12 Gift Ideas for Aspiring Writers

About ten days ago, I posted 12 Gift Ideas for Aspiring Speakers. Since I am the Chairman of a publishing company, several people wrote to say, “What about writers? What do you suggest for them?” So, I pulled together a list of my best gift recommendations.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/cclickclick, Image #10676336

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/cclickclick

Like my gift ideas for speakers, I have tried to include ideas at a variety of price levels. I have arranged the list from least expensive to most expensive. Hopefully, you can find just the perfect gift for a friend or maybe even yourself!

Gift Suggestion Amount
On Writing by Stephen King On Writing by Stephen King provides a behind-the-scenes look at the life and philosophy of writing. This is really two books in one: the first half is his autobiography. The second half contains his thoughts on writing. The first part is inspirational—you realize that nothing in your life is ever wasted. The second half is practical. One reviewer described is as a “writer’s toolkit.” The book is one of my favorite writing books ever. $7.99
Miss Thistlebottom's Hobgoblins The thesis behind Miss Thistlebottom’s Hobgoblins by Theodore M. Bernstein is that grammar rules are made to be broken. This book is a great review of those grammar rules and when it is appropriate to break them for the greater creative good. It takes the form of a dialogue between Bernstein and Bertha Thistlebottom, an archetypal grade school English teacher. The book is both fun and insightful. $10.36
Moleskine Ruled Notebook I have tried all kinds of electronic gadgets, but I keep coming back to the Moleskine Ruled Notebook (pronounced mol-a-skeen-a, not moleskin). I use it to take meeting notes and jot down blogging ideas as I think about them. Almost like American Express, I “never leave home without it.” They come in ruled, unruled, and grid designs. I personally use the ruled version. I explain how I use it in “Recovering the Lost Art of Note Taking.” $12.21
The Elements of Style by Strunk and White If you could buy one book on writing, this is it. To quote one reviewer, The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White is “the Bible for good, clear writing.” Written in a funny and unpretentious style, this little volume will make you fall in love with grammar—even if you hated it while going through school. I wish I could get every wannabe author to start by reading this book before they begin writing. $13.57
Writing a Winning Non-fiction Book Proposal As a young publisher, I spent a good deal of time trying to get would-be authors to give me the information I needed in order to get their book approved by my publishing committee. I finally wised up and wrote Writing a Winning Non-fiction Book Proposal, a how-to manual for non-fiction authors who want to get published. This short e-book contains everything you need to know to get the attention of an agent or editor. I just completed this expanded new version a few months ago. $19.97
Writing a Winning Fiction Book Proposal For years, I have known that my original e-book needed to be re-written from the ground up to accommodate the special needs of aspiring novelists. As a result, I have just published Writing a Winning Fiction Book Proposal. It is completely different than the non-fiction version. However, it also uses a concrete example to illustrate the principles that will get the attention of agents and editors. $19.97
Chicago Manual of Style This Chicago Manual of Style is the reference book used by most book publishing houses. It is comprehensive and, in most cases, the final authority on matters of grammar and, more interestingly, style. It not only explains all the principles, it provides specific examples of usage. This is one book I keep within reach at work and at home. I refer to it frequently. $30.75

Increasingly, we are seeing word processors that are dedicated to specific kinds of writing. For example, I use ecto for blogging and OmniOutliner (see below) for outlining. In writing my current book, The How of Wow, I decided to give Scrivener a try. I love it. It is a fantastic tool for anyone writing a book, fiction or non-fiction. I know many writers, especially novelists, who use it and rave about it. $39.95
OmniOutliner Software I am an outliner by nature. I literally think in outlines. I always start preparing a speech by starting with an extensive outline. OmniOutliner Professional is the best outlining tool I have found. It is intuitive and easy to use. It also has enormous flexibility. It simply works the way my mind works, making it easy to get the thoughts out of my head and into a form I can organize and begin to package. $66.99
How to Write Best Selling Fiction Sadly, How to Write Best Selling Fiction by Dean Koontz is out of print. But you can still buy it used from Amazon. It is not cheap, but it is worth every penny. If you want to write successful, commercial fiction, this book will guide you through the process step-by-step. I only wish that Mr. Koontz would revise it and re-publishing it. I consider this a collectors item. Every novelist should own a copy. ~$70.00
Mont Blanc Meisterstuck Classic Ballpoint Pen The Mont Blanc Meisterstuck Classic Ballpoint Pen is the best pen money can buy. It’s the Mercedes-Benz of writing instruments. Granted, it’s not cheap. But it’s the last pen you will ever buy. It makes a terrific gift if you can justify the cost. Hint: you can find them cheaper if you do some shopping around. In fact, I bought mine on eBay. Just make sure that you are buying an authentic Mont Blanc pen with a bona fide serial number. $330.00
WestBow Press Maybe you’re tired of trying to get the attention of a traditional publisher. Or maybe you have your own specialized platform and don’t feel you need a traditional publisher. You just want to see your book get into print. It that’s true, then check out WestBow Press. This is a division of Thomas Nelson and we are offering a 20% discount as a holiday special. $799.20
Question: What other gift ideas do you have for aspiring writers? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/jackalopekid jackalopekid

    great ideas. love the moleskin

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/patalexander patalexander

    I see that this post is going to cost me money. Luckily I already have Moleskin notebooks I use, Scrivner and a Mont Blanc pen. So may the biggest hit will be the OmniOutliner Professional. As always, thanks for sharing such great tools with us.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/johnmrowley johnmrowley

    Michael are authors using this to write their books? If so do you cut and paste everything into a document in order for the publisher to use it?
    My recent post Vitamin D and Athletic Performance

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      John, yes. When you finish the book, you can export it as a Word document or a number of other formats.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/johnmrowley johnmrowley

        Michael, sorry for all the questions, just at a critical point right now in completing my next book. Do you like the OmniOutliner Pro or Scrivener for authors writing and laying out a book or do you use them together?
        My recent post Vitamin D and Athletic Performance

        • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

          Scrivener has its own outliner, so you don't really need both. By the way, I think they offer a trial version, so you can see for yourself before purchasing it.

          • http://intensedebate.com/people/johnmrowley johnmrowley

            I did get the trial version of Scrivener and love it! I just put the 4 chapters from my proposal into it and it is much easier to organize!
            Thanks so much for the guidance you share with us!
            My recent post Vitamin D and Athletic Performance

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/johnmrowley johnmrowley

    Michael are authors using this to write their books? If so do you cut and paste everything into a document in order for the publisher to use it?

  • http://twitter.com/geoffreywebb @geoffreywebb

    I use Scrivener and love it!

    I also use moleskines – or is it moleskinea? Apparently have been butchering the pronunciation so don't ask me about plurals.

    As always, thanks for the list!
    My recent post Leadership Lessons from Watching Football

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/miller_schloss Becky Miller

    Orson Scott Card's "How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy" is my favorite "how to write fiction" book. A few of the chapters are Sci Fi and Fantasy specific, but most of the book is applicable to all fiction writers. It's a short book and easy to read. One of the most helpful parts is his section of figuring out what type of story you're writing – Milieu, Idea, Character, or Event – and how that determines where your story starts and stops.


  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Michael, another great list. As a long time blogger, I was encouraged last year to write a book by many of my blogging friends. Since my blog is about personal development, I figured I would do a non-fiction book like many other people in the field. A top ten list or success strategies style work.

    As I sat down to write, I made a list of books that had a profound effect on my life over the last ten years. I wanted to figure out what captured my attention, so I could fashion my book around those powerful ideas.

    What I quickly found was that storytelling was number one. My favorite personal development books all had amazing stories in them. The best were small books from Og Mandino, that had powerful characters and motivational messages, such as the human ragpicker in his classic work, "The Greatest Miracle in the World."

    After looking at the list, I knew I had to create a compelling story. The problem was, I had never written fiction before. To get started, I purchased quite a few books on writing and quickly devoured their content.

    Then I started with the first sentence and never looked back.

    A year later, with the help of an incredible editor, I have self published my first book entitled, The Path of Consequence. During the journey, two handbooks were incredibly helpful. The first was a small little pocketbook written in 1965, entitled The Lively Art of Writing by Lucile Vaughan Payne. This powerful little book was like having a college writing professor by your side. I can't recommend this enough to new writers.

    The second was 'Stein on Writing" by Sol Stein. His classic work on editing techniques was so helpful. Almost every question I had about structure and content was answered. A few of his writing exercises in the book are worth the purchase price alone.

    Finally, one free gift every writer can take away is a bookmark to your blog…
    An excellent writers resource!
    My recent post Do You Have a Heartfelt Goal?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      These sound like two wonderful resources. I will check them out. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • http://www.michaelmccurry.net Michael McCurry


    Thank you for this article… there really was some terrific information in it!

    Needless to say I will be spending some money as a result, as I plan to buy the Moleskin, and a couple of the books.

    Hope your holidays are fantastic and thanks for all the great blog articles this year!

    My recent post Twitter For Presentations — Channel Or Context, Whats Appropriate??

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    It must be because he has an older version of MS Word. In our company, we have a mix of PCs and Macs, all running MS Word. We exchange documents effortlessly. I use Pages frequently and export it as an MS Word file. No one has ever complained.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/johnmrowley johnmrowley

      Thank you Michael. I appreciate you taking the time to respond.
      My recent post Vitamin D and Athletic Performance

  • http://twitter.com/BenjaminNeeley @BenjaminNeeley

    Mr. Hyatt, I am preacher who is writing a book while preaching every Sunday. Do you think Scrivener could be used to organize a sermon series as well as a non-fiction book?

    Benjamin Neeley
    My recent post Spiritual Spit-up

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I think it is worth giving a try. They have a 30-day trial version that is fully functional. You can try it and see what you think. Once you have done so, I'd love to hear what you think.

      • http://twitter.com/BenjaminNeeley @BenjaminNeeley

        I download the free trial and was immediately impressed. A sermon needs to take the listener on a journey, so it is the duty of the preacher to organize the parts of that journey (teaching, reading, exegesis, illustration) in the most effective way. The cork board and labeling features help with this organization. Incredible piece of software. Thank you for the tips.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/klreed189 Kyle Reed

    Some kind of reminder or kick in the pants once a month.

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Peter_P Peter_P

    Thanks for this, Mike. It's a great list.

    My recent post I’m Guest Posting Today

  • http://blog.simpletruths.com Matt

    Good advice! I never knew that Moleskin was pronounced that way. I felt surprised when I saw that a Stephen King book got on your list, but now it makes sense looking at the subject of the book. In fact, it looks like something I'd pick up and read, too. Merry Christmas!
    My recent post Mondays With Mac: Christmas Memories

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Actually, I love Stephen King. He is one of my favorite authors.

  • Dan Clark

    Thanks for these suggestions. What software would you recommend for those of us still tied to Windows?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Since I don’t use Windows, I’m afraid I don’t have any suggestions. Maybe someone else can jump in here with some suggestions. Thanks.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Cindy_Graves Cindy_Graves

    Thanks for this list.

    Someone on a blog somewhere this past summer (it may have even been you) recommended "Writing for the Soul" by Jerry B. Jenkins. It's not only packed with great and pratical advice, but it's also full of entertaining stories.
    He even suggests some of the same books you have included here. Can't ignore two obvious experts, can we? :)

  • james

    Is there anything like scrivner for windows

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Not that I am aware of. Maybe someone else can chime in here. I haven’t used a PC for years, so I just haven't been in that market.

      Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

  • http://meditationsfromzion.wordpress.com IrmBrown

    Good list… but what about those of us still using a PC and not a MAC… suggestions for writing software? just curious.
    My recent post Sadducees and Pharisees

    • Jason

      their is a software for windows called Writers Cafe that is fairly comparable to Scrivener. Its a little more expensive around $45 but seems like a solid writing tool for us PC users.

  • http://meditationsfromzion.wordpress.com IrmBrown

    Good list… but what about those of us still using a PC and not a MAC… suggestions for writing software? just curious.
    My recent post Sadducees and Pharisees

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      If you still using a PC, my first suggestion is buy a Mac. ;-)

      Seriously, someone else will have to chime in here. I haven't used a PC for years, so I am not sure what is available. I'll bet there are some good packages. Thanks.

  • http://www.ryanplantz.com Ryan Plantz

    I'm surprised this hasn't been mentioned yet – 'Bird by Bird' by Anne Lamotte. If anything, it simply adds fuel to the love of writing for the writer and may also inspire him or her to write a bit more.

    • Phyllis Dolislager

      I agree. I wasn’t going to add it–then I saw your post.

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  • jackthebest

    I don't agree with the choice of the Mont Blanc as the best pen of the world.. I know some collectors and they prefer other brands such as Aurora, Delta, Pelikan, Parker and so on!
    Have a look here (http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/) and here (http://www.comelity.com/en/items/Writing-Instruments/Ballpoint/)!

  • http://www.christopherscottblog.typepad.com/ Christopher Scott

    My favorite writing gifts:

    – InerGel Pens, &
    – Legal pads

    That’s all I need for writing. Thanks for my many good friends and girlfriend, I have a big stockpile of them as I move into 2011.

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  • Karenv_2003

    The fire in the fiction-Donald Maas, How to write a damn good novel parts 1 and 2, writing the break out novel and workbook

  • Phyllis Dolislager

    What about a subscription to Writer’s Digest?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Great suggestion. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    I love these posts with lists!  Fascinating to find out what other professionals are using.  I switched to Scrivener a few months.  I love how it helps in getting my ideas laid-out and in order.  I am a graduate student and do a lot of writing for class.  I also hope to write a (few) books in the future, so I am basically practicing now.

    Thanks for the suggestions of “The Elements of Style”, I do need help in the grammer department.

    Merry Christmas!!!

  • http://twitter.com/djvreeman Daniel Vreeman

    Given your high praise for it, I’m surprised not to see an Evernote premium subscription on the list.

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  • Kori

    The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster is a fantastic book to give someone 12 or under that love writing/English language. I was a prolific writer as a child and the book opened my eyes further to the beauty of words.