20 Helpful and Fun Products for Writers

writing tools

Most writers don’t need a whole lot to practice their trade. Once you have the basics like a computer, software, paper, and pens/pencils, (and oh, yes, space in which to write), those are the only tools you really need to be successful. That being said, there are many more products writers may find both helpful and fun. If you’re looking for a gift idea, or just looking for something that may help you in your writing life, take a look at the following list.

A Writer Tshirt

Giving a writer a fun writer Tshirt that can be proudly worn is a great way to show your support his or hers writing. It gives them the opportunity to show the world what they do with a bit of humor. If you’re not sure what to give as a gift to a writer, this is a great default.

A journal (maybe more than one)

A journal is a place where you can do your free writing, or where you can work through problems that are impacting your work. They can also be places to keep ideas and experiment with forms like poetry or lyric writing. You can have one journal for everything, or get a few and dedicate them to different types of writing.

Whiteboard (maybe more than one)

I tend to be forgetful and I tend to come up with good ideas when a pen and paper or my laptop aren’t available. Bad combination. To help, I got a couple of small whiteboards and put one in the bathroom and one in the kitchen. Now when I get a great idea in the shower or while making dinner, I can jot it down on the board. These are more water and damage resistant than electronics or paper and are great for messy environments.

Dictionary

Yes, I know the computer has a dictionary function, but many are not as robust as a large, old fashioned, print dictionary. Plus, if you’re a word nerd, there’s just something fun about looking up random words in the dictionary.

Thesaurus

See Dictionary, above. The same idea applies because most computer thesauri are not as comprehensive as their print counterparts.

Cork board

Some writers like to “storyboard” by writing or drawing elements and scenes from their books on index cards and then arranging them to see how they fit together. You can move the cards around if you think of a better arrangement. It’s a more visual form of outlining. A cork board makes this easier than laying everything out on the floor, only to have to pick it up to vacuum, or having it blow around when people walk past.

Spiral bound notebooks

During the back to school shopping season, you can find packs of four or five notebooks for less than $1. They’re great for jotting down ideas, research notes, and character descriptions. Keep one by your bed for those ideas that come to you late at night. Yes, you can use your computer or cell phone, and many people do, but I find that writing some things out longhand clarifies my thoughts more than banging away at a keyboard.

Calendar

Whether you go digital or get a wall calendar or weekly planner, a calendar is a must to keep track of deadlines and to-do’s,

Spreadsheet software

Good spreadsheet software can come in handy for creating submission trackers and expense/income spreadsheets.

Financial software or ledger

If you don’t want to use a spreadsheet to track your income and expenses, get some good financial software. At the very least, get a ledger and make sure you write everything down. It’ll make tax time much easier.

Basic grammar/style guide

The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White remains the gold standard grammar and style guide. If you are a technical writer or business writer, you may find The Chicago Manual of Style useful, as well. There are also guides for academic writers and other specialties.

Apps

There are tons of apps that you might find useful, too many to list here. There are apps for note taking, calendars, word processing, script writing, storyboarding, and many other things you might find useful. Spend some time shopping the app store for your platform of choice to see what you might find useful. There are also plenty of games to help you waste time, so shop carefully.

File cabinet and files

No matter how digital you try to be you will always have paper to file. It keeps drifting in even when you actively try to avoid it. At the least you’ll probably need a file drawer in your desk or an accordion file. At worst, you’ll need a full blown file cabinet or some banker’s boxes.

Amazon Prime membership

For $99 per year, you get free two day shipping on most things that Amazon sells. (You also get free movie rentals and book loans, but those are just perks. The real value is the shipping.) It’s so nice to be able to order ink, toner, paper, envelopes, and other supplies (plus not having to take time away from writing to go to the store) and have it on your doorstep in two days.

Digital recorder

There are apps for this, or you can buy a more old school recorder. Either way, these come in handy for recording interviews and making notes to yourself on the fly.

Lap desk

A lap desk is great to have on hand for those times when you want to write or do research on the bed or couch. It keeps your laptop from burning your legs and lets you get into a variety of positions so you can work in comfort.

Amazon gift card

This comes in handy for buying those deeply discounted Kindle books, apps, and MP3’s that Amazon sells. Having a gift card balance on your account eliminates the need to put bunches of those $1.99 or $0.99 charges on your credit card, which can get your card shut down for suspected fraud. If you have Prime, listed above, it’s also great for all those $5.00 shipments you can now order without paying for shipping.

Page flags

These are great for marking passages while researching or editing. They’re perfect for marking passages and making short notes in library or borrowed books in which you cannot make your own notes.

Personalized note cards

Yes, much of life is digital these days, but there is still something to be said for the power of a handwritten thank you note on a nice note card. They’re great for sending to agents, editors, and others who’ve taken the time to help you.

A good coffee machine

If you’re a coffee drinker, you can save a fortune by making your own instead of hitting Starbucks every day. You might like a Keurig or similar single cup coffee maker that lets you rotate through a variety of flavors (tea and hot cocoa, as well) every day. Or you might prefer a good espresso machine or a simple regular coffee maker.

Rory’s Story Cubes

These are “dice” that you roll which act as story generators. They are available in the original set, plus two newer sets that add actions and voyages to the mix. You can use them alone when you’re stumped for ideas, or play with others using the game rules that come with them. The cubes are also available as an app so you can roll on the go.

Not every product is ideal for every writer. Some prefer old-school solutions, some prefer high tech, and others like a mix. Think about how you work best and choose products the help, not hinder, you.

(Photo courtesy of John O’Nolan)

26 comments

  1. Kind of mixed feelings about Amazon recommendations. They destroy the physical stores, especially the book stores. Perhaps it’s an inevitable evolution, but Amazon then treats their employees like crap and strong-arm publishers who then start buying each other out to resist this. So now there are less publishers.

    But holy hell is the service good.

    1. My guess is that in the near future, Amazon will begin to buy publishing houses. Before you think this is ridiculous, look at Netflix and how they now produce their own content. It makes sense that Amazon would do the same thing.

    1. I have to agree. I think that I need to get myself better organize and I’m happy that you have put together this list of products that can help me be a better writer.

  2. I have to say I was flabbergasted when I saw the words Amazon Prime. I can’t believe people are actually recommending such an appalling system, which now actually provides no value at all, since you have to pay almost twice as much as it used to be to cover the inclusion of the so-called ‘free’ Prime Instant Video, whether you want it or not. And the prices of products available for Prime ‘Free’ Shipping are invariably higher than those without, so you’re often paying the same amount whether you chose to use Prime or pay for next day delivery. At £79 per year here in the UK, I would be spending more for the ‘Free’ Shipping than I actually spend on items from Amazon in the first place! When they remove Prime Instant Video from the subscription I might consider it again, but until then I’ll just buy my books at Waterstones and WH Smith and my office supplies at Staples.

  3. I think the thing writers need most are ideas. There are two “kinds” if you will: a) you are absolutely free to choose your subject or b) you have to write about a certain subject (not of your choice). Both have advantages and drawbacks. When trying to conjure up ideas “out of the blue” your mind may go blank but when you’re under pressure to deliver on a certain subject you might easily be held back by fear of under-performance. One of the ways, I find, to overcome this, and I find it rather intriguing, is: in situation a) try and think what (paid) assignment you would rather have (rather than to choose on your own). In situation b) try and think of what you would like to write about INSTEAD of what you have been “ordered” to. Then try and find a way to meld this “free” choice with your assignment. Both ways tend to work – they just take your brain out of a quandary and let it “breathe”.

    1. Thank you for writing this. I’ve been struggling with finding my place when writing and this was just what I needed to read. It has helped me see the difference between the two and I think I’ll be a better writer in the future thinking like this instead of “all writing is the same” Virtual hug for helping me understand my own writing a bit better!

    2. It’s always great to find out how to make writing a little bit more fun and exciting. Sometimes using new tools can help invigorate your writing so you are able to do it better. I’m always looking for a small advantage to keep my writing fresh and interesting.

  4. Just found it! Love your word counter application.

    Favorite quote from a writer: “Sorry it is so long. I didn’t have time to make it shorter”.

  5. Writers need inspiration to be productive. Once they have clear objectives they word without feeling they are working. All other products are secondary. Of course they help but not too much.

    1. With all the new technology and apps, writers are bound to find new and exciting ways to write. These can make their writing so much more fun and also more interesting.

  6. Thanks for this tip. Already bookmarked this for future reference. 🙂

    I’m planning to start a Kindle book and this list surely helps.

  7. Coffee. A lot of coffee each and every day. I think this is a highly underestimated product that all writers need. And red wine. A nice glass of red wine in the evening ( or two) can do wonders for your writing. Just be sure to reread what you wrote and edited the next morning.

  8. Everyone should have a journal — even those who aren’t writers. It’s a great way to keep your thoughts in order and see how you have progressed over the years. Sure, all writers should have a journal, but I think everyone should as well. I have been journaling for 5 years and I wish I had started even earlier.

    1. I’m a big journal fan as well. It’s a place where I can just write without any pressure to produce something others would like to read. Just me and my thoughts which ultimately helps my overall writing. For those who don’t already keep a journal, you should give it a try. I think you’ll like the results to your overall writing.

  9. I think all writers need to find support. It’s such a tough and grueling experience being a writer that you need to find those who will encourage you to continue to reach your writing dreams. There are a lot of negative people when it comes to writing, so finding those who will support you in good times and bad is a great resource to have. The Internet has made this a lot easier

    1. On this line of thought, buying a writer a writer’s retreat is a great gift. There is nothing writers love more than a block of time to get away from everything else and just write to their heart’s content.

  10. If you are looking for good ideas for a gift for a writer, the best thing to do is ask the writer. They know exactly what they want most but they don’t have. If it’s not appropriate to ask the writer directly, spend some time listening to them when they’re talking about their writing. Most of them will let you know in conversation what they wish they had that they don’t currently have. Writers tend to be pretty easy to buy for if you just listen to them a bit.

    1. This is the best advice in the comment section, Ask. It’s far better to know what the writer wants than to try and guess what he or she might want. I’ve never understood why people have such a difficult time asking writers what they need or want. Most have a long list they are more than willing to share.

      1. I don’t understand why people don’t ask what I need/want and try to guess it. I’m so much more appreciative when they get me something that will make my writing better and what I need to make that happen.

    2. Every writer is different and may want something that the next writer doesn’t. The worst thing you can do is assume what they want. If you aren’t willing to ask, at least pay attention when they talk about their writing. Chances are they will indirectly tell you want they want/need.

  11. The best gift to give a writer is peace and quiet so they can actually write. Take the kids out for the day so there is no noise in the house and they can work without interruptions. What I would give for a gift like that!

    1. Along the same lines, give them the gift of a writers’ retreat. This will give them a block of several days to write in peace and quiet.

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