• S.M. Ryan

Tools of the Trade

Let's be real,

The only thing a writer really needs is a pen and some paper and we've got everything we need. Though if you let us have our way, there are a few more things that would help the process.

For me, when I'm letting myself have my way, I indulge in setting the writing mood and setting the stage for my writing session but because I like to reserve that for working only on my story projects, I don't actually need as many writing tools in my arsenal as I used to think.

Years of writing on the go taught me quickly how to keep the list of things I "need" to write very short because otherwise, my bag would be very heavy.

So I thought If I had to pack light for my writing retreat (which I've never been on) what do I absolutely need and can hold in my carry-on?

With that in mind, I've narrowed it down to 5 must have writing tools for me to get it done.

The Programs


When it comes to writing the words, I go to Scrivener 80% of the time. It has all the templates and starting off points I need and it's basically my own customizable digital binder for my book with all the things in one place. It's the place I sort all my brain dumping into from notebooks if I plan on keeping the content.

Granted, it's a program with a semi-steep learning curve and as a Windows user I can't indulge in Scrivener 3 like the Mac users, it's not a program I think I'll ever part with.

It has a mobile app that I can sync using dropbox and keep my project with me, without the weight of an actual story binder.

I like it here.

As much as I write in Scrivener, there's that 20% of the time where I just want the least distracting space to start writing and I turn back to MS Word, who has been there since the begging with her simplicity.

I often have a hard time sticking to the writing part if I know I can easily click over and start adding things in elsewhere and it helps not braindump things into the wrong places.

Excel - That Milwordy Tracker

I started the Milwordy challenge in September and in my attempt to write over one million words for the year, I have to have this tracker open every time I sit down to work, or to be real, I'm not going to be tracking a damn thing.

I'll just go on, write, be done, forget, and remember three days later.

When it comes to the blog posts, it's easy to see what I wrote each day and go back to fill out the tracker but it leaves me missing a ton of word counts if I don't keep it open and update it at most stopping points throughout the day.


I have a notebook for everything.

I could try and justify having so many notebooks but I don't have to so I'm not going to bother trying.

For the most part, nothing about the tools I need to write change, except maybe the notebook that sits beside everything else. My notebooks are my brainstorming places and keeping various projects separate helps me to focus better on whatever I'm working on.

Even though I love scrivener, brainstorming is always going to be a pen-to-paper act for me, and that's how I prefer it.

Daily Planners

Write Words Get Paid is my daily planner that holds all the things that have to get done on a regular basis and everything that is and isn't writing-related.

It's the planner I open and close my workdays with. I'm not someone who plans her days two days before, so having a planner I can come to every day that holds everything in one place is essential.

I also enjoy that it's a planner set up in a way that makes sense so I can flex it to my needs without feeling restricted.

Author Platform Planner is designated strictly for my blog and author platforms and while I often have the information doubled in my daily planner, I like having a separate place to break down the details for my platform that my daily planner doesn't have space for.

I can not emphasize how much of a game-changer it is to have the monthly, and weekly overviews. It's a set up I didn't know I needed.


As someone who has always had a laptop and able to write from anywhere anytime for close to ten years, transitioning to a workspace that's not at all mobile has been challenging, because I'm a woman who requires her freedom in all things in all the ways.

Being able to quickly move my workspace for whatever reason, sits on top of that list.


Suffice to say it took me losing far too many projects, too many crashing pcs, and a hard drive that quit on me, for me to learn my lesson and get really obsessive about how many places I save my work.

I'll admit that I'm not the biggest fan of iCloud, can't explain it but it's just not my go-to. Dropbox, however, has been pulling through for me when it comes to flowing between my workspace and my iPad.

Let me know down in the comments your top 5 writing tools you'd pack if you had to.

Disclaimer: This post contains some* affiliate links.

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