Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tools of the Trade

Copyright 2011 Ron Adams

It has been said by those much wiser than this humble writer that if you feel the desire to write a novel, go into a dark, quiet room and lie down until the feeling passes. If that fails, however, you may want to start putting together a basic tool box. Once upon a time, when I was first starting out in life, I did the same things everyone does – use a butter knife for a screwdriver, a shoe heel for a hammer, those sorts of things. It took a while, but it finally dawned on me, a universal truth. Every good craftsman, and make no mistake that writing is a craft, has a set of tools they rely on when they start. I now have a garage full of tools, most of which I have become proficient with, and know where to find the ones I need if I don’t have the right one handy. The same goes for my writing. I have a few suggestions based on the advice of others, as well as my own experience.

1. My computer, a laptop in my case, is an extremely valuable tool. Of equal value is a good backup system, because computers will crash, tears will be shed, curses will be uttered, and manuscripts can be lost. Ask me about Lake Effect some time. For those of you that are more comfortable with a typewriter, well, God bless you.

2. Get comfortable with your word processing software, computer users. A poorly prepared electronic submission is as annoying to editors as a poorly prepared paper one.

3. A good dictionary, and a thesaurus, because spell check will not always catch everything, and it is important to realize you can’t use the same words over and over. Don’t skimp on this one folks, because a good dictionary, even in the digital age, is worth its weight in gold.

4. I also like to keep a notepad ready for jotting ideas down, keeping story lines straight, or when I create new character, keeping the personalities straight.

5. I have reference materials on hand when I write, besides the dictionary. I have a writer’s guide to forensics, and to police procedures, for technical advice. I also keep a folder of research articles on the general theme of the story I am working on, on the location, or on a specific subject approached during the story, to refer to on occasion as the story progresses. And pages of my favorite websites are even listed under my Favorites list on my browser, in case I need to look something up on the fly.

6. The last tool I keep handy is my favorite mug with my favorite beverage. Most often it’s coffee, but I have been known to change it up from time to time.

My father, a builder and carpenter his whole life, always said the right tools make the job easier, and the results that much better. Little did I know he was teaching me the basics of writing at the same time. Now get your tools together, prime your imagination, and put some words down.


Marta Stephens said...

Excellent advice, Ron! I have all of the above and will add two of my own; post-it notes, and lots of brightly-colored highlighters.

Love your “God bless you” comment about the typewriter. I'm still amazed (okay, maybe dumbstruck is more like it) when I hear of a writer who, in this day and age, is still unaware of his/her computer’s or the software’s capabilities and/or don’t know their way around the Internet.

Thanks much for sharing. :)

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

A great list, Ron. I would also add a fertile imagination, the ability to really "listen" to conversations around you, and a super comfortable chair.

Ron Adams said...

All great suggestions, except for the comfortable chair. Last time I sat in a recliner to write on my lap top I wound up with 8 pages of the letter "n". Good filler, lousy reading :)

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

LOL! Good one, Ron. ;o)

Kim Smith said...

Always good to remember our tools. Thanks Ron!