6 Must-Have Writing Tools

6 Must-Have Writing Tools - via Susan Howarth

Writing is not easy, but having the right tools for the job can make it a lot less painful. While it’s true that you can get by with a pen, paper and basic word processor, there are other writing tools that can improve your:

  • efficiency;
  • social media engagement;
  • organization; and
  • overall enjoyment of the process.

Here are 6 must-have writing tools that can help you reach your goals.

1. Scrivener

Scrivener is a word processor and project management tool that is tailor-made for writers. I am IN LOVE with this program. Here are a few of the reasons why:

  • It keeps all of your drafts, research, notes, images, etc. in one easy-to-navigate document.
  • You can quickly reference and/or roll back to previous drafts of individual scenes.
  • There is a random name generator, which is convenient for coming up with character names.
  • There are word count targets that turn from red to green as you approach your goal.
  • Plus so many more cool features!!!

I especially love the Cork Board view where you can add digital index cards for each scene. As you drag and drop the cards to reorder them, the full content of each scene automatically becomes reordered as well. No more cutting and pasting large sections of text in Word. You can colour coordinate the cards with whatever labels you like to help keep you organized. My inner geek goes crazy for stuff like this.

Image from Literature and Latte

It has a one-time cost of $45 USD, but is completely worth it. It also has a 30 day free trial for actual use, meaning that if you only use it one day per week, the trial will last 30 weeks.

For more info, Scrivener’s key features are described here.

2. Pexels

For anyone who writes blogs or other social media content, you know that it is vital to include images in your posts to grab people’s attention. For example, one study found that tweets with images received 150% more retweets and 89% more favourites. However, it can be tricky to find images that are free and available to use without attribution being required. You don’t want to get into ugly copyright or etiquette issues for inappropriate use of images. Enter Pexels!

At pexels.com there is a giant collection of beautiful images that are completely free to be used for any legal purpose, without the need for attribution. The search function makes it very easy to find what you are looking for. They can be downloaded and used for your Facebook posts, blogs, etc. This is one my favourite writer tools.

3. DropBox

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a computer crash resulting in lost work?

It is no fun.

However, when it comes to backing things up, I’m the world’s laziest person. I’ve broken down in tears over losing important data (such as pictures of my kids) and yet continued for an extended period of time without a backup system in place. I basically need for a system to be entirely self sufficient (aka zero work for me) in order to stick with it.

This is why this video on the interaction between Scrivener and DropBox was my saving grace. DropBox offers free cloud storage for documents, etc. that can be accessed from anywhere. Through this video, I learned how to set up Scrivener once so that every time I close the program or click the manual save button, my project automatically gets saved to DropBox. If I ever have a computer crash while writing my novel, I know that I’m protected. This peace of mind is worth the few minutes to learn this setup.

4. Canva

As discussed above, creating images to accompany social media content is essential. If you want something other than just a plain stock photo, I highly recommend Canva. It is a super simple program that allows you to make collages and add text to photos. You can completely customize the appearance, but if that isn’t your thing, there are hundreds of templates to choose from that require nothing more than choosing an image and updating the text.

UPDATE: Since my original post, I have discovered Snappa which is also amazing! Overall I like it better than Canva. The interface is more intuitive, there are more things done automatically for you (like resizing a background image if it doesn’t fit the size of your project), and the templates are easier to customize. Check it out!

5. Evernote

I have tried many forms of taking notes. Keeping a small paper notebook in my purse, using my iPhone notes app, day planners, etc. None of them have worked out for me. By far, my favourite method has been to use Evernote. I use the desktop version as well as the Evernote app, and they sync together beautifully.

Notes are a breeze to add, and can include attachments. They can be a reminder, a story idea, a link to a website, your resume, to do list, goals, and so on.

You have the option to organize these notes into folders, but I found that this was not very helpful. I never knew what to label them, and often, things overlap into different categories. Notes can only go in one folder, unless you want to duplicate them somewhere else.

My preferred method is to use tags. You can add as many tags as you want (I think). Then all notes in the same category can be pulled together with a single click. You can also do keyword searches, which works great too. Since I started using this program I haven’t misplaced or had trouble finding anything. This is a huge step in the right direction for me!

6. Pens (and Notebooks… sort of)

I was going to include recommendations on notebooks (for example, Leuchttruem vs. Moleskine), but honestly I’m not that picky. I’m generally happy as long as the cover is pretty. This is the one I’m using right now from Indigo:

Pens are another story.

My enjoyment while writing is highly correlated to how much I like the pen I’m using. (I do a lot of my brainstorming by hand.) After spending way too much money experimenting with different types of pens, I have found the one:

Pentel EnerGel 0.7

EnerGel pen

I’ve tried the blue, purple and black and I love them all. They aren’t expensive, they never smear, and they write extremely smoothly. My only small complaint is that they run out of ink faster than some other pens I’ve used, but given their price and quality, this doesn’t really bother me.

What other writing tools would you recommend?



  1. I love using Canva. Use it to make my visual contents on my blog and creating quote arts for my writing. Pens and notebooks are classic tools.
    I’d recommend The Emotions Thesaurus and the other thesaurus collection from Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman. And Pixabay to get free images.

    1. Yes, Canva is great isn’t it? Even though I started using Snappa, I still use Canva for some things.

      Thank you for the thesaurus suggestions!! I used to use Pixabay, then discovered that their images are included when you search Pexels. Win-win!

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