The most important thing to a writer is writing. Without words on a page, the rest of this Author Toolbox discussion about formatting, editing, pitching, platform building, and marketing is pointless. So the first tools to put in your toolbox are those that will help you write.
Of course, you will need something to write about (and I’ve got my go-to tools for plotting a novel and unpacking what makes a character tick), but that’s a topic for later.
Tool #1: Set up a work station. This is a place where all of your writing resources and inspiration come together. It doesn’t help to sit down at your laptop to write and then need to keep getting up to go find that reference book or pen to scribble a note to yourself. Maybe you’re a lucky one with a home office or a computer station you don’t share with other family members. If so, make sure it’s stocked with everything you need at your fingertips because nothing is worse than putting your muse on hold while you run off to find that thing you need.
Of course, you might not be so lucky and end up writing on a laptop that travels anywhere from your dining room table to the coffee shop. My first book was written by hand on paper as I chased a crawling baby around the house, then transcribed onto our family computer during his naps. I’ve heard of others who wrote in a recliner in the corner of their bedroom and even one who set up a TV tray in her walk-in closet. If you find yourself in one of these types of situations, consider stocking a tote-bag with paper, pens, and your reference notes. Today, I alternate between my home office and other locations so I keep all my notes in Scrivener (more about that later) and always have my portable Bluetooth keyboard in my large purse along with a notebook and pens.
The point is having a well-stocked place to write because when you arrive, your brain knows that it’s time to get to work.
Tool #2: Make an appointment with yourself. It’s not enough to think about writing some day. You need to schedule time, mark it on the calendar, then show up. Depending on the other demands in your life, that might be a half hour in the morning before the family wakes up or a two hour block on Saturday mornings when you escape to a coffee shop. Maybe you pack a lunch and spend thirty minutes during your lunch hour at work. Or maybe you’re lucky enough to have larger blocks of time during your day in order to write. If writing is important to you, then your schedule and calendar should reflect that priority somewhere.
Of course, you need to be realistic. Factor in transition time to get your brain shifted to the new task as well as that detour to the restroom and the kitchen for a snack. And have a plan to deal with distractions like children, phone calls, and incoming notifications on your phone. Some have found it helpful to build in a set of rewards for keeping their writing appointment or consequences for missing it. Find what works for you and then sit down and write.
Once you have your time and place established, next you’ll need the best tools–for you–to get the words down as fast as possible.
(NOTE: If you found this post helpful, you can find the entire blog series collected into a single book here.)