Hacks for HacksWarning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.

It’s four days until Christmas, and if you’re like me, that means it’s almost time to start your Christmas shopping. I’ve assembled a thorough authorial shopping list, whether you’re spreading yuletide joy to your fellow writers, dropping hints to friends and loved ones shopping for you, or showing the non-writers in your life how cultured and writerly you are.

For a Buddy From Your Writing Group: “I’m a Writer” Gear

It’s a little-known fact that Jane Austen only sipped her tea from cups that said, “Writer at Work.” Next to publication, acclaim, book sales, publicity, awards, critical praise, the respect of your peers, book signings, speaking engagements, teaching workshops, signing with a literary agent, and royalty checks, a T-shirt that says “Careful, or I’ll put you in my novel” is the absolute best way to get people to take you and your work seriously.

photo by LMU Library

photo by LMU Library

For Your Friend Who Writes Poetry: Inspiration

You know that friend of yours who doesn’t listen when you say that poetry is a dead art form? And who’d be a dynamite mystery novelist if she quit mucking around with unrhymed nonsense? Inspire her with some classic Agatha Christie. Inscribe it with encouraging words like, “Her work reminds me of yours,” or, “Don’t you just love complete sentences?” Don’t worry whether she likes it or not. You’re doing this out of love; it’s no coincidence that passive-aggression rhymes with massive affection.

For Your Coworker Who’s Thinking About Becoming a Writer: A Hard-cover Dictionary and Thesaurus


These behemoths can make anybody look the part of the writer, and will class up the shabbiest of bookshelves. You’ll never feel more like an author than when you’re leafing through hundreds and hundreds of pages in search of exactly the right word. Who needs Google? Just flip to the word you’re looking for…almost there…woops, that’s not how you spell that…ah! Found it! It’s twice as fun as using online resources at only a thousand percent of the time and effort.

Don’t worry whether she likes it or not. You’re doing this out of love; it’s no coincidence that passive-aggression rhymes with massive affection.

For the Person You Know Who Just Got a Book Deal: Advice

Mr. Two Book Deal from Harper Collins seems to think he’s got things figured out. The poor schmuck’s already forgotten the importance of paying one’s dues and remembering where he came from. The best gift you can give is a reminder that fame and fortune can’t buy happiness, and that the little guys he leaves behind won’t be there to pick him up once the industry crumples him up and tosses him in the wastebasket; that saying he’s too busy making revisions to critique someone’s sword-and-sorcery epic will catch up to him the next time he needs a favor. No, it’s fine, really. Seriously, dude, congrats.

For Your Future Self After You Get Your Huge Publishing Contract Someday: A Fireplace

You picture yourself in a comfy chair typing in front of the roaring hearth, the primal images of the flames igniting creative impulses within your soul you never dreamed possible. The muse delights as you throw your inferior drafts into the flame and watch them meet the fate they deserve. You fling a whiskey tumbler into the fire when your muse is slow in coming. Your laptop is next to go in, its battery filling the parlor with acrid black smoke. Then goes the furniture. The muse is hungry.

For Everyone Else on Your List: Your Book

Bonus points if it’s self-published–you can say it’s hand-crafted. Inscribe it to them, and it counts as bespoke.

Share your own writerly Christmas list in the comments!

About Bill Ferris

After college, Bill Ferris left Nebraska for Florida to become a rich and famous rock star. Failing that, he picked up the pen to become a rich and famous novelist. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his wife, Jen, and his sons, Elliott and Wyatt, and he looks forward to a life of poverty and ridicule.