21 December 2012

Last-Minute Gifts for the Writers in Your Life

By Gayle Francis Moffet

So, you know writers, writers who is serious about their work and getting their names out there. And it’s the holiday season, and you want to get your writers something that shows you understand that writing is work and takes a lot of effort, but you don’t want to default to the old “here is a nice journal and new pen” route.

What’s a gift giver to do? Well, consider any of the following options:

1.       A Gift Certificate for a Duotrope Account ($5-$50)

Come the first of the year, Duotrope is going to a paid subscription service. If you don’t know about Duotrope, it’s a website dedicated to market listings for writers. Writers search listings for places to submit their work. Duotrope will be charging $50 for a year’s subscription, but writers can also pay by the month for $5 a month. If they don’t pay on a particular month, they won’t have access to all of Duotrope’s features, but their information will always be saved for when they come back. You can get a gift certificate for a subscription right here.

Perfect for: writers with short fiction, poetry, or non-fiction to submit; writers who want to go small press with their books;

2.       A Copy of Scrivener ($40-$45; Mac and Windows OS)

Personally, I’m comfortable with Microsoft Word and lots of open tabs in my browser, but I know plenty of writers who swear by Scrivener and its ability to help them stay organized as they write. Scrivener’s got a lot of features that a lot of writers I know find incredibly useful, and all that usefulness helps motivate them to keep writing. You can buy a license for Scrivener right here.

Perfect for: writers who are big on organization; writers who mention needing a different way to write than Microsoft Word and lots of browser tabs.

3.       Books on Craft (varies)

Books on the craft of writing can be difficult to sort through. Some of them are excellent. Others are…not excellent, and it’s possible the writers you know may think you’re passive-aggressively trying to tell them that they should practice more. But, then again, they’re writers. They should be practicing more. So, where to start in the books on craft? Ask at the bookstore. They’ll be able to tell you what’s been selling the most and what’s been selling the longest. Longevity is sort of key to books on craft. Stephen King’s On Writing (great for any prose writer you know) has been selling well for over a decade. Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art (my preferred go-to for comic book writing*) has been in circulation since 1985. It’s not that newer books can’t be useful, but if you start with the classics, you can be certain the writers in your life are getting lessons that are pretty universal.

Perfect for: writers who learn by reading; writers who want to see how the big names do it; writers generally interested in understanding their craft.

4.       Coffee. Tea. Juice. Soda. (varies)

So Coffee Mood by Daria Sapphire
Writers are a thirsty lot. Personally, I drink two cups of coffee every morning before switching to decaf tea and water for the rest of the day. I know writers who only drink specific things when writing because it’s become part of their process. Find out what that drink is and buy them some. Make sure to stay specific as possible. I live in a coffee town, and there’s a lot of debate between Stumptown vs. Public Domain vs. Back Porch Coffee Roasters vs. Starbucks (Starbucks is generally seen as the lowest form, but I can’t hear you over my delicious, standard caffeine), and I’m betting the writers you know are equally picky. There’s a difference between Earl Gray and Lady Gray, and there’s a difference between Mountain Dew Code Red and Mountain Dew regular. The good news is, this one’s really easy to check. Just poke around in their cupboards a bit, and you’ll know.

Perfect for: writers who get particular about their drinks; writers who require caffeine to live; writers in general

So, there you go. Four last-minute gifts to show the writers in your life that you want them productive and working! It is—honestly and with complete sincerity—one of the greatest gifts you can give to a writer in process.

*I am certain comic writers reading this were expecting to see me recommend Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, and while I find it a good book with useful information, I feel Eisner is superior because he relies on practical advice where McCloud can fall into some pretty dense art theory. Also, keep in mind that McCloud heavily references Eisner’s work on the topic of comic creation to write Understanding Comics.


  1. Coffee is great isn't it? That said, I've just started using Scrivener and I love it every bit as much as I did Write-It-Now.

    1. Coffee is the best gift. I've never gotten into Scrivener, but I think you're the tenth writer I know personally who swears by it.

    2. Okay, I'm not the person who told you this, but it's out there as a torrent for Mac and PC and it works quite well. I bought Write-it-Now and it is different, but Scrivener has the advantage of working for many different forms of writing. Write-it-Now does particularly well with longer fiction works. Downside? I lost 20,000 of my best words on Write-It-Now while Scrivener has autosave.

  2. "So, you know writers, writers who is serious about their work and getting their names out there. "

    What does that mean?

    "If you don’t know about Duotrope, it’s a website"

    What if you DO know Duotrope? Is it still a website?

    I like the info you've presented, but I'm surprised at the writing style, considering you're talking about WRITERS.

    Is this quality what is considered acceptable these days?

    1. "So, you know writers, writers who is serious about their work and getting their names out there. "

      I meant that there are some writers who are simply writing for the enjoyment of it and not to build a career out of it. For them, most of these gifts probably wouldn't be useful because writing is more a hobby and less a career path.

      Duotrope is still a website. :) I was using "website" as a descriptor like you might use "blog" to describe this site. I was also using "website" to make clear it's an online-only resource.

      As for my writing style, I'm trying to keep it low-key and fun to read. Thanks for the notes on this entry; I'll keep these sorts of foibles in mind for editing when I'm writing my next one.

    2. Personally, I wouldn't have responded to that anonymous comment. Strange comments often appear whenever I try something new with my writing and they always focus on a lack of perfection.

      Why? Because this is a good article. Pointing out your single error of grammar and pedantically demonstrating a logical curiosity makes anonymous feel like he could have a written better one. Then, he too, could be as awesome as you are.

  3. Mmm, Code Red. That stuff helped me get through college and the first few weeks after my son was born.

    Even I agree that coffee is a good gift! However, I'm asking for k-cups this year, which is probably considered even lower than Starbucks to most. Hey, I'm in the instant gratification generation. Don't blame me.

    Blame MTV.

    1. Code Red? I haven't heard of it, but I know all about instant gratification. That's called instant coffee and it supposed to fill in the time while you're actual coffee is brewing.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. (I have GOT to figure out how to delete that old account.)

      I have tried Code Red a few times, and it never stops tasting like extra-sugary cough syrup death. You are a brave man, Rob. No judgement on the k-cups. There's a coffee place near me that's terrible, but I'll drink it because it's coffee. I call it spite coffee, and it is bitter like my soul.

  4. Yep, extra-sugary cough syrup death. That sounds about right. I have come to realize that most of the candy/rocket fuel that is marketed to kids is mainly presented as a challenge to see just how disgusting you can make something and still sell millions of bottles/packs/bags/cans/barrels.

    Thank goodness I'm starting to grow up and now I only eat disgusting things when they're marketed to me as health food.

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  6. Good piece, Gayle. I just now saw it. I was offline for most of the pre-holiday mayhem. I will check out Scrivener's because I am really really unorganized. My genius spills all over the place. And, because I cherish auto-save. So people don't just use "MS Word" or Apple's "Pages" anymore? I wrote my whole first draft in Word, but then again, I don't know what I'm doing, so it all makes sense.

    Where is my clay tablet and etching stick?

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