Writing Supplies: What You Need to Write Well

By on November 13, 2014 . Category Column

Here it is: Coffee, liquor, or possibly both.

(Probably both.)

But seriously. Having the right supplies—for any project—is going to make the doing part of the project that much easier. Many of us use “not having the right supplies” as an excuse not to act, so here I’m going to help you figure out everything you need (and don’t need) to write that book!

(And yes, I said everything you don’t need…because some things you just don’t need.)

To make it easy, I’m going to be linking you guys to some of my favourite products, pages, and such.


General Needs

There’s the simple stuff. Writing by hand? Paper and pens or pencils. I recommend a notebook. Actually, I recommend this one: the Moleskin Classic large notebook. It’s the best. But you can use any notebook or notepad (including those yellow legal pads—I’ve seen people write their novels on several of those bad boys) that strikes your fancy.

(Pro tip: Amazon is a great place to get deals on notebooks if you, like me, write a lot by hand.)

I also like the Pilot G-2 gel (this is black, but I like blue!) because it rocks. Again, whichever pen you like is fine—the point is that it has to feel good in your hands, write smoothly, and allow for good flow.

Be sure to have a couple pens in other colors (or get one of these awesome things) so you can make notes on the side or in the margins.

If you’re not a by-hand writer, you’re probably on a computer. In that case, you need a good writing program. Microsoft Word is popular, but if you’re serious about your craft, YOU NEED SCRIVENER. Seriously: Scrivener. It will be your best friend. You will never go back once you start using Scrivener, for real. It’s amazing.

(If you’re one of the rare ones on typewriters, you might needs some other supplies, which I’m less familiar with. But I love typewriters, so I approve.)

Even when typing up your story, I recommend having a notebook and pen on hand for quick notes.

I’ve sung Evernote’s praises here, and I’ll repeat myself in this post: GET. EVERNOTE. It’s free, (though there is a paid option if you need it) and it’s so incredibly handy. You can put it in your phone and any other devices, and it will sync your story notes, bookmarks, research pages, and everything else no matter where you go.

Also helpful (or hurtful, if misused): the Internet. Use it wisely (as in, don’t spend all your time looking at funny cat pictures), but know when to click away and write.


Additional Writerly Needs

You probably need more than the technical stuff, like paper to put your words on and pens to put your words on paper with. We’re human beings, and we’re emotional creatures, so a certain degree of comfort is necessary, especially when taking on an endeavour as intense as writing a book.

A lot of writers like coffee. I can’t vouch for Bulletproof Coffee from personal experience, but I’ve heard it’s not only very good, but actually pumps up your brain. You can just use regular coffee, though. I recommend this because writers need brain power. It might not seem like we need energy, but writers need a lot. The mind consumes 20% of the body’s ingested calories, and writers are using their brains like whoa.

Speaking of which…food. You need to eat. Now, here’s the problem, and I’m more guilty of this than anyone else in the world (well, I might be tied with Jason Cantrell…): A lot of writers lose track of their day and end up losing hours to their writing, which is great…except for when we forget to fuel ourselves up.

So make some healthy, delicious snacks that are easily consumed with one hand (or no hands, if you get really creative). Blend up smoothies and have a thermos of your favorite tea or coffee on hand, because you won’t want to get up once you’re in the flow, but you might still get thirsty.

Speaking of thirsty…water. Have a bottle of that stuff nearby. I have written for hours, parched to the bone, refusing to get up because I am on a roll and it’s miserable. So: Water bottle, check.

Have a sweater or blanket nearby. Temperatures tend to fluctuate through the day, or when we’re sitting still, so have something close that will keep you warm if you start to feel chilly. You can always take the sweater off later, but you’ll be quite irked if it’s in the other room and you’re shivering while typing.

Headphones! I think, next to pens and pencils and such, headphones are one of the most important investments a writer makes. Why? Other people.

Other people have these weird habits of talking, watching TV, listening to music, and doing other things like making food or cleaning. This stuff is noisy. Whether you’re at home and you live with others, or you’re out at a café, people make noise! So pop in those headphones, blast some music (I wrote a blog about music selection, you can find it here!), and WRITE.

This one I can’t link you to, but it’s crucial: Privacy. At least a degree of it. Writing takes a lot out of us, and we have to be able to concentrate a bit on what we’re doing. Different levels of solitude suit different people, but most writers fare best when we can be locked away by ourselves for a while.


Fun Extras

A couple things I like to have: A notepad by my bed for quick, middle-of-the-night notes, and THIS. That’s right—shower notes. Awesome, right? (You know a good chunk of your best ideas come to you in the shower, and boy is it tough to get out of the shower, dry off, and write them down before you forget it all!!) Super handy—trust me. You’ll be glad you did.


What You REALLY Need…

At the end of the day, what do you really need to write?

Just this: Your own will and determination to get it done.

Because while all the items I listed above will help you work more quickly and comfortably, at the end of the day, none of these things are what will make or break your writing career. You are. A determined writer will write anywhere, anytime, with whatever they have. I’m talking crayons and an old calendar page. I’m talking texting yourself notes or a brilliant scene so you don’t forget it. I’m talking using absolutely anything at your disposal to get the story on the page. A flash drive and a library computer. A napkin and a ballpoint pen. Anything.

Don’t let, “I don’t have my tea,” or, “The lighting in here is too harsh,” be excuses to not getting your work done. You’ve got a story to tell—tell it, regardless of the world around you.


What’s the ONE thing you cannot write without?


  • Lironah

    I need my Thinkpad. I have to be able to move to whatever chair/couch/surface feels comfortable at the time. It doesn’t take much to make my muscles ache, especially in the winter, and once I hit a certain threshold of discomfort, the words don’t come.

    • Eve Jacob

      Been there! I have a big laptop (for all my powerhouse-needs), and a little flippy tablet/laptop hybrid, which is perfect for what you’re talking about. Definitely a good thing to have for mobility and comfort.

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