Writing Advice #50: Recommended Gear

I recently wrote a series of BLogs on technology for writers and figured it would make sense to summarize the most important bits here in the Writing Advice section. You can go read the originals, or just skim here.

I live in the Apple ecosystem, so some of this may not apply to you. But it’s what works for me:

Desktop Hardware

My iMac and monitor set-upI use two monitors, the one built into my iMac and a Dell I bought for cheap online. If you can swing it/have the room, consider a two-monitor setup. You’ll find it lets you spread your work out and organize it more logically.

I use an ancient MacAlly iKey keyboard that is no longer manufactured. Even if they did make them, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest you buy one — keyboards are very personal. My advice to you: Find a keyboard that you love, that feels right under your fingertips. Go to stores and try them out. Don’t just type “This is a test of a keyboard.” Stand there for a while and pound out a few paragraphs. You’re going to spend a lot of time on this sucker — make it worth your while. (Even if you use a laptop, you can still get an external keyboard to use when at home. Depending on how much you like or loathe your laptop’s keyboard, this might be a worthwhile investment.)

Ditto for your mouse. I use Apple’s Magic Mouse, which is much maligned in the tech world, but I love it. YMMV.

Oh, and always use some kind of wrist support. You don’t want to blow your tendons out and have carpal tunnel syndrome.

Desktop Software

scrivener_iconMy composition environment of choice is Scrivener. Ten million features, but even if you only use six of them, they’ll be the six that change — and maybe save — your life. At $45, it’s a steal.

pages-iconI use Pages (free with purchase of an Apple computer) in lieu of monsters like Word. It has most of the functionality of Word (and can save to and open .doc files) without the bloat.

Mobile Hardware

I use an iPad Air 2. I know most people prefer a laptop, but I like the lightness and slender profile of the iPad. If you’re going to use an iPad for your out-of-house writing needs (or, hell, any tablet), invest in a separate keyboard. Typing on glass is fine for emails, but for anything long-form, you gotta have the real deal. I use an Apple Bluetooth Keyboard, but as with the suggestion on desktop keyboards, find one you love.

When you’re traveling, you need to stay juiced up. I use a Phonesuit battery to top off my gadgets when I’m not near an outlet, and I have an XtremeMac InCharge Home power adapter so that I can charge two devices with one outlet. Consider your needs before you head out to the coffee shop for a writing session and make sure you have some kind of power solution in your bag.

Mobile Software

Textilus (Microsoft Word Office Edition, PDF Notes and Scrivener)PagesWith Scrivener for the iPad still nowhere in sight, I rely on Textilus for editing and composing on-the-go. I also use Pages on the iPad when compatibility with Scrivener isn’t an issue. Textilus costs only $5.99, but there’s a free version to try out. And Pages is free with the purchase of an iDevice.


A good backup plan is crucial for writers. Yeah, I know, you’re thinking, “I’ve never lost anything!” Guess what? That means you will.

There are a lot of backup solutions out there — too many for me to advise you specifically — but here are some general rules to follow:

1) Backup locally to a hard drive in your house or place of work. Have this happen automatically at least every hour.

2) Also, backup to a remote location. This can be a cloud-based service such as Backblaze, Carbonite, Crashplan, or some other one. But do it. You need an off-site backup in case something wipes out your computer and your on-site backup.

3) A backup that requires you to do something each time — push a button, plug in a drive — is no backup at all. You will forget. And the time you forget is the time your hard drive will decide to die, losing that chapter you just wrote. Your systems need to work automatically, without intervention from you. The best backup is the one you never think about…until you need it.

Now’s the time of year for gifts, so maybe surprise yourself with a new toy and get to writing!

For the Tech of It: Hardware (Desktop)

My iMac and monitor set-up

I am frequently asked about the tools of the trade. Since writing doesn’t usually involve sawdust or any sort of protective goggles, those tools are pretty much digital.1 So, I’m going to do some BLogs wherein I go through my digital toolbox, starting today with where most of my work gets done: On my desktop. [Read more…]

  1. I almost never use anything but a computer, from note-taking through to final draft. Occasionally, I’ll jot something down on a piece of paper in the unusual scenario where I can’t get to my phone, but that’s really, really rare.