My 2023 Analog Toolbox
When we talk about analog tools, we can mean anything from the pen you write with and the paper you write on to worksheets, notecards, and physical bulletin boards. I like to think it means all of that. It is anything we use in our daily writing life that isn’t on your computer.
Now, I am no luddite—just read last week’s post to see that. I use digital tools and apps to write all the time and I love them. There is something, though, about holding a pen in your hand and writing a story longhand. It stimulates different areas of your brain allowing for your creativity to spark in a different way than it does when you’re sitting and typing on a computer. Neil Gaiman admitted recently that he writes his books in longhand. I’ve done the same thing for the same reason—it stirs that new type of creativity and when you sit and type it into your computer you have the opportunity to do your first pass editing.
So, just what tools do I use? Read on, my friends.
Physical Writing Tools
Pilot Frixion Pens: I hate my son. No, no, really I don’t. I love him to little pieces, but he recently introduced me to a website that is not only emptying my wallet at an incredible speed, but making me ridiculously happy to part with my hard-earned cash. After today, you may hate me too.
Before I tell you about the webstore, let me tell you that the very first thing I bought there was lots and lots of Pilot Frixion Pens. These are gel pens (they come either as a clicker or with a cap) that write so smoothly, but with just enough friction. And even better… they’re erasable! And, yes, it really works! The ink is heat sensitive (you cannot leave it sitting in the sun or else it disappears! Although, it will reappear when it cools down – is that cool or what?). So when you rub at it with the built in “eraser” you are creating heat with the friction and the writing goes away. It’s wonderful!
Even better—these pens come in all different point sizes so if you like to write with a thicker pen, you’ve got your 0.7 size. If you prefer something a little finer, there’s the 0.5. Finer still? 0.4 What you want it even more fine? Sure! 0.38 It’s fine enough so that my son’s partner can write on slides so small that she needs a microscope to read her own writing!
Another thing I love about these pens are all the colors they come in. I’ve got an array of ten colors that I use on a regular basis. (I usually choose a color for a character and when I’m doing my plotting for that character, I write in that color. It makes for very colorful plotting pages.) They come in twenty-three different colors!
Okay, now for where to buy these pens (aside from some brick & mortar stationary and office supply stores, although not all carry them), that website I teased you with is called jetpens.com (I make no money when you click this link, it just goes directly to their store). It specializes in Japanese stationary and has an incredible selection of everything you might want (and free shipping for orders over $35 in the US).
To write on…
Arc Notebooks are still my favorite type of notebook. The pages stay in perfectly, but are easy to take out and move around. The paper to fill them comes in lined, graph, or dotted and is usually of a high enough quality and thickness that it doesn’t bleed through easily.
Any brand of sticky notes are also a huge favorite of mine for graphing out my plots. I actually use them to stick onto both a wall and a bulletin board (I love all the sizes they come in!).
And, naturally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my own Writer’s Journal, which is a super-easy way to keep track of your writing with spaces for what you wrote today and what you’ll be writing tomorrow. If you’ve only got a limited amount of time to write, this journal really helps you get started fast and moving forward with your novel.
Getting Started Worksheet: I use a getting started worksheet which contains the following sections:
Hero #1, Hero #2, Antagonist: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, any unique characteristics they have, what is important to them, how they react in a crisis, and what their fatal flaw is. For the antagonist, I add on the question asking what their “fuzzy socks” is/are (I define fuzzy socks in this video on building characters).
What is the story question?
What’s at stake?
Where’s the sense of urgency?
And a space for a quick plot out of the basic narrative structure: inciting event, first major turning point, rising action, point of no return, climax or black moment, and resolution.
Character Examination Worksheet: This is just what you might think it is—a way to develop the main characters in a novel. I include a section on basic information on the character: what their name is, age, physical description, favorite words or phrases. The next section covers their personality traits: an adjective, noun, irony, and verb to describe the character. And finally, their character traits including their internal and external goal, motivation, and conflict, their wound, identity, potential, and belief, among other things. I honestly could not write without filling in this worksheet for each of my major characters.
A W-Graph is my go-to story structure worksheet. It’s just a simple wiggly line with the four quarters marked off for the instigating event, first turning point, midpoint, black moment, and the resolution.
Next week, I’ll go into more detail on that Getting Started Worksheet and provide you with a free copy of it!