Six tools of my trade

Six Tools Of My Trade

Over the last few months, I have received a couple of emails asking what I use to write. So, for the heck of it, I figure it would be fun to compile a list of products I regularly use in my everyday process of writing. None of these companies asked me to endorse them or these products. I’m posting these here because I love ’em and want to share my experience with my readers and fellow writers. Hopefully you’ll find something new and useful for your own writing.

1. 13″ Apple MacBook Air

Apple MacBook Air

It’s starting to show it’s age, but my first tool is my 2012 13″ MacBook Air. I love this little machine, I’ve written five manuscripts on it and it’s served me well. I got the Air because I thought I wanted the portability, but I’m no coffee shop writer, and I’ve since found I don’t carry it around very often. Come upgrade time, I’ll eschew portability and focus on something a bit more powerful. That said, all in all, it’s been a great workhorse. If you’re looking for something nimble and light I highly recommend it.

2. Scrivener 2 by Literature & Latte

Scrivener 2

Scrivener 2 is the software I write in most often. I use it for everything from brainstorming to the actual process of writing prose. It’s incredibly customizable and once you figure out how it use it, it really streamlines the writing process. The more I explore its features the more I love it. It’s also excellent at exporting high-quality ebook files as well. I wrote a quick post about Scrivener a while back, it sums up my feelings about the software and links to a lot of other handy articles.

3. Scapple by Literature & Latte


Scapple is my mind mapping software. I used to use a whiteboard, or a wall and sticky notes. Scapple fully replaced that, allowing me to visually picture my plots, character arcs, and storylines. I love it so much I wrote a whole blog post about it. It’s a good way to keep what used to be temporary work in a digital permanent format which makes it easy to access and reference.

4. Dropbox


Dropbox is my offsite backup and file sharing solution. I work exclusively off Dropbox. All my files live there. It’s nice to have the peace of mind knowing that my work is safe in the cloud as opposed to on hard drives that can fail, go missing, or be destroyed. Back up often. Seriously, do it right now. I can’t stress this enough.

5. Pilot Metropolitan


This Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen is my favorite thing in the world right now. I absolutely love this little pen. I recently decided to switch to fountain pens and was looking for an entry-level pen, as so many can get expensive. The Pilot was recommended. It is under twenty dollars and easily worth every penny. After using this exclusively for the last few months, I ended up buying a second one it’s perfect for taking notes, making quick sketches, and signing books.

6. Moleskine Cahier Journal

Moleskine cahier journal

The Moleskine Cahier Journal is my notebook of choice (for now). I have used various notebooks for years now and this is the best. It’s not perfect though. For one: I wish it was dotted instead of ruled as I do everything from make notes to draw sketches within it’s pages. The paper also bleeds a bit more than I’d like. All that said, it lays flat, it’s easy to carry, and it’s cheap (you get three for 9 bucks).

So there you go. It was fun to reflect on the stuff I use every day. There are other tools that I could have mentioned (Evernote, Wikipedia, Creative Cloud) but I wanted to focus on the stuff I use day in and day out. If you’re looking for other handy tools I encourage you to check out the toolkit category. I generally post links to handy websites, advice on craft, and software reviews within that category.

What about you? Do you have a favorite tool in your toolkit? Leave a comment below and let us know about it! I’d love to know what products other writers find invaluable in their own process.

My New Whiteboard: Scapple

Dr. Robert Goddard at Clark University
Dr. Robert Goddard at Clark University – via Flickr

I mentioned in my previous post that over the last month I have been exploring Scapple, software from Literature and Latte, creator of my favorite word processing software Scrivener. (I wrote a post about Scrivener as well, you should check it out. tl;dr – it’s awesome.)

I am foremost a visual thinker; I work with whiteboards all the time for my day job. Be it for wireframes, or just to start hashing out ideas, the temporary nature of a whiteboard allows me to be loose with my thoughts and explore avenues with little to no expense. Sadly, I don’t have room in my house for a whiteboard. So I have been looking for alternative means to organize my work without sacrificing space. Paper is too small to write this sort of stuff out and ultimately a waste. I have tried spreadsheets with Google Docs and Apple’s Numbers, but those are too cumbersome for this type of work. I have even tried lists within a document, but I found it too difficult to step back and get the big picture. I’ve even tried using Adobe Illustrator, which has a lot of similar features, but in the long run is too bulky and cumbersome for this type of work.

Using Scapple:
Scapple has been on my radar for a while, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to step in and give it a shot. It really was the product I was looking for: it’s both part mind-mapping and part free-form text editor. Everything is drag and droppable allowing for me to work quickly. I can get my ideas onto the screen, make connections between those ideas, and then step back and see the big picture. Here’re the first five chapters of my new unnamed project:


(No, I won’t make it larger. Spoilers!) Only a portion of that is the actual story (highlighted in blue), but I wanted to make sure I paid attention to what else was going on. There’s a lot of plot points to juggle in this one so making sure I have everything organized was key for me, and Scapple helped me quickly get my thoughts down so I could progress.

The Downside:
Scapple is still a bit clunky. It’s not as forgiving as some programs, and often I find myself scrambling to lay things out properly. I feel that a lot of this could be solved with some snap-to-grid system. (Which I bet is coming.)

Also, while not a reflection on Scapple, I should mention that this very much one of those programs that can get in the way of actual work. You can spend a lot of time stylizing, tweaking, and laying things out. Time that could be better spent writing. That’s not Scapple’s fault, as I mentioned in my post “Shut Up and Write!“, if we’re looking for distraction, we’ll find it.

My final verdict:
Powerful. Quick. Effective at mapping and laying out snippets of text visually. Scapple is the best mind-mapping program to fill that niche in the market. It’s $14 bucks, which cheap in the grand scheme of productivity software and if you’re a visual thinker like I am it’s very handy at getting your plot laid out. It’s worth it, just don’t let yourself get too distracted. The only person who needs to see your Scapples is yourself. Save the perfectionism for the final product, not your notes.