Writers are tough to find gifts for – who can say what’s going on in our muddled heads when we’re tucked away in the corner typing out a masterpiece? With the festive season fast approaching, we wanted to share some of our favourite writing tools with you which we think make perfect presents – whether you’re buying for someone you love, treating yourself, or preparing to knuckle down with a new year’s resolution to finally crack that project you’ve been meaning to work on.
We’ve provided links to everything we’ve recommended here using the Amazon Affiliates scheme. This means that if you buy anything from this list after clicking through our links, we’ll get a small percentage of the sale to help us keep running the blog, and it won’t cost you anything extra. So if you do end up buying any of our gift ideas, we’d really appreciate it if you clicked through from here first. Thanks!
Without further ado, here are our hand-picked gifts for the London playwright:
“Write every day” – never has a piece of advice been so easy to say and so hard to follow. Thankfully Judy Reeves’ book has an endless supply of encouragement, inspiration and short reflective essays to keep your imagination sharp and help you turn up to your daily appointment with the page. It has notes on everything from establishing a routine to coping with loss, how to tell the truth and how to structure a killer sentence. Among its most useful features are writing prompts for every day of the year, but really what makes this book great is Reeves’ wonderful comforting voice, which makes me feel like I can write anything. No writer should be without it. (£16.99 / £13.51 Kindle Edition)
As most London playwrights know, this city can be your best friend or your worst enemy. There’s nowhere quite as full of inspiration or distraction – but it’s easy to get lost in the noise. Siobhan Wall’s lovely book offers dozens of unexpected retreats from our city’s busy streets, perfect for writers looking to curl up with their notebook, read something, have a civilised conversation, or just relax and watch the world go by. (£9.98 / £6.17 Kindle edition)
Our Director for LPB swears by Final Draft for writing plays and screenplays. The wide range of templates and formatting options are a guarantee of producing a professional-looking script, and features like keystroke options, autofill character names, and scene reports can be a huge time saver during the writing process. A bit of a splurge, but a treat well worth having! (£138.55)
A staple of every serious writer’s bookshelf, this vital book has everything you need to get a piece of writing finished, and get it noticed. Covering all disciplines of writing from playwriting to illustration, its pages are packed with essays and articles from experts, but the real meat of this book is in its list of over 4,500 industry names to help you get your work, and yourself, some attention. They’ve also recently launched a guide targeted specifically at playwrights (Playwriting: A Writers & Artists Companion, £14.99), which could create a lovely set for an emerging writer. (£13.60 / £11.69 Kindle edition)
There’s something a bit magical about having a bit of Shakespeare at the cuffs (for the gents) or dangling above one’s décolletage (for the ladies). Perfect for those who love timeless romance as much as they love a well-constructed piece of verse. (Cufflinks £21.99; Necklace £48)
No craftsman can be taken seriously without the right tools. And no writer’s toolkit is complete without a decent set of pens. It’s so easy to reach for the cheap biros collecting at the bottom of your bag, but there’s no greater delight than using a pen which makes writing feel smooth and weightless, rather than a wonky chore being superseded by the iPhone. We’re particularly partial to Cross (who has sponsored a playwriting competition in addition to making beautiful writing instruments), and you can’t go wrong with options like their Century II fountain pen (£28.60), or their classic ballpoint you can have engraved with a message of your choice. (£29.95)
We all get stuck sometimes. You can’t imagine what happens in the next scene, or a character won’t do what you tell them. But that’s okay: the Writer’s Block is here to help. Shaped like an actual block, its 672 pages are packed full of unexpected prompts, pictures, challenges and facts to kick-start your stuttering script again. Reach for the block whenever you’re stuck: flip it open to a random page and let inspiration strike. (£6.99)
Writing can be a lonely business, so here’s a way to experiment with storytelling and have fun with your friends at the same time. A far cry from Dungeons & Dragons, Fiasco is a colourful role-playing game for up to 5 people which helps you plot and act out your own two-act screwball adventure in about two hours. Full of shock twists, wacky characters and peals of laughter, it’s the most sociable creative writing class you’ll ever have. (£17.86)
Not the sexiest gift, but vital for anyone who needs to back up their laptop. And unless you want your life’s work to be destroyed by a spilled glass of water, that’s definitely you. There are some fantastic deals out there at the moment – here’s 2 TB worth of storage for just £65 (or you can go wild with the 4 TB option if you’re feeling a little crazy). There are options for every storage size and/or budget – but please, please, whatever you use, remember to back up your work. (2TB for £65, 4TB for £129.99)
Tastes differ when it comes to notebooks: some like them flat and cheap, some leather-bound and embossed, some tiny, some huge. But the important thing is that you have one. When you have that awesome idea when you’re out on the go, you must write it down or it’ll be gone for good. So treat yourself: whether it’s a cheap and comfortable exercise book (£2.99), a lovely lined moleskine (£10.09), or something glamorous and sophisticated (£24.00), get yourself a notebook and never lose a bright idea again.
You will always be busy. No matter how much you pare down your life, there will always be a panoply of worthy distractions out there competing with your writing time. So learn how to be busy. There are a host of time management techniques out there, but one I’ve found particularly useful to help me fit my writing around everything else in my life is the Pomodoro technique. Put simply, it’s a way of focusing on one task for 25 minute intervals, forcing yourself to take a short break, and repeating. The Illustrated Guide can teach you all the nuances of the technique in less than a day, and the Pomodoro timer is a kitsch accompaniment to keep track of your efforts. It’s genuinely changed how I write for the better, and I’d recommend it to anyone who struggles with feeling far too busy to write. (£13.31 / £12.64 Kindle Edition; Timer £2.95)
Sometimes experiences can be even more valuable than things. As you may be aware, over here at the London Playwrights’ Workshop we’ve recently introduced a Script Consulting service, which gives targeted, personalised feedback and a written report to help develop a script in progress. If your loved one is a minimalist or could benefit from an outside eye, this could be a thoughtful way to help them get ready for the competitions opening for submissions early in 2016. (£150)
We know to some folks this is heresy, but if you’re someone who reads loads of scripts or books, being able to store hundreds on one tiny device can save loads in printing costs and future osteopath fees (from lugging all those heavy volumes around). Plus, nightlight reading options are fantastic for those night owls – without annoying their bedtime companions. (£59.99)
For writers who don’t have the luxury of a private space to work or who just enjoy being set up in their favourite cafe with a cuppa, noise cancelling headphones (or noise isolating) headphones can be a new best friend. There are options to suit a range of budgets, from these over-ear Philips Headphones (£35), to sleek and modern in-ear buds (£99), to high-end Sennheisers that – no joke – come with a ‘smart remote’ (£250). A friend working on a PhD also raves about ear defenders – that’s right, no music, just jackhammer-grade noise protection (£5.99). One of these is bound to do the trick, and provide all the mood music (or quiet) a writer could ask for.
Structure is an ongoing challenge for most playwrights, and this book provides a fascinating grounding in how to construct a story so readers can’t turn away. Combining how-to tips with helpful examples, this title demystifies the story-making process. This is one of those staples you’ll find yourself turning to time and again – the writer’s version of the gift that keeps on giving. (£6.99 / £5.49 Kindle edition)
Happy Holidays from London Playwrights’ Blog! Here’s to all the writing yet to come…