I am currently in the middle of reading On Writing, by Stephen King. In it, he talks about his Writer’s Toolbox which contains all the skills, tools, tips, tricks and rules he’s learnt over the years. Everything he has accumulated to help him write is in his toolbox, so I thought I’d go over a few of the items in my Writer’s Toolbox. I feel like I am still very much deciding what should go into my box, but there are a few things I’ve found extremely useful.
I’m somewhat addicted to spreadsheets. In the planning stages, before I even start the first draft, everything goes into a spreadsheet.
I start off with a basic spreadsheet. Down the first column goes Act 1, Act 2, Act 3 and Act 4 (if there is an Act 4). Across the first row goes Beginning, Middle and End. Then I fill each cell with a sentence or two about the story, and gradually I begin to learn the basic structure of the novel.
From there I can take a good guess at how long I want the novel to be, and guess at how many scenes it will have (based on my knowledge that when I write, I average about 1500 words per scene).
Then I begin to plan out each individual scene in a more complicated spreadsheet. Down the first column I simply number each scene (chapters can come later). Across the top I have Action/Reaction, Where, When, With (Characters), Beginning, Middle, End, Notes. I find I can’t write without a plan, so this spreadsheet is my road map. It gives me the confidence to go ahead and write, because I know exactly where I am going and I know its going to be good.
When it comes to the actual writing, Scrivener works well. You can divide your work up into as many parts as you like; chapters, scenes, etc. Having a long, blank word document staring at you can feel daunting, but in Scrivener all you have to do is write the current scene.
You can move and rearrange the scenes as you see fit. If you set up project keywords then you can search for which scenes contain which characters. It makes writing a book extremely easy.
And when it comes to full-screen writing, one button lets you hide the main screen, get rid of all distractions and just write.
The only draw back to Scrivener is that the PC version isn’t kept as up-to-date as the iOS version, but its still very much usable and a great addition to any writer’s toolbox.
There are several apps that can help highlight problems in your work but ProWritingAid is a pretty in-depth one. It highlights things like style, grammar, overused words, cliches and plenty of other things. I don’t think of these highlights as hard and fast rules, but its handy to see the points where your writing needs touching up. There are plenty of things I just don’t see until ProWritingAid points them out to me.
I urge every new writer to experiment, try different things and discover what works for you, but maybe this list can help someone take the first few steps in filling out their own Writer’s Toolbox.