Mechanics of Writing

» Technology

A lot of technology is needed to make a living as a professional writer in today's book industry. From hardware (computers and printers) to software (word processors and zenware), there is a lot to consider.


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 and computer software.
  • 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. All operating systems have their own benefits and downsides.
  • 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 tablet, whereas if you plan on writing/working solely from a stationary place a desktop may be a better option.
  • 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, keyboard layout, battery life, durability and memory. Before buying one make sure you are comfortable using everything from the keyboard through to the software you are going to be using.

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 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.

Organizational Software:

  • Omni Outliner: For Mac OS. A tool that helps facilitate the outlining, organizing and brainstorming aspects for a project.
  • Connected Text: For Windows. Note management and outline system.
  • Outline 4D: For Windows. An organizational tool for writers.


  • Write Monkey: For Windows. This zenware writing application is focused on the development of text, rather than the editing process.
  • WriteRoom: For Mac. Zenware word processor with variable background themes.
  • iA Writer: For Mac. This zenware writing software is as basic as it gets - you don't even have font options.
  • CreaWriter: For Windows. Zenware writing application that allows you to ass MP3 files for musical accompaniment.
  • Zen Writer: For Windows. Zenware writing application that allows background changes, music, and typing sounds.

Word Processors:

  • Write Way Pro: For Windows. This software is designed as a professional writer’s tool. Having such applications as “scratch pad”, word processing and forms outlining characters.
  • Microsoft Word: For Windows and Mac OS. The standard and most well-known word processor. This also comes with online cloud storage capabilities.
  • Pages: For Mac OS. The standard Apple word processor.
  • Scrivener: For Windows and Mac OS. Designed to make writing first drafts easier and to organize a project.
  • Storyist: For Mac. Word processing software designed with tools to track plot, settings, and characters. Available in iOS for your iPhone.
  • Ulysses: For Mac OS. Word processing software.

Scriptwriting software:

  • Movie Magic Screenwriter: For Windows and Mac OS. Word processing and scriptwriting software.
  • Final Draft: For Windows and Mac OS. Scriptwriting software.
  • Movie Draft: For Windows and Mac OS. Scriptwriting software.
  • Celtx: For Windows and Mac OS. Scriptwriting and pre-production software.

Online Word Processors:

  • Google Docs: This online service is available to anyone with a Google account, with all files store online.
  • Microsoft Word Online: Available as Office Online. This strongly resembles Word for desktop, but is online and uses online cloud storage.
  • Novelize: An online word processor, Novelize also offers a distraction free writing option.


A printer will be an essential tool for any writer, as many publishers require a hardcopy of manuscripts for submission. 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: A 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

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

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 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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