START HERE: Writing Tools of the Trade

Written by Mary Pero

This is Part 2 in a series called START HERE. It’s everything you need to get started writing your book. You can read the first post in this searies HERE.

Let’s start with this: MS Word is the only writing program you need to write your book.

Are there others that work? Sure! But none of them are going to eliminate the hard work for writing a book. In this post, I’ll be breaking down the basic tools you’ll need to get started writing your book, starting with time management and choosing a location. While I realize you came for the writing tools, if you don’t harness the power of time management, no amount of writing tools will help you finish your book. So let’s start there, shall we?

If you want to successfully write and finish your book, you’ll need to become the project manager of your time. Your job as the project manager is to plan and organize the completion of your book project. More specifically, your job is to manage your time—the time you’ll need to complete this project. In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear writes, “All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision.”


  • Calendar: I use the calendar app that comes with your iPhone. At the end of each month, I’ll schedule blocks of time on the next month’s calendar for writing.
  • Notion: If you like checklists and to-dos, you’ll love Notion. There is a free version. I love it.


  • MS Word: There are lots of writing programs out there—Pages and Scrivener to name a few. I’m sure they are wonderful, but you don’t need them. MS Word is the industry standard for manuscript submissions, so even if you don’t use MS Word to write your manuscript, you’ll still need it.
  • Evernote: This is a great tool for organizing ideas, and saving quotes, illustrations or articles you may want to use in your writing. It’s free for desktop and smart phone. If you decide to use Evernote, don’t forget to use the tags feature so you can find your notes easier. There are a number of videos and classes online to help you get the most out of this program.
  • Notes: I love the Notes app on my iPhone, although I’m starting to use Notion more. Any time I get an idea for a blog, project, or something else, I write it down in Notes. I love the simplicity of picking up my phone and saying, “Siri, make a new note: [YOUR IDEA HERE].” I don’t even have to open the app.
  • I’ve long been a fan of leaving myself voice memos on my phone. The trouble is, other than transcribing them myself, I have no way of getting them in written form… until now! is a new program I found thanks to Jane Friedman that transcribes your voice memos into editable text. There is a paid and free version.


I think it goes without saying that you’ll need a computer. But what about a desk? As a ghostwriter, I wrote many a book from my kitchen table before I had a home office. While you don’t need a desk, I do recommend having a writing place. This could be a coffee shop, a small table in a closet (click here to see my original cloffice), or a dedicated nook in your living room. I don’t recommend the kitchen table because it usually needs to be cleared first which is a distraction in itself. Wherever you choose to write, I suggest writing in the same spot each time. This will help trigger your brain that it’s time to work.

If you don’t have a great place to write, you can substitute with a writing playlist (I like Yoyo Ma’s Bach Cello Suites) or a writing time. Tricks like these also help your brain come ready to write.

The bottom line is, you don’t need much to get started writing. Persistence and hard work will take you much further than gadgets ever will.

“I have advice for people who want to write. I don’t care whether they’re 5 or 500. There are three things that are important: First, if you want to write, you need to keep an honest, unpublishable journal that nobody reads, nobody but you. Where you just put down what you think about life, what you think about things, what you think is fair and what you think is unfair. And second, you need to read. You can’t be a writer if you’re not a reader. It’s the great writers who teach us how to write. The third thing is to write. Just write a little bit every day. Even if it’s for only half an hour – write, write, write.”
Madeleine L’Engle

Last Updated On May 5, 2022

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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