As everyone knows, for whatever trade you engage in, whether that be mathematics, engineering, painting, rock-climbing … there are tools that an individual needs not only to execute the trade, but also to execute it to the best of one’s ability. Thus, I’m going to discuss a comprehensive list—both figuratively and literally—of tools every writer wants to have in their “toolbox” for success.
- Computer: Because this is a comprehensive list, I’m mentioning everything. I’ve come across writers who actually pen their books by hand, which is absolutely fine. However, there will come a time when that book needs to be transcribed in a printable format of some kind, at which point the computer comes in handy. If it at all possible, select a computer that is lightweight—for easy transportation to coffee shops, traveling, or if you want to go outside for inspiration—and has a long battery life. There is nothing more annoying than having to keep your computer plugged into the wall at all times. In my personal opinion, typing from the beginning is preferable because I can keep a running word count of my progress, and also set certain daily “word count goals” for myself, to maintain progress.
TIP: Also, keep in mind that if you are self-publishing and plan to format the book yourself, Macs don’t always work well with the formatting programs needed for converting to ePub, Mobi, PDF, etc.
- Designated work space: This doesn’t necessarily mean an office, though if you can make it happen, I highly suggest it. Studies have been done that describe how our brains actually acclimate to specific areas, and perform better when in that designated area as opposed to anywhere else. Essentially, you are creating a habitual place of creativity when you go to the same place to write every day.Also, Stephen King discusses in his book, “On Writing,” that there are two ways to write; “door closed” when creating a first draft, so that you can fully delve into the story without distraction, and “door open,” when you are revising and can engage with the rest of the world from time to time.
- Stephen King’s “On Writing”: Many writers proclaim that this is the best and only book on writing that anyone needs to buy. I have read this book and it is straight and to the point. King essentially states in his book that these key elements are all you need to know:
- Write as much as you can to become a better writer.
- Read as much as you can to become a better writer.
- Use the least amount of words possible in writing, avoiding adjectives/adverbs at all costs.
- Flash drive/back-up device/Cloud: With the wonders of technology comes the fears of losing your work via a number of problems; viruses, computer crashes, stolen, etc. Make sure that your manuscript(s) are duplicated in numerous places, such as flash drives, uploaded to Apple’s Cloud, or with a portable back-up device.
- Notebook and pen for keeping track of information or jotting down ideas: Having a notebook to keep track of characters and places is essential, because otherwise it can be hard to remember when you’re 100 pages in. Also, various scenes, names, etc. may come to you when not at home, so it can be helpful to quickly jot them down so as not to forget.
- White board/post-it notes: I have been using a whiteboard for outlining ideas, keeping track of scenes, etc. and it has proven very helpful as a quick reference tool. Also, when revising from first to second drafts, post-it notes can be used to write down the various plot holes, unanswered questions, and issues that need to be addressed in the next draft.
- A group of supportive writer friends: This is a great tool to have for a number of reasons. First; they are there to talk with you when doubt over your art hits, to use encouragement to spur you on, and to commiserate with when dealing with a particular bad case of writer’s block. Second; friends in the business most likely have their own blogs/websites, and may be willing to tell others about your upcoming book, interview you, review it, etc. This is free marketing, and usually the best kind you can get, because it’s genuine.
- Continuing to read and learn from other writers who you want to emulate: As I mentioned earlier, Stephen King and countless other successful authors say that the best way to learn how to write, besides writing a lot, is to read. It is good to read all kinds of books, however it can be particularly useful to see how other authors in your preferred genre(s) are doing it. This is the best way to get a feel for the type of language that is used, similar themes of the genre, clichés you may notice in many of them, and what sort of dialogue is believable—or not so much.
- Living a full life: Look at the beauty of the world, bask in it. Experience the feelings of first love and first heartbreak; go on a road trip. Get drunk. Make mistakes. Volunteer in the community. Help someone who needs it. Do things that will not only enrich your life in general and make you a happier person, but will make you a more insightful, well-rounded human being.
Just because you’re writing a high fantasy novel about dragons doesn’t mean that one of your characters won’t get romantically rejected by another. In fact, that’s ultimately what you should be infusing your manuscript with; human experiences and emotions. Those are the facets of the story that will grab your readers and hold onto them forever. The rest is just a fun escape.
Come back next time when I discuss querying agents and publishers to sell a manuscript.