Writing, at its heart, is a very simple procedure. Although certain (arguable) improvements have been made in regard to the tools of the trade, most writers can get by very nicely with little more than a notepad and a ballpoint pen. Heck, some of us could even survive with an unsharpened pencil stub and a pile of brown economy napkins. And putting us all to shame is the story about an author, imprisoned for years, who committed long passages of his work to memory, so that he might be able to transcribe them once he returned to freedom.
Microsoft Word—Due to horrendous handwriting and a severe dislike of hand cramps, I’ve always preferred to render my first drafts on a word processor. Microsoft Word easily retains its place at the top of the word-processing stack, thanks to its user-friendly interface, handy gizmos (such as Find, SpellCheck, Track Changes, and numerous formatting options), and relatively few glitches.
yWriter—As regular readers of Wordplay have probably figured out by now, I am very much enamored of the outlining software yWriter, a free software program, offered by sci-fi novelist Simon Haynes. yWriter makes organizing outlines, characters, and settings a breeze.
PowerWriter—I’ve also dabbled with Write-Brain’s PowerWriter, a word processor “with integrated story development and outlining tools.” For the most part, I’ve concluded that Word and yWriter fulfill my needs better separately than PowerWriter does by itself, but I do keep PowerWriter hanging around on my desktop for use in organizing character interview notes, notes that are too rough to fit into yWriter, and POV switches (thanks to its handy color-coding system).
Encarta—Free with Microsoft’s Encarta Multimedia Encyclopedia is a comprehensive dictionary/thesaurus/translator. I use this program almost exclusively as my dictionary of choice these days, both because of its convenient location in my Taskbar and its reliability.
Windows Media Player—Where would I be without my collection of soundtracks for background noise and my Windows Media player to blast them over my speakers? Although I also use iTunes, I prefer WMP due to its ease of organization and better visualizer.
Pen and Paper
Pens—Probably nothing is so idiosyncratic to a writer as his choice in pens. I belong to that rare breed to prefer their pens a bit on the scratchy side. I am convinced they make my handwriting neater (because they don’t slide all over the page like slick-tipped pens) and my creativity flow faster (my theory on why this is so is pretty sketchy, but it has something to do with that lovely scritch, scritch sound). So, for what it’s worth, my pen of choice is the Pilot EasyTouch Ball Point Pen.
Pencils—I’m much less particular when it comes to pencils, since about the only thing I use them for is underlining the occasional passage in a book or the dictionary. At the moment, I have four varicolored pencils floating around in my pencil mug, most of them in dire need of sharpening.
Highlighters—When it comes time to research a story, I’d be at a loss without my highlighters. Currently, I’m using BIC’s briteliner, in about five different colors in order to better organize my notes.
Notebooks—Finally, what good would all these writing utensils be without a notebook in which to write with them? I use Norcom Basic 70-sheet notebooks, college ruled. I dislike the wide-ruled notebooks for a number of reasons, not least among them the facts that I can cram more into a college-ruled notebook and (I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, I know) wider lines only to seem to aggravate my loopy, semi-illegible style of handwriting.
Next week, I’ll finish out the inventory of my toolbox by discussing filing systems, reference books, and miscellaneous hardware. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about what’s lurking in the “Software” and “Pens & Pencils” sections of your toolbox!
Story by K.M. Weiland