The Tools of a Wrtier, the Computer

If you’re going to write great stories use great tools.

You don’t need a Mac computer to write. Get it out of your head right now. You don’t need an Ipad, Ipro or Mac. The computer you have doesn’t make you a writer.

You can write a book or a bunch of books with a pencil and paper. I know one mystery writer with a bad case of arthritis that writes his books out in long hand on a legal pad and then his wife types the book out. A real family business.

The reason a writer needs a computer is to write faster. Anything that makes writing easier, less labor intensive is good.

“Writing is the hardest thing you can do.” John Turdy.

Mark Twain is credited with writing one of the first books written on a typewriter. Early type writers were expensive, the ribbons they used were very expensive. Early typewriters jammed, and jammed often. They were great, dead tired and half drunk a typewriter made your writing legible. It may not have made sense but it was easy to read.

Typing on a keyboard, even with only two fingers, is still faster than hand writing and much less harder on the writing hand.

There are laptop computers available for $150.00, new. You don’t need an expensive name brand computer to write. Readers don’t care about the publisher of your book. They sure won’t care about the computer it was written on.

Issac Asimov wrote great books on a TRS-80 computer made by Radio Shack using a program called electric pencil. Don’t worry if your no name brand computer runs Linux, write. How many gigabytes of memory did a TRS-80 have? Did you know a TRS-80 held 16 kilobytes of memory so it takes 62,500 Trash 80s to hold a gigabyte of memory.

Get a computer with a real keyboard. The on screen keyboards of tablets take up too much space on the screen. You need that space for your words. Separate keyboards also put words on the screen much faster. More words equals more books. Remember a writer’s motto; better living through more books.

The most expensive computer in the world is worthless if you don’t write.

Don’t let not being able to use a computer stop you. You can talk your book. There are services that can transcribe your audio recording for you. The big draw back is you don’t talk like you write. It also gets expensive to have the work retyped over and over for each edit. The cost of transcribing is coming down. Still you will have to do many edits but, when edits cost you, you write better to start with and work much harder to make each edit the best edit it can ever be.

Pocket audio recorders are cheap and there is free audio recording software for a computer available. Just get a USB microphone, plug it into your computer, and talk away.

Write on, draw on. Professor Hyram Voltage.

Bummer sticker; Better living through more books

The Tools of a Writer, Paper

If you’re going to write great stories use great tools.

Go out and buy a notebook right now. Buy one that you will keep with you. Writing on the back of an old envelope is OK if your desperate but you’re a writer. Instead of always searching for a scrape of paper to write on, be the person that family, friends, coworkers, and complete strangers go to when they need something to write on. Buy a bunch of cheap pens at the dollar store to. If they bum a piece of paper off you they’re going to want to borrow a pen. If you’re going to lose a pen make it a cheap one, not your good writing pen.

The most important paper you can have is a notebook that you use. An expensive fancy notebook is like costly embossed stationary, nice to have but, too expensive to use. A good notebook should be small enough that you always carry it around with you and large enough to hold lots of note and big enough to write in. Don’t pay too much, a writer’s notebook will fill up fast. The brand, the color of the cover, whether it has a stretchy band to mark the last used page or not doesn’t matter. You’re a writer, write in your notebook. Fill it up and then get another one.

Don’t get colored paper or a notebook with colored paper. After the first page that bright purple will look hideous. Be easy on your eyes.

I carry a small shirt pocket notebook for taking note everywhere and keep a seven by nine and a half inch college ruled, spiral bound 300 page notebook handy for longer writing like journaling. It doesn’t need to be a Moleskins, the store brand is good enough. The notebook will only last a couple of months.

For editing and reading out loud nothing beats printing out your work on clean white paper. A laser jet is much cheaper than an ink jet so get recycled printer paper. The recycled stuff doesn’t jam like the virgin stuff.

Experiment with different papers. If you find one that works stick with it. Buy in bulk, you’re in this for the long haul. Many authors say that it takes a year to write a novel and printouts for every major edit, writers group meetings or table reads will eat up paper.

Hide a ream of copy paper in your desk at work for when the copier or printer runs out and you have to print something right now. Keep a ream hidden at home for when someone needs to print out a late term paper and forgot again to buy paper to print it out on. There’s always the room mate that uses up all your paper and doesn’t tell you about it. Paper panhandlers are everywhere.

Have some business card made up. List only your name and a throw away email address on them. They’re great for writing down quick notes to give to someone. You can get business cards made up cheap or even free. Don’t get glossy business cards. Ink will not write or stick on glossy paper. Don’t completely cover the back of the card with graphics, leave room to write on it.

Write on, draw on.                        Professor Hyram Voltage


The Tools of a Writer, the Pen

If you’re going to write great stories use great tools.

The basic tool of a writer is the pen and pencil. Warning when you use good tools be like a bank. Trust your friends but, chain your pens down. Pens have legs. They’re like little children, when your not looking they run off.
Your most basic tool is the pen. Even if you’re like me and do your heavy writing on a computer you need a good pen. A good pen is one that will start writing when you do. If you have a pen that skips or takes drawing a half dozen circle before it starts writing then get rid of it (leave it where a fellow worker or writer will pick it up). A pen that you have to fight with is a frustration and writers don’t need more frustration. I have enough independent characters to provide all the frustration I can handle.

A good pen writes a clear line in a dark solid ink color that is easy on the eyes. The ink dries quickly and doesn’t smear.

I use Polit G-2 gel pens with an extra fine (0.38) tip. The thin lines from the 0.38 tip makes the ink last. The line it makes are dark, clean and easy on the eyes. The cartridge in the pen holds lots of ink and the pen feels good to hold and use. Thicker tips like the medium and larger leave enough ink on the paper to smudge before the ink dries.
You can use any old pen you find laying around but it’s a tool. Use the best tools you can find. As a starving writer you can surf around and score pens form many places. Many businesses use pens as advertising. The more prestigious the business the better the pen. Financial businesses have the best pens. Advertise for them, give their pens legs.

I suggest you find a good reliable ball point pen and stay with it. Be aware that there is a pen out there that I accuse of false advertising. I was using one of this brand’s of pens and the pen stopped writing. The worst thing a pen can do when you need to write. The cartridge looked full of ink. You could see the black of the ink through the clear plastic barrel of the pen. Shaking the pen and soaking the end of the pen in water didn’t help. I took the cartridge out of the pen. I cut off the end of the cartridge below the ink line with a pair of wire cutters. I expected to get ink on the cutters but, when I examined the cutters there was no ink. I looked through center of the cut off piece and saw daylight even though the inside of the cartridge was black. I cut up the rest of the cartridge and it was empty. The manufacturer had painted the inside of the cartridge black, so black you could not tell if any ink had been used. They could be selling pens that were only half full of ink and you wouldn’t know it.

I don’t recommend using fountain pens. I like fountain pens but, you forget and take it on an airplane and you will find out why it’s called a fountain pen. The low air pressure inside an airplane will cause the ink to fountain and fill the pen’s cap. When you pull the cap off the pen you’re going to have ink all over the place (mainly on the best shirt you own, and I use waterproof ink that doesn’t come out). You don’t have to get on an airplane, driving from the Salton sea at 112 feet below sea level to Boulder Colorado at a mile above sea level can get you a pocket ink fountain.

If you prefer the easily changeable laid back style of a pencil, I suggest you try a Palomino Blackwing 602. They’re expensive at almost a dollar a pencil but, they are a smooth writing pencil and they have a huge replaceable eraser. If you’re more into an engineering style of writing try a Pentel Twist-Erase in 0.9 mm lead mechanical pencil. It feel good in my hand and is rugged and durable.

If you have to have a fountain pen try a Noodlers Nib Creaper flex pen with Noodlers X Feather black ink. You can get these at The Goulet Pen Company at You can also call them at 804-368-0482 from 9am to 5 pm EST. The chat feature on the website works well to. Many of the 4.5 oz. bottles of Noodlers ink come with a free pen. 4.5 ounces of ink lasts a long time. Clean the pen after you buy it and before you fill it with ink. Goulet has several videos on YouTube about caring for your pens.

Write on, draw on.        Professor Hyram Voltage


Bumper sticker;

Hi Oh, Hi Oh, It’s off to write we go.