Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Behind The Keyboard--Tools of the Trade


"Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along." –George Herbert



While it’s true that writers do not require any special tools, there certainly are a large variety of them out there. Some writers find themselves more productive and comfortable using certain devices.

I began my writing career with only paper and pencil. I would take my handwritten manuscript to work and type it up during my lunch break. Revisions and edits were made at home with a red pencil and then brought back to work the following day for a retype. If you think this process sounds hectic and unproductive, you would be right.

Five years later, the process is only a little less hectic. I now own a laptop at home, and my tools have increased. I still write on paper with a pencil. I type it into an Open Office document but save it as an .rtf on Dropbox in order to work on it at the shop in Microsoft Word. Edits and revisions are still done in red, but I prefer the Pilot Rollerball.


I have a room fool of tools. Are they necessary? Not really, but they make life a little easier and that translates into higher productivity.

Let’s take a look at some of the tools available to writers.


Paper—is available in different sizes, weights and colors. I use 8-1/2 x 11 sheets of used paper. (I have tons of it from my day job, and I only write on one side anyway.)



Notebooks—come in a huge assortment: moleskins, journals, spiral or black marbled composition books. I have at least four of each kind, in every size.


Pencils—are available in mechanical, colored, or conventional wood in hard or soft. I prefer using mechanical pencils, but sometimes I use #2 conventionals. I line up a half dozen of them by my right hand. Running them through a sharpener when all six points are worn is like active meditation and gives me time to imagine a scene.



Pens—there are so many different pens in every color imaginable! Just a few examples are ballpoint, rollerball, gel, markers, fountain pens, or even a quill and ink. (Yes, I own a variety of each, but some are just decorative.) IF I use a pen, which is rare, I prefer a fine point in black.


Technology—is a must since almost all submissions and queries are done via e-mail. Social media is a necessary evil as well as maintaining a website or blog. And who doesn’t love the convenience of quick online research. Always, always, always make sure you back up your work on either a thumb drive or an online backup site. I use Norton. Your cache of technology may consist of a laptop or desktop, tablet, smartphone, and/or voice recorder. While I don’t have a smartphone (Yes, I’m still resistant.) I have all the rest. I find the voice recorder comes in handy when I’m driving. My muse sits in the back seat, poking me in the ribs while she spews ideas at me.



Craft and Reference books and e-books—may include a Thesaurus, Dictionary, Market guides, and Rules of Grammar. There are hundreds of  ‘How-to’ books on creative writing, writing a novel, poetry, characters, heck, you name it! One of the newest additions to my writing toolbox is the Emotion Thesaurus.



Computer Software and Programs—Besides Microsoft Word and Open Office, there are tons of writer’s programs available, such as Storybook and Scrivener to name a few. Some are free and some charge, but the one that piqued my interest was the Dragon Speech Recognition software. We’re still in the getting-to-know-you stage of the relationship, but I’ll keep you updated.


Writing sites—There are too many to name, and you can really spend way too much time in cyberville, but some of the best ones are Rhymezone, Nathan Bransford's blog and Kristi Holl's Writer's First Aid. There are sites that offer forums, discussions, critique partners, and any other form of writing support you may need. But Beware! If you spend too much time on these sites, you won’t get much writing done.



Prompts—For those times when your muse is on vacation, you can find websites that offer word and picture prompts, and there are even books that will give you ideas. I own The Pocket Muse but I’ll be honest, I haven’t had the need for it lately.

What is the one tool you NEED to stay productive?


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