, writing on a computer/whatnot is your best bet.

Since we’re a very digital world these days, I think it’s safe to say that most submissions to agents and publishers are made online, or via email. Certainly, for a whole work (as opposed to three sample chapters) things are mostly sent online. It’s easier to edit, too – Word has a function where you can add comment and track changes, so your editor can make their edits and notes, and you can easily see exactly what they’ve done. Plus, you know, it won’t blow away in the wind, and it’s super easy to keep a copy.

Personally, I prefer to write on my laptop than by paper, and I write in Word. It’s pretty easy to format things and it’s a software that mostly everyone is familiar with. Of course, I try and keep copies of things on an external hard drive and memory stick, too. Just in case. But hey – if you want to write your entire manuscript by hand, nothing’s stopping you! 

You don’t need any specific tools to be a ‘proper writer’. You just need to write.

Are there any programs or tools you use to write? Share in the comment section below!

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