my writing toolkit writing tools lance schaubert

My Writing Toolkit

What should you charge?

The number one resource I’ve created that other writers ask to see is my personal spreadsheet that lays out what I charge for different classes and categories of writing projects. It’s comprehensive, it’s easy to read, and it gives a middle-of-the-road estimate for virtually every project you could work on as a writer, editor, or copywriter. I’ve had novelists, podcast producers, screenwriters, editors, copywriters, and poets all ask to see this thing and if you subscribe to my newsletters, I’ll let you see it too.

Can I Submit Now?
by The Review Review

I love The Review Review. They’ve carved out a niche market by talking about other markets regularly. Not even Writer’s Digest does it quite like these guys. Their best feature is this search bar on their site which lets you know which journals, magazines, and contests are in season. It’s WAY easier than perusing the Writer’s Market. Is it perfect? No. But they update it regularly and it’ll get you in the right neighborhood quicker than anything else. Oh, and it’s free. That’s why I prefer it.

Note: this tool is mainly for creative writers.

Submission Logsheet

For articles, short stories, and contests you’ll need some sort of spreadsheet system to keep track of what’s ready to submit, what’s currently submitted, what’s rejected, and what’s accepted. Here’s a sample version to get you started.

Query Tracker

When your BIG book is finished, I highly recommend using Query Tracker. It’s worth the $25 yearly fee since it helps you sort who has your manuscript, who requested partials, who rejected, and who accepted. Again, only buy this when you’re ready to submit and you’ve read through Query Shark’s archive.

Writer’s Market

I know it sounds like I’m biased because I’ve now published a piece in the 2016 Poet’s Market, but really guys: I’ve been buying these things since I started. (And, for the record, I never submit to markets whose work I despise — so I can’t be bought.) It’s the phonebook, address book, and spare tire for the journey of submitting your work. You need at least one copy. They have them for songwriters, screenwriters, playwrights, novelists, children’s writers, illustrators, and so on.


I have resisted this program since 2007 when it came out. I’ve resisted it for good reasons and bad reasons.

Some of the good reasons? For one, I don’t think ANY writer needs ANY specific tool to get started. A writing utensil and an open document suffice — whether pencil and paper, pen and journal, typewriter and roll, computer and word processor. This is, frankly, the prime strength of writing as a profitable craft. All other crafts have HUGE overhead costs that no longer exist for scribes as they did in the middle ages. Why would you throw out that advantage right out of the gate? I wrote some of the first drafts of my second novel on an old Pac Bell with a floppy down in the basement of a Detroit house. I had to buy floppy discs. I hadn’t bought floppy discs since 1995. But I bought them and I wrote on some extinct word processor — Microsoft Works or something. Later, I emailed myself drafts I had written while on break at the hospital graveyard shift. You don’t need any specific tool to get a first draft. That plus the technological anarchist in me — that I resist technology until all of the implications of its existence can be categorized in the sphere of ethics and statistics — are both good reasons for resisting Scrivener.

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Having said that, I still resisted it too long. My inner hipster took over and I refused to drop $40 on a program that would have saved me A LOT of headache had I bought it earlier. Scrivener is made for long form first drafts — for thesis papers, memoirs, novels, and screenplays. It’s an outlining, metadata-tagging, searching, nesting, research-intensifying-and-archiving machine. Best reinvestment of $40 I’ve ever spent?


…and I’ve only owned it for a few weeks.

Brother HL-2230
(and a few cases of paper)

The first money I made in this business was $330. It was all I made that year, but I leaped at the chance to reinvest in my business. I bought some books for writers, I saved the majority of it for later reinvestment, and then I bought a laser printer for $70 or so. And I waited and waited until that case of paper was on a fire sale and then bought two of them for $19 apiece. I did this early on because of the cost of printing. I had a jet printer at the time whose cartridge would print a couple hundred sheets for a $40 cartridge that would yield 800 pages and I was buying a ream of paper at a time for $7. So for a 400-page manuscript, I was paying 51.4¢ a page BEFORE the stamp and envelope and printed query letter. You do that twelve times a year — whether your manuscript or someone else’s — and you’ve already eaten through that $330 you earned and then some. With the laser printer and the cases of paper that I STILL haven’t finished printing through, I dropped my cost down to 1¢ a page and therefore retained 50x more earnings in the printing department than I would have otherwise. That’s a magnitude of order greater. I’ve quadrupled those savings in recent years printing two pages a side, printing on both sides, and refusing to send snail mail submissions. Play the long game, folks.

Of course, there’s also the standbys:

Macbook Pro

You don’t need a computer this powerful. I only use it because I do a lot of design work, photomanipulation, and graphic-intensive research in order to market my work. But if you’re hiring someone else to do that end — or if you’re working with a company with a designer on staff — you could easily stick with some sort of netbook and be fine.

Or, as I always say, your LOCAL LIBRARY.

Microsoft Word

Do you need Word? Honestly, at this point the program is so powerful it’s foolish not to for the price. But yeah, you can write and submit a manuscript without Word. It’s pretty hard to work as an editor these days without Word, but in theory you could. People will debate about its virtues, but honestly it’s the best revision software on the market. It’s best for its track changes, reviewer, comment system, its spelling and grammar check — the main things you need to polish a document hide all over this program. Sure you can find a better program for layout (InDesign), sure you can find a better program for first drafts (Scrivener or even Write Or Die), but few things help get your manuscript — or the manuscript of your client — in tip top shape faster than Word. I don’t mess with Open Office — I buy straight-up licenses each time I get a new computer. Why? Because I’ll use that $70 for basic office for four or five years on one computer rather than $86/year for the suite plus updates. You don’t need updates that bad — this isn’t Final Cut. It’s stupid to pay a subscription when it’s that cheap: rule number one don’t lose money. Or at least pick strategies that lose you less money than alternatives.

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Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign

I mention these because of the design element. I primarily use Photoshop for editing (because I’m frugal and don’t want to buy Lightroom too) and photomanipulation. Illustrator you’ll need if you intend to, for instance, turn your monogram into a vector like I did. It’s also essential for most design projects. InDesign is the layout beast I’m using for the print and digital versions of Cold Brewed.

Standard Black Moleskine
+ Pilot G2 .05 
(or Precise V5)

I started out journalling letters to my future wife and writing poetry in my journals. I’ve tried almost every class and caste of journal on the market — refillable leathers, secretaries, little nightslip notebooks, composition, elephant dung paper — and I still come back to those aesthetics of black leather with ruled pages.

There are pens that I like but can’t afford like the…

MontBlanc Meisterstuck 90 Years Diplomat 149 Fountain 

…but there comes a point at which you start wondering why you’re writing with the equivalent of a clean water well for some Cambodian or Kenyan city. That’s why I stick with something that will help with financial defense, I can get for free every year at Christmas, and can content myself with writing with, like the G2 or the Precise.

lancelot tobias mearcstapa schaubert monogram

cover image by Florian Richter

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