Holiday Shopping for Writers

The gift-giving season is upon us, so I wanted to gather together some suggestions for things that might suit the writer in your life (or that you might want to add to your own letter to Santa). I’ve mentioned some of these in previous years, but a good gift is a good gift, and writers in particular tend to be appreciative of things that encourage them in their craft or enable them to spend time writing. Many of these will be appropriate gifts for readers, as well, for obvious reasons.

Writerly gifts:

Scrivener – Many writers swear by this software. It allows you to create your manuscript in sections that can be easily dragged around and reordered, has a built in cork board function where you can get an overview of the parts of your work, allows for research materials to be imported directly into the project, and much more. Once you’re done, you can compile the pieces of your manuscript into Word, script format, e-book format, and so on. Available for both Mac and Windows.


Aeon Timeline – This software allows you to create a timeline not just for a single project but for an entire series. It will track character ages for different events, births and deaths, whatever history you’ve developed for your books, etc. Particularly helpful for anyone writing historical fiction, or anything involving extensive world building. Available for both Mac and Windows.


Ecosystem Journal – These blank books are made from recycled materials and boast sturdy pages that protect against bleed-through from heavier ink, such as fountain pens. They come in small, medium, and large sizes, blank, ruled, or with grid paper, and in a number of bright colors as well as black. Great for the writer who keeps an ideas book, journals, doodles, or prefers drafting longhand.

Leuchtturm1917 Notebook – Another high-quality blank book, this features page numbers and a blank table of contents, in addition to sturdy pages of a lovely off-white paper. As with the Ecosystem, you can select type of page (ruled, blank, etc.) and the notebooks come in assorted colors. The company offers other types of books, as well, such as planners, if you’re looking to gift someone with a set.

Decomposition Books – Great notebooks in the old composition or spiral notebook formats, but with fun printed covers. Perfect for anyone looking for a slightly more utilitarian notebook.

Fountain pens – A slightly old-school gift, a lovely fountain pen — either new or antique — along with some ink, can be a beautiful gift for a writer.

Books on writing – Most writers love writing books. I’ll post a separate list of writing-related books I love in a couple of days, but you’ll find tons in most good bookstores, in the reference section.

A gift certificate for some pampering – Writing can be hard on the back, the eyes. All that sitting. Gift your writer with a massage or spa day, or a series of neck rubs. Writers — especially struggling writers — don’t often allot money for little luxuries, even when they need them.

The gift of time – Real life often gets in the writer’s way, making demands and allowing less time for writing. Take over a chore or responsibility for the writer in your life in order to give them an extra hour or two to write. If you live with the writer, make dinner a couple of nights a week. Offer to babysit or take their kids out of the house for a chunk of time on the weekend.

A writing retreat – If you’re looking to give your writer something a little more expansive, send them off for a quiet weekend at a cozy inn or cabin in the woods, just them and their muse. Don’t pick a tourist location that will tempt them to go out and sightsee, but somewhere quiet, or local, with room service and a nice desk.

Literary-themed gifts:

Shakespeare Insult Shirt – This t-shirt features a collection of witty insults by the Bard. Great for writers, Shakespeare fans, or anyone looking for a good come back.

shakespeare insult_1

Classic Tote Bag – Give your favorite writer or reader one of these sturdy tote bags featuring art work from a classic novel, such as Pride and Prejudice, Animal Farm, or Gone with the Wind, or with some bookish feature, like a list of banned books. Great for carting books from the library, hitting the farmer’s market, or carrying a notebook and other writing paraphernalia.

Litographs Poster – This company prints literary posters where the design itself is created from the text of the books. Available for a number of classic titles, and the designs can also be purchased on t-shirts and tote bags.


Read Harder T-shirt – One of several designs on offer from the new bookish store at Book Riot.

2015 Literary Wall Calendar – A different author/quote each month in a beautiful black-and-white design.

Evolution of Literature Poster – Featuring an image for each of 34 authors arranged chronologically. Posters featuring just one author are also available.

Evolution of Literature_CreativeDaffodil

Literary Cufflinks – Handmade, featuring text on the front image.

Subscription to a literary magazine/journal – Especially helpful for writers interesting in essays or short fiction. I’ll include a list of suggestions in my upcoming post featuring books for writers.





Toys… er, Tools for Writers

Writing requires very few tools if you’re just getting started and sincere in your desire to commit to that first draft. Really, a pen or pencil and some paper does the trick. The important thing is to sit down and get to it rather than wasting time worrying about the right computer or the proper program or what font will make you look most writerly. At its heart, writing is about… writing.

However, writers do love their toys. And the truth is that, once you’ve actually started to write and have finished some stories or drafted your novel, there are plenty of tools out there that can make your life easier. Some are even pretty necessary. Most editors expect a polished manuscript delivered electronically, so a computer with an internet connection and your own professional email account comes in handy. Then there’s the software that helps you turn off that internet connection long enough to get your writing done, and it just kind of balloons from there.

I’m a firm believer that less is more. Find the tools that work for you and then get back to the business of writing and marketing your creations. That said, I’m a fan of a few products out there, and there happens to be a summer sale, so I thought I’d share with the class. I’d like to state up front that I’m in no way connected to these programs or their creators, nor do I receive any benefit if you decide to purchase them. I just think they’re very useful tools, and I’m taking this opportunity to pass along the information.

Scrivener. This is a writing program that was truly designed with the creative writer in mind. It allows you to pull in all your research materials, see your work in outline or notecard formats, color code characters or themes or whatever you’d like, rearrange chapters or sections or combine them all with ease, reformat into a standard manuscript format or export into a self-pub format, and so much more. You can download it for a trial run before purchasing, and it’s the sort of program that allows you to jump right in and work with just the basic tools and learn the more complicated functions as you go. Plus the website offers up plenty of helpful video tutorials for when you want to figure something out. I know so many writers who have switched to this program and adore it. Available for Mac and Windows, and on sale until August 15th, 2014.

Aeon Timeline. This is a much more specialized program and certainly not for everyone. However, if you’re heavily into world building for your project, you write historical novels where you want to track your characters’ history versus actual historical events, you’re writing a series of novels set in a created world where the characters lives overlap (for instance a number of romances in the same town, etc.), or anything where an in-depth timeline could prove useful to maintaining your sanity, you might find this to be an extremely helpful program. Additionally, if you’re using Scrivener 2 for Mac, you can sync projects between the programs. As with Scrivener, you can download a trial version to help you decide if this is a useful program for you, for either Mac or Windows, and it’s on sale until August 15th, 2014.

Sale information for these and several other programs is available at SummerFest 2014. Please make sure to check, as different purchase parameters apply depending on the program in order to take advantage of the discount.

Friday Links

Happy Friday! Does everyone have plans for the weekend? Mine involve setting up my shiny new computer in the interests of transferring all my files before I get too many more blue screens of death. Ah technology, you make our lives so interesting.

Of course I have a few links for you all, so if you’ve got a spare moment or are just looking for some procrastination inspiration, I hope you’ll check them out. Have a terrific weekend, and don’t forget to get some reading and/or writing time in!

The Do-It-Yourself Lit Degree – Book Riot brings you some ideas on how to catch up on that academic reading.

Writing LIAR with Scrivener – Author Justine Larbalestier gives a great overview on how she wrote her young adult novel, LIAR, using Scrivener software. I’m linking to this because I was discussing the program with some writers in Denver last weekend, so it seemed like a good time to share this for anyone curious about how the program might help them.

How to Write a Manuscript: 5 Key Tips – A few ideas that might help you plow through.

HarperCollins Reaches New Agreements with Amazon and Others on E-Book Prices – An overview of how the DOJ settlement is starting to play out.

William Gibson, The Art of Fiction No. 211 – A great interview from The Paris Review archives.