22 August 2014 - 6:43 pm

Awesome gifts for writers

So many gifts, so many choices! (Picture by Stephen Depolo)

So many gifts, so many choices!
(Picture by Stephen Depolo)

After reading a list by Chuck Wendig of 25 gifts for writer, (and his additional 10 ideas, omg!) and seeing as it’s my birthday soon, I thought I’d put together my own list of irresistible shinies for those who like to spin stories in their brains.

#1: Things that mark words on other things

You can’t go wrong with a simple, beautiful implement filled with inky possibilities. The options are endless: ballpoints, fineliners, mechanical pencils, wooden pencils, fountain pens, clicky pens, twisty pens, novelty pens, felt-tip pens, pens with fancy barrels engraved with our (pen)name. Us writer-types will grip it and use it and doodle with it. We’ll chew on it and noodle out nuances on napkins. We might even write words down in a story-like format.

A writer can never have too many pens or pencils. Okay, I might have a pencil case or two brimming full enough to prove otherwise, but the sight of a new pen always makes me happy. It makes me want to create an excuse to use it. I might do all of my actual fiction-writing on a keyboard, but I take notes the old-fashioned way; all of my planning is done on paper or notecard. So pens are always welcome.

#2: Things that make coloured marks on other things

Coloured ink. Coloured pencils. Glitter ink. Paint – okay, paint might be going a bit far, but you never know with some writers (they are creative types, after all). Colour is fun! Help your writer-friend make their words sparkle in a non-sucky way* by giving them a something a little different.

Why is this a different suggestion than the one above? Because it’s optional. But changing up the colour you use to write can be good for shaking loose a fresh perspective. I like to colour-code what I write on my notecards when I’m planning a project. I like glittery ink, because it makes the whole process more fun. And it helps me to pretend my writing is nicer than it is because hey, pretty!

It’s also a fun thing to use to write in other people’s birthday cards, too. Why stick to boring blue or black? Fuck no, I’m an artist. Watch me shine. And sparkle. And glitter.

#3: Things to write words down in

I think I have successfully conveyed the important of pens. It’s also helpful to have something to use them on other than a napkin or a receipt from the bottom of our wallet. Notebooks are always good!

Now, some writers will tell you that they have too many unused notebooks already. This is because it is very hard to walk past a nice one, especially if it’s on sale and calling to us. But I’ve yet to meet a writer who isn’t delighted by getting one as a gift. (All of this paragraph applies to me, by the way.)

I suggest making subtle enquiries of the writer to see what their notebooking preferences are. Do they prefer lined or blank pages? Moleskin covers? Ring-bound ones? Something small enough to tuck into a handbag or is big enough for a backpack okay? Must it be recycled or made from panda poop?**

#4: Sticky notes

Continuing with the stationery theme, sticky notes are wonderful! They capture our thoughts so they don’t escape on us, and we can stick them to any surface for later reference (sometimes, I want to use my forehead, but its adhesive qualities are sub-optimal for retaining reminders).

Be creative. You can go with the standard yellow squares of the stereotypical Post-it Notes, or you can look for different shapes and colours. They exist! They’re fun! Writers like fun. (I know, I know: shocking!)

Every writer needs minions to make them coffee. Preferably to this scale. (Picture by renatomitra)

Every writer needs minions to make them coffee. Preferably to this scale.
(Picture by renatomitra)

#5: Caffeinated goodness

I have yet to meet a writer who didn’t appreciate liquid stimulation of some description. Okay, it’s not always caffeine: it might be tea, or hot chocolate, or smoothies, or alcohol-based internal fire.

For the most part, though, it’s coffee. If you cut us, we only bleed red because we haven’t had enough coffee today. Yet.

So think about how you can best support your writer friend’s essential habit. Coffee beans crapped out by a monkey?** A Starbucks card loaded up with enough credit to caffeinate an elephant? (You may wish to check how discerning your writer friend is before trying this one; some prefer to give the lowly stuff to the elephant.) Funky-flavoured grounds?

So many options, so much caffeine to consume.

#6: A receptacle for caffeinated goodness

Maybe you’re not sure what kind of coffee your friend enjoys, or if they can do anything with beans but wish really hard, because there’s no grinder at home. Never fear! Coffee-drinking has accessories (and essential ones at that), and they all make good gifts. Some of them come in funky colours and patterns, so you might even find something in their chosen geeky area (we all have them, let’s be honest here).

So what might it be? A nice set of matching cups and saucers might be nice, but what about a new coffee press? A mug the size of their head? A travel mug so they can never be parted from their one true love? A coffee press in a travel mug the size of their head?

#7: Writing rewards

Some writers need rewards for reaching milestones. It’s both stick and carrot! Sometimes it’ll be that snack they’ve been wanting but are putting off until they’ve finished a full 1,000 words, usually chocolate or cake. Sometimes it’ll be a trip to the bathroom (not something I do or recommend – that can only get messy, but apparently an overfull bladder can be a wicked encouragement).

What about something that they wouldn’t normally treat themselves with? Like a massage, or a facial. A ticket to that musical they’ve been talking about. A trip to see a movie (or even just the popcorn).

Feel free to wrap it in something that says ‘to be opened when you’ve finished x story’. They’ll love it! And possibly hate you a little bit. Sometimes external encouragement and reward is exactly what we need. Be careful, however, of making them time-dependent (like a ticket), just in case they’re a lazy slacker who never finishes a damned thing. No point wasting a perfectly good ticket.

#8 BOOKS (fiction)

I know, I know: how come books aren’t number 1? Suspense is what keeps people reading, you know.*

Writers love books. They love stories. A gift of a book is always, always a wonderful thing.

But how do you know what they’ve got? What they like? What if you choose something offensive to them? Well, you could always ask. Or just guess; that often works, too.

I saw something recently that I think is an awesome idea: give a writer your favourite book. There are so many reasons why that’s a great thing: it means more to the recipient to know that you’re giving something you love, not just something random you picked up. A joy shared is a joy more than doubled.

#9 BOOKS (non-fiction)

Writers must research things. They can be very random things, or scary things, or downright disturbing things. We are magpies, collecting shiny bits of information that might be useless to most, but are golden nuggets for us.

So when thinking about gifts, maybe think about that project that your writer-friend is researching. Have a look around for potential research material that might be related. Even if it’s tangentially related, it might be useful! If it looks interesting, offers handy morsels of information, and is in book form, chances are, your writer will love it.

#10 BOOKS (other)

Nope, not quite done with the books section of our writery gift-o-rama. But if you’ve done fiction and non-fiction, what else is there, I hear you ask? There’s inspiration: that’s what.

I’m thinking of coffee table books full of gorgeous pictures. I’m thinking of guides to steampunk fashion, fantastical landscapes, strange portraits, or aliens scraped from the inside of an artist’s brain. Inspiration brimming at every turn of the page.

You can match them to your writer’s favourite genre, but entirely random stuff works, too. Don’t underestimate the value of something thought-provoking; it might spark an unexpected idea or even story.

This! I wanna learn to do this! ...or be near this when it's happening! (Pyrotechnics stunt exhibition by "Giant Auto Rodéo", Ciney, Belgium)

This! I wanna learn to do this! …or be near this when it’s happening!
(Pyrotechnics stunt exhibition by “Giant Auto Rodéo”, Ciney, Belgium)

#11 Research activities

Like I mentioned earlier, writers love to do research (and worldbuilding), sometimes to the detriment of ever starting their story. But let’s pretend it’s not getting in the way, for the purposes of this list. Or let’s say that you can help give your writer-friend a kick-start he or she might not be expecting.

So what is the idea here? The idea is to take your writer out to do something they’ve never done before. The more real an experience is, the more research material you’re giving them!

Now, I’m not talking about taking them out to the wilderness and leaving them there for a ‘survival experience’. I’m not talking about hooking them up with drugs or surprising them with a brothel visit (surprise whore! Happy birthday!). Those might be hilarious to contemplate but let’s steer shy of getting ourselves into trouble (or jail).

I’m talking about things like a day at a shooting range, or a stunt-driving course, or flying lessons, or a seminar in medieval blacksmithing, or a lecture on the search for exo-planets. (Incidentally, I would love all of those, and have actually done the last one.)

Some of these will cost a bit; some might cost nothing but time. It’s a good idea to look around to see what’s in your area: for example, universities often offer free lectures for the public. The sky’s the limit! (Though, just so you know, you can buy trips into outer space now. Just saying: the sky’s not actually the limit. But you can go there. Or further. Go further (with me).*)

#12 Inspiration cards

Most of these suggestions have involved some monetary outlay, some more than others. But there are other things that you can do that won’t cost you money. One is inspiration cards: something for your writer friend to pin to the wall above their working area, or carry with them when they’re out and about. Something to look at when they’re searching for words to put down or starting to doubt their abilities. Because as writers, we doubt ourselves a lot. We have crises of faith and convince ourselves that everything we do is shit. Never doubt the value of a reminder that we’re actually pretty crazy (or crazy-good; that would be a nice thing to believe!).

You can probably buy some fun and well-worded cards. I’m sure they exist. They might have pretty pictures on! Or you could print out fun memes from the internet (like the picture of the Avengers with the ‘You should be writing’ caption; that one always works).

But you know what would be even more awesome? If you made the cards out of comments on the writer’s own work. Have a look through places where they might have been reviewed or had comments posted, and note down the ones that are worth waving around like flags. Then make these quotes into the cards, however your skills are best suited.

If their work is not online so much, maybe ask friends who have read their work for quotes. Make some up yourself. Feel free to decorate them. Most of all: make it personal. The more you put in, the more they’ll get out of them.

#13 Stickers!

Writers love stickers. Not just Post-it-style notes: actual stickers with pictures on. Or stars, or letters, or parts of an image. NaNoWriMo has taught me that: above all else, we get great responses for giving out stickers. Not even NaNo-specific ones; any stickers will do. Especially if the writer has to earn them.

Any shape. Any picture. Preferably something fun, but plain is good, too. So go nuts. Get that fun, random set of stickers for your writer friend. Even better: give them a progress chart to stick ’em to.

Because all writers are secretly big kids who like stickering all over the place.


Phew. Is that enough? I think I’ve covered all the writer-specific stuff.

What about you? What do you like to receive as a gift? Tell us! Because if you don’t ask, you won’t get.

Now to wait and see what turns up for my birthday. A geeky writer-girl can hope, right?


* You see what I did there?

** Yes, this exists. Who thinks ‘hey, this’ll be an awesome idea!’?

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  1. Francisco says:

    One thing that may help (but is a little pricey) is some software from a company called Profantasy.

    They do two main pieces of software: Fractal Terrains and Campaign Cartographer (normally shortened on their website to FT and CC). FT generates worlds, works out probably climates, calculates where rivers should be,etc. The rivers bit uses a lot of processing power but the rest is pretty tame.

    CC is a map drawing tool. Most of the other items on their website are add-ons to CC. FT can export to CC.

    Another thing I find useful is a dictaphone. It means that I can be out shopping and, if an idea occurs to me, I can record it.

    September 5th, 2014 at 4:12 pm

  2. Francisco says:

    Here’s a link to a folder with some of the output of both programs that I used for a story:
    http://imgur.com/a/3ycqs. I know that I had improved the maps — i.e. there were fields and jungle near the capital city, a forest, etc but I think they were lost after a system crash. At least least the backups had the old version.

    September 5th, 2014 at 4:36 pm

  3. Francisco says:

    Whoops, that should read “probable climates”.

    September 5th, 2014 at 4:42 pm

  4. Mel says:

    That’s wonderful, Francisco! Thanks for the tip. I can see that software coming in handy for worldbuilding (and procrastination, but that’s a different problem). 🙂

    September 8th, 2014 at 11:18 am

  5. Francisco says:

    It’s funny you should mention worldbuilding as I bought the World Builder bundle. 🙂

    September 9th, 2014 at 2:31 pm