Here’s a list of 10 "tools" you will find useful if you are a writer.
01 – COMPUTER
A computer is a must, especially if you hope to become a published writer. Editors and publishers will not look at anything that isn’t typed these days. Not to mention computers allow for easier and neater editing and saving, not to mention you will increase your typing speed as you write. Some people get laptops, personally I prefer a PC as laptops seem to have more habit of dying and never seem as easy to fix as a PC. A PC will also force you to sit in a better posture and be less likely to sit in front of the TV or in a communal room.
02 - PEN & PAPER
Just because technology in the writing world is necessary does not mean the old pen and paper is obsolete. In fact this is very important. Get yourself a stack of pads. I prefer firm but not hard back covered ones, and spiral bounds mean you can write in it easier. Get some pens that can be hooked or tied to your pad. Now put a pad everywhere – next to your bed, in your handbag, in your car, in your locker, in your desk… Writers should always carry pads around, the reason for putting a different one in every likely place is because the day you forget to bring your one pad with you is the day you come up with a corker of an idea!
Add the date before you write your ideas. Put everything down whether it’s a full scene, name suggestions, character idea, an emotion, a landscape, a plot idea, a question etc.
03 - CDs / EXTERNAL HARDDRIVES / PEN-DRIVES
The above means one thing – BACKUP! PCs and laptops crash, they reformat and they eat your work! So invest in something else. Personally I have all three of the above. Everything on my PC is backed up on a strong MASSIVE external harddrive. My novels are then backed up again on CDs for extra protection (kept in a fire-proof safe) and I have a pen drive that goes everywhere with me so if I get a chance I can write notes or scenes. Everything on the pen drive is transferred to the PC as soon as I get chance which will then end up on the harddrive.
Don’t forget to move with the times. Years ago, floppy disks were the back up choice – but now you can barely find a computer that accepts them. The same goes for Software, MS Works was once the software everyone used now its more likely to be word (with these two barely being compatible).
04 - QUIET PLACE
This is for actual writing, note taking and idea brewing can be done anywhere! However writing needs space, quiet from distractions (not talking music as I personally need music in the background to focus with). But you can’t write as successfully in a communal area with phones ringing, people talking, animals running around etc.
If you can’t find / use a specific room to be your “writing den” then set up an area in another room such as your bedroom that is just for writing. Move any clutter away, get yourself a comfy chair, a well-sized desk and space to put your notes (even if its on a fold out table that can be folded away later).
05 - FOLDERS / FILES / BINDERS
Whether you use all three or just one, you will need something to organise your notes, scenes, profiles, ideas, plots, timelines, maps etc. Writers generate a LOT of paper and the rest seems to breed on its own! Keep yourself afloat amid this sea of paper by getting organised. (Additional tutorial about that coming up)
06 - LIBRARY
Books! Yes, those things that came before the internet! Let me say this one again BOOKS! Every writer worth their salt has a stack of books and I’m not talking fiction books (though they are needed too). You will definitely need:
* An up to date Dictionary (the small pocket sized ones are best I find)
* A Thesaurus (again small pocket sized is good)
* Book of baby names (brilliant for getting character names and also meanings of names!)
* The Writers Handbook (current)
* A book on grammar (if it’s not your strong point)
Do NOT trust your spell check to catch everything or your computer thesaurus to give you the best word. They are rarely as good as the actual book versions.
As well as the above start a collection of reference books – almost all novels need research (believe me readers are picky buggers and someone will complain if you mention the wrong tack on your horses or get the medieval outfit wrong). So whatever you are writing get some books on them.
If you aren’t sure think about this – if you are writing fiction and creating a whole world, get some atlas books to get details of other countries to help inspire you. Get books on geology, the desert, forests etc and leave about their climates, weather patterns, types of creatures that live there.
Look at books on culture and religion to give you an idea on how different people in different places view the world that could be connected or worked into your own novel?
07 - DIARY
If you have a problem keeping up with time lines you could buy a diary and use if for your novel. Even more so if you are writing a journal-type novel such as Bridget Jones Diary. Make a note on each day that something happens. Monday night – the gypsy camp is raided and burned by town guards. Tuesday morning – survivors are put on trial. Saturday morning – executions are held.
See? This can stop you getting lost on how many days have gone by, what time things happened. Too often time lines blur in a novel and a writer can have everything happen “at night” in several chapters and the reader isn’t sure if it’s the same night or many. This way you can be sure you stretch things out more realistically. If can also help if you have a quest – if the desert takes two weeks to cross, make a note in your diary of when they should see the next town etc. Anything that happens in the desert needs to be within these two weeks (but remember your research books - if the desert takes two weeks, how much water is needed – will they lose some of the camels and horses?)
08 - CAMERA
This is not a definite but personally I found this to be a big help. If you go anywhere, take a camera. You could find yourself wandering through a park and finding a little glen that is very inspiring and will become part of your novel. Snap a picture, have it printed and pinned up. Old dead trees, empty wastelands, a busy town bustling with life – it might inspire you and thus allow you to create a visual image of your novel.
09 - EMPTY WALLS
Get yourself some empty wall space and then build! If you are world-building and have created maps make them A3 and pin them up. Get the photos you have taken and pin them up. Any notes or time lines you’ve completed, get them pinned up. You will be SEEING your work all the time and believe me it really starts to help the creative juices flowing. Turn your wall into an inspiration. Did you find a picture of army men running across an open field in a magazine? Did it give you ideas for a military plot? Get that on the wall. Add notes and suggestions and pin them up too.
10 - POST-ITS
This is a tip someone suggested to me and I have to admit it works. If you are writing a novel / story and have some questions you need to answer but are struggling with write each one on a post-it. Stick them EVERYWHERE – on the fridge, on the mirror, on your computer monitor, on your door, on your cupboard…. And every time you pass them, read them and think over the question. It’s better than just keeping them in a pad and not revisiting them often enough to actually think over them. When you’ve answered one, take it down (don’t forget to WRITE the answer down).