Writing Tips

The Tools of a Writer

If you’re going to write great stories use great tools.

Pen and pencil;

The basic tool of a writer is the pen and pencil. Warning when you use good tools think like a bank. Trust your friends, but chain your pens down. Pens have legs. They’re like little children, when your not looking they run off.

Your most basic tool is the pen. Even if you’re like me and do your heavy writing on a computer you need a good pen. A good pen is like a good friend. Something you want to keep close.
What is a good pen? It’s one that will start writing when you do, not after a few seconds of drawing little circles to get the ink to flow. If you have a pen and it doesn’t start when you do recycle it. If the pen skips, leaks, or just doesn’t feel good in your hand get rid of it, recycle. Or better yet leave it where a fellow worker or writer will pick it up. Don’t fight with your pen, you don’t need the frustration. I have enough independent characters to provide me all the frustration I can handle.

A good pen makes a clear dark solid color line that is easy on the eyes. The ink dries quickly and doesn’t smear.

I use Polit G-2 gel pens with an extra fine (0.38) tip. The thin lines from the 0.38 tip makes the ink last. It makes dark lines that are clean and easy on the eyes. The cartridge in the pen holds lots of ink and the pen feels good in my hand. Thicker tips like the 07 and larger leave enough ink on the paper to smudge before the ink dries.

You can use any old pen you find laying around, but it’s a tool. Use the best tools you can find. As a starving writer you can surf around and score pens form many places. Many businesses use pens as advertising. The more prestigious the business the better the pen. Financial businesses have the best pens. Advertise for them, give their pens legs.

I suggest you find a good reliable ball point pen and stay with it. Be aware that there is a pen out there that I accuse of false advertising. I was using one of this brand’s of pens and the pen stopped writing, but you could see through the clear housing that there was plenty of ink in the pen. That’s the worst thing a pen can do when you need to write, that is not write. It looked full so I shook the pen, but that didn’t help. Then I soaked the end of the pen in water without any results. finally I cut the pen apart with wire cutters and cut the ink holder in two.
I expected to get ink on the cutters, but when I examined the cutters there was no ink on them. I looked through center of the cut off ink holder tube and saw daylight, even though the outside of the ink holder cartridge was black. I cut up the rest of the cartridge and it was empty. The manufacturer had painted the inside of the ink holder cartridge black, so black you could not tell if any ink had been used. They could be selling pens that were only half full of ink and you wouldn’t know it.

Fountain pens are like fine artist paint brushes. You got to take care of them, but they write so nice. And they are classy.
They do have their draw backs. You have to clean them once a month. If you take one an an airplane you will find out why it’s called a fountain pen. The low air pressure inside an airplane will cause the ink to fountain out the end of the pen and fill the pen’s cap. When you pull the cap off the pen you’re going to have ink all over the place, but mainly on the best shirt you own. Just driving from sea level to Boulder Colorado, which is a mile above sea level, can get you a pocket ink fountain.

If you prefer the easily changeable laid back style of a pencil, I suggest you try a Palomino Blackwing 602. They’re expensive at almost a dollar a pencil but, they are a smooth writing pencil and they have a huge replaceable eraser on the end of them. If you’re more into an engineering style of writing try a Pentel Twist-Erase in 0.9 mm lead mechanical pencil. It feel good in my hand and is rugged durable and you don’t have to lug along a pencil sharpener.

If you want to go full bore steam punk try a Noodlers Nib Creaper flex pen with Noodlers X Feather black ink. You can get these at The Goulet Pen Company at www.GouletPens.com. You can also call them at 804-368-0482 from 9am to 5 pm EST. The chat feature on the website works well to. Many of the 4.5 oz. bottles of Noodlers ink come with a free pen. 4.5 ounces of ink lasts a long time. Clean the pen after you buy it and before you fill it with ink. Goulet has several videos on YouTube about caring for your pens.

Bumper sticker; Hi Oh, Hi Oh, It’s off to write we go.


Go out and buy a notebook right now. Buy one that you will keep with you. Small notebook, large notebook leather bound or cheap paper back notebook, buy one that you will have with you at all times. Writing on the back of an old envelope is OK if your desperate, but you’re a writer. Instead of always searching for a scrape of paper to write on, be the person that family, friends, coworkers, and complete strangers go to when they need something to write on. Buy a bunch of cheap pens at the dollar store to. If they bum a piece of paper off you they’re going to want to borrow a pen. If you’re going to lose a pen make it a cheap one, not your good writing pen.

The most important paper you can have is a notebook that you use, right now before that important idea can slip away. An expensive fancy notebook is like costly embossed stationary, nice to have, but too expensive to use. A good notebook should be small enough that you always carry it around with you and large enough to hold lots of notes and big enough to write in. Don’t pay too much, a writer’s notebook will fill up fast. The brand, the color of the cover, whether it has a stretchy band to mark the last used page doesn’t matter. You’re a writer, write in your notebook. Fill it up and then get another one.

Don’t get a notebook with colored paper or write on colored paper. After the first page that bright purple will look hideous. Be easy on your eyes. You will be fighting tradition if you use colored paper and tradition will win.

I carry a small shirt pocket notebook for taking note everywhere and keep a seven by nine and a half inch college ruled, spiral bound 300 page notebook handy for longer writing like journaling. It doesn’t need to be a Moleskins, the store brand is good enough. Even the big 300 page seven by nine notebook will only last a couple of months.

For editing, marking up with a colored pen, and reading out loud nothing beats printing out your work on clean white paper. A laser jet is much cheaper than an ink jet so get recycled printer paper. The recycled stuff doesn’t jam like the virgin stuff.

Experiment with different papers. If you find one that works stick with it. Buy in bulk, you’re in this for the long haul. Many authors say that it takes a year to write a novel and you’ll need to make printouts for every major edit, writers group meetings, and table reads. That’s going to eat up a lot of paper.

Hide a ream of copy paper in your desk at work for when the copier or printer runs out and you have to print something right now. Keep a ream hidden at home for when someone needs to print out a late term paper and forgot again to buy paper. There’s always the roommate that uses up all your paper and doesn’t tell you about it. Paper panhandlers are everywhere.

Get some business card made up. List only your name and a throw away email address on the front. They’re great for writing down quick notes to give to someone. You can get business cards made up cheap or even free. Don’t get glossy business cards. Glossy cards are hard to write on with an ink pen. Leave the back of the card blank so you can write on it.

The Computer

You don’t need a Mac computer to write. You don’t need a GAMER computer to write. You don’t need the thinnest computer made to write. Get it out of your head right now. You don’t need an Ipad, Ipro, Mac, or paper thin i9 computer. The computer you own or use doesn’t make you a writer. Writing makes you a writer.

You can write a book or a bunch of books with a pencil and paper. I know one mystery writer with a bad case of arthritis that writes his books out in long hand on a legal pad and then his wife types the book out. A real family business.

The one good reason you need a computer is to write faster. Anything that makes writing easier, less labor intensive is good.

“Writing is the hardest thing you can do.” John Turdy.

Mark Twain is credited with writing one of the first books on a typewriter. Early typewriters were expensive, the ribbons they used were very expensive. Early typewriters jammed, and jammed often. They were great, even dead tired and half drunk a typewriter will made your writing legible. What you typed may not make sense, but it was easy to read.

Typing on a keyboard, even with only two fingers, is still faster than writing it out by hand and much less harder on the writing hand.

There are laptop computers available for $150.00, new. You don’t need an expensive name brand computer to write. Readers don’t care about the publisher of your book. They sure won’t care about the computer it was written on.

Issac Asimov wrote great books on a TRS-80 computer made by Radio Shack using a program called electric pencil. Don’t worry if your no name brand computer runs Linux, write. How many gigabytes of memory did a TRS-80 have? Did you know a TRS-80 held 16 kilobytes of memory so it takes 62,500 Trash 80s to hold a gigabyte of memory.

Get a real, full-sized, keyboard to go with your computer. The on screen keyboards that tablets use take up too much space on the screen. You need that space for your words. Separate keyboards also put words on the screen much faster. More words equals more books. Remember a writer’s motto; better living through more books.

The most expensive computer in the world is worthless if you don’t write.

For those less fortunate than me, don’t let your not being able to use a computer stop you. You can talk your book. There are services that can transcribe your audio recording for you. The big draw back is, you don’t talk like you write. It also gets expensive to have the work retyped over and over for each edit. The cost of transcribing is coming down. Still you will have to do many edits but, when edits cost you, you write better to start with and work much harder to make each edit the best edit it can ever be.
Computer programs like Dragon are getting better, but they are still finicky. If you can learn to write books by typing before you try dictation.

Pocket audio recorders are cheap and many cell phones can act like a recorder. There is free audio recording software for a computer available. Just get a USB microphone, plug it into your computer, and talk away.

Bummer sticker; Better living through more books

Stay strong, write on. Professor Hyram Voltage