Back when I was seventeen years old and first considering the possibility of becoming a writer, the tools available to me were rather low-tech. I had a pad and a pen. Reference materials consisted of a battered paperback dictionary and a thesaurus in even worse condition.
When I had the money for ribbon, I’d cart my mother’s typewriter off to my room. I took that thing over by the time I was eighteen. I’d grown up playing with it so despite it technically belonging to her, I always felt that it was mine. I’m pretty sure that I took it with me when I moved out of the house too.
In 1998 when I became interested once again in writing as a hobby, things were a little different. I didn’t own a typewriter for one thing, but I did have a computer with an internet connection. Other than that, I floundered along in an attempt to find what worked. Was all that flailing about a help or a hindrance during those early years? Sometimes it seems like both.
I’ve written novels solely on the computer using Microsoft Word. I’ve written full novels in long-hand–from concept and outline to finished product–only transcribing the material to my website when it was ready to be posted. I’ve started novels in long-hand and finished them in a word processor. There never seemed to be a rhyme or reason why I’d prefer long-hand to typewriting in the beginning. Some stories seemed to call for a more archaic approach.
It’s been eighteen years since I began writing again (good gods! Has it been that long?) and I think I’ve finally narrowed down my process. I’ve got five tools in my tool box that I’ve consistently used for every novel in the last eight or nine years.
My all-time favorite computer is my MacBook Pro. I’ve been an Apple convert since the early 2000’s and haven’t looked back.
The MacBook Pro gives me tons of storage, decent speed, a stable operating system and the freedom to pick up and go anywhere. At least once a week I’m writing at a coffee shop. (In some cases, I’ve written entire manuscripts at various coffee shops around town.)
At home I have an iMac, but I seldom use it for writing. It sits in the living room in front of my favorite chair and is my research station/website design unit/goof-off machine.
The one major difference in my writing has been my productivity. And I can safely say that Scrivener is the cause!
I cannot stress how useful this program has become for me. I’ve even written a couple of blog entries on the subject at my website explaining how I use it. This program is everything I’ve ever wanted in a word processing program…before I knew I wanted it!
Yes, it’s that good!
Scrivener was originally a Mac only program, but it now runs on Windows too. If you get nothing else from this blog entry, go get this!
Several years ago this was a downloadable program. Unfortunately, operating system upgrades have made it impossible for me to use the program itself, but the Visual Thesaurus website has an annual subscription fee for access.
If you just need to use it occasionally, you can access a word or two without having to pay money. I have the Visual Thesaurus up and running constantly when I’m writing, however, so I pay the $20 per year. It’s been a godsend when I’m struggling to find just the right word as I’m blazing through my current work in progress!
Last month I wrote a post here about random name generators. (You can go read it now if you want. I’ll wait!)
I think that post says everything about my love for those cool gadgets! A couple that I listed have a lot more than names attached to them, allowing the user to pick up any number of inspirations on any number of subjects. I’ve used NPC generators to bestow odd quirks upon my supporting characters, planetary generators for the Freya’s Tears novel and the ship generators for same.
As fiction writers we’re already using our brains and imaginations to tell a story. The generators help with those minor details that add depth to your novel without forcing you to lose focus on the important plot points.
Due to the excess of online resources, I don’t use my research books as often as I did in the beginning. I still have them though. The monster-sized Roget’s Thesaurus is much better than the online one. Sometimes I need a word with a little more “oomph” to it. I also have a phrase thesaurus to combat those oft used cliches that show up in any novel.
I have a book on my Amazon wishlist too–The Emotion Thesaurus! Looking forward to getting that one, lemme tell ya!
Plus there are all the gaming resource books I have on hand. I’m using the Traveller gaming system quite a bit for my current work in progress, Ginnungagap.
I’m a writer! Reference books will never go out of style!
What’s in Your Toolbox?
I’ve shown you mine. Will you show me yours? What sorts of tools to you use in your writing? Any books that you can’t live without? A computer program that’s da bomb? Click below and share the wealth! Your treasure might be just the thing that someone else needs to make that breakthrough in their manuscript!