The Writer’s Toolbox

There are lots of different things that a Writer can do to improve their writing skill and thereby allowing them to create better manuscripts. Take a class. Read a lot of books in your genre – if the books are written well. Reading a lot of books that were badly written might make your writing, well…it might end up being worse than when you started. Joining a Writer’s Group (I have a great one I joined that meets once a week). Attend a Writer’s Conference. And many other things that can make you a better Writer. It is like any other profession, sport, or activity that a person wants to do well at – it requires practice, practice, and more practice.

But I recently found something that really helped my writing. See much of my writing is spent by myself, alone, if not in my office at least while I am exercising, driving, watching TV, and just about anything else I do. What most Writers already know is that the art of writing requires the Writer to do most of their writing before they ever put a single word down on paper or on a computer screen. Hmmm, okay I am not thinking about writing during everything I do.

“What do you mean by that statement?” A sweetly grating voice chimed in.

“Beg your pardon?” So much for a restful night at the computer.

She plopped into her chair with long legs and all hanging over the chair’s arm. “What am I? A Rock.”

“What?” Sometimes I just couldn’t understand this woman.

“You said you are always alone.” She swiveled around planting her feet on the ground, her eyes boring into my skull. “So what does that make me? I am always with you.”

“That’s not what I meant.” She didn’t like to hear that she wasn’t real.  It is like my cat thinks he is a dog. Comes when his name is called. Follows me around all the time. And will sit there watching you while you are doing something just waiting for you to pay attention to him. In other words, she knows at some level she doesn’t physically exist, but my Muse just does not want to hear me tell her that.

She leaned forward her chin stiffly daring me to argue. “Then why did you say it?”

Anyone that knows me understands that my head is a like a gumball machine. A thought flickers in my brain, rolls down my throat, over my tongue, and out of my mouth without any editing or censoring. So it was useless trying to explain why I said it. The best course of action was to try and explain what I meant instead.

“Yes, you are always with me.” Though there are times when I wish I had a choice. But to be fair there are other times when I am glad Willow is a part of me. Muses are like that.

“What I meant was that I…I mean we write down our stories. And they are really good.”

She slumped back in the leather chair nodding her head.

At least she wasn’t threatening me anymore. “And we spend an lot of time revising the stories.””

She frowned with a sigh. “An awful lot of time.”

Something we could both agree on. “And we trade manuscripts with other Writers who give us really great feedback.”

She shook her head in agreement with this. Feedback from other Writers has made a significant difference in the quality of our writing.

“But you know when we go to Writer’s Group and read one of our scenes out loud and then get dry-mouthed?”

That got me a nod and a smirk. She thought I was just wimpy.

“Well, when someone else starts reading for me I hear all sorts of things that I didn’t hear when I was reading it myself.” I really felt exasperated when this happens as it is like why didn’t I hear that before?

She nodded again and thought for a moment. “Why don’t you just get someone to read the manuscript back to you then?”

“I thought about that, but I could just see me asking someone Hey it is three in the afternoon, can you please come over and read a couple of pages I just finished so I can hear how it flows. And by the way, could you come back at four thirty and again at six. I will probably have something else at 8am tomorrow and not sure when after that.

“I see your point.” Willow leaned her head back in thought and then sat up shrugging her shoulders. “I would do it, but that is about the same as you doing it; which wouldn’t help very much.”

“That’s true, but I found a way.” I couldn’t help but smile. It was rare that I could top her in the idea area. “Did you know that PCs and Macs have text-to-speech programs on them.”

“Seriously?”

I leaned back feeling like I had finally impressed Willow. Something rarer than a near miss by an asteroid. Hmmm, bad example. That happens pretty regularly. “There is a program that comes with Windows called Narrator. Not sure what it is called on the Mac. All I do is export one of our scenes out of Scrivener to a text file. But it could be from Word or anything else. Then I run Narrator and it reads the document out loud to me.”

“Does it work?” She sat straight up excited.

“Yupper. You know those first three scenes we finished? The ones we have totally run through Revision and are ready for publication?”

“Yes.” I could hear the pride in her voice.

“I ran them through Narrator and found several run-on sentences and a couple of areas where the flow just didn’t work, but was easily fixed after I discovered the issue. It isn’t the greatest voice, but there are other programs that you can buy, pretty inexpensively, that have natural sounding voices so you can get a better idea of the documents flow.”

“Wow, this is great.”

“It sure is. I am going to use it from now on with all of our writing. It could really help us pick problems up quicker and also get a better feel for how the story will sound before we do too much revision on it.” We were both getting pretty excited. We hate Revision.

She smiled and just kept nodding.

I haven’t been writing all that long, but it amazes me how I keep stumbling across new things to add to my Writer’s Toolbox that make the writing process easier and also makes my writing even that much better. But I guess it is like any other profession. It is becomes easier,  and the quality is higher, when you have the right tools to do the job.

 

Update on My First Novel

Sorry it has been a while since I have posted in my blog. I have been extremely busy with Revision. Well that and a little vacation time. All Work and No Play…  But I will have some really great news soon. And a little surprise for all my Readers that I think they might find of some interest. Look for my new post in a week or two with this surprise.

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