As the mother of two, Elizabeth writes on the run as she juggles duties as Brownie leader, referees play dates, drives carpools, and is dragged along as a hostage/chaperone on field trips. We're honored to have Elizabeth here today, giving us an insightful look into the tools every writer should have in his or her literary kit.
The writing life isn’t an easy one. In fact, there seem to be obstacles around every corner—from lack of time to the difficulty of obtaining a literary agent.
But there are some great things about writing as a hobby or career. It’s inexpensive. It’s portable and can be done anywhere and in varying chunks of time. And there are few simple tools that can help you achieve your goals.
Here are five tools to help you on your path to publication:
Backup. How you do it doesn’t really matter, but doing it is really a necessity. Almost every writer I know who has been writing for more than a year has lost data. Even if you write on paper, you should consider a form of backup (either by typing completed text into a computer…and backing that up, or by taking your notebook paper to the copy shop and letting them copy the document for you.) USB drives can be bought for under ten dollars and text files use up little space. When I’m feeling especially lazy or can’t get my hands on a USB drive, I’ll email the manuscript to myself. That’s also handy if you travel a lot, as long as you email it to an account that you can access from other computers.
Paper and pencil. I’m merging these two tools into one unit. They’re inexpensive, but invaluable. I always think that I can remember an idea, plot shift, or scrap of dialogue when the idea comes to me. But nine times out of ten, the thought is gone just hours later. If you keep just a small, flip-top notebook and pencil on hand and jot down the ideas as they come to you, you have the ability to make greater progress on your novel.
An honest beta reader. It doesn’t really matter who this person is—friend, family member, or fellow writer that you connect with through an online critique group. It does matter that they can give constructive criticism of your novel. Sure, it’s great hearing that we’ve written the best novel ever, but if we don’t hear ways to improve our novel then it’s going to be tougher to make our way past the publishing gatekeepers.
Support and information from other writers. I think one of the best things a 21st century writer can do for their writing career is to connect with other writers. Writing is a tough slog, and friends and family may…or may not…understand why we’re taking it on. The online writing community can be your best friend when you’ve reached a brick wall with your plot or research, or when you’re dispirited from rejections or critiques. Where can you find other writers online? Go to any popular writing blog and look in their sidebar for a blog roll—you’ll find blogs of other writers. Those writers will have blogs listed in their sidebars, too. Then befriend these writers you’ve found on blogs on Facebook and Twitter for more ways to communicate beyond blog commenting.
A blog to serve as a living room for visitors. I’m going to go ahead and add a personal blog to the list of important tools for writers. If we have a blog, we have more than a place for other writers to visit us—we have a place for agents and editors to glimpse our writing style, voice, and professionalism. How much does a blog cost? Besides the regular cost of your internet access, you can have a blog for free…mine doesn’t cost me a cent. Blogger is one of the hosts that offers free blogging.
Are these some of your top tools as a writer? What would you add to the list?
Elizabeth Spann Craig (Riley Adams)
Mystery Writing is Murder
Mystery Lovers' Kitchen
Follow her on Twitter: @elizabethscraig