‘Tis the season, after all
If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “What the heck do I get for the writer in my life?” then this article is for you!
It used to be that some stationery, maybe a fancy journal, a couple of nice pens would suffice, but in today’s digital age, more and more writers desire technologies that make their writing easier, more organized, or just more fun.
Here are five gifts (listed from most expensive to least) that I would LOVE to find stuffed in my stocking this year:
- For either the Mac or PC user, I recommend Dragon Naturally Speaking. Dragon gives the writer a hands-free alternative for those of us who get stiff fingers from writing for long periods at a keyboard. It can really help with productivity since once it’s calibrated to a writer’s voice, we can just talk and tell our story. The software isn’t flawless, and there is a learning curve. And while it helps get the words out, it’s imperative to continually review your document to correct errors. It’s also much cheaper if you’re a PC user (roughly $200, compared to $300 for a Mac user). Dragon also has more features for the PC user, though I’m hopeful we Mac users will get parity at some point in the near future.
- For the indie Mac user, I recommend Vellum. Makes formatting a breeze. For anyone who’s watched their indie writer struggle to format their latest work for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and all the other venues they use — each requires its own format! — you know it can be time-intensive. I’m not kidding when I say that Vellum can do all versions in about five to 10 minutes, and it will look more professional than 95 percent of the indie books out there. Its price tag is a bit hefty ($250 if you want both e-book and print book formatting), but in my humble opinion, it’s so, so worth it.
- If I had to recommend just one program for writers, it would be Scrivener. It really is my go-to app. Scrivener (unfortunately) won’t write your story for you or make your muse show up. But it will provide you with many tools to help. Some writers use it as a word-processing program. I mostly use Word, but I’m writing a novella in Scrivener right now. Even when I don’t use it as a word-processing program, I still love Scrivener’s other features. Here’s why: I’m a pantser. Pantsers, for those not in the know, are writers who don’t plan what they’re going to write in advance. Give us a blank page and let us go. Eventually, a story will emerge. Most writers I know are plotters. Vigorous outliners, plotters know where their story is going before the first word is ever written. Both types of writers will benefit from Scrivener, because you can use the same features at different points in your writing. For plotters, Scrivener offers ample outlining tools so that you can keep your synopsis, notes, character sheets, character-inspiration photos, research, and outline all in one place. If I were a plotter, I would think this would be included in my version of Heaven. For pantsers, we can use the same features after the fact. Also, at only $45, Scrivener is a steal.
- Coffee. Yeah, I probably should have listed this as the most expensive gift, since my yearly coffee bill outweighs all my other writing expenses combined. And while not digital, it’s not an exaggeration to say that I NEED coffee to write. Without it, my flighty muse probably won’t bother to show up — I’ve got to incentivize her. In fact, I say this as I visit family in the Great White North (Michigan) and sit in a favorite little coffee shop finishing this article. My cappuccino allows me to keep my fingers from freezing and keeps my brain moving. Coffee is a great stocking stuffer, will always be appreciated, and can be as inexpensive as $10 (or, in my case, $1 million; my muse isn’t cheap).
- Encouragement. In today’s digital age, it’s easy to get caught up in all the neat features and programs we writers love to play around with, but in the end, what we really need is people in our lives who remind us that what we do is worthwhile and that we’re loved. It’s a gift that keeps on giving. And it doesn’t cost a penny.
Happy Holidays to you and yours! See you in 2018!