by Laura McClellan
As a lifelong student of the writing craft, I’ve heard and read lots of good advice, tons of suggestions for essential tools for those of us who are working toward a career as a writer. I thought I’d offer my suggestions for the top five tools for pre-published writers:
1. A calendar. All the real experts, the pros, seem to agree: the number one key to becoming a skilled writer is to write regularly. But the best of intentions can get derailed by the pressures of daily life. That’s why every writer needs a calendar on which to schedule that regular behind-in-chair time. Make appointments with yourself and write them down. Be in that chair at regular intervals, so your muse will know where to find you.
2. An idea catcher. Ideas really are everywhere, aren’t they? But if you’re like me, your best ideas can disappear almost as quickly as they appear. That why it’s crucial to keep something with you at all times to capture the ideas when they come. Carry a notebook and pen; dictate a voice note into your phone; use note-taking app (I use an app called Drafts on my iPhone and iPad). The method is not nearly as important as the consistent practice of writing down those great ideas before they fly away and land on somebody else’s computer.
3. A support system. If you’re as fortunate as I am, you have a spouse who supports your dream and encourages you to keep at it, who holds down the fort and writes (or at least approves) the checks for conferences and writing materials. Every writer needs someone in her corner, cheering her on, talking her off that ledge on the bad days. If it’s not a spouse, maybe it’s your mom. Or find a writing buddy either locally or online. If you can’t find someone, email me! I’d love to trade encouragement.
4. A teachable heart. At the 2013 ACFW conference, I heard a multi-published, award-winning author say she never wants to stop learning and growing as a writer. No matter where you are in your writing career, there’s always something to learn. We must keep our ears and hearts open. The day we think we’ve got it all figured out is the day we need to shut down our computers and go do something else. Attend workshops. Always keep a craft book handy for bedtime reading. Look for the truth in every critique or rejection letter, no matter how off the mark you think it is-always ask, “What can I learn from this?”
There are lots of other tools, both practical and “philosophical,” that can help a writer in the journey toward publication. I could go on for hours on the subject of technology-computers and apps and printers, oh my! But the tools I’ve listed above are the ones that come to mind for me as the basic building blocks.
Oh, yes-I promised five, didn’t I? The fifth writing essential? Chocolate, of course.
What are your can’t-live-without-them tools for life as a writer?
Laura McClellan has been married over 30 years to the same man (she says she was a child bride). She’s mom to five, grandmother to five, and a partner in a large Dallas law firm. During her “spare time” Laura is polishing her first novel, a winner in several fiction contests.