This month we’re focusing on which tools we find essential in our writing life. In addition to the usual Writers Ask Writers group, it’s a pleasure to welcome Angela Savage, prize-winning Melbourne crime writer and author of three novels, most recently The Dying Beach, as our guest contributor. Thanks for playing, Angela!

Angela Savage

Angela Savage



Tools of the trade?’ So simple this month, I thought, with my cocky hat on, when I began to think about this topic – all any writer really needs is a pen and some paper.

Wrong! Turns out we need quite a lot, as the others attest too. Here are some of the tools I came up with, just for starters:


During the course of writing my books, ideas and phrases pop into my head throughout the day. Over the years I have learned to equip myself with some method of recording them so I can examine them later in more detail. I’m not especially fussy about what this is: small notebooks, the ‘Notes’ section of my phone, if I’m desperate then even a spare, clean nappy! As long as I can write on it then I will use the best thing available. My phone is usually with me, but where possible I’d rather write by hand, and so I keep small notepads in my bag. These notes are all collated and transcribed onto the computer at a later date.


My laptop is an HP (a MacBook is on my wishlist – ahem, Santa!). I have used Word for a long time, and I like Scrivener too, although I have yet to completely find my way around it. Despite my stationery fetish, I would never use a posh notebook to jot down my ideas, because my brain darts around so much that I end up with pages of random notes and have to keep rereading them. I like perforated notebooks so I can tear out pages and collate them properly. I save the pretty notebooks for diaries instead.


I wholeheartedly agree with Annabel that the internet is a godsend when it comes to research. I do have all sorts of reference books at home, various dictionaries and thesauruses, but more often than not I go online first nowadays. One of my favourite reference books is the Reverse Dictionary, which takes you from a definition/concept to find associated words or phrases.


Websites, social media platforms, phone calls, marketing materials, there are heaps of tools available to writers nowadays to help spread the word about our books. So much so that the whole thing is utterly daunting – but invaluable nevertheless.


There’s plenty of moral support available online – just check out any writer’s feed on Twitter – and the world wide web is the place to find out about author events near me, new books, and all sorts of things that will help me along the way.

I also love quotations, and pin them where I’ll see them: fridge, walls, computer home screen. Catchy little numbers like this:

The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all the world needs dreamers who do.


Last but not least, and by no means exhaustive, I need babysitters, Lindt chilli chocolate, a comfy chair and a fraction of uncluttered desk space, and preferably silence, or amenable background noise. And if I had more of that most precious tool – time – to think about this, I’m sure the list would grow. And this is all before I get to the really tough bit of actually writing a story.  Turns out my toolbox is quite extensive after all.


PWFC author collage

Writers Ask Writers

Check out what my writer friends had to say about their most valued tools of the trade:

Angela Savage:  …the less rigid my writing needs, the easier it is to capture inspiration when it strikes.

Annabel Smith: To me, the truly essential tools of the writing trade are intangible things like inspiration and time to write.

Emma Chapman: Being surrounded by signs of previous work helps me to stay present and to carry on.

Dawn Barker: At the start of each new novel, I buy myself a new notebook to keep everything together.

Amanda Curtin: I couldn’t get by without my post-it notes, markers in every colour, and more pens and pencils than the average person would use in a lifetime.

Natasha Lester: …my most loved tool is the amazing writing software program, Scrivener.



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Annabel Smith
November 27, 2013 1:13 pm

I’m glad I’m not the only one with a Lindt fetish!

Natasha Lester
November 27, 2013 1:34 pm

I hope Santa brings you a shiny new Macbook to play with in the New Year!

Louise Allan
November 30, 2013 5:07 pm

I love the Reverse Dictionary — I need one. I’m constantly looking for a word that means … Is it online, or do you have an actual book?