Five Essentials Every Writer Needs

by | August 6, 2022 | General | 4 comments

by Ashley Lister

This is a list of the five things that I think every writer needs to have in order to start working as a creator of fiction.

1. Post Cards
I use post cards for every project. Most typically these are for brief character descriptions, so I’m not skimming backwards and forwards through a MS to recall eye colour, hair colour or other important body details. It’s only a small thing but, without them, I’d lose hours to searching for this information and there’s a strong chance I’d lose the thread of what I was saying.

2. A Things-To-Do List
A list of all those things you need to do is essential for everyone (not just writers). Start the morning by deciding what you’d like to accomplish by the end of the day, write all of those things down, and then tick each one off after it’s achieved. These lists can be expanded to include weekly goals, monthly goals, or even annual goals. My current TTD List includes the directive to write a chapter on the current WIP, record a chapter of a forthcoming audiobook, and update information for a newsletter.

3. An Online Presence
Admittedly, FaceBook is a time vampire. Twitter is a seething pit of potential depression that can drag a low mood into the pits of hell. And no one knows what the fuck is happening on Tik-Tok. But an online presence is useful for every writer for two reasons.
Primarily, it gives a writer access to readers: an opportunity to tell them about new ventures and other ways for readers to experience the writer’s work.
Secondly, it allows a writer to meet colleagues, share ideas, learn about new markets, find consolation and support and generally feel like a professional in a professional environment.

4. An Exercise Regime
Writing is not the most physical of occupations. My FitBit is programmed to remind me if I’ve not walked 250 steps in an hour so, when the alarm sounds, I get off my backside and make some movement. Because writing is a sedentary occupation I try to get to the gym each morning before the start of the day and (weather permitting) I’ll take the dogs for a walk at some point during the day so my muscles don’t get a chance to atrophy. This isn’t my way of bragging about my physical condition: it’s my way of saying it’s important for writers to take care of their physical well-being as well as their mental well-being.

5. A Notebook
Paper notebooks are very useful. I’ve got dozens of the things scattered around my house filled with observations, ideas, notes and other important details. I also use the notebook apps on my phone to make reminders about things such as plot points, ideas for poems, details I need to include in a story etc.

Have I missed anything? If you think I need to add something to this list, I’d love to see it in the comments below.

Ashley Lister

Ashley Lister is a UK author responsible for more than two-dozen erotic novels written under a variety of pseudonyms. His most recent work, a non-fiction book recounting the exploits of UK swingers, is his second title published under his own name: Swingers: Female Confidential by Ashley Lister (Virgin Books; ISBN: 0753513439) Ashley’s non-fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Forum, Chapter & Verse and The International Journal of Erotica. Nexus, Chimera and Silver Moon have published his full-length fiction, with shorter stories appearing in anthologies edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Mitzi Szereto. He is very proud to be a regular contributor to ERWA.


  1. Lisabet Sarai

    Postcards. That’s an interesting one. I’ll bet many authors a few decades younger than you and I have never seen a postcard!

    I couldn’t agree with you more about exercise. It’s just so easy to get stuck in the chair, hour after hour, as you hammer out some plot point or wrestle with recalcitrant characters. I try to swim laps every other day, and take at least half an hour walk on the days I don’t swim.

    • Ashley Lister

      Swimming is such a good overall exercise. I really must get back to it 🙂

  2. Larry archer

    You might consider Scrivener for writing as it includes pretty much everything you’ve listed in one program. And at around $60, it doesn’t kill the bank.

    One of the big things I like is that if you jump between places, like a chapter or a character description or a note card, Scrivener remembers where you were, and so it is not necessary to search for the spot you were previously at.

    • Ashley Lister

      Thanks Larry.

      I’m going to go and check out Scrivener now.


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