In the writing world there’s a lot of terminology that gets thrown around. Admittedly, I haven’t figured all these terms out. Sometimes I think that there must be a master list somewhere, or a decoder ring that would clear all these conundrums up in one easy swoop, but so far I haven’t found it. This leaves me without a cool decoder ring, and left with the task of figuring things out the old fashioned way, one-by-one.
For instance, I have no friggin’ clue what Pit Mad is. I see it plastered all over Twitter – usually as a hashtag – but I’m utterly in the dark about what it actually means or why people are talking about it. Once upon a time, the Writer’s Toolbox was this same way. I knew the term, but had no idea what it actually meant.
I think the first time I heard about the Writer’s Toolbox was when Stephen King mentioned it in his book On Writing – which is an incredible read, by the way, and if you haven’t read it already, by all means do it now! But in that book he goes into a short explanation of the Writer’s Toolbox. I didn’t get what he was saying at the time, or any other time I’ve heard someone mention it, until recently.
Epiphanies are crazy. They’re like tripping over nothing or suddenly remembering that it’s your birthday. It’s a blindsiding moment; you look around and say, “What just happened?”
That was me with the Writer’s Toolbox. But I get it now, and just in case someone else out there needs a little help on getting it too, the following is just for you.
Your Writer’s Toolbox is everything you know about writing. Our Toolboxes will all be different, but they should each contain some basic aspects:
The Ability To Create Conflict
The above represent the the veins and arteries of storytelling; its foundation and rock bed. These are the tools that we all utilize as we create our worlds and place our characters into them. So what else is there?
This is where our toolboxes become unique. Call me a dork, but this whole concept is fascinating to me. *giddy smile*
Once you have your basics in your toolbox, you’re ready to tell a proper story. Everything you add to your litany of writing knowledge after that is another tool you can add to your box to improve upon those basic storytelling abilities. For example, learning how to show instead of tell is a new tool. Creating lush dialogue, knowing how to give your characters depth, and being able to world build – all tools for your box. These things can make your stories pop – make them come to life and be more than just flat words on the page.
But there’s more. The longer you write (and read for that matter because both are extremely important!) the more tips and tricks you’ll pick up and you’ll be able to turn those into tools that you can apply to your own writing. Not every tool is as huge as learning to world build, but they’re all important to crafting something beautiful.
One that I learned while writing my first novel was that sentence length plays a big part in the pace of a particular event or scene. If you want your reader to feel the intensity or immediacy of what’s happing, make your sentences shorter. If you want to slow things down and let everyone take a deep breath, longer sentences can help with that.
Be mindful of how many ly words you use when writing: “I don’t like you,” she said harshly. He walked quickly across the room. She lazily read the blog post. Too many ly words do a lot of telling instead of showing.
Don’t use the same word in a sentence twice: He scooted across the floor with his bowler hat and cane, while his shoes squeaked on the polished wood floor.
These are just a few of the tools I’ve added to my Writer’s Toolbox. I have no doubt that I will continue to add more as I learn and grow as an author. Each one helps to expand my ability to craft and weave a story, to spark the imagination and lead my readers into a new world full of insane characters.
In the end, it’s probably better that there is no decoder ring, even though that would be cool. Learning things one at a time serves a purpose. It makes it easier to intake ideas and concepts properly rather than being bombarded by information. And, depending on your experience, adding one tip now might aid in adding a different one later as they build on each other. So constructing your Writer’s Toolbox a little at a time can be painstaking, especially for us newbies, who make all the newbie mistakes at first. But it’s like the old saying goes – you eat the elephant one bite at a time.