Thursday, April 09, 2009

What’s In Your Toolbox?

image Debra’s post on Stephen King’s On Writing reminded me about toolboxes, which reminded me why I’m really studying my process:

I need to know what’s in my toolbox.

I forget. I run into trouble, and I don’t remember how I fixed it before. If I can be more aware of what tools I own and which tools have fixed what problem, then maybe I can save some writing time for… more writing. (What else, LOL?)

My toolbox is a mess. I have all these little things I do, little tricks and techniques, but I can never find them when I need them.

I need to organize and label them.

image The other thing that’s great about organizing the toolbox is that I look at what tool I’m currently using, and I start thinking: how’s this tool working out for me?

After yesterday’s post, I realized my current methods aren’t really working out as well as I’d like. Interesting. Time to try a few new tools, or dig some old ones out from the bottom of the box, methinks.

My process is just not reliably working the way I need it to. Nine years in, and it’s about time for a crisis, I guess. I suspect most people have figured something out by now.

Not me. *sigh* Time to experiment.

Do you know your process? Do you know what’s in your toolbox? How often do you experiment? Ever throw everything out and buy new tools? Ever need to remind yourself how the tools work?

26 bonus scribbles:

writtenwyrdd 4/09/2009 06:46:00 PM  

You know that old saying, "If the only tool you have is a hammer, all your problems look like nails?" That's the problem with not having a broad-spectrum approach to fixing a writing problem.

But I'm like you and I cannot always think about what to do broadly; I keep coming back to old favorites.

But if we keep reading, regularly thumb through writing books, writing blogs, and reading good books, it's there in the back of our brains, simmering, and ready to float to the surface when we need it. At least, something will come to the surface!

Melanie Avila 4/09/2009 06:51:00 PM  

Tools? You mean we're supposed to be thinking about the process while we're writing? lol. Um, I don't really do that. I do notice if a scene is dragging or if my sentence structure is getting repetitive and will try to switch it up a bit, but other than that I don't really think about things too much. Is that bad?

LaDonna 4/09/2009 07:07:00 PM  

Hey Spy, I'm kinda like Melanie on this one. I have no clue what my tool belt looks like. I go by feel mostly, and don't analyze too much. I just know when something works, or doesn't. Fixing it is a whole 'nother ball of wax. Again, I feel my way through.

Edie 4/09/2009 07:21:00 PM  

My process changes with every book. I don't know if it's me or my book.

And I agree with Writtenwyrdd. I think all the stuff I read simmers in my brain. I hope it floats when I need it.

Eric Mayer,  4/09/2009 08:01:00 PM  

I only use genuine Craftseunuch brand tools.

Rene 4/09/2009 08:41:00 PM

My toolbox appears to be filled with empty wine bottles and Girl Scout cookie crumbs.

The only thing that is organized in my life is the dishwasher. That's it. My writing certainly isn't. My only process is an incurable affliction for linear thinking. I keep taking one step after another and hope the heck I can come up with something for the next chapter. I've tried to do it differently but it doesn't work. I stick to my seat-of-my-pants scheme and hope it turns out okay.

Robin 4/09/2009 09:07:00 PM  

I know this is the wimpiest, most unprofessional thing ever, but if I start using a word too much, I jump up to the little thesaurus thingie on Word to jumpstart my brain. This comment will self destruct after you read it.

Charles Gramlich 4/10/2009 12:17:00 AM  

Seems like I'm constantly having to remind myself how the tools work.

Robin 4/10/2009 12:31:00 AM  

I can always use reminders. And new tools. Since I still feel I've got a lot to learn, I'd like to think my toolbox is always open for anyone who wants to drop something in. :) It might be useful to me, it might not, but it's helpful to have choices.

Have a nice holiday weekend!

Sarah Laurenson 4/10/2009 12:52:00 AM  

Tools? Toolbox? Oh my.

Actually, I've been at this for about 9 years myself. And now I'm exploring other people's process to see what helps, what fits, what I can learn. It's like when I did the NaNoWriMo. I learned a lot. Not doing it again (maybe) but it was definitely worth doing once.

Recently tried McKoala's challenge to write/edit at least 100 words a day. Learned from that, too. Also learned it's not my forte nor is it very productive for me.

I've read some writer books, but I'm not sure they've helped. Hard to say. I did like the Chicken Soup For The Writer's Soul.

MikeH 4/10/2009 05:40:00 AM  

Spy: A bit confused here; when you say "Tools" are you talking software, processes, gadgets, or all? If you are, then it can be a bit overwhelming.

I'm a real gadget freak, but after a lot of years at this (I'm not telling how many) I realize it is very, very simple:

1. Process, part I: Write. Do NOT go back and revise, do NOT go back to read over what you've written just to convince yourself you are no good at this and should take up knitting.
2. Process, part II: Finish what you start (Following Part I helps out on this one. A lot.)
3. Tools: For the process of writing, MS Word is all you need. For the business of writing, use MS Excel for tacking your-
- progress
- word count
- submissions
- finances
- time (if you're really anal)
- anything else
4. Gadgets: There is no 'silver bullet' to help you get a handle on your writing--process or business. The only gadget worth the money I have found is the Alphasmart NEO because you can take it anywhere and write with it. My (sort of) review of the NEO is here:

I hope I didn't get all pedantic on you, I'm just trying to save you some time.

Bevie 4/10/2009 10:17:00 AM  

Tools, huh? Well, I must confess that - when writing the first draft - I don't use any.

I write 100% off the inspiration given to me by whichever Muse/s were visiting to give me the idea. When the inspiration drops too low (and it will fade whether I use it or not) I quit. That is why I must write so fast. I have to finish the story before the inspiration runs dry.

My tools come into play once the first draft is over. Then I take it apart six ways from Sunday and endeavor to figure out the best way to put it back together again.

Not much of a style, is it?

Caryn Caldwell 4/10/2009 12:46:00 PM  

Well, I realized the other day that the way I organize my novels is the way I used to organize term papers in college. I hadn't even thought about it until that moment. (I list all the points or scenes I need to work in and in the approximate order I need them. I set them up as headers, and then go fill in everything underneath each header as needed. So it's a semi-outline.) And that tool is still working for me. Though I'd still like a few more tools to help me through revisions! Think I can pick some up at the local hardware store? Think they're affordable???

spyscribbler 4/10/2009 12:52:00 PM  

I love that quote, Written! And so true, it really is. I hope that the stuff simmers and floats up. I hope!

I do love reading writing blogs!

spyscribbler 4/10/2009 12:53:00 PM  

Melanie, that's cool! I don't think you're supposed to think about it, but since mine isn't working as well as I like, I'm trying to.

I don't think the way you do it is right or wrong, LOL. It just is! You probably think a little more in the editing stage, no?

spyscribbler 4/10/2009 12:54:00 PM  

LaDonna, I trust instinct a lot. Well, lately not my own, enough, but I think feeling one's way through is perfect!

spyscribbler 4/10/2009 12:54:00 PM  

Edie, me too. And if it starts to feel the same, I feel the need to shake things up. I don't know why! :-)

spyscribbler 4/10/2009 12:55:00 PM  

Eric! HAH! That's hilarious!

spyscribbler 4/10/2009 12:56:00 PM  

Rene, sheesh. My dishwasher isn't even organized! LOL!

Your toolbox sounds the best so far, for sure! :-)

spyscribbler 4/10/2009 12:56:00 PM  

LOL, Robin! I never do that. Okay, but I hit Shift + F7 a LOT. ;-)

spyscribbler 4/10/2009 12:57:00 PM  

Charles, lately I feel like I keep getting worse. I don't know. *sigh*

spyscribbler 4/10/2009 12:57:00 PM  

Robin, it does help! I keep needing to be reminded of all the different possibilities out there!

spyscribbler 4/10/2009 01:01:00 PM  

Sarah, I learned to write reading the whole writing section at Borders for like a year, LOL. I stopped reading when I stopped hearing anything new, LOL.

NaNo was cool, I guess. It sort of has the reverse effect on me. I used to write 50K a month regularly, but whenever I did NaNo, I could never make it. Finally made it this year, but it was a bit by accident, LOL!

spyscribbler 4/10/2009 01:34:00 PM  

Mike, by tools, I guess I'm referring to Stephen King's "toolbox." I suppose I mean any writing techniques I have.

But I do love gadgets! I only write in Super Notecard and Q10, though. Word and I had a falling out last year. I made a really pretty Excel worksheet so I wouldn't miss any of my deadlines, though. I do export to Word when I submit, so I still have to have the evil beast on my computer, LOL!

(It's still pretty, but I stopped opening it because I'm writing slower than I want to, LOL!)

spyscribbler 4/10/2009 01:35:00 PM  

Wow, Bevie, that sounds like a fun process! Wow! I want that. I want to try that some time. I remember, I once wrote a 40K novella in a week. I want that flow again!

spyscribbler 4/10/2009 01:36:00 PM  

LOL, Caryn! I think I revise and edit as I go, which is why my writing has become slower and slower. I don't know. Who knows?!

Maybe, like Written said, I need new tools! Maybe we could go shopping together? :-)