As a kid, I loved hanging out with my dad at his workbench. I marveled at his array of hammers, screwdrivers and odd curvy things hanging on his wall. It seemed he had a tool for just about everything. He told me how important it was to have the right tools in your toolkit.
He was right then, and he's still right. Toolkits aren't just for carpenters and weekend tinkerers. When you think about it, every profession has a tool kit. So what are the essentials in a writer's tool kit?
Well, it must contain the necessary tools of your trade, items to get started, smooth the rough edges, and polish it off for show. Whether you are a novice author just getting started on your first story or you are a seasoned writer looking to hone your craft, you need to clean out your tool box. Here are my 5 tool kit essentials:
1. A writing space - a desk, park bench, beach chair and sand, a corner in the library. Where doesn't matter as much once you get going; but it is essential to find a spot where you aren't distracted and where you feel inspired.
2. Something to write on and with - laptop, notebook and pens, old fashioned typewriter. Again, what's important here is that the items you use to write with feel natural to you. For me, it's my laptop. However, I always carry something with me for inspirational moments (see #4).
3. Writing conventions resources - Strunk & White's ELEMENTS of STYLE (I have 4 copies tucked everywhere); at least one stylebook (LA Times, Chicago, AP); a thick thesaurus and dictionary. Yes, your wordprocessing resources do this trick, too; but you really need hard copies around. What if the electricity goes out and you need a good synonym for 'evil'?
4. Emergency supplies - As I mentioned in #2, you never know when inspiration strikes. Always keep a few small notebooks and pens stashed everywhere you spend time (the car, work, your purse or backpack, your bedside). I have notes written all over, and even if I don't go back to use them, just having written them down helps me work out my ideas. For you smartphone and ipad users, you might prefer the Novel Idea.
5. A paperback writing coach - Literally. There are numerous great books out there by established writers. These books can serve as your writing coach.. Buy one or more by different authors. Read them over and over. Write in their margins. Highlight, underline, circle! They want you to learn from their mistakes and benefit from their epiphanies. My favorite - ON WRITING by Stephen King. Find yours.
That's it. Gather your tools, and start writing! Good luck!
*This post first appeared April 2014 (I thought it deserved another viewing while I finish my summer break - see you next week!)