Equipment

You don't need any.

Some people think they can't start writing until they have got a new computer, a new printer, some new software. They don't.

The glorious thing about writing is that you can do it with a pen or pencil on a cheap student pad of ruled paper.

Pen and paper

In fact, this may be the best way to write. With pen and paper you can write anywhere, any time. You don't have boot up a machine, to be electrically linked, have a cursor blinking at you impatiently.

Pen and paper can free you mentally.

But do write on every other line. Leave plenty of space for corrections, additions, changes of mind.

Computer

At some stage, however, you are going to have to turn your work into neatly printed pages. And these days publishers want text in an electronic form.

Of course you can compose your text straight into the computer if you like. Otherwise you'll have to copy it into the computer from your hand-written text. This process gives you a good opportunity to revise the first version.

Always use generous line spacing – 1.5 lines or 2 lines. This allows you space to make more hand-written amendments from a print-out. Also, publishers require well-spaced typescripts.

Voice-recognition software

If you are no good at typing, you could consider this option. Using a microphone, you can read your hand-written text into your computer, and it will translate it into typed text.

Reading your text aloud is an excellent way to gauge the rhythms of the narrative, and the authenticity of the dialogue.

Voice recognition software programs have been improving over the years, and have become increasingly accurate. But you have to spend time learning how to get the best from the system, by teaching yourself how to use it, and by "training" the program to recognise your voice accurately.

You are always going to have to check and edit the computer-generated text carefully: it is still apt to turn "flying to France" into "frying my pants".

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