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Pieces 02: Tools of the trade

Enjoy this list of analogue and digital writing tools I'm using on my writing retreat next week.

Iain Broome
Iain Broome
3 min read
Pieces 02: Tools of the trade

Thank you again for following along with Pieces, this pop-up newsletter. And a big high-five to those of you who replied to issue one yesterday with kind words and much encouragement. It’s appreciated!

Let’s talk about writing tools.

I love writing tools. Fancy apps. Lovely stationery. Bring it on.

But deep down, right there in the nubbins of my heart, I know that all one needs to write anything at all is pen and paper or something to type on. Everything else is potentially useful but also, you know, another thing to faff about with.

My tools for writing A is for Angelica were very simple. It pains me to say it, but I wrote the whole thing in Microsoft Word. Many documents in various folders with terrible file names, like benny-curtains-draft v2 final FINAL.doc.

Later in the editing process, I used Post it notes to outline the novel almost after the fact. Those little sticky bits of paper saved my bacon and served me well. I even developed my own system, which I’ve been promising to share for a decade!

And that was it. No other apps and no other analogue tools, unless you count a wall for the Post its and paper for printing drafts.

Here are the writing tools I will be using during my writing retreat next week. Let’s start with the analogue stuff.

As you saw yesterday, I’ve stocked up with Post it notes again and created a dedicated space on my shed wall. I’ll be using them to go over scenes I’ve already written and plan out new material. I would love – love! – to outline the entire thing in Post it notes by the end of the week.

I’ve also bought some index cards, which I may or may not use. I figured I might want a little more room to write out the scenes. And also they cost less than a couple of coffees. (Does coffee count as a writing tool?)

Finally, I have ordered some A3 sheets of paper. Again, I might use them to mind map and plan out characters, chapters and how they all fit together. The extra space on the page could come in handy. Or I may not use them at all!

Oh – one more! I have a physical timer that I sometimes use for writing sprints. That should come in handy too.

Right, now for the digital tools.

I use an app called Notion for lots of things, including planning and writing the Draft Mode newsletter each week. It’s good for keeping this organised, but I can also use it to gather research in one place and create stuff that’s not the actual writing.

That includes character maps, my everything I know about the book document, an overall outline of the novel, and a journal that I always forget to use because I don’t have… momentum.

For the actual manuscript, I am using an excellent app called Ulysess. It’s a bit like Scrivener, in that I can access and organise all of my documents within the app itself. But it’s also much prettier and easier to use. I love it very much.

Ulysses also happens to be available on iPad too. I’m going to try and stick to using just an iPad to write with throughout the week. My laptop is great. But it’s where all my freelance work is. My various Slack teams I’m part of. The Discord servers I recently joined.

If I’m to avoid distractions, I need to keep away from all that stuff. The iPad still has that one-app-at-a-time vibe going on that helps keep me on the straight and narrow. I’ve got a too-expensive Magic Keyboard to tip-tap-type on.

Last but not least, my trusty, bog-standard printer. I’m a big fan of writing on screen and editing on paper. I like to get the thing printed out and spread all over the place to see the shape of things.

Okay, that’ll do for today. I’ve been busy with childcare, client work, childcare and then client work again all day. A very typical Tuesday. Not much time for fiction.

Please do share this with anyone who might enjoy following me on this writing retreat. They can sign up to Pieces through my website or you can forward the emails on to them. You can also read this issue on my website here.

With many cuddles,


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Iain Broome Twitter

I'm the author of the novel, A is for Angelica. Every week, I send Draft Mode, a newsletter full of tips and tools that help you improve your craft and promote your writing.

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