Monday, July 29, 2013

The Writer's Toolbox

I’m in the process of revising my WIP. It’s like pulling teeth. There is the constant ‘I suck at this’ feeling in my head. I no longer do battle with it. Being a writer means we’ve got to accept that we’re going to feel like we suck pretty much every time we begin a first draft or first revision.

Then again, acceptance doesn’t mean that we sit on our backsides and twiddle our thumbs. Being a writer also means that we are students our whole lives. Knowing this I created a writer’s tool box for myself. For a long time, it held the essentials: write every day, find a critique group, find beta readers, know your genre and so on. It held specific tips: don’t use adverbs, add rhythm to scenes and don’t start with the weather.

Over the past year, I’ve felt that these technical tools though important, are not sufficient. Yes, we need to know how to write but we also need to be happy writing, need to continue writing and need to thrive on our writing. So I’ve added other tools to my box. Tools that I think every writer needs yet something that changes from writer to writer. They are not so much technical tools of writing as much as psychological ‘soft’ tools. These soft tools mold us into the writers we become. 

1. Sleep on it: This has become my favorite tool. Whether a short afternoon nap or turning off my screen because I’m unable to find the right plot angle or plot words at night for a seven hour snooze, sleeping on it has helped me be kind to my writing, my body and allowed me to return to my manuscript the next day or next weekend with fresh perspective.

2. Know when to quit: We aren’t quitters. Quitters are those who stop at a first draft, we tell ourselves. Still, I have many first drafts languishing in my folders. I learned a lot of from them. I learned how to write. How to create plot. How to bring out voice. How to add pacing. I also learned that the manuscript was not strong enough to continue to work on. I learned from mistakes and learned the right attitude so that I could work on my next manuscript. In essence, I learned how to quit and move forward.

3. Imagination reboot. When I’m stuck I try to become my characters when I can. I play act. I talk in my characters’ voices in the kitchen making breakfast or while driving to work. Sometimes I indulge in a book or movie that has a similar or polar opposite character. Other times, I simply close my manuscript and go for some yoga in the park or a walk around the neighborhood. Anything that gets my imagination flowing again works for me.  

What works for you? What skills have you added to your tool box?



  1. Great thoughts, especially the sleeping on it. Giving yourself a break can REALLY help make you see things in a fresh new way.

  2. Thanks Lisa! I agree. In fact, putting it to practice now :)