As writers in the twenty-first century, we have access to a huge variety of writing tools. Gone are the days of parchment, feather quills, and candles to write by! I’m thankful for all the techn0logical advances that make it so easy to write and to share ideas and stories via words these days. Despite this, I actually had to think a lot about the tools I use as a writer. Here’s my current list of favourite writing tools.
- Computer. I do most of my writing on a computer. I grew up with a computer and developed a very fast typing speed while I was still in my teens. When ideas are flowing, I want to be able to get them down quickly (and read them later). A computer also makes it easier to edit. Right now, I have a desktop computer in my den where I do most of my writing and a Netbook (small laptop) that I can take to a coffee shop or park or conference.
- Notebook and Pen. That’s not to say I don’t ever use a notebook and pen. I’ve learned to keep a small(ish) notebook with a pen in my diaper bag or purse for those moments when inspiration seizes me and I’m not around my computer. I can jot down quick notes (usually point form) that can be translated later into a blog post or story.
- Journal and Scrapbooks. These are writing tools I use when I’m working on creative nonfiction or personal essays. I kept a journal religiously through my teens and early twenties. Any time I’ve written about my summer in Australia, I’ve dug out my journal to double-check dates, names, memories. I’ve also scrapbooked my photos from that summer, which provide a visual memory while writing (see below). I’d also add “letters” to this list, as I have copies of letters which I sent to a friend from Australia and to my grandma during my childhood, which would be fun to read through as fodder for a story (or more).
- Camera. Right now I’m working on a historical fiction novel, for which I’ve done quite a bit of research over the past five years. Some of that research has included visiting actual places that my characters lived and worked two hundred years ago. As I write, I am super glad I took a ton of pictures while visiting those places, because I can review those pictures as I write. Having the visuals on my computer to flip through when I’m struggling with words has been a huge help.
- Picmonkey. I use this writing tool primarily for my blogging, to edit and create (hopefully) eye-catching and pinnable images to go with my posts. We live in an increasingly visual world, and so I think the ability to capture images that complement our words is important. At times this image creation is easy (simply editing a photo of a person or place) and other times I have to be more creative (such as creating an image to go with a vague concept or idea like writing goals). If I were ever to self-publish a book, I could probably use Picmonkey to help create a book cover.
- BibleGateway.com. When I want to look up a Bible verse quickly, I open BibleGateway. This website has over 100 versions of the Bible, so you can compare translations quickly. It’s also handy when I think of a verse that would fit with a blog post or article I’m writing, but I can’t remember the exact reference or context. You can also include links to specific Bible verses or chapters.
- Snowflake Pro. This software program was created for fiction writers by best-selling author Randy Ingermanson. I’ll admit I’ve only dabbled in it, as I’ve worked more on blogging and nonfiction than fiction in the past decade, but I do think that having a way of organizing your story is valuable. Janet Sketchley first recommended this program to me and I’ve read Randy’s monthly e-newsletter for several years, so I picked the software up when Randy ran a big sale.
- Google. I’m on the edge of the generation who won’t remember a time before Google, but that is my go-to research method. Reading through old fur trade journals has made me deeply appreciative of how easy it is to type something into a search engine and have a million results in an instant. However, I also think this ups the ante for today’s writers (of both fiction and nonfiction) to check their facts, because the average reader can find out in seconds if you’ve gotten something wrong or not.
- Library. Yep, even with the internet, I still frequent a library. Just before Christmas, I pulled out a big stack of books on blogging and social media and was quite impressed with the wealth of information there (even if I didn’t manage to read all of it!). I also use it in researching specific things for my novel. While a lot of research can be done via online searches of the library catalogue, I find it very helpful to walk into the library and browse the shelves. Often I’ve gone looking on a shelf for one book and walked away with three or four, because the books next to the one I found in the search engine looked just as interesting and useful.
- Social media. This tool is almost a double-edged sword, because it can distract a writer from writing. I try to remind myself that it is a writing tool and needs to be used wisely. I find it valuable for connecting with other writers (or with people who can help me find more information for my novel), doing research or finding inspiration (I’ve seen various authors create Pinterest boards of things related to their novels), and of course promoting your work (whether it’s a blog or a book).
What tools do you use as a writer?
I like the picmonkey idea too – it’s way too tempting to grab a picture off of Google or Yahoo without paying or getting permission, which of course isn’t right, so making my own seems like a much better idea. All your suggestions were good. I use a lot of them and may have to check out a few others – thanks for sharing!
Great tips, Bonnie! I haven’t heard of PicMonkey before, so I’ll have to check it out. I also have dabbled with Snowflake Pro and hope to use it more in future.
Well the camera was a new idea. I might just have to steal it from you:)
Bonnie, thanks for the picmonkey tutorial link. It’s a fun site but I get frustrated because I don’t know enough. The tutorial will help1 And I love the humour on the site.
I have Snowflake Pro too but I haven’t gotten very far with it. The best thing it’s given me so far–and for me this is huge–is the permission to take time to figure out what I want to say in the various summary sentences. I used to approach the discovery phase like a child taking a test in school: write the answer now! I’ll try it again someday.
Going to have to check out picmonkey!!!! Thanks for the tip!
It’s so much fun for so many things! Cropping photos, collages, making cards, etc. You can find tutorials online or at http://www.5minutesformom.com/picmonkey/. 🙂 Have fun!
picmonkey pricked my interest…
It’s a lot of fun! I find it really easy to use. 🙂
I love Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake method for creating a story plot, but I don’t have his software. Once you’ve given it a good run, let us know your verdict.
I too use Biblegateway all the time… another tool I missed on my list.
Well, I’m working on a novel now and have more planned, so I should dig it out and give it a go to see if it would help me! Glad to hear that it works for you. 🙂
Hi Bonnie! I love how we all thought of totally different things (mostly!). I love that you still use the library. I never think of that. I use Bible Gateway all the time – I should have added that one to my list.
Yes, it’s definitely fun to see that we’re all writers but use slightly different tools in our trade! Thanks for dropping by. 🙂
I am going to have to see what this picmonkey thing is all about. I love the name, even if it won’t help me at all.
Leanne Ross ( readfaced.wordpress.com )
Yes, the creators of Picmonkey have a good sense of humour, which you’ll see in the site as well as the name. 🙂 Check it out – it so easy to use and lets you do so much with your photos. 🙂 Thanks for dropping by!