I’m sick of reading gift guides for writers that tell you to buy us our “favorite pen” or “more notebooks.” No. Fuck that. If you know me, you know I have a shelf full of empty notebooks that I’ve impulsively and compulsively bought. I have boxes and boxes of pens because I love buying pens. I don’t need you to buy me those things.
Who am I kidding? I love getting more notebooks. But if you want to help a writer friend or family member out, consider these following items instead. Some of the following are especially useful for a new freelancer, but I think all freelance writers can benefit from these.
Are you a freelance writer? What do YOU want from this holiday season? Comment below! I’d love to hear your thoughts.
(I’ve included Amazon Associates links when possible. That means if you buy through these links, you’ll be helping me buy myself a meal! Thanks.)
I’m listing this book first because IT SAVED ME. And if you know a struggling freelancer, it will save them too! I wish I had read this before I quit my full-time job so I was fully prepared for what was to come.
It is so, so important for freelancers and self-employed peeps to get their finances in order. Freelancers don’t have a steady paycheck so they HAVE to strategize their savings. This book is a great resource that talks about how to save, where to save, and why. We don’t have employers holding our hands and contributing to our 401(k)s anymore. We have to do it ourselves! And we can’t put ourselves into debt doing so.
This book will kick your freelancer friend in the ass and tell them to get their shit together. I would pair this with a good bottle of craft beer or wine because if they’re like me, they probably can’t afford good bottles of craft beer or wine.
Good writing software is a must, and these two are on the top of the list. Pick one of these depending on the type of writer your friend is.
Scrivener has a TON of features that mimics how a pen-and-paper novelist might have brainstormed back in the day: corkboard with movable elements, storyboards, outlines, project organization, and more. The novel (or research paper or feature article or whatever) can be broken up into smaller parts (like chapters) and be edited together or separately, and you can include all of your research into the app as well. Scrivener also allows you to prepare your finished manuscript for printing — whether to send off to an agent or for self-publishing.
Ulysses, my personal favorite, has less features than Scrivener, but that’s why I like it. There’s no storyboarding or outlines, but damn, what it does offer, it does well. It’s perfect for writers who self-publish. Formatting is super easy with Markup and you can easily export to ePub, PDF, HTML, or even plaintext. And if you do publish to PDF or ePub, you can guarantee it’s going to look pretty. Ulysses, like Scrivener, also allows for project organization — so you can have different chapters or scenes glued together. Markup also makes it easy to annotate, link, and structure your work as well.
AP Stylebook (Print $21, Online subscription $26/year)
Have you seen this Onion article on the ongoing dispute between Chicago style and AP style?
Join in on the warfare, and get your writer friend an online subscription to the AP Stylebook. In the U.S., it’s considered one of the standards for style, spelling, and grammar usage in the news-writing world, but its the basis for so much more writing than news. Major blogs and magazines use the AP Stylebook, and even press release writers and web content writers should have this resource handy to help develop a consistent style.
I recommend getting the online subscription because your friend will receive updated styles and tips throughout the year. Or you can buy them the print version that comes out annually. You can find the 2013 version cheap on Amazon or buy the 2014 version directly from the AP Stylebook website. But if you’re going to go there anyway, you may as well get them the online subscription.
Writer’s Market ($23, $34 for Deluxe Edition, $40 for annual online subscription)
The Writer’s Market is a behemoth that lists nearly every single paying publication that your writer friend can submit to. And it’s not just for fiction writers too, which is what makes this such a great resource. A lot of freelancers have their hands in many different pots. One week they’re writing an article about cars, the next week they’re working on a short story they’d like to get published.
The print edition of Writer’s Market updates every year, but the online version updates throughout the year. And it includes listings from all the other print editions as well like the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.
My recommendation? Get the Deluxe Edition of the Writer’s Market. It INCLUDES a one-year online subscription. Print + online subscription = $36… or online subscription only = $40. What’s the better choice?
150 Screenwriting Challenges (Kindle $5)
Yes, I know this says screenwriting challenges, but these challenges are great for all kinds of narrative writers. And for $5, it’s kind of like a digital stocking stuffer and totally worth it. Eric Heisserer has been writing for nearly two decades, so he knows how to get his juices flowing. I highly recommend following him on Twitter for his whiskey-fueled writer rants as well, which are both informative and entertaining.
And that’s it!
Thanks for reading the guide. And take care of your writer friends!