My Top Five Must-Haves for Writing

Note: this is a re-run (or updated version) of a post from my previous site/blog, so if it feels a bit déjà vû, it’s not you: it’s me.

1 Forest App

This really does come first. I’ve used a timer for motivation in all kinds of work for years, and it helps So Much. When I’m struggling to focus (i.e. cataloguing socks is suddenly looking ridiculously tempting), just setting a simple kitchen timer for 15 minutes, putting the phone away, turning wifi off and doing NOTHING ELSE for those 15 minutes will get me started. It’s great for busy days too – 15 minutes each on a handful of tasks moves me further in a morning than the faffing that I would do otherwise. An updated version of that is the Forest App, which not only times your 15 minutes (or up to 2 hours) but grows a cute plant or tree in that time, so you can see how your forest for that day/week/month/year has done. You can also team up with friends and plant together – great for shared motivation! Oh, and it ties up your phone, preventing you from Twitter-procrastination…

2 Instrumental music

I can’t work to anything with lyrics, but I can’t achieve the luxury of silence most of the time, so I use either white noise (courtesy of My Noise) or instrumental playlists. I like a lot of TV and movie soundtracks, or ‘focus music’ playlists, but I have also been delighted to find quite a lot of instrumental rock, blues and metal on Spotify, which I have gradually pulled together. Occasionally, I’ll use instrumental folk. My music tastes are pretty broad, and I’ve been very chuffed to find them covered in lyricless form too, so I can address my moods and cover surrounding noises to help me concentrate.

3 SCBWI membership

The Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators is a fabulous organisation for those of us working in that area. A lot of what is offered is geared to fiction, but non-fiction writers are welcomed too. Membership is open to anyone interested in children’s books – you do not need to be published. The Society organises critique groups, a British Isles conference (which I went to for the first time this year, and loved) and many smaller events. I first drafted this on the train to a day workshop on writing series fiction for 5-8 yr olds taught by a successful author in that area, for example. There is a lot of skill-sharing, which is invaluable, and conducted with a generosity of spirit.

4 Notebook and pencil

I write on computer, but all my planning and ideas generation is carried out by paper and pencil – or occasionally an array of coloured pens. I could not write anything without this stage.  Of course, when I say notebook, I really mean my trusty organiser from Cordwain Higgler, in the image at the top of the post. Isn’t she lovely?

5 Scrivener

I am a relatively recent convert, but I have transferred all my novel plotting to Scrivener’s outline board and I love it. It allows for clear organisation of ideas; moving around (and insertion) of parts; separation into scenes/chapters/acts to clearly see turning points etc – fabulous for a structure junkie like me! You can also have character notes, older drafts, research notes and anything else you like saved right in the file but not part of the word count of the story for easy viewing – so useful! (yes, yes, I know – I should have been using this years ago and no, I’m not on commission, and I know it would be even better if I were a Mac person, but there we are…).

What are your writing must-haves?

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