Writing Tools

Every now and then I’ll come across a Kickstarter campaign for a book and wonder what’s going on. Sometimes the campaign is to help fully publish and do a custom print run, other times it looks like the campaign is trying to raise money for software or whatever else. Even more rarely, you’ll see someone running a crowdfunding campaign so they can quit their jobs and just write.

Some of that I can certainly understand. If you want to do a custom print run of a children’s book or something like that, you’re looking at dropping a butt-load of money on the project. Or, as my son likes to say, you’ll need a lot of cheddar.

Kids these days. As if we didn’t have enough slang terms for money already.

But for those campaigns where the author just wants to take a year off work and write a book, I’m not sure how well that will work out for them. If you can’t write a book in a year during your free time, there’s no guarantee that making it your job will help. I’ve known far too many people who’ve said for years “I’m working on this novel.” Just write the damned thing already.

Writing isn’t exactly rocket science. You come up with an idea. You sit down and write the idea out. Write some more every day. It takes time, it takes dedication, and it takes tenacity. Before you know it, you’ll look down and the word count will be hovering around 70k.

So, what do you need (besides an idea and some tenacity) to get a book written? Software generally helps. You could be one of those writers that uses a typewriter, but if you have access to a computer and some free software you’ll make your life much easier. CSB moment: I saw an old manual typewriter at a pawn shop yesterday and seriously considered buying it. Then I remembered what it was like to work with one of those damned things and came to my senses.

With that in mind, here’s a quick list of free or cheap stuff you can use to write your amazingly awesome novel that will propel you into the upper echelons of high society.

A computer of some sort or another.

This doesn’t have to be the latest Voodoo PC laptop with an 8 core i7 CPU and 32GB of RAM. Writing is word processing and the beautiful thing about word processing is it doesn’t require much in the way of hardware. I’ve written on my old Asus Transformer tablet and that thing’s insanely slow. If you’re buying a computer, go cheap. Spend your money on other important writing tools like Scotch. All the computer has to do is handle words and not crash all the time.

If you’re technologically savvy enough, Linux will eke out every bit of power from your hardware. Find a used laptop that works, even if it’s full of viruses and malware, and drop Linux on it. I’d recommend Kubuntu, but there are dozens of other choices out there.

The only other piece of hardware that would come in handy is a portable USB drive. Don’t rely on a thumb drive, they’re notorious for randomly dropping all their data, get a small portable hard drive and make it a habit to keep a copy of your manuscript on the laptop and backed up to the USB drive.


A Dropbox subscription will also come in handy. Dropbox is a free tool that lets you back up your data to cloud storage. Cloud storage, by the way, is just a cutesy, fancy term for putting your files on someone else’s server. A subscription is free for the first 2GB of data. If your manuscript is larger than 2GB, it’s probably time to consider cutting the length down. Dropbox is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and just about everything else under the sun.

The actual writing portion of writing can be handled on Notepad if you’re so inclined, but it’s not really the best choice. You can go with Office if you have a copy already, but if you have to buy a copy of Office you’ll soon see it’s a pricey piece of software. There are plenty of cheaper alternatives and some excellent free ones, too.

Scrivener is a cheap tool that’s built for writing screenplays and novels. It’s amazingly flexible and a steal at only $40. The only downside to Scrivener? It’s only available for OSX and Windows. As of right now there are no Linux versions.

If that’s too steep, how does free sound? Both Open Office and Libre Office are free and open source versions of Microsoft’s Office suite. Versions are available for Linux, Windows, and Mac OSX.

The hardest part of writing is the actual part where you have to sit down and write. No amount of hardware or software can help you with that. Unfortunately, inspiration will strike at the most inappropriate times, so invest in a notebook to jot down the little bits and ideas that pop up from time to time.

Now, go out there and tell the world a story.

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