Wednesday, December 22, 2010 you have one of these?

The Complete Writer's Kit. I found it in a catalog, with this description:

New York Times bestseller list, here you come. Get that great American novel out of the back of your head and down on paper with a motivating kit that kicks your ideas into action. Step-by-step direction and inspiration includes 30 Steps to Becoming a Writer; Get Published in 6 Months or Less has practical, actionable advice. Paperback, 208 pages plus a 52-card deck for fighting writer's block. $22.95

First: I have to take issue with the use of the word "complete." Nowhere in this description does it mention chocolate. You can't take the writing journey without pounds and pounds of the stuff. And what about the sandpaper you need to toughen up your skin? Where's that? How about the babysitter to take care of the kids while you hammer out that NYT bestseller? And the takeout restaurant gift certificates so your family can eat while you do research?

The creators of this kit are reputable and well-known in the publishing industry. And yet, there's just something about it that raises my hackles. Just a teensy-weensy bit. Maybe it's not the kit itself, but the description in the catalog. Somebody, some innocent soul without a clue, will look at this and say "Oh, wow! For $22.95 plus shipping, I can become a real, live writer! Let me get out my debit card!" And that makes me sad.

If you were creating The Ultimate, Best-Ever, How-To-Be-A-Writer Kit, what would you include?

(P.S. I have a copy of James Scott Bell's incredibly awesome Plot & Structure -- the only and best how-to-write "kit" you'll ever need -- and a brand-new set of highlighters to give away! I'll pull a name from all the commenters and post the winner's name Christmas Eve.)


M.V.Freeman said...

I have to confess, I have that kit. But really, it doesn't help..unless you know the basics.

If I had a kit, I'd put in a calling card, for late night long distance panicked calls to CP's. I'd place in a CD to help inspire creativity, and a timer--to push yourself to write in a certain time.

You know, I think we need to try and come up with something like that.....:-)

Excellent post!

Lexi said...

Wine, lots of wine. And a thesaurus. I can't write without one. And some index cards to jot ideas down upon. And a wife, because you're going to need someone to scrub toilets, do laundry, and grocery shopping. And a chauffeur to run the rug rats around. And the following prayer: Inspire and guide me, oh Lord, and grant me but the veriest bit of your creative spark. And give me patience with myself, my characters, my family, and the endurance I need to run this course.

Rashda said...

Good point about innocent souls and unrealistic expectations.

My kit would have 1)dark chocolate, 2) white wine, and 3) a buff and sexy muse (the Rock would do nicely).

Happy Holidays!

Carla Swafford said...

A door with a key to lock hubby out of the study. A crystal ball to help decide what WIP will sell. Little pink pills to help calm nerves while waiting for answer from editor(s).

Heather said...

My kit would include (a) writing juice (or what non-writers might call champagne), (b) good earbuds (I need music to write/poor quality earbuds allow the whispers from the television my husband is watching distract me), and (c) a writing alarm clock that I can set to scream at me to get my butt in the chair and write.

I like Rashda's suggestion of dark chocolate - that is usually my reward after hitting my word count for the day.

JoAnn said...

Mary, I must say that I seriously considered getting it myself. I'm sure the creators have some very smart things to say and I figure I'm still learning. Even if I were to glean one small piece of writing knowledge from this kit, it would be worth it. But the description in the catalog really turned me off. I shouldn't blame the creators of the kit for that!

JoAnn said...

Lexi, great suggestions! I especially love your prayer. :-)

JoAnn said...

Rashda, I hear you. The buffer, the better!

JoAnn said...

Carla -- when you get that crystal ball invented, I'll take one. Hurry. I'd really like one right now. Please, get on it! :-)

JoAnn said...

Heather -- those would make an excellent kit. (Speaking of ear buds, my best friend gave me a pair for Christmas that have fake diamonds on the outside -- so it looks like you have diamonds in your ears! I love 'em.) :-)

Chris Bailey said...

I love it! The extra it needs to include is an inspirational paint-by-number masterpiece to hang over your writing desk!

Lisa D. said...

It sounds like a bad infomercial you'd see on local access channels at 2am. And the lack of chocolate is a definite oversight.

As for becoming a writer--I think you either are or aren't. Now being an author, that's a different thing all together.

Kat Jones said...

I'd take a baby sitter and personal chef in my writer's kit. :)

Louisa Cornell said...

A housekeeper because when I am writing my house looks like the seventh circle of Hell. (When I'm not writing it only clocks in at the fourth or fifth circle!)

A dog walker / bather / chauffeur / petter and feeder, but only when I am in the groove and writing well. When I am not I'd rather do it all myself as it soothes my nerves.

Everyone should have at least one dog to sit on your feet when you write.


For me, Research books on the Regency by the truckload and the time to read them.

Richard Armitage to just sit there so I can be inspired by him.

Index cards by the gross.

Joanna Bourne's articles of tips for writers. She has them archived on her site. Check them out for invaluable advice on writing for any genre.

I also keep notebooks of articles I have printed from different authors sites and blogs on the writing craft. As with any art you must be willing to learn and you never know when someone else will present an idea in such a way that the light bulb comes on for you.

Patience by the truckload.

Faith in your OWN abilities and choices.

Belief in your story as it comes to you.

Confidence enough to let those dreaded critique arrows and rejections bounce off or at least merely wound rather than kill you.

Friends to encourage you and be genuinely pleased with your every success as you are pleased with theirs.

Cari Hislop said...

The first thing that came to mind that I would want in my ideal Writing Kit would be a recording of my Grandmother telling me how wonderful and talented I am. Yes she was a little biased, but there are few things so inspiring as hearing someone you look up to and adore telling you, you can do it. Sadly, it didn't occur to me to record her voice saying anything before she died. At least I have the memories.

I just bought myself another pile of note cards...have to have those!

I'd like a gadget that would translate my dreams so I could easily know what I'm trying to tell myself. I found this great book called The Dream Game by Ann Faraday which doesn't sound like something to put in a writer's kit, but I highly recommend it. The subtitle is 'Discover yourself through your dreams'. That's a truth! I've learned some important things about my writing and why I write.

JoAnn said...

Chris -- I LOVE paint by numbers! haha! (and I was an art major in college!)

JoAnn said...

Lisa -- very good point about either you are a writer or you aren't. I was in a critique group once with a girl who really disliked being a writer, and she told us she was praying to God to relieve her of the desire to write. Shortly thereafter she left the group. Years later, I ran into her and she told me with great joy that God had answered her prayer; that she no longer had any desire to write. Frankly, I don't think she was ever a writer to begin with!

JoAnn said...

Kat -- ooh, I like the personal chef idea. Much better than takeout!

JoAnn said...

Louisa -- Now THAT'S a complete writer's kit!

JoAnn said...

Cari -- Hugs on the inspiration from your grandmother. In this business, we all need some unconditional love from time to time.

And I will definiately check out the dream book. Very interesting!

JoAnn said...

And the winner of James Scott Bell's PLOT & STRUCTURE is Lisa!

Lisa, please send your info to jrw7954 at and I'll get your book (plus highlighters) out next week!

Cari Hislop said...

To JoAnn: Someone praying to not have the desire to write? Oh dear! Wait till she gets upstairs and she has her interview. It might go something like this...

"So, how did you get on increasing your talents and using them to help others?"

"Well, certain talents were really distracting and totally useless so I buried them in the ground. It enabled me to spend more time serving the poor."

"You mean those poor homeless people who bullied into shelters so you could more easily feed them your prize pumpkin pie?"

"I got a blue ribbon for that pumpkin pie...everyone loved it. I was feeding the poor, even if they couldn't be bothered to thank me."

"And what about all those stories you were meant to write, the ones that would have made sad people laugh and helped give hope to lonely hearts?"

"Oh please! They were only romances; paperback novels! My mother would have died of shame. I couldn't embarrass her like that. What would the neighbor' have said?"

"We'll never know. Next!"