Five Tools No Writer Should Be Without

My first novel was published thirteen years ago and I'm now working on my eighth. During that time I've come to rely on several tools which I couldn't imagine writing a book without. Now, I'm not talking about the obvious things like a computer and spell-check. Let's take those as read, shall we? But if you don't already know about them, these five things may just enhance your work as a writer.

Dropbox (
Dropbox is essentially a file-sharing tool (I believe others are available) and it's free to use unless you want to have mega amounts of storage space. For me it means security, and convenience. I save all my novels to the Dropbox folder which appears in "My Documents" on my desktop computer. If I'm out and about with my laptop I can go into "My Documents" and there will be a Dropbox folder containing the latest version of my work-in-progress. When I've finished working on it I save it, and when I get home, voila! it will have been automatically updated to the latest version on my home computer.

But what about if I'm at the gym and I'm changed and ready to go home and just waiting for my husband who wants to do another twenty lengths of the pool? Well, I can log onto one of the computers in the cafe area, click into the Dropbox website, and access my novel there. In other words, I can work on the latest version of my manuscript on any computer anywhere, provided it has an internet connection. I also have my phone synced to Dropbox, so in theory I could work on my novel on my smartphone.

As to peace of mind, if my house burns down and my desktop and laptop are both destroyed, my novel at least will be safe.

Grammarly are sponsoring this blog post (thank you!) and I admit I'm quite new to it. It's an online proofreader, and seems to work in two ways. You can go to the Grammarly website and paste in some text, and it will check it for all sorts of grammatical problems from  to comma use to unbalanced pronouns. Alternatively you can download Grammarly and it appears on your toolbar and will work methodically through your text highlighting dangling modifiers and misuse of the subjunctive, among other problems you've never heard of.

Thesaurus (Shift + F7)
In Microsoft Word, Shift and F7 opens the thesaurus and suggests all sorts of alternative words. Not only does it expand your vocabulary and improve your work, but it's fabulously helpful for finding that elusive word. Type the nearest one you can think of, hit Shift+F7 together, and the thesaurus will list every word which is vaguely similar in meaning. My writing would be immeasurably, vastly, inestimably, enormously and considerably poorer without it.

Coffitivity (

I only recently discovered this one, but it's so much fun! Ever imagined yourself the next JK Rowling, nursing a cup of lukewarm coffee in Starbucks as you type away at the next bestseller? I've written in public locations and for some strange reason the background noise is very comforting and helps provide focus. If you suffer from the typical writer's isolation, open and enjoy the comforting atmosphere which comes with having people chatting happily in the background.

Troublesome Words
This one is a book by one of my favourite authors, Bill Bryson, and while it's set out like a dictionary, it's far more valuable. It looks at some of the most misused and understood words and outlines the correct usage. For example, do you know the difference between "imply" and "infer"? Or "nauseous" and "nauseated"? "Egoism" and "egotism"? Is it "straitjacket" or "straightjacket"? I always have this book to hand (or is it at hand?) when I'm writing just for such circumstances. Another thing I like about it is that it gives examples of when a word or phrase has been misused in print. It's good to know that even the most professional writers and journalists still get it wrong sometimes.

So those are the five tools I couldn't be without when I'm writing. Are there any other wonderful things you couldn't write without?


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