The blog of D Kai Wilson-Viola

Author, advocate, designer, mental health advocate and parent. 

Toys and tools for writers – pt 1

Toys and tools for writers – pt 1


Image by Okinawa Soba via Flickr

One of the things I’ve noticed is that writers are really into their tools.

I’m constantly looking for something to streamline how I write, when I write, where I write and how easy all the different iterations are to use.

This assumes a couple of things – that you either own the ‘tech’ listed, can modify the tech you own to work for you – or in the ways I’ve listed, and have no compunction or issue with buying the software if you like what I’m describing.  To be fair, most of the things I use are free, to a point, so you can either try before you buy, they are totally free, or are almost instantly justifiable.  I apologise if my probably cavalier attitude to software is distressing, but in deference to sensibilities and the current economic climate, I’m not exactly rich myself and save for everything I own.  That said….

Advertising disclaimer
All links marked with a bold * are affiliate links.  They go towards supporting the site, but are only used when I can genuinely recommend the product.  In most cases there is a review on the product on one of my sites, or there is a review being moved to one of my sites in the near future.  I manage my affiliate links with a keyword plugin, which is why they aren’t plain text links like the other resources listed.

What you need:

A computer – laptop, desktop or netbook. Nothing I use needs much memory at its basics, but given the writing world is rapidly becoming an online resource system, so I’d be at least end of life specs (which I believe is XP for Windows and some sort of fuzzy Leopard for Mac  – I know the iPad won’t sync below Leopard).

The free computer stuff

Dropbox (* – this is a great backup system, and if you click on the link I’ve provided, I get extra space to store my stuff.  And if you *do* sign up, let me know and I’ll give you access to my free ‘chapter samples’ folder – if you’re interested in my books that is 🙂

EvernoteEvernote is a free, always accessible notes system – a bit like Dropbox, you can share and allow others to have access to your notes what I adore about it is I can run it on my iPhone and take snaps, make notes, and store stuff so that I can use it later.  You can also pay a low monthly subscription and extend its features.
Ywriter ( – no frills, very snazzy word-processing system that lets you work in ‘scenes’ instead of one document.  Saves all information in RTF as well, so it’s easy to access in other software.
If you’re selling work, a tracking system such as Sonar ( or
WinSAMM from (please note, this site has been going since I started looking in 2001, and I don’t think the software has ever been updated – up until very recently it was also my manuscript tracking weapon of choice).
Rough Draft is also a great wordprocessing program, again free, again, I don’t know when the last update was, and the site is currently down  🙁
Oom is also free, but is so new to me I haven’t tested it – it’s linked in the resource links at the bottom 🙂

Not free software

I’ve got three pieces of software that I consider must have, for different reasons.  You can however choose just one – all three work well as a single writing program.

Word or Open Office (free) – the difference between Word and Open Office are now so negligible, that you can’t really tell which a document has been written in, at least till you start importing and exporting between them.  Word however, is not cheap, so if you’ve got a limited budget, I recommend Open Office – I’m listing it in the ‘not free’ however because you may need to procure templates, depending on what you’re writing.

Liquid Story Binder – this has an affiliate scheme, but I’m just posting this because it’s playing up, – has been my must-have writing product for nearly five consecutive Nanowrimos, and is my favorite writing software when writing serials.
Scriviner – I love, love love this software. (that’s the windows link).  Again, it’s not an affiliate link.  It’s great for stand alone stories.

I’ve also tested and enjoy Write-way – – it’s good for either style, but I’m happier with Scriviner/LSB.

*please note*  Ywriter works equally well, just has less bells and whistles.

Not free tools

eBook reader or books – The  *Kindle and the *Apple iPad are the best two tools, IMO out there, but I’ve got nothing against the Nook, or the *Sony eBook Reader ,  having owned the latter and think the colour screen on the former kicks ass.   Alternatively, you can go paperbacks – libraries are a great way to read serious amounts and save money.  You need, as a writer, to read at least five books a month, in my opinion.  Opinions and mileage may vary, of course, but if you’re not devouring other perspectives, you’ll find it difficult on some occasions to express your own.  And this doesn’t include research books – I’m just talking ‘for fun, to stay on top of the trends of the genre you’re writing in.
BONUS – if you’re targeting a specific press, go all out and read their books – remember though, the goal isn’t to emulate these writers, but to make your writing as compelling as theirs.

Separate from this – Writing Books – like it or not, you’re not a perfect writer.  I’m not a perfect writer.  Getting books that help you perfect your writing style will allow you to be your editor’s and Agent’s darling in later life and give you a real sense of accomplishment.  I’ve been writing for…er…27 and a bit years now, at a guess, and I’m still learning.  I’ve probably done my 10k hours and then some.

Notepad, pens, diary – basically anything you need for organising yourself.
AND – a wall.  This last one I’ll have to explain in a final post.

Next article – the combinations for bloggers, writers, scriptwriters, poets and special uses.

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