Friday, December 07, 2012

A Date With Kate - Christmas Gifts for Writers

There’s no denying it – Christmas is coming. In fact it’s getting way too close for my liking.  I still have a hundred and one things to do (not to mention finishing a book!)  but at least I have bought – or planned out – almost all my presents for family and friends.

 A lot of my friends are writers too - so when I was thinking about my post for today’s blog, I already had quite a few ideas – and had actually bought some already!

So let’s see: 15 ideas of gifts for writers

1.       Notebooks

A writer can never have enough notebooks. From the totally practical ‘reporters’ notebook’ that I scribble my ideas, snatches of dialogue, ideas of plot twists in as I work at my keyboard, to the neat little decorative pad that fits into my tiniest handbag – I carry one everywhere I go. I never know when inspiration is going to strike and I have to be sure I can note it down so I won’t forget it.  Notebooks are practical things but a really pretty one makes it a pleasure to use as well.

2.       Pens- or pencils

Another gift that can be practical – and pretty. To go with those useful notebooks, a writer needs a pen to scribble down the best ideas.  And  if you can find one that fits with her/his style of writing then so much the better. I have a lovely pale purple pen with a heart on the barrel. I’m picky about my pens and I want them to write as neatly as possible, so I always try before I buy (I’m picky too about the pens I give away and never have one I wouldn’t use myself). And some people think better with a pencil to dash off their notes – so again some really pretty, sparkly, decorative pencils will be so  much more inspirational than a plain old HB pencil.

3.       A mug.

If other writers are like me, they almost always have a mug of coffee or tea sitting on the desk beside the keyboard. So here’s another chance to help along the inspiration by choosing a really lovely  one. Here in the UK we have an internet shop that sells a mug  that has printed on it ‘ Go away I'm writing’  so that would be perfect. Or others that have the cover of classic Penguin novels to inspire. You could add in some posh tea – rich coffe – or maybe even hot chocolate so they can fill it up.

4.       Books by favourite authors.

Need I say more ?  Is there an author  your writer friend really admires? Someone whose books they collect? Or someone  outside of their reading ‘comfort zone’ – that might just spark off a new idea.

5.       Notecards

I collect lovely or interesting notecards wherever I go. I have so many uses for them –  thank you letters, acknowledgements, replies to people who have been to workshops etc. Right now I have a set with characters from fiction on them – perfect.

6.       Stamps.

When I first started writing I had to send in my submissions, my revisions, the proof-corrected manuscript all by post – and the cost of postage mounted up.  Now I can send in a manuscript by email – but I still  have lots of uses for  stamps – see those notecards above -  and to have a supply ready at hand is just great.

7.       Music to inspire.

Many authors have a sound track to their latest book – has your writer friend  talked about a singer they want to hear more of – or do you know of a performer  you think would fit the mood and style of what they write?  In between books they need to relax and ‘fill up the imagination well’ Music can help with this.

8.       DVDs -

This – and the books – will  provide more to fill imagination well. Whether it’s a film starring a gorgeous hunk so that they can do some heavy-duty ‘research’, a romance, a thriller, a historical story – the sort of thing they write -   or, again something that takes them out of their comfort zone – all of these will feed that vital imagination

9.       Time vouchers

Does your writer friend have children – or need help to get some time in which to write? Why not make up some ‘time care vouchers ‘ on your computer and print them off?   They can say things like : I promise to  look after kids  for an hour/afternoon/ day while you write.   Of I promise to do the ironing so that you can write. Of course the writer must use the time to write – not  anything else.

10.   Trip to historical place/ a writer's house .

This is something that could help with research – or just add to their imagination banks again. Is there a stately home near you – or a castle – or some historical monument that they can find out more about? Or what about a trip to the home of some famous writer? I recently took a friend to Haworth,  the home of the Bronte sisters and we had great fun as well as her learning a lot.

11.   Q&A session.

You can make   vouchers for these too – a Q&A session can be on any subject. If you have some special knowledge that your friend can use in a book – why not make afternoon tea and let her ask all she wants? Or you can reverse the process and you sit and ask her all about her plot, her characters. By telling you about them she can get to know then better – and if you have any doubts about them you can mention them and discuss them with her.

12.   A critique.

Be careful with this one – some critique partnerships are made in heaven, others can end up in real hell.  Only offer to critique a book if you know what you are doing – and you can be fair and objective about your comments.  You want to help her  with her writing – not lose the friendship. Or you could offer to pay for a professional critique if you can afford it.

13.   Membership of an association

Membership of a professional association like the Romantic Novelists’  Association (UK) , The Romance Writers of America or The Romance Writers of Australia can be invaluable to a writer just starting out. The RNA has its New Writers’ Scheme  where an unpublished novelist can have her work critiqued by a professional  -  but you need to get in on January 1st because there are only 200+ places and they are snapped up very fast.  All associations have their regular magazines, meeting and conferences – which leads me to –

14.   A course – or a conference

Can you afford  to treat your friend to a day course on writing – or perhaps a weekend residential event? Perhaps you could pay  - or share the cost – for her to go to a conference run by one of the professional associations?  Meeting other writers is a valuable experience and they can learn so much from the workshops, talks and just plain chatting at such events. ( Every course/workshop I run is listed on the Eventspage on my web site.)

15.    A kitchen timer

This small, practical gift can be used as a real incentive toil get your friend writer. Make them promise that they will write – and do nothing else – until the timer sounds – the set it for 15 minutes/30/an hour. It’s amazing what someone can do if they concentrate, focus – think of nothing else – and write. You can make it fun too,  with a quirky design -  or perhaps offer a ‘reward’ –   some chocolate or a glass of wine for each  session counted down in this way.

So there you are -  suggestions for gifts, covering a whole range of prices. Some of them don’t cost you anything – some you need to be feeling pretty financially flush, and generous even to consider. I’ve given –  or been given – all of them – and I’d be happy to receive any of them over again.

Oh – and of course you can  buy books on writing  if you know the sort of novel  this writer is trying to create.  But  try to make sure they are books on writing by people who know what they are talking about and have some experience to draw on – there are a lot of ‘how to’ books by people with no qualifications at all.  If you want a recommendation - here’s Liz Fielding’s Little Book Of Writing Romance and   of course my own Kate Walker’s 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance.  Both are on Amazon and quickly and easily downloaded to kindle.

I hope this has given  you some good ideas. If you have any other suggestions, or as a writer, if there’s something you’d like to suggest that you’d really love – or that would really help you – why not post in the comments and tell me?

I'm running a special Advent Calendar  giveaway between now and Christmas Eve - so everyone who posts a comment will be entered in today's prize giveaway.

Today's prize is a signed copy of The Return Of The Stranger.
For more news  - and to take part in the rest of the Advent Calendar giveaways - where Charlie the Maine Coon is ready to pick some winners - visit my personal blog  and web site

My apologies for the fact that I didn't  get back to talk to everyone on the comments on Friday  - all I can say is that sometimes life just gets in the way and there was nothing I could do about it.  I have had to abandon things for a few days and just hope that now I'm back on things again.

In the meantime - the winner of the giveaway book, The Return of The Stranger is bn100
- would you please email me  - there is an address on my web site - and let me know your postal address so that I can put your prize in the mail to you.

Thank you




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  2. I love these ideas, especially the time vouchers - there are never enough hours in the day, are there?

    1. Hi Christina - me too! I'd love some extra time vouchers. I've always said that as well as a book I might want to read, I wish I could have a voucher for enough time to read it - I just wish that was possible!

  3. Kate ~ This is a list that could apply to non writers in many ways as well. I really enjoyed The Return of the Stranger but haven't got around to reading Wuthering Heights yet.

    1. Hi Kaelee - you're right, I think non-writers would enjoy some of these too. One day I hope I'll offer a book you haven't read as a prize!

  4. I think that getting a new fountain pen is a special gift.

    1. I agree Julie. Recently my husband gave me a very special pen and I treaure it. It also writes beautifully.

  5. I'm a reader (not a writer) so to me a gift card for books is the best gift I can get. My MIL always gives them to me for my B-day and Christmas.


  6. Nice gift ideas.


  7. I think the gift of a vacation with no interruptions might go over nicely:)

  8. I love how practical these gifts ideas are. I also love how you can personalise them to suit. There are gifts there that most people would appreciate.

  9. I love these ideas thank you for sharing with us Kate! And thank you so,so,so much for the really fabulous giveaway the book sounds awesome!

  10. Your list seems complete, however, i would include a nice soft cushion to sit on for my gift.

  11. Love your list, especially the notebooks, truly can not have enough notebooks or journals.