One of your important writing companions is your writing device.
Whether it’s a laptop, desktop or phone, you’ll definitely need one such device to write your manuscript.
Today, we’ll talk about choosing the best writing device for you. Here are the steps you can take.
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1. Think About Your Goals
Let’s go back to the basics.
What’s your goal for this writing device?
Is it to write, plot, research, edit or format? How will you use this device? Where do you intend to use it?
If you intend to write in your home, you can consider using a desktop. If you’ll be moving about (like from the bedroom to the study room to the kitchen or to a café), laptop might be more suitable. If you want to switch off your inner critic, you might consider a typewriter instead.
Being an author involves more than just writing. There are other tasks like plotting, researching, editing, formatting as well as administrative tasks like social media marketing, email marketing, liaising with editors, book cover designers, beta readers and more. Therefore, I highly recommend that you consider this aspect when choosing a writing device.
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2. Narrow Down The Candidates
List down all the devices that you’re considering.
You can start off with broad categories like
Or if you already have specific models in mind, list them down too.
3. Weigh The Pros & Cons Of Each Device
Next, note down the pros and cons.
You probably already know some basic advantages and disadvantages of each device. So here’s a brief overview:
(-) Short lifespan
(+) Long lifespan
(+) Large screen size
(+) Within arm’s reach. Not an additional device (unlike the others). You’re always carrying a phone with you.
(-) Small screen size
(-) Not as robust as a laptop
(+/-) No backspace, forcing you to think before you write & switch off your inner critic
(+/-) No internet access
Some pros and cons are obvious while others might be less clear. Depending on what is valuable to you, having no internet access might be an advantage or disadvantage.
However, these are just pros and cons off the top of my head. They’re quite generic too. It would be better to list down factors that are important to you.
4. List Down Factors Important To You Then Rate Them For Each Device
Here are some factors you might consider. Do remember to rate them so you can figure out which device highly meets your needs.
You might want to come up with a budget amount that you’re comfortable with. This way, you’ll know if certain devices or models are too expensive.
There might be other considerations such as quality and value for money. For instance, you might prefer a desktop since the money you spent is for a product that can last for a very long time.
If you’re someone like me who can’t stand small font size, you might consider getting a device with large screen size. Or you might have to adjust the setting and increase the font size for smaller screens.
If you use multiple windows or apps when writing, you might prefer a large screen size. This is one reason why I like writing on my desktop. I can have my Microsoft Word manuscript, Evernote plot notes, dictionary and the occasional browser window for research open all at the same time. On the other hand, it might be difficult to switch between applications on a smaller screen. Plus, two windows side by side will look even smaller on small screens.
Thus, it boils down to whether you’re comfortable with the screen size. You can borrow your friends’ device or visit an electronics store. Then, open a document and try writing. See if you’re okay with the screen size.
Accessibility & Convenience
What I mean by this is whether the device will be within arm’s reach.
For instance, if you want to write during your commute time, phone would be the easiest because you definitely have it with you. On the contrary, you have to deliberately bring the other devices with you (unless you always bring your laptop to and from work).
Let’s say you like writing in the comforts of your home. Perhaps, it’s a place that sparks creativity and inspiration for you. Or that you need to take care of your loved ones so being at home is much more convenient for you. If so, desktop or typewriter might be suitable since you won’t be moving around frequently.
So take into account this extra effort you might have to put in. Also, ask yourself: Where will you usually write?
Next, consider portability. Do you want to write on the go?
Desktop is not portable due to its massive weight.
So if portability is not important to you, you might choose desktop.
But if portability is important to you, look at the other devices. You might also consider the weight. In terms of weight, phone is the lightest, followed by tablet and laptop.
The traditional typewriters are heavier than laptops. However, AlphaSmart word processor, which is like a digital typewriter without the paper, is highly portable.
List down all the functions you need and then check whether the device can do it.
If you’re not sure what functions you need, you can list down the activities or tasks that you want to do with the device.
For example, you want to do more than just writing your draft. You might want to brainstorm ideas, plot your next chapter, research on a certain era or country, build characterization, develop worldbuilding or formatting your manuscript.
In this case, you’ll need a device that has
- Internet access
- Word processing software installed
- Note-taking software installed
- USB port
Technical Support, Maintenance & Repair Services
No matter what device you choose, I’m certain that you’ll require technical support, maintenance and repair services.
Just check that the device you shortlisted has this.
Brands like Apple and Samsung will definitely have these services. However, if you’re thinking of using a typewriter or AlphaSmart, you might need to check if there are still spare or replacement parts in the market. Also, whether the company is still providing repair services for the device model that you’re considering.
It’s great too if the device comes with a warranty. Remember to check how many years the warranty lasts, which parts of the device and what types of repairs are covered by the warranty.
You might have device-specific factors like battery life for laptops (how many hours a laptop can last after being fully charged).
There are also other factors like glossy or matte screen (whether you mind the screen reflecting light), keyboard layout (eg. Windows and Mac keyboard are very different) and typing sound (eg. typewriters are quite loud when the keys hit the paper).
5. Conduct In-Depth Research On Specific Device Models
After looking at the pros and cons as well as the factors and goals, you’ll probably have a better idea of your preferred device.
You can now start researching on specific models of that device.
Check Product Reviews
Do look up reviews and see what people are thinking and feeling about the device. Read a few reviews, not just one before you arrive at a conclusion.
Get an objective perspective of the device model. Don’t just read the 4- and 5-star reviews that affirm your decision. Check out the 1- and 2-star reviews that reveal the drawbacks as well as the neutral 3-star reviews.
Take me for example. I wanted a MacBook Air because it’s light and portable. But when I started researching, I realized that there were many differences between the 2018 retina model and 2017 non-retina model. Besides this retina display difference, there were other differences like the number and types of ports and the distance between keyboard and trackpad.
You can also watch product reviews on YouTube to get a better sense of how the device model looks like.
Once you’ve decided on the specific device model that you’re interested in, start comparing prices.
You can visit electronics stores and eCommerce websites. See if there are any sales, promotions or discounts. There are usually such promotions during festivals like Christmas sales, year-end deals, Black Friday sales as well as clearance sales, anniversary sales etc. So do check the calendar and set reminders. You can also check the Facebook pages of the brands and stores to view past promotions. There will probably be similar promotions this year.
I bought my MacBook Air at a local electronics/IT fair. Besides the $100 discount, I also received complimentary free gifts (wireless mouse, laptop sleeve, keyboard protector and more).
Try Out Device Models
Before you make that final purchase, do try out the device model.
Get a feel of it: how it feels writing on that device model, how it feels carrying that device etc.
Check the functions again. Whether it can do everything you intend to do.
You’re making a huge investment when you purchase the device. Make sure that it counts!
There shouldn’t be any regrets. Nor should you be leaving your device alone and not using it.
When you’re ready and absolutely sure, make that purchase~!
Bonus Tip: You Can Own More Than One Device
Bear in mind that the device is not mutually exclusive.
Of course, you can own more than one device. Plus, in today’s world, it’s very common to have more than one device.
Personally, I have 3 devices: laptop, desktop and phone. Initially, I only have a desktop and phone, which I already own for a few years. I have never owned a laptop. When I was young, I refer to books and worksheets during school and only using the desktop at home for online assignments. As a working adult now, I have a work laptop but I don’t do any personal tasks on it. I only bought the laptop recently to force myself to stop procrastinating (I still can’t believe I bought a laptop for this!). When I write my manuscript at home using my desktop, there are many distractions. Everything from administrative tasks for my family (utility bills, my mom’s cooking classes, my dad’s birds) to my own TV drama marathon, shopping spree etc. Hence, I wanted to get a laptop so I can leave the house and just write (without any distractions).
You can regard these devices as complementary. They all serve the same goal but using different ways to reach that goal.
My laptop, desktop and phone serve the same goal of helping me to be a better writer. When I want to write outside my house (without any distractions), I turn to my laptop. When I want to write at home or format my manuscript, I turn to my desktop. When I want to plot my novel or just note down ideas, I turn to my phone.
Now It’s Your Turn
What writing devices do you have? How did you decide which devices to use for writing? How are the various devices helping you in your writing journey?