In my last post (Six Essential Gadgets for Writers – Part I) I described my current set-up as far as desktop PC, netbook and software is concerned. Today I’ll conclude by telling you about the last three gadgets no serious writer can afford to be without.
Although an increasing number of book publishers, movie production companies and magazine editors are happy to receive submissions by email, many still insist on receiving text in hard copy format. This means you need a decent printer, and the key word here is decent. Submitting manuscripts produced on an old dot matrix printer will only encourage the recipient to wing it straight back at you with a polite but standard “After careful consideration…” rejection letter.
Back in the days of my trusty Amstrad PCW512, the dot matrix printer that came packaged with it was quite sufficient, but times have changed. These days professional writers tend to print their work on laser printers (I use a Brother HL-5140 right now, but I need to think about upgrading soon). Inkjet printers are good for those who are just starting out, but I would recommend switching to a laser just as soon as you have made your first sale. You can easily pick up a decent laser printer for less than £200, and the increased quality of output over an inkjet is well worth the additional cost in my book.
Next up is a reliable internet connection. Not only is the internet a great tool for communicating with the companies that are in a position to publish or produce your work, but it’s also a very effective way of conducting research for your writing. Whether you write historical fiction and simply need to find out what the most popular names were in 19th century London, or you write non-fiction and need to carry out extensive research, having access to the internet is a lot more convenient than making a trip (or possibly several trips) to your nearest major reference library.
Last, but by no means least, is a backup device of some sort. Writers are in the business of producing text, and so our words have monetary value. If you lose text due to a computer crash, lightning strike or similar catastrophe, you will not only lose the text but also the time you invested in writing it and the financial value it might have had. I learned the importance of backing up my data on a regular basis some time ago, but the task has certainly got easier over time.
Initially I backed up to floppy discs, then to CD ROMs. These days I use two backup devices. The first is a Freecom Classic external hard drive, which I use to backup my entire system on a monthly basis. The second is a SanDisk Cruzer Titanium U3 USB flash drive, which I use to make daily backups of data that has changed since the previous main backup.
The latter device is incredibly useful because it has full password-protection built into the device, which means that if you lose it you won’t have to worry about anyone else getting access to your files. It also comes with various bits of U3 software pre-installed, including an application that can automatically backup whatever files and folders you choose. The Titanium model is about as crush-proof as a USB flash drive gets, and well worth the slightly higher cost than the regular SanDisk Cruzer models.
In future posts I will discuss specific devices that I have only briefly mentioned here, along with others that you might also like to consider. As well as discussing the gadgets themselves, I will also talk about some of the most effectively ways of using them so that you can make your life as a writer much easier and a lot more productive.