Friday, July 2, 2010

Business Plan Part 12 - Equipment and Supplies

Currently reading - Kitty Goes to War by Carrie Vaughn

This is one of those subjects that takes the concept of "subjective" to the extreme. So please take what works for you and discard the rest.

Much of what a writer considers equipment depends of personal drafting preference. Neil Gaiman uses a blank journal and a fountain pen to write the first draft of his stories, whether they be novels or screenplays, in longhand. Frankly, I was a computer jockey for too long, so my typing speed is way closer to my thinking speed. I've tried Neil's method. It drives me bonkers.

Pens and notebooks

Even if you don't draft by longhand, or shorthand for that matter, you'll need something quick and handy to jot down that flash of inspiration. (Really, does anyone actually use shorthand anymore?)


More and more agents and editors are accepting queries and submissions by e-mail. (And some, only by email!) You don't need a machine with a lot of bells and whistles. A decent brand-new notebook can be had for $500. If that's out of your price range, check with a pawn shop. Free e-mail accounts abound, but be aware they come with a lot of spam.

For word processing, the industry standard seems to be Microsoft Word. If you absolutely can't handle the thought of givnig Bill Gates more money, make sure your word processing software can save a file in RTF (Rich Text Format).


If you can afford it, I highly recommend a laser printer. Ink printers are fine, but what happens when the postal carrier drops your opus in a puddle? Yes, the inital outlay is greater, but a terrific machine can last for years.

Wait a minute, you think. She just said that practically everything's done electronically these days.

Yes, I did. I can count on two fingers the number of agents who requested anything from me by hardcopy in the last year. But there's a number of other uses for a printer besides spitting out manuscript pages. Labels, bookmarks, business cards, etc.

Extra Ink/Toner Cartridges

You're printing out pages for your critique group, you're already five minutes late, and oops! There goes the red light saying you're out of ink/toner.

Tyvek Envelopes

Seriously, nothing beats these puppies for durability when you do have to send a manuscript by snail mail.


If you live out in the boonies, keep an account with the U.S. Postal Service. Even if you don't, an account is so much better than standing in line at the post office. You can order supplies, like shipping labels, online too.

Reference Books

At least have a decent dictionary and thesaurus on hand. A copy of Strunk & White's The Elements of Style for grammar brush-ups is a good thing to have also.

These are what I consider the must-haves of any writer. Anyone else have something they'd like to add?


  1. Internet connection. A reliable one, relatively fast on uploads for those deadline submissions. There are so many resources online these days, a writer -- especially a newbie with a lot to learn about the business -- is going to be significantly handicapped without the resources of the internet at their fingertips. If you can't afford an internet connection at home, look around for an alternate. If you don't have your own computer either, libraries will often let you use their computers and log onto the internet.

    A good flash drive, as big as you can afford. If you're using a library computer, you'll need one to keep your files on. If you have your own computer, flash drives are great for back-ups. If you can, get two and back up alternately between them. That way if your hard drive fries and you lose your novel, and you find your flash drive glitched at the same time, you'll have an earlier version on your other flash drive. Not ideal, but better than losing everything.

    For snail mail, I use stamps and regular envelopes, business size for letters and manila 9x12s for story manuscripts. Back when we wanted our rejected manuscripts back, because re-typing them was a pain, I used a 9x12 for the SASE and a 10x13 for the outside envelope. I'm so glad that era is gone. :)

    I don't use notebooks, either. I know, I know, sacriledge. :) I have enough story ideas, though, to last me the rest of my lifetime as it is. I have an ideas file on my computer. If I come up with a really good idea, I jot it down in that file next time I'm at the computer. If I forget it before I have a chance to type it in, I figure it probably wasn't that good an idea anyway and I move on. Note that I spend most of my day at the computer anyway, so this isn't as big a gamble as one might think. But seriously, I don't worry about a few ideas slipping away anymore.

    Reference books -- I have a good dictionary, a couple of style guides (S&W and CMS) plus Eats, Shoots and Leaves, which is my very favorite punctuation book. :) It's British English, but that's okay, 'cause it's just that awesome. I also keep a Latin dictionary around and a Latin verb conjugator -- the former because I'm a nerd, and the latter because it has a great verb tense table in it that I've never seen in an English reference.

    I also have a bunch of books about writing, but I'll admit I don't refer to them much; I use them mainly to read and get ideas, inspiration, techniques to try, etc. A baby writer could do just as well checking writing books out of the library.

    Calculator -- I keep track of my word-count production on a daily basis, and the calculator makes it easy. Most computers have one built-in, if you don't mind using the mouse to hit the keys. Calculators also come in handy for figuring word-rates; if an anthology is offering a flat rate of $55 for a 2K-5K story, is that worth your time? That's easier to figure out if you can get the cents-per-word. Paper and pencil works too, but I'm lazy. :)


  2. I would have to include highlighters. To make sure you have a Margie Lawson mix!

    I mostly write on the computer, but used to spend so much time in the car waiting on the kids, I had a notebook ready at all times...even now I will sometimes pull out the pen and paper and write a scene or two, just for a different feel.


  3. Thanks for the good ideas, ladies!