Tuesday, January 06, 2015

The all important "Writer's Toolkit"

The all important “Writer’s Toolkit”

When you hear the words Writer’s Toolkit you probably think of pen, paper, computer, thesaurus, dictionary, etc. However, there are so many other things that a writer needs in order to be successful. The most important being an imagination. Come on, seriously? What else could possibly be more important than that? Without an imagination a writer would just re-hash the same old stories. They wouldn’t be able to give a new take on whatever subject they were tackling. Without an imagination a writer would just see a plant, instead of a plant that could take over the world. Bending humanities to its knees while cackling in the process.
After an imagination, I would say the second most important thing is experience. As humans we learn as we grow. The same thing goes with writing. With that said take all of the classes you can, read all the books you can stand, and write. Write as much as possible. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. You’re still writing. The bad is what edits are for. As you write you’ll learn what works for you. You will also learn what you love to write. It might take a while, so stick with it. The classes and books will help you learn how to hone your craft. It will help you learn how to edit, which can turn the worse story in the world into something to be proud of. 
Next, be proud of what you write. Good or bad, it’s words on the page. There are people that go their whole lives dreaming about writing. You’re doing it. Be proud of that! Be proud of your imagination and let it work for you. Even if you are writing about ants make them the best ants you can. Give them lives, stories behind your story. Give them names, families. Love them for who they are to you. Pride in your writing is revealed through how you show your story to others. By show, I mean tell. Telling is all about showing. Make us love your ants.
Use all of your resources. Resources can be friends, family, co-workers, etc. Find someone that loves to read and get them to read your story. Weed out the comments. Focus on the positive. Some times the positive comes in “this sucks, but this is great.” As writers we think our stories are the best in the world. It’s hard hearing that something we’ve spent so much of our life pouring our emotions into, is not the best. Take the comments and figure out how to make it the best. 
If you can find a local writing group, join it. This can be a source of valuable craft information. They might even provide information on how to add to your story! Also, they might be able to pass on information about query submissions, what acronyms mean, who’s looking for what, etc. Always keeps your ears and eyes open. 
Check out some books about the craft of writing. For example, Stephen King’s On Writing is excellent! The cover on the front even gives a perfect glimpse into a writer’s life. It’s not all glamor, glitz, and travel. It’s about sitting at a messy desk writing something you love. 
Another great book to get is The Emotion Thesaurus. One of the great things that writers can do is portray emotion through their characters. To do this properly you need to know exactly what is felt in the different emotions we feel as humans. For example, rage can be seen in the face, felt in blood, show by hands flexing back and forth. Rage can lead to this like attempted murder, but how does it start? Is it long term or just appear? Is there an in-between emotion that can warn of it’s impending transition to rage?
Also check out Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan. One of the first things I look for in a book to read is how it begins. It should start with a bang if it’s a romantic suspense. However, if it’s a fantasy then you’re going to have to build your world for me. What better way to do that than painting a picture of it for me to see? I want to feel the wind on my face. I want to get sucked into your world and be regretful when the book ends because it ended. I want to know what the weather is like on your foreign planet. I want to know how your society numbers into the thousands as if leaves on a tree. Make me see it. Make me live it. Make me fall in love with it.
These are just a few of the things that every writer needs in their Writer’s Toolkit. You can have all the resources in the world to write your stories, but even if you have them all it won’t mean much if you’re not writing a story that you love. That’s the key to using all these items. Write what you love. You don’t necessarily have to write what you know. That would be boring. You have to love what you write though cause it’ll show through. I think that’s why Stephen King is such a great writer. He writes what he loves.
As you can see a Writer’s Toolkit is a very important concept. It houses numerous items that ultimately are for the purpose of enhancing a story. It enhances the writer’s voice, tone, conveyed knowledge, etc. This is all reflected in the finished product. The finished product that a writer loves. It may be heartbreaking, romantic, futuristic, slightly impossible, or even full of only imaginable things. It is still loved though.

What’s in your Writer’s Toolkit?


Meda White said...

Great post, Brina. I love The Emotion Thesaurus and recommend it often. James Scott Bell has a couple of good craft books, too. Plot and Structure, Revision and Self-Editing. I recently picked up The Elements of Style on the advice of a trusted comrade. My arsenal (ahem- toolkit) keeps growing. Happy writing!

Aidee Ladnier said...

I am a craft class addict. And ditto on the Emotion Thesaurus. That is a great book!

Brina Cary said...

Meda, I'm planning on going to get a copy of the Elements of Style this weekend. I have lots of craft books, but I could always use some more! :) How do you like it so far?

Brina Cary said...

Aidee, I am definitely a craft class addict too. Lol, you wouldn't believe all the classes I've got on my schedule for 2015! I've found that I like the ones that focus on character creation best though. Do you have any that you've taken that you'd recommend?

Brina Cary said...

I also like Keri Smith's books. She's got a book that are basically designed to make you think critically. They give you a general idea and you can create an idea from there. It's wonderful if you're experiencing writer's block. :)

Aidee Ladnier said...

I'm always taking classes in things I need work on - like showing versus telling. Sigh. The best thing about the classes is usually the instructor will give you homework that will be graded with comments on how to make it better. I love reworking a scene with an instructor!

Louisa Cornell said...

Brilliant post, Brina! I re read Stephen King's ON WRITING at least once a year. And I love the workshops at RWA's National Conference. There is something for every level of writer and sometimes the ones designed for newbie writers are the best ones!

One of the tools in my Writer's Toolkit is a huge unabridged thesaurus. I am a stickler about checking for words that I use over and over and trying to come up with something different.

And as I write historical romance I also make a great deal of use of
this site. It tells me if a word I want to use was even in the English language during the Regency.


And if you write in a specific genre see if there is an RWA Chapter that specializes in the genre or an online group that specializes. People who write the same thing you do can be SUPER helpful. That is why I belong to two historical romance critique groups and I belong to the Regency writers' chapter of RWA - The Beau Monde.

Brina Cary said...

Aidee, that's definitely a good thing about the classes! It's wonderful being able to get comments back on your writing in a constructive way! The classes make it really easy to do that. Also, when others share their work you might actually see something that you've been doing without realizing it. Perfect learning opportunity!!

Brina Cary said...

Louisa, I'm actually a member of several chapters. A local one because I like to be around writers, but I'm also a member of a few online chapters. I write different genres, so I'm a membership of those that match with what I write. For me that's the best thing! I get to talk with them about everything that I love. It makes it so much better!!

Cari Hislop said...

I'll have to get a copy of that Emotion Thesaurus. That sounds fascinating! Love the post!

In my toolkit I would love to always have a friend or friends who write because there's nothing like being able to talk about one's work in progress with someone who understands what a brick wall tastes like...or knows how to move away from it.

I love the idea of joining a writing group, but I'm rather shy...so if I can find one (there must be several) I then have to get myself there.

I think one of my most important tools over the years has been favorite novels and stories. There's nothing like going to those books that haunt me (or enchant me) and trying to understand how the author has worked that magic.