Writing

What Tools Does a Professional Fiction Writer Use?

People often ask me what tools I use to write with. I’ve created this page to summarize all my favorite tools to write with, but keep in mind the best tools for you to write with are the ones that work for you.

All of these items are linked with affiliate links, I get a small kickback if you buy any of them directly off a click.

These tools are listed in order of how essential I personally find them.

Laptop

I use a laptop as my primary computer so that I can write when I’m traveling. I did try using a Apple 13″ MacBook Pro, Retina Display (Newest Version). I have to honestly say I’m not too fond of the ‘butterfly’ keyboard on this compared to the previous generation’s. Because of the keys I downgraded to a 15″ MacBook Pro with the deeper keystroke lengths.

I use Apple computers because I like a set of software for writing that fits with how I work.

Writing Software

Scrivener

I use Scrivener 2 for Mac [Download]to write in. I like subdividing my novel into chapters in the left pane and rearranging them as needed when rewriting. I also enjoy tagging chapters and making them different colors. A lot of this software’s features can lead to you spending more time messing around than writing, but I find the organizational features valuable. Full screen writing is also a treat.

I would guess Scrivener slices half the time off writing a novel for me.

Voodoopad

While I’m not thrilled with the name, Voodoopad is an extremely powerful piece of software that acts as my outboard brain. It basically lets you create a personal wiki on the fly. I use it to keep world building ideas for a novel with internal links everywhere. It automatically links your text for you, so you can create your own encyclopedia on the fly. It’s simple at first, and then grows with you.

Other Software

This stuff isn’t as much a deal-killer for me, but I use Microsoft Excel to keep track of how many words I write each day and build a chart of it. I like charts. I use OmniOutliner sometimes to create quick outlines outside of Scrivener when I need to just wrap my head around or fiddle with an outline before moving it into Scrivener. I use Spotify to create ‘radio stations’ of custom music that has no words sung as I write. I use Acorns to create maps and draw stuff.

Headphones

Not all writers use headphones, but I’m one of them. I can work without a pair of headphones, but I find it harder to get to the mental space I need without music. I use Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless Headphones, Noise Cancelling – Black to do that.

These headphones are wireless, so I don’t get tangled up. They block outside noise really well, helping me focus. They sound pretty decent, too. More importantly, the very soft foam cups are better than any other I could find in not pushing my glasses up against my ears in a painful manner, so I can wear these headphones for hours at a time.

I resist the idea that things bring happiness. Experiences bring happiness. But with these headphones I am truly delighted every time I fire them up and the outside world gets mostly muted. And when I travel as a writer, I find they make a huge difference. Airports and planes are loud and constantly noisy, a background stressor that adds up. These headphones help mitigate that a great deal for me.

Keyboard

I use a Kinesis KB600 Advantage2 USB Contoured Keyboard (Black)and find it helps reduce finger travel. Does it help with fatigue and wrist damage? Yes, and I love the mechanical keys and keyboard, even though it took ten days to get accustomed to the unique bowl-shape you put your fingers into. The arrow key placements are helping me reduce my use of the mouse for editing, which has been really nice.

I wrote a big essay about this keyboard when talking about the non-QWERTY typing system I use.

Wrist Relief

To help with sore wrists after big days of writing I used to just plunge my hands into bowls of ice water. I’ve recently found a set of ice-pack wrist braces that create the same effect and let me move on with other activities instead of sitting around with my hands in a bucket: Wrist Support Brace with Gel Ice Pack for Hot and Cold Therapy.

Paper Notebooks

I’ve become a believer in Bullet Journaling and use it to keep myself organized. In addition to staying organized I use a traveling notebook to scribble ideas and brainstorm story ideas in a more visual manner. I’ve slowly come to realize that I do a lot of brainstorming and thinking about my books on paper, but previously I’ve had tons of scraps of pieces of paper scattered around everywhere. Learning to create an index in the front of the paper journal and then keeping my thoughts to one notebook has really helped me do a better job of brainstorming and coming up with new stories.

I use a Kokuyo Systemic Refillable Notebook Cover A5 to organize all my notebooks. It also keeps my business cards on hand.

I keep two notebooks inside my Kokuyo protector. On the right hand side of the Kokuyo Notebook cover I have a Leuchtturm1917 Medium Size Hardcover A5 Notebook with Dotted Pages – Black

This has enough pages in it for me to get, what I think, will roughly be a year of Bullet Journaling, sketching, and so forth.

It really doesn’t matter what pen or pencil you use, but I use a uni-ball KuruToga Mechanical Pencil, 0.7mm.

On the left side of the Kokuyo Notebook cover I use a slimmer notebook dedicated to just fiction brainstorming and ideas, a Moleskine Cahier Journal.

Deskchair

I sit in a Herman Miller Embody Chair. It’s really expensive, but I view it as an investment in my health. I spend some 8 to 10 hours at a chair on long days of writing. The Embody is a big investment, but an investment in ergonomics and comfort. The desk is where I spend most of my day, so I should make sure it’s a good space.

One trick: wait for seasonal sales, there are 20% off deals that Herman Miller offers on these chairs, usually around Thanksgiving and mid summer. That’s how I was able to get this chair for under a thousand.

To pick out this chair I visited a ton of showrooms and sat on many, many chairs after many years of uncomfortable chairs that quickly wore their padding out and cut into my knees, messing with my circulation.

Desk

My desk is an Ergotron WorkFit-D, Sit-Stand Desk (light grey)that someone gifted to me after hearing about my interest in a sit/stand desk solution.

This thing is pretty dope. I actually prefer this to the mechanical ones, because the well balanced mechanical pneumatic system lets you set it at a variety of heights that match your needs with a quick gesture. I really appreciate being able to stand and work for a while without moving stuff around on my desk when the need hits me, just to vary things up.

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