Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Essentials For the Writer's Skill-Toolbox

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My husband has two toolboxes. One he made basically for me to use in the house and one he keeps in his work area out in the shed.  The box for me has the girl hammer, thin nails (so I don't ruin the drywall when I want to hang a picture), a screwdriver that fits my hand, and other tools best suited for my needs. The toolbox he made for me is small and easy for me to carry to my project area.

His toolbox, on the other hand, is ginormous. My son, when he was three years old could fit inside of it. Hubby keeps a hoard of tools from tiny to large in that box. Each one goes to his projects. Always prepared. He also made a thick strap to hang over his shoulder to help support the weight when carrying it.

Is one toolbox better than the other? No. Mine suits my needs. His suits his. We work on different projects.

Writers also need a toolbox, one tailored to the individual's need. It should be one that can be updated as the writer gains skills, changes directions, and starts new projects.

Here are some tool ideas to put in your Writer's Skill-Toolbox. Some of these may need to stay in your box throughout your career:

1. The Writing Personality Tool. Remember, our writing personalities are often different from our actual personality. Suspense writers would not take true pleasure in committing the same acts their characters do. After reading the blurb of your book, a reader should know this is your work, regardless of the title or book cover. I know Steven King's, Tom Clancy's, Agatha Christy's, Lynn Austin's, etc. style of writings with only a taste of the story. 

This is not a skill of branding because some writers, like our Pepper Basham, successfully write more than one genre. It's the little things that let us know. Mary Conneally opens her books with humor. I love it and am curious to see what she will create next to open a book. 

Like a chef who has a signature way of cooking, an instrumentalist/vocalists who has a style of performing, a marketing agent who has a distinct creative flair, writers need to keep their writing personality tool on hand at all times--every page--every word.

2. The Big-moment, Powerful Climax Tool. Every story needs a memorable climax, often times these big-moments are wimpy or sappy. A writer must create a big moment somewhere and hit it big. With the large pool of writers, it is easy for a reader to forget the writer of a blasé book. Give the reader the desire to commit your name to memory and want to seek out more of your dynamic books with the Big-moment, Powerful Climax Tool.  

3. The Fifty Piece Cannon-Fully Loaded Tool. Let the readers hear you roar! The best way to get the first book and successive books published is to bring a story that has a fifty piece cannon, fully loaded, and ready to ignite. So many stories have the same thing we've all read a zillion times. Same story, different characters and setting. But the book that has something totally new, a unique twist, a heart wrencher, something so unforgettably powerful, those will be the stories that not only pique the interest of an editor/publisher but also the readers and are powered by the Fifty Piece Cannon-Fully Loaded Tool.

4.The Echo Tool. Incorporate the readers into building the energy of the story. Cause a response to be squeezed out of the reader as they turn the pages. Make the story so compelling the reader is forced to laugh, grab a tissue, gasp, yell at the character. Tug the reader into your story with the Echo Tool.

5. The Souped-Up Tool. If the story is coasting, it is backsliding. Have you seen a souped up car? Better yet, have you heard one roaring down the street? Can't miss it. Soup of your story. Give people something to talk about in every chapter. 

"Yeah, Jen, I finished the first chapter of the book I'm reading and I just gotta tell you...."

 Always take a step forward with the Souped-Up Tool.

6. Clipper Tool. Too many ____ will ruin a story. Too many car chases, killings, weepy scenes, surprises, clues without analysis, analysis without clues, jokes, etc. It's like hearing a cymbal crash on every page. Too much noise! Not only is variety necessary, but also prudent pruning to keep a story blossoming can be done with the Clipper Tool.

7. Heart Tool. How much am I seeing training in my manuscript vs I'm having the time of my life? Don't walk around delicately carrying eggs in an effort to follow every writing rule. This tool is frequently used with the Writing Personality Tool (discussed in #1). A robotic style of writing maybe perfectly correct- no passive verbs, few adverbs, every writing rule mechanically checked off....BUT

Every reader IS asleep.

I used to love listening to my grandfather and grandmother tell stories. Maybe you've seen a movie with a grandparent relating a story. These men and women rarely tell their yarn by the writer's book, but they sure have our interest. The Heart Tool will help you know when to let go of the rules and let the story sparkle.

Is your toolbox filled? 
Are you missing a tool?
Which tool helps you the most in your writing?


If you found any typos in today's post...Mary Vee, (that's me sheepishly grinning), is waving her hand as the guilty party. 

If you have questions or would like this topic discussed in greater detail, let me know in the comment section. I'll gladly do the research and write a post...just for you :)

Mary has moved to Michigan with her husband, closer to her three college kids. She misses the mountains of Montana, but loves seeing family more often. She writes young adult mystery/adventure Christian fiction, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids.

Visit Mary at her website and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter


Rachelle O'Neil said...

Thanks for this post, Mary! I think the tool I'm missing most is my writing personality tool. I'm not sure that my books are distinctly mine from one to another. Good tips!

Sherry Ellis said...

I had never heard of the echo tool. Very informative post. Thanks!