I asked Greg Miller from the Other Network to write a guest post awhile back. He’s been busy getting his Kickstarter going, but managed to find time to write about his upcoming virtual toolkit for writers. If you ever wondered what motivates people to go from an idea to successful project, look no further. So thanks Greg!
What’s in Your Writing Toolchest?
by Greg Miller
Some writing tools seem like innate gifts. I’ve always been a fast rough-drafter. Quick and sloppy is my specialty. Dialog and character usually come pretty easily when I’m drafting, or even in re-writing, fiction, but I have to work a lot harder on plot, story and structure or organizing non-fiction. Those become extended construction projects, which sometimes involve some demolition mid-way through.
We all come to writing with a particular skill set, and you develop and supplement it with study, practice and advice from other writers, or teachers, or even a writing partner. Later, hopefully, there will be an editor or two to give you other tricks of the trade.
‘Writing’ isn’t a singular activity; it’s a process that includes multiple activities, each one requiring a different set of tools. These days, even more so, because modern writers usually write in multiple forms and genres. Writing is an art, but it’s also a craft and, like any craft, it is best practiced with an array of specialized tools, depending on the kind of project and the phase of the project you’re working on. If you have those tools naturally, that’s great. If you don’t, you have to acquire or develop them.
I’ve picked up useful practical techniques from many articles and in almost every book about writing, but the most useful nuggets tend to get buried in books or scattered online. And where are they when you need them?
There are so many great tools available, why only stock one hammer in your tool chest?
There’s isn’t just one way to outline a project, there are at least a dozen.
There isn’t one kind of story, there are dozens. (The Hero’s Journey isn’t the only game in town!)
There isn’t one way to develop a character, there are hundreds.
As writers, I think it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that our writing should be completely unique. Plus, we’re generally anti-authoritarian by nature, and while we wish someone would just tell us how to write, when it comes down to it, we don’t actually want anyone telling us what to do. Part of what we love about writing is the thrill of discovery, so any formula that locks us into a pre-ordained structure or process seems artificial and limiting. This often leads to a broadly rejectionist attitude common to many ‘Pansters’ (i.e., ‘Seat of the Pantsers’ as opposed to ‘Planners’) that any analytic or construction tools will stifle their creativity.
I love the thrill of discovery in my writing as much as the next writer, but you don’t have to re-invent the wheel every time. And you don’t have to get into a rut re-inventing the same wheel over and over either. To stretch the metaphor even further: you can use other writer’s wheels to design a much better vehicle for yourself – without inhibiting your creativity.
I’ve found that I – and most writers – need a lot of different tools. Not one method to rigidly follow, but a tool chest full of devices, methods and techniques that can be applied as needed when needed. But, despite all the great articles and books about writing, no one was aggregating the collection of material I wanted; a comprehensive writer’s reference book, bringing together all the greatest writing resources of all time in one clickable e-book. I wanted it for my own work and to use for clients and students.
So I wrote & edited “Miller’s Compendium of Timeless Tools for the Modern Writer”, which is Kickstarting now through July 10, 2015. You can pre-order your copy by backing the campaign today and help us move the craft of writing into the future by building on the wisdom of the past.
Note from Connor: Greg’s Kickstarter is a Staff Pick and fully funded with 26 days to go. When he wrote those, Greg was a guy with a good idea and an ambitious goal, and by the time this goes live, he’ll be a guy with a good idea and a fully-funded project! This is a huge success in general, but particularly for a first Kickstarter. He’s said he’ll come back with a follow-up article on how it all works, so if you’ve got a great idea, don’t sell yourself short, and prepare to take some notes.