7/11/2015

7 Old-school (low-tech) Writing Tools

I've been prepping for writing my next (fourth) novel and reflecting on all of the things that go into the process, and make writing work for me.


To that end, I decided to share my thoughts on low-tech tools and strategies that help me write:
  1. Pens - I prefer rollerball pens. They're cheap and the ink flows smoothly, and dries quickly enough not to smudge when I drag my paw through the ink as I'm writing (#lefty). I mostly write with black ink pens, although I like to have a blue and a red for emphasis.
  2. Notebooks - I take notes and make lists and draw crude maps (messy and imprecise, not inappropriate), and for all of this and more, I like steno pads with the wire coils at the top. They're small enough to fit in a pocket, and cheap enough that I never worry about daydreaming my way through 20 pages while thinking about some project that may never see the light of day.
  3. Planning Guide - I have used the same basic format of planning guide in writing all four of my novels, nothing tricky, but a useful, single place to gather all my thoughts about the story, characters, plots and sub-plots, setting, story-arc, and so on. I fill in the sections of the planning guide in the weeks and months leading up to my writing-sprint, transfer notes/ideas into it on a regular basis, so that it is a gathering point, a nexus, of the thoughts on my story.
  4. Poster Paper - Sometimes it's useful to map the whole project out on a big sheet of poster paper or newsprint; this helps me see the story-arc, or hero's journey, in a way that notes, and even my planning guide cannot.
  5. Post-It Notes - I use full size Post-its as well as the little flags to add thoughts to one section or another of my plans, or to draw emphasis to a place in my guide or a sourcebook I'm using, or to mark an article of passage, and to remind myself what I thought was interesting about it.
  6. Maps and Explorations - I have a good memory for the places I've visited in the Adirondacks, but having an accurate physical map that I can twist and turn and mark up (and stick post-its to) is invaluable. I also make a point of getting out on foot or by canoe to explore the places I'm writing about to get a better, more substantial, feel for what I'm writing about ... sometimes the smell or quality of light or sounds of an area present it much better in a story than simple description can.
  7. Spitballing Around the Dinner Table -  At some point in the pre-writing process, I will find/make the time to share a bare bones version of my story with ideas with my wife, and together we'll poke holes in it and fix them. Having another person's perspective, sometimes just hearing the ideas out loud, helps to tweak the story, allowing me/you to produce a better first draft.

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