Tools For Writers

Every writer has his or her own favourite tools of the trade. There are so many options available to us, even when it comes to the simple basics like pen and paper, it’s always quite interesting to see what other writers are using to get the job done.

This is a list of the writing tools I have come to rely on and even love. It’s divided into the different areas of the job from writing, publishing to online interaction and platform building.

Writing & Publishing

Scrivener is life changing software for writers.

Scrivener

Scrivener is software designed especially for writers, especially writers putting to
gether long form works. Novelists, non-fiction writers, even bloggers wanting to organise a posting schedule, Scrivener is THE writing software and it will change your life.

I sometimes encounter writers who have given it a go and been turned off by the interface and the few days of learning it can take to work out how it all fits together and I think that’s a real shame.

Scrivener is as complex or as simple as you need it to be. Simply, it’s a basic word processing file and folder system with the ability to quickly drag and drop sections. At the most complex end, it’s a writing, productivity and publishing powerhouse.

And it’s so darn cheap, at less than $50 for a full licence!

Scrivener for Windows

Scrivener for macOS

how to use scrivener tools for writersIf you want to get your head around the full power of Scrivener fast, then I recommend taking Joseph Michael’s Learn Scrivener Fast Course. 

If you’re more into self-directed learning, Scrivener for Dummies is also awesome.

Word Processing

While I swear by Scrivener, I also use other word processing systems.

I write my blog posts in general word processor. If I’m writing a stand alone short story, I’ll also just use a word processor  (though I compile my anthologies in Scrivener).

I’ve grown up using various Windows word processors (remember Word Perfect?) and I love MS Word. It’s simple, powerful and versatile. I can also use it with Grammarly as an add on (see below).

I recently bought a MacBook Pro and didn’t really want to fork out for another Word licence (I also use an old fashioned PC Desktop which has full MS Office Suite), so I got used to the built in Pages. It’s basic and does the job for a simple word processing job. And I’m using it right now to draft this list. For anything that needs more in-depth formatting, I go back to Word.

Google Docs is also good as a basic word processor and I use that when I’m ever writing out and about on my phone or tablet (both Android) because it syncs automatically with my Google Drive folder. I don’t use it for long form writing though.

tools for writersOneNote

OneNote is a sophisticated note taking and organising app from Microsoft and has full functionality on both PC and Mac (and mobile devices) for FREE!

OneNote syncs nicely across all platforms, has a user friendly interface for notebooks and pages, and has a nifty quick note feature (something I use many times a day, particularly for those lightning strike moments, usually when I’m in the gym).

I used to use EverNote, which is also great (and very similar) however, I got cranky when they made it so the basic version could only be used on a limited number of devices. OneNote proved a worthy alternative.

Grammarly

Any native spell-checker only goes so far. After that, there’s Grammarly. Grammarly is great for picking up less obvious typos, repeated words, frequently mixed up words, as well as punctation gaffs. It’s no replacement for a professional editor, but it helps (and often saves money) to give your editor as clean a manuscript as you can.

The free version is limited, but workable. I have the pro version and love that I can use it as an MS Word add on.

My Favourite Pens

I am a hand-writer at heart and as such, I have an army of pens. And not just any old pens. Special pens. Pens that have been selected for their weight, texture, their ink flow, their ergonomics, and their general pen sexiness (yeah, I love pens.)

My absolute favourite pen in all the world is my MontBlanc William Shakespeare Writers Edition 2016. This was given to me as an unexpected and ultra generous gift and I’m not suggesting you go out and spend this much on a pen. BUT, holy crap is it a nice pen!

Before this beauty came into my life, I used (and still use) a trio of Waterman Hemispheres – a fountain pen, a ballpoint and a mechanical pencil.

These pens, particularly the fountain, are my workhorses, with flawless ergonomics and good ink flow rate which means you don’t need to refill too often. These are the everyday pens, because I’m not about to throw my MountBlanc into my handbag to take to a writer’s festival or down to the local cafe.

LiveScribe Smart Pen

So, you’ve gathered by now that I’m a pen nerd. I’m also a tech lover, so imagine how I lost my mind when I first heard about smart pens. Smart pens convert your handwriting to digital text. Some use special sensors on the top of ordinary paper, others require special paper to write on.

I bought a LiveScribe 3 last year and it’s simply magical. Anything I need to do that requires the creativity boost I get from handwriting but I need to digitise quickly (like blog posts or notes to share with others), the LiveScribe is the ultimate tool. I have awful handwriting that it can still figure out, so it really is quite smart. It also records audio – perfect for meetings and conferences.

It does require special paper, but you can buy it fairly cheaply or print it out yourself. It is a little clunky (but you get used to it and the ergonomics are still good), but I predict SmartPens will evolve into something quite sleek in the close future, but until then LiveScribe is the best on the market.

My Favourite Notebooks

Moleskines have a delightful paper texture that the ink just flows across without smudging. These babies are a classic for a reason.

I also have a massive stack of Spirax Lecture Books that I buy in bulk. I like them because even though they’re cheap, the paper is still smooth and thick enough to write on both sides without heavy ink bleed through. The pages are both spiral bound and perforated, and they have a document pocket built into the cover.

That’s an Australian brand (they’ve been around forever and Aussie readers will probably still remember them from school!), but there’ll be an equivalent cheap, stock standard brand in just about every country. These are my planning books, my conference notes, my sales plans, blog ideas while I use the moleskins for more creative work like brainstorming, free writing or discovery writing some short things.

vellum publishing tool for writers

Vellum is an ebook publishing must have.

Vellum

Vellum is an amazing formatting program. If you’re making books for ebook or print, you NEED this tool.

Vellum formats ebooks into all major electronic formats as well as print ready files. The results are  professional quality layouts that just can’t be achieved achieved by the usual routes of MSWord conversion or Calibre (two of the most popular formatting options).

This program is the reason that, when my last PC laptop died an unexpected tragic death, I went out the next day and bought a Mac (and I used to be a diehard PC evangelist so you know Vellum is that good!).

Yes, it is Mac only and from what I’ve heard from the developers there’s little to no chance of that ever changing. Some writers are apparently running it though Mac in the Cloud, so there’s info out there for PC only folk (like I used to be before I saw what Vellum could do).

I can always tell now when I’m opening an ebook that’s been made in Vellum. It’s simply a much more enjoyable reader experience, and anything that adds value to your customer, is totally worth it.

Vellum operates on an economical per book licence, or a one off fee for unlimited books.

Community

Other writers can be an incredibly valuable resource for support as well as sharing writing know-how. It can be tricky to find the right group though. Here’s some help…

Facebook Groups

One of the best places around to meet likeminded writers and share the writing life is on Facebook. I know, right? Isn’t Facebook all about ads and target marketing these days? Yes, but the groups side of the Social Media Megosaurus is dynamic and flourishing.

A few of my favourite groups:

Indie Author Life

20Booksto50K

10 Minute Novelists

My other favourite group is the one I started for this very site – Empowering Writers. Come and join us. 

Twitter Hashtags

Getting heard on Twitter and other social media platforms can often be like whispering into a cyclonic thunderstorm. But hashtags are a great way to get your voice in front of people talking about the same thing. The big ones for writers are #amwriting and #writerslife (two I tweet to most days from @katekrake), but there are a whole lot of others, many of them genre specific. Check out this post by Krissy Brady listing 102 of the most useful hashtags for writers. 

Online Platform

Wordpress

Wordpress. Simply the best.

Yes, you need a website. Yes, build that website with Wordpress.

There’s a very simple reason why Wordpress accounts for 60% of the content management systems in the ENTIRE internet. It’s the best. If you’re really serious about this business, you’ll want a self hosted Wordpress site with your own domain name. The Wordpress part of that is free, but check out below for my recommendations on hosting and domain names.

Optimizer Theme

I currently operate 5 websites and 3 of those run on the versatile Optimizer theme.

There are about a zillion Wordpress themes to choose from, and of all the one’s I’ve tried and even paid for (and that’s a lot – fiddling with themes is a classic procrastination tool for bloggers), Optimizer is the hands down winner.

The free version is super powerful, can be designed in dozens of different ways straight out of the box. It’s completely mobile responsive and you can even view in different mobile screens as you’re designing.

If the free version is good, wait till you try the pro version. You’re looking at the pro version now. For examples on how different it can look, compare this site to two of my other pages, www.guessingtales.com and www.katekrake.com

Social Warfare

Once you’ve got your website up, even if you’re not writing a blog, you’ll want to have a way for people to quickly and easily share your content to their social media channels. There are hundred (thousands maybe) of plugins that do this for free, and most themes have them built in.

But none, none, are better than Social Warfare. Social Warfare is a premium plugin, but the cost is totally worth it.

You can customise the sharing content, specify which images you want shared on which platforms, which is critical for making sure the right dimensions get onto the right platforms to give your content the best chance of being seen and then shared again. If you look through this site, you’ll see ready made tweets you can imbed into the post for people to just click and send. That’s social warfare.

AWeber

Email is still the way to go for direct marketing and communicating with your readers, and there are dozens of services out there.

I’ve used Aweber since I started working online about eight years ago.

It’s simple, clean, integrates flawlessly with Wordpress and the major social media channels. It lets you send out one off emails or automate messages. Everything you need in a mail service.

Hostgator


Hostgator is another service I’ve used since I got my first self hosted website almost a decade ago. I pay a minimal yearly fee which gives me unlimited domains.

The performance has been flawless for a decade and the rare times I have had an issue, the 24/7 live chat tech help has sorted it out in minutes. Use the link from this page to get a 20% discount.

GoDaddy

Coupled with Hostgator, I buy my domains through GoDaddy. They have excellent specials  and bulk deals, a clean and user friendly interface and I’ve never had a tech glitch with any of their services in just about ten years of use.

Its easy to search for new domains and they have a nifty name suggester for when the name you’ve chosen isn’t available.

Writer’s Life

Click the image to read my recommendations on the ten most empowering books for writers.

Books on Writing

I adore books on writing craft and life, and they take up the bulk of my library in hard copy, ebook and audio.

I’ve made a list here of my personal favourite 5 – these are the writing books that hold a special place in my heart for various reasons. And I’ve also made a list of the books that have most empowered my writing life.

Podcasts

I’ve only been into podcasts for about 18 months, but in that time, I’ve binge listened my ears off to writing related podcasts and can’t imagine how I lived without them before.

Podcasts are not only about learning craft, it’s like being a silent participant in a conversation about the writing and polishing world, they keep you updated as to the industry and, once you’ve been listening to a while, some f them are like getting messages from old friends.

My hands down favourites (the ones I listen to without fail and have heard their entire catalogue) are:

tools for writersThe Creative Penn

Writing Excuses

The Petal to the Metal 

How Do You Write?

 

Others I dip into regularly:

This Portfolio Life

Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast

The Self Publishing Formula

21st Century Creative

I subscribe to my podcasts via Stitcher for Android.

 

I’ll be updating this list as I discover new things, perhaps switch up the routine so be sure to keep checking back.