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Writer’s Office—Equipment

Writer’s Office Checklist
Every writer’s workspace is different. Everyone has their own preferences on where they feel most creative and productive. Some writers need a quiet space without distraction while others enjoy writing in a room with more activity. Whatever type of space is your ideal for writing, there is some basic equipment that will be required.

-    A computer: In today’s book industry a computer is a must for any writer looking to earn a living from their work. It is the industry standard for manuscripts to be typed (this no longer includes typewriters) and printed.

-    Back-up hard-drive or storage device: Computers do crash and files can be lost. Invest in a USB storage device or external hard-drive in order to protect your work, both past and present.

-    A printer: A good home printer will be a writer’s best friend. Most publishers still require manuscripts to be submitted in hardcopy rather than electronically. This means that the writer is expected to have their work printed. Home printers can be an excellent tool for any writer; however, if this is not in your budget, make sure you have access to a printer. (The Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild allows its members to print documents at a small cost for paper)

-    A notepad and pen: Although manuscripts must be printed and computers are wonderful tools for writers, sometimes ideas need to be jotted down quickly or it is simply easier to outline a project by hand.

-    A filling cabinet: Writing is a business and a filling cabinet can be a great organizational tool. This will allow you to organize old manuscripts, contracts, invoices and any other business matter you may encounter.

-    Writing Software: Most computers come already loaded with some form of word processor; however, they may not always suit your needs. There are many different types of software available for writers that allow them to write more efficiently and are easy to access.

-    A desk/writing surface: Whether you are writing in your kitchen, on the couch or outside you will need some sort of writing surface or desk. Depending on where you are planning to write a clean table, portable lap desk, or even a workbench may be all you need. Know how you like to write and what feels most comfortable for you. Remember as a writer you will be spending a lot of time at that desk/work space.

-    Dictionary and thesaurus: Have a good dictionary and/or thesaurus at hand all the time. Dictionaries range in quality and accessibility, depending on what kind of writing you are looking to do, you may want to invest in a high quality one such as the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) either in print version or online subscription.

-    Digital Camera: Cameras can serve a multitude of purposes for writers. From providing inspiration for a story to self-promotion, digital cameras can be an extremely useful tool to writers at all stages in their careers.

-    Digital recording device: Digital recording devices can be very useful devices for writers working as freelancers, in collaboration, as reporters or even just attempting to piece together their novel. Digital recorders are small portable devices that enable a writer to record extended sound/voice recordings and then transfer them to their computer, making access a breeze.

General Information about Computers
The Computer market today is huge and can seem overwhelming for anyone. Whether you already have a computer you are using for writing or are purchasing your first one, doing research on what is available to you will be an immense help.
When doing research keep in mind:
  • Your skill level. Some computers will be easier to navigate than others, so know how comfortable you are with computers.
  • What operating system you are used to using. If you have already owned a computer, consider what operating system it used and whether you were happy with its functionality. Generally, commercial computers will run using either Microsoft or Apple; however there are other operating systems available. Both operating systems have their own benefits and problematic areas.
  • Consider how the computer is going to be used. All computers are slightly different and cater to specific types of usage. If you are planning on traveling with your computer you will need a laptop or something smaller, whereas if you plan on writing/working solely from a stationary place a desktop may be a better option.
  • Consider your budget. How much are you willing to spend on your computer? Computers range in price from around 300$ at the low end through to a few thousand at the high end of the price scale.
-    Make a list of everything you are wanting in your computer, this may include specific software capabilities, disk burners, battery life, durability and memory.
-    For a writer a computer can be their single most important tool. Before buying one make sure you are comfortable using every from the keyboard (not all keyboards are designed exactly the same), through to the software you are going to be using.
** There is much debate about Apple computers and Microsoft. Each program has its own benefits and disadvantages. Explore both options prior to buying a new computer, read recent consumer reports and know the benefits of both.
-    Some computers come with more programs than others. Look into retail package deals, as they may be a good way to save money. Packages may include the latest software from Microsoft Office or a recent version of firewall. If these are not included with the quoted price of your computer you will most likely have to purchase them yourself, something that can become costly.
-    Check for rebates and sales. The computer business is competitive, so shop around. Some stores may offer a rebate on a printer, have package deals available or even offer other benefits such as an extended warranty. Know all your options prior to purchase, as some stores in order to get business are willing price match or better the offer of a competitor. (Note: Apple products sold at retailers cannot be price matched according to the deals available on the Apple Website, and these products generally do not vary in price from location to location.)

Writing Software for Writers

Although most computers come equipped to handle general word processing, some writers require/ desire different software that suits their specific writing needs.

  • Scrivener: Designed to make writing first drafts easier and to organize a project.
  • WriteRoom: Provides a writer with a distraction free writing zone.
  • Ulysses: A program for creative writers.
  • CopyWrite: A project manager for writers.
  • Jer’s Novel Writer: This software allows writers to work their way through the writing process, annotating their text using margin notes, and has a basic database for storing ideas, character information and research.
  • StoryMill: Allows a writer to manage scenes, chapters, and characters while also annotating their text.
  • PaperToolsPro: A tool that mostly focuses on writers for research papers, helping them to assemble a paper while keeping track of references and avoiding plagiarism
  • Omni Outliner: A tool that helps facilitate the outlining, organizing and brainstorming aspects for a project.
  • MacJournal: Blogging software.
  • Mellel: Word processing software.
  • Bean: Word processing software.
  • Pagehand: Word processing software.
  • Mariner Write: Word processing software.
  • Final Draft: Word processing software.
  • CelftX: Word processing software.
  • Movie Magic Screenwriter: Word processing software.
  • Movie Draft: Word processing software.
  • Montage: Word processing software.
  • Page Four: A tool for editing, organizing, word processing, and outlining.
  • Rough Draft: Helps a writer create and edit rich text files in a tabbed interface.
  • Write Way Pro: This software is designed as a professional writer’s tool. Having such applications as “scratch pad”, word processing and forms outlining characters.Outline 4D: An organizational tool for writers.
  • Write Monkey: This software is focused on the development of text, rather than the editing process.
  • Connected Text: Management system.
  • iWrite Assistant: This program is directed to freelance writers and journalists, allowing them to track and organize their projects. This is a web-based program that can be accessed through any computer.

General Information about Printers

A printer will be an essential tool for any writer, as most publishers require a hardcopy of manuscripts for submission. There is a wide range of printers available on the market today. When purchasing a printer you should consider:

  • Look at what kind of usage you will want to get from your printer. Are you planning on writing a novel or articles and short stories? The type of material you will be printing will dictate to some extent what kind of printer you will need. For larger projects you may be required to purchase a heavy-duty printer, whereas if you are working on smaller projects an easy to use, less durable model may be what you want.
  • Look at printer capabilities. Today’s printers come with a variety of options, from all-in-ones to ordinary printers.
    • All-in-one: Printer that can print, scan and photocopy.
    • All-in-one with Fax: These printers can handle almost any project you are working on, having a photocopier, scanner, and fax machine as well as printing capabilities.
    • Regular Printer: Although many printers today come with a variety of tools, printers are available without all the extras.
    • Photo-printer: There are some printers on the market that cater to the photographer, allowing users to print photo high-quality pictures at home.

  • Consider whether you want an ink jet or laser printer. Depending on your budget a laser printer may be a good option if you are planning on printing a large number of manuscripts. The ink from laser printers allows for smudge free printing.
  • If you are purchasing a computer, is there a rebate available or some other promotion in which a printer may be purchased at discount? Package deals through computer stores can be a great way to save money on printers.
** Remember that printers require ink replacement, which can be costly. Before purchasing your printer ask about the additional cost of ink, how many cartridges your printer will need, and whether they are overly costly. Brand name ink will be higher in cost, shop around for generic brands that will fit your printer.

Digital Cameras

General Information about Digital Cameras
As a writer a digital camera can be a very useful tool when working on a variety of projects. From freelancing to novel writing a camera can be a source of inspiration or a way to self-promotion.
-    As with purchasing any new piece of electronic equipment you should do some research on brands, capability, and prices prior to making a purchase. Check out some of the many resources online such as reviews and consumer reports.
-    Establish a budget. Digital cameras range in price from around 100$ into the thousands for more professional cameras. Along with the digital camera you may also need certain accessories that enhance the performance of the camera or simple storage cases.
-    Write an outline of the functions you are looking for and how the camera will be used. Each camera is different and many are geared toward different skill levels. Knowing what kinds of usage you expect from the camera as well as your own personal skill level will help to narrow down your options.
-    Consider talking to a professional. Although most chain electronic stores carry a wide variety of cameras at very reasonable prices, going to a specialized camera dealer may help you to clarify which cameras suit your needs and skill level.
  • Remember that just because you have spoken to a sales person does not mean that you have to purchase a camera from their shop. Specialized camera stores may be pricier than the larger retail stores. Ask whether the specialized store will price match or give you a better deal. Asking may be well worth your while as you will be getting the expertise of the sales associates while purchasing a camera that best suits you. Remember not all specialty stores are willing to negotiate their prices.
-    Most digital cameras will require you to purchase a memory card. Memory cards range in price and size. Shop around to get the best deal.
-    Consider how you will want to print or store your photographs. Most computers come with a basic program for storing photographs taken with digital cameras and will require you only to connect your camera by a USB cable. However, if you wish to do more than simply store your photographs you may want to invest in photo editing software that will enable you to create high quality photographs on your computer.
-    Digital cameras can be multipurpose tools, allowing for both picture taking as well as video and sound recording. If you are looking to record small short video clips a digital camera can be a good replacement for the larger digital video recorders.
-    Consider what you are taking pictures of and for what purposes. Are the photographs going to be used on your personal website, in an article, or on the cover of your latest novel? Each will require a different quality of image in order to meet professional standards. Look at how many megapixels the camera has (this is resolution) and the power of your camera’s zoom lens.

Digital Recorders

General Information about Digital Recorders

Digital recorders are useful tools for writers working on a variety of projects as they enable you to capture an interview or a momentary thought.
-    Digital recorders are small devices that enable a writer to record and store sound clips, interviews, lectures, and voice memos. These files can then be transferred to a computer for easy storage and accessibility.
-    Analogue recorders have been almost entirely been replaced by digital recorders; however, there are some analogue recorders still available. If you are choosing to use analogue recorders it is important to consider their practicality. Although you may be more comfortable with cassettes, they are quickly becoming obsolete and it may be difficult to locate a machine that will replay your recordings.
-    Digital recorders come in a variety of shapes, sizes and forms. They are often stand-alone devices that solely capture digital sound recordings. While others come as a part of an integrated device.
-    Consider what usage you are looking to get out of the device. If you are planning on doing regular interviews and recordings then purchasing a digital recorder designated solely for that purpose is a good option. However, if you do not plan on using the recording device regularly consider looking into other electronics that provide you with the capability of sound recording along with a variety of other tools.

  • For instance, the Apple iPod Touch allows a user the ability to record and store sound files, as well as access the internet, listen to music and even take short video clips and photographs. These integrated devices are portable (small enough to fit into a pocket) and have become essential devices for all ages. Some cell phones (“smart phones”) also have similar capabilities that will allow you to carry a single electronic device for multiple purposes.

-    Consider your budget. The integrated devices can be expensive. If you are looking to purchase a cell phone with multiple capabilities, you should also consider the cost of a data plans. Generally, there will be no added costs to a simple digital recorder.



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