Today I have a gift guide that will help you find just the right thing for your favorite writer, no matter what stage of the writing process they are in.
Every year without fail I get a notebook and pen from someone in my family. I love it. They know my favs include Moleskine books or Leuchtturm 1917 books and my favorite pens of the moment are these Sharpie gel pens (followed closely by InkJoy gel pens and my beloved Flair pens).
But what if you want to get something to go with that notebook? Or you really want something that will surprise and delight your writer? Take a look at the best gifts for writers this year, organized by stages of the writing process.
Craft and Learning
Writers are always improving their craft through reading, classes, and practice. Here are the titles I give most often to writers in my life to help them keep growing.
General writing and encouragement
Writing Down the Bones I revisit this book by Natalie Goldman when I get discouraged. It’s full of encouragement, prompts, and reminders of how to live a creative life.
On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft Stephen King’s book on writing is a classic, and he reminds us to write well, we must live well.
Bird By Bird I reread this book every year. Anne Lamott’s prose evokes both hilarity and the sacred. She reminds me to get my butt back in the chair and keep going.
The Way of the Writer: Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling National Book Award Winner Charles Johnson shares his stories of learning to write well in this book that reads more like a memoir.
Fiction craft books
Elements of Fiction by Walter Mosley is short, but full of compelling principles to help any fiction writer on their journey.
The Write Structure Joe Bunting’s book on structure will help you use the same timeless storytelling principles that are used in your favorite books and movies.
The Emotional Craft of Fiction Last year I was working on creating stronger characters and a mentor nudged this book by Donald Maass my way. I’m so glad she did.
If your writer is working on a memoir, I highly recommend The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr and The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith. Both will help you tackle your memoir from ideas to practical concerns on writing about real places and people.
The Describer’s Dictionary I get lost in this reference book in the best way. I’ll open it trying to find a new way to describe late-afternoon light and find myself studying the quotes from craft masters included in each section.
The Emotion Thesaurus When I work with writers, at some point they will say they want to expand their vocabulary. I encourage them to work toward precision (using the right word) not impression (using a big word to sound smart). The entire Writing Helping Writers Series here by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi are lifesavers for finding the right word and way to describe almost anything.
Story Grid All of the editors here at the Write Practice are Story Grid certified for a reason: Shawn Coyne breaks down story on the micro level to help you build your best story.
A few tools
One of the writers in our pro workshop, April Bly, swears by these highlighters. Listen to how she uses them: “I used them on an old paperback novel to color code the dialogue of the major characters. It was enormously helpful to SEE how a bestselling author apportions dialogue, differentiates between character voices, and describes body movements and body language.” I love this idea so much. Thanks, April!
Transparent sticky notes I love these for annotating the few books I don’t want to write in.
Masterclass (Check out their holiday deals happening now!) An annual Masterclass pass gives your writer access to artists and writers in every genre. Check out R.L. Stine's Masterclass here or Neil Gaiman's here.
Another option would be The Write Structure course here that helps writers learn how to outline a book that will capture readers' attention and hearts through time-proven structure principles.
Write Practice Pro This is our professional writer’s community where writers of all levels build community, sharing current writing and giving feedback as they work toward their dreams.
Ideas and Inspiration
At the heart of every story or book you’ve enjoyed is an idea. Where do they all come from? The answer varies from writer to writer, but if you’re looking to inspire your writer, may I suggest an experience?
National Parks Memberships I grew up in Arizona, and visiting National Parks with my family was a yearly event. A membership pass is a gift that keeps on giving adventure through the year.
State Park Memberships (find your writer’s state from this list by Trip Savvy): If your writer doesn't have a National Park nearby, consider a pass to their state's parks.
Tickets or passes to a nearby Art Museum. I love wandering through museums, imagining other places and times through their objects and collections.
Concert tickets (check both community and university options!) Music or theater tickets open up different worlds to writers.
Map (bonus if it’s marked with a route or places of interest!) and a gas card. Send your favorite writer on a driving adventure. Some of my favorite books are about road trips, and this kind of adventure is great if your writer has access to a car and some time.
Tickets to a historical site or museum with a related book or brochure. If you have an historical writer on your list, look up the historical sites in their area. Anytime my family moves, we try to visit the nearby historical sites to get a sense of what a place has experienced. Always inspiring.
When I’m looking for ideas and taking a walk doesn’t work, I turn to books that help me pay attention in different ways.
The Art of Noticing This book challenges you to see your everyday life differently through a series of short prompts and reflections.
Sometimes, switching creative modes can help. I highly recommend this book on Cartooning.
But by far, the place I visit most for inspiration is poetry books. Reading masters of language play with images and emotions takes my breath away. Here are a few of my favorites:
Current U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón The Carrying
Maggie Smith Good Bones
David Whyte The Bell and the Blackbird
Clint Smith Counting Descent
Mary Oliver Devotions
Planning and Organization
Granted this step of the writing process might be a little tricky to buy for since everyone develops ideas in their own way. But without a doubt, every writer would enjoy The Write Plan Planner which can help plot out your next idea, track your writing sessions, and keep you motivated to finish that project!
Scrivener (see our article on best book writing software here) Scrivener is my favorite program for planning and writing books. It's a supercharged word processor with so many tools to help your writer plan and execute their novel.
When you hit the writing stage of the writing process, less is definitely more. Some people have long, drawn-out writing rituals with candles, lucky objects, a playlist, or other incantation. Not me. I like to keep my on-ramp to writing as simple as possible, so I can do it anywhere and anytime.
If you know your writer loves a certain candle or essential oil scent, then by all means, snag one for them.
The two non-negotiables for me include coffee or tea, along with a timer.
Timer (or look at this fun tomato one for pomodoros). I always use a timer when I write. It's absurd that setting a timer can help me beat distractions and get more done, but there it is. Don't knock it until you try it.
Earplugs might be needed if your writer is easily distracted by ambient (and not-so-ambient) sounds.
Revision and Editing
Rewrites can be grueling, but fun pens, sweet or savory treats, and encouragement can go a long way to keep your writer polishing that draft. Here are a few things they might enjoy as they work:
An “I’m the Editor” mug might give you the moxie you need to push through those edits.
Books on revision
I have so many books on editing that I love. But here are my top three right now:
I picked up Refuse to Be Done: How to Write and Rewrite a Novel in Three Drafts by Matt Bell this summer and couldn't put it down. It is utterly practical and gives such specific direction for revision.
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers I revisit this book by Renni Browne and Dave King from time to time to remind myself of the common grammar and usage pitfalls for writers.
If I could sell patience for this part of the process and a magic untangling gel, I’d be rich. Instead, maybe get them a thick pillow to scream into for the hard days?
When your writer shares their work with the world, it's equal parts satisfying and terrifying. If your writer is publishing, celebrate them! Here are some ideas:
Before and After the Book Deal by Courtney Maum This book pulls back the curtain on the industry. Highly recommended for writers who think they want to go the traditional route (but even if you are self-publishing, there's tons of great advice here to apply).
The Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman I've taken several of Jane's helpful workshops on the business side of writing. This book helps with the practical concerns of selling your work and managing your business.
Flowers Send a bouquet to your favorite writer to celebrate their accomplishment. Maybe include a favorite quote from the book on the card.
Champagne or their favorite drink of choice: whether it’s champagne or cold-brew coffee, send a bottle of their favorite drink to toast their success.
Stress balls. You would think that after publication that the stress melts away! Spoiler alert: it mostly doesn’t, as the next idea crowds into view, marking the beginning of the writing process again.
Writers are readers. I know sometimes it’s tricky to pick a book in their favorite genre, but try a book subscription gift, especially from an independent bookshop. They ship all over the U.S, and usually include new titles. A few to try:
Parnassus First Edition Book Club: Parnassus will send a signed first edition each month. I absolutely loved this subscription and service.
Book of the Month Club Readers can choose one title a month from a selection of five in popular genres.
Couple a book subscription with a cozy blanket and know that you’ve given your writer a mini-escape!
Here are the real gifts that keep on giving: distractions. Why would you want to give your writer distractions? Well, aside from being a key part of the writing process, distractions give you an opportunity to step away from the words for a minute. (Use with a timer for best results.)
Every time I deep clean the kitchen, one of my kids will walk through and ask, “What are you supposed to be writing?” Rude! (Today’s answer was “a gift guide article” by the way). If your writer likes to distract themselves with cleaning, may I recommend this brush set. (Spouses, proceed with caution: not everyone will appreciate a new set of clearing brushes.)
Mind puzzles can keep your gray cells sharp and your fingers busy. Try one of these puzzles to try to shake loose your next idea.
Does your writer need to relax? This Zen table is both a project and a relaxation practice in one.
Another idea for stress is this Thinking putty. This reminds me of silly putty from my childhood and is a good way to keep me from reaching for my phone when I’m thinking through a plot problem.
Maybe your writer needs to take care of something besides their manuscript? Try a house plant from Plant Proper. I’ve ordered several from here and love them. If your writer is a mystery or crime writer, you can sign the card: “Something new to kill.” Just kidding. But a house plant adds ambiance to your writing room space and supposedly is good for the air.
By far the best thing you can give your favorite writer this year is your encouragement and support. Writing can feel like a long, lonely endeavor, so a simple gift or handwritten note that affirms their talent and hard work can go a long way.
What are your favorite writerly gifts to give and receive? Share in the comments.
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Think of your current work in progress. Your protagonist receives a gift from your antagonist. What's the gift and how do they react?
Set a timer for fifteen minutes and write the scene where they receive the gift. When you're finished, post the scene in the practice box below. Don't forget to leave feedback on your fellow writers' work! (And thanks, Abby, for this fun prompt!)
Enter your practice here:
Sue Weems is a writer, teacher, and traveler with an advanced degree in (mostly fictional) revenge. When she’s not rationalizing her love for parentheses (and dramatic asides), she follows a sailor around the globe with their four children, two dogs, and an impossibly tall stack of books to read. You can read more of her writing tips on her website.