PENS: Picking Your Writing Weapon

I am unabashedly obsessed with pens.

I make no apologies. I am a writer and pens are the instruments of my trade. I am a mystery writer, so pens are also my weapons. Choosing your weapon as a writer is a very important decision, which I take very seriously.

Don’t give me one of those fine pens. What I suffer to write needs to be written in bold. Give me 1.0 mm, not some skinny script. But I seem to be in the minority. Skinny seems to be “in” with pens and bodies. I never seem to fit in.

I do know that when I try and write with a pen that feels wrong to me, I cringe, resist, and immediately seek a different tool. I think that’s probably the case with most writers. Let’s see what other writers say in the comments.

Here are my top three choices:

Fountain pen: I went to Catholic school and learned penmanship from the nuns. Okay, there may have been a little suffering, but I have never regretted learning what was known as the Palmer method. I abandoned using a fountain pen for years, then had occasion to pick one up and immediately fell back in love. I like writing in cobalt blue ink when I use a fountain pen.

While I no longer use the Palmer method, I use my fountain pen every day. I own several fountain pens but favor a lovely aqua and ivory colored one, Laban 325 Fountain Pen Aqua Lagoon Broad, I bought from the Fahrney catalog. Fahrney’s is a pen store in Washington, D.C. that has been open since 1929 and is having a Pen Event next week that I would kill to go to. I’d like to learn more about fountain pens and linger over the pens that can cost as much as $2000.00.

Gel Pen: I have long been a fan of the Uniball Gel Impact 1.0. I used these pens in my law practice. The thick, bold black ink spoke to the solemnity of the documents that were being executed. They were refillable, although I usually gave them to my clients after they had signed off. While I don’t use the Impact as often as I did as a lawyer, it remains my favorite if using a fountain pen isn’t practical. (Watch the odd looks you get in a grocery store when you cross off the items on your list with a fountain pen!)

Ticonderoga #2 Pencils: That’s right. My third favorite choice for a writing instrument isn’t a pen, it’s a pencil. I love the soft flow of the Ticonderoga #2 pencil when I want to draft and erase, when I am playing with words and sentence structure. I opt for the sophisticated black version over the traditional yellow model, but either one will do the job. It somehow feels safe to write with this pencil.

Of course, I write my novels most often on a laptop. I don’t have the patience to draft at the pace of a pen or pencil, other than fragments. Don’t get me started on keyboards! We’ll save that for another day.

What writing instrument do you use and why? Photos encouraged.

C. Michele Dorsey is the author of Oh Danny Girl and the Sabrina Salter series, including No Virgin Island, Permanent Sunset, Tropical Depression, and Salt Water Wounds. Her latest novel, Gone But Not Forgotten was published by Severn House in July 2023.Michele is a lawyer, mediator, former adjunct law professor and nurse, who didn’t know she could be a writer when she grew up. Now that she does, Michele writes constantly, whether on St John, outer Cape Cod, or anywhere within a mile of the ocean.  


  1. I never had the opportunity to use a fountain pen but my favorite was always the Uniball gel. It’s almost like the pen made the writing as important as it should be.

  2. I like fountain pens as well. I used black ink. And I use to have many but then I got tired of the ink on my fingers from the leaking tubes. It was a little better with the cartridges but not much. I have a Monte Blanc around here somewhere. These days, I write notes and thoughts in a notebook with one of the several fine tip mechanical pencils on my desk at any time and I write my books on my computer. I have several pens that I use only to sign books for readers. Maybe I should find that fountain pen.

  3. My mother had the most beautiful handwriting–probably the Palmer method. I love pens, too, but these days I use the clickable mechanical pencils because I like the slight “drag” on the page. For book signing, your Uniball gel pen sounds ideal!

  4. Give me the warmth and gentle feeling of a pencil (preferably a mechanical pencil) any day!
    I also love Fahrney’s. One year I gave Larry a pencil made from the wood from an old Yankees bat for Christmas from there.

  5. I’m always looking for the perfect ink flow. If a pen requires any kind of pressure or effort, I put it aside. For some reason, my favorite pens are ones that I’ve gotten as promotions, but I can’t tell what brand they are. I learned to write using a fountain pen too, and used one until I was about eight or nine. Loved it. I actually have a set of quill pens, which need to be dipped into ink, but I haven’t used them in years. That was for art works, not for letter writing. Mechanical pencils are a huge favorite, except I always get lead dust all over my hands and the paper.

  6. I adore fountain pens and have had several over the decades, but as someone mentioned, it was still the era of the leaky tubes. It was a while ago, but The Washington Post had an article on Fahrney’s and some young folks in their teens and 20’s who got to visit it on a school trip. They were positively BOGGLED, and wanted to buy everything–lol. When I’m writing I use my laptop, but the edits ALL happen with a red gel pen. I love how nasty it looks–LOL!

    1. Sharon, I love the idea of a field trip to Fahrney’s and that young people were thrilled with it. There’s hope for the future!
      And I confess to having used a RED Gel Impact bold pen for editing. It’s like blood spilling on the page.

  7. I have a lovely Mont Blanc fountain pen that was a gift but recently I discovered the easy to refill Pilot fountain pen for every day use. I just refilled it with green ink for handwritten holiday cards to special people.

    I like the flow of a gel pen but strayed back to a ballpoint to carry with me as I’m a lefty and write quickly and smeared those a lot…

    I use a pencil, too, when taking notes/ researching but never saw #2s in black! Where did you find those?

    I agree that a writer’s tool is so personal and important—especially when you’re using it for murder!

  8. I love fountain pens too but they always leak in my pocket or all over my hands. My favorite writing instrument is a Pentel mechanical pencil, with 7mm HB lead. But alas, I have little reason to use one because my life is so highly computerized. I use red gel pens for editing and black for signing, but I like the blue ones the best. I use them for notes and the occasional check.

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