Tools of the Trade for Writers

My recommendations five years in –

1. Buy a computer, flat screen monitor, and printer. (Okay, the flat screen monitor is not strictly necessary if your eyes are very young. Buy a computer with as much RAM, processor speed, and hard drive storage as you can afford.)

2. Buy and install Microsoft Word. (Yes, you can use other word processing software, but this is my list and that’s my recommendation. Plus most agents/editors/publishers want your manuscript delivered in Word. I hear you grumbling, but I too used WordPerfect for years and was able to teach myself Word. You can learn to use it. And the Home and Student version is not that expensive.)

3. Set up an internet connection. (Hopefully something faster than dial-up since the writing, finding an agent and acquiring a publisher will provide more than enough frustration). Make sure you have up-to-date virus protection. I don’t care for “security suite software.” Too many programs to slow down your computer. Between pop-up blockers, phishing protection, and extra firewalls – surfing the internet can become more like sitting on a leaky air mattress and paddling with your hands. Yeah, you’re safer but it’s not much fun. McAfee Virus Scan, kept updated, along with the firewall that comes with your computer operating system is usually more than adequate unless you troll the bad part of town a lot. If you like Norton, great. But if you ever want to change to something else, you’ll find Norton has buried itself into many of your software programs and is almost impossible to remove.

4. Build a website. If you’re ever lucky enough to have readers, they’ll expect you to have a website. Lots of places on the web will host your website for a small monthly fee. They have software on site so you can build your own or you can hire a web designer to do it for you. If you have extra cash hire the web person. If not, you can learn to do it yourself. There is an enormous amount of information on the internet about websites available. Hey, if you’re a writer, you should be a reader. So read … you can learn just about anything by reading and practicing. (I’m also giving myself a little pep talk with this blog. I’m trying to learn how to animate graphics. Four hours and now I can make a dog wink.)

5. Set up a MySpace page and make friends. Every friend you make is a potential reader of your book. Plus, you meet some great people. Sure you’ll get the occasional spammer or crazy person, but you can delete them with a single click. Much easier than dealing with your obnoxious next door neighbor.

6. Buy photo software, install it, and learn to use it. Not a day goes by, that I don’t use photo software to resize my bookcovers for promotional items and postings. Did you think that Irish Wolf hound changes hats by herself? I like Microsoft Digital Image Suite 9. It does everything I want it to and is very user friendly. Yes, Adobe makes some great photo software that will do more, but I was looking for something with a short learning curve and something inexpensive. Microsoft Digital Image Suite 9 is just right for me.

7. There are some wonderful books on writing. Read some of them so you know what you don’t know. The more I read about writing the more I realize writing is like anything else, you get better with study and practice. It’s a craft. Just because you want to write, doesn’t mean you can. I’ve got a list of books that I found helpful – email me at and I’ll send it to you.

Since I’m using Word to type this, I know that I’ve got 565 words at this point. More than enough for my Thursday blog. I’ll run spell check before I cut and paste this into “Blogger.”

Did I mention blogging? That should be item number 8. Maybe author newsletters should be number 9. But I’m not sure you really need to do both even though Evelyn David does. You have to save some time for the actual writing.

Okay. Time to wrap this up. I’m headed back to the animation drawing board. My goal is to get a dog’s tail to wag.

A writer’s life is so exciting.

Evelyn David

4 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I just wanted to toss in a mention that for those writing for television or film that two pieces of software are sanity savers for format, etc., in the way that MS Word is the gold standard for prose and poetry writing:

    1–Movie Magic Screenwriter
    2–Fina Draft

    Can be bought all over the internet and are very similar. Both handle with ease, and for the most part auto-magically, the necessary margins and style elements that are de riguer for screenwriting. There are pre-loaded formats for lots of current television show and even a format for novel writing (thought that one is sort of unnecessary to my mind). They also have really handy outlining and analysis tools, and a format to do index cards of all scenes, etc. You can import from Word and can print to pdf, of course.

    Really, they’re just good software that is taylor-made to the task of writing scripts.

    I happen to have Movie Magic, and have found the parent company to be supportive, find it great o use, etc. But, I know a number of writers who use Final Draft and love it, as well. Browse around and compare, if screenwriting is something you’ll be doing. You can expect to spend about $150-$250 per package, needs and sales depending. Here are the two base links to both: (owns MMSW and they also sell Final Drift) (for FD, obviously)

    I’ve typed lots of script pages and if I had to type even three pages with any other sort of word processing tool I’d rather clean the bathroom at a gas station than type a fourth.

    Happy working in 2009!

  2. Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith
    Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith says:

    I love and still use Word Perfect. I’m not fond of Word though I use it for writing all my books now.

    I also use it for another project that I get money for doing and the page numbering absolutely drives me bonkers!

    I love what Evelyn does with photos–but that’s where I draw a blank.


  3. The Stiletto Gang
    The Stiletto Gang says:


    Thanks Vicky and Marilyn for leaving comments.

    Vicky, I’ve toyed with the idea of the screenwriting programs that you mentioned. I’d be interested to hear if anyone else uses them for novel writing.

    Marilyn, thanks for the compliment on the graphics, but I’m completely convinced you could do whatever you set your mind on doing! Of course I don’t know when you’d find the time. I’m in awe of your promotional schedule. And best of all you seem to enjoy what you’re doing so much.

    aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David

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