Tools for the Budding Author

by Matt McKay

Writing ideas can hit anywhere and anytime, so budding authors and veterans alike must have a variety of writing tools ready for any situation. Your trusty computer and the Internet will provide many of the resources you'll need. Noncomputer items can provide a reprieve from the keyboard when your creativity needs a fresh perspective. A traveling writer's kit is also a must for authors for capturing spontaneous ideas away from home.

Paper, Pencils and Highlighters

Traditional pencil and paper writing is still a viable medium and can give your eyes and fingers a break from long hours at the computer. Paper, notebooks, index cards, pencils and highlighters are also essential parts of your traveling author's kit. Highlighters in several different colors assist in editing, marking key words and recording ideas for later review. Index cards are handy for rearranging ideas and chapters when plotting your book and can be easier to navigate than flipping through notebook pages and software-based systems. Don't forget a pencil sharpener, or use mechanical pencils.


Dictionaries and thesauruses -- full-sized, travel-sized, software or Web-based -- are essential reference tools for every author. Writing reference and resource books such as style guides, character name guides, novel formatting and numerous others help refine your writing, offer ideas and give guidance. Consider books to read for fun and inspiration too -- poetry, quotes, novels, short stories -- to relax, exercise your mind or inspire.

Portable Electronics

Add a digital camera and voice recorder to your traveling author's toolkit to record visual images and spoken ideas. A portable computer facilitates work while away from your main machine, but consider a netbook rather than a tablet for the obvious typing speed advantages of a netbook's keyboard. To transfer work from your portable computer to your main workstation, use email, save your work in a cloud environment on the Internet or pick up an inexpensive USB drive. Make sure to fully charge batteries and take along A/C adapters for all devices.

Word Processing Software

The number of software titles for authors can be as daunting as resource books and writing guides. Unless you have money to spend or really need software to share some of your workload, stick with the basics. Standard word processing programs already installed on your computer offer numerous features you'll use often. Depending on the program, spelling and grammar checking, page formatting, style sheets and other tools will help streamline and organize your writing. If your software lacks features, investigate free Web-based or open-source downloadable programs -- some of which are full-featured software suites -- which are completely legal and widely used.

Use Your Instrincts

The best writing tools for you are those you're comfortable with and which suit your work habits and lifestyle. Some best-selling authors stick with what they started with -- an outdated desktop or word processor, typewriter or pencil and paper -- and shirk the hype that captivates some writers. Use what you have and experiment with different tools until you find the right combination.

About the Author

Matt McKay began his writing career in 1999, writing training programs and articles for a national corporation. His work has appeared in various online publications and materials for private companies. McKay has experience in entrepreneurship, corporate training, human resources, technology and the music business.

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