A Writer’s Toolbox, Part Two

I’ve known for a while that writing is not merely sitting at a keyboard (or with pen and paper) and just spewing words out, despite what NaNoWriMo encourages its participants to do. Big or little, ideas need a place not just to germinate but to also sprout, grow and bear unexpected fruit. I know of several writers who carry notebooks of one sort or another just for scribbling down ideas and idea fragments wherever and whenever they happen to strike. Consider this another tool in your toolbox.

There was a recent post on Writers In The Storm about what your writing space looks like. Modern lore about writers tends to describe the place they write as a desk in a special little room, specifically setup for writing. But the assumption is that all writers need is a place and a mechanism for putting words on paper. And this takes us back to the original assumption.

I don’t think a writing space is something you can build out of an Ikea catalogue. It’s like a hobbyist’s workshop, or an artist’s studio. Bits and pieces required for various tasks eventually coaslesce, especially as they get re-used in new projects. Eventually a new home really needs to be found where everything can be stored more-or-less in the same place. It can be a bit painful, but once this is done, you realize it’s actually nice having all the screwdrivers together.

I don’t have a dedicated writing space. I don’t have a special room, desk or chair to write up or type up my ideas. I may acquire these things in time. For now, I do much of my writing away from all that.

Or should I say, Writing. There is a difference between putting words together and putting ideas together. Oft-times doing the former can be a hindrance to the latter. I realized the other day that what I particularly love about writing is those moments when a plot twist occurs to me – no matter how small in the scheme of things –  in my current work-in-progress. They usually come when I am not sitting on my arse, typing. In fact, they often occur when I am walking a familiar walking route, like between home and the local railway station.

Even Neil Gaiman has said he will go out for a walk to figure out some plot point. Douglas Adams has famously written of taking baths to generate ideas. Kate Forsyth walks the dog.

So I’m in good company.

Where are the places you get ideas storifying themselves?

6 Comments

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6 responses to “A Writer’s Toolbox, Part Two

  1. Personally, I am very much an in-front-of-computer worker–whether that be writing or idea-creating. But watching Big Bang Theory or drinking coffee/tea on the weekend in a cafe has given me some interesting plot twists to stories as well.

    • Even just re-watching favourite TV shows or movies with my new writer’s eyes will help do that. Especially ones that make you think for hours later.

  2. I prefer to write at the computer, because typing is faster and neater than my scrawl. But I always have a notebook with me, because some connections can’t be made to happen or invented. They just occur. Otherwise, I’ll write out questions by hand and doodle around them to help me loosely focus (if that’s possible) on something that needs to be addressed. And perhaps for those NaNoWriMo participants, just spewing out words can lead to the same unexpected results of something actually good among all that filler.

    • The NaNoWriMo approach does have some advantages, one is that lots of words a writer makes. And that clearing the wheat from the chaff is an exercise for another day.

      However, there are always a lot of posts in the forums where new writers discover their characters changing beneath their fingers and their plotlines going off in some unconsidered direction. It’s kind of a pity NaNoWriMo doesn’t teach them how turn that into something structured. At best, they acknowledge that some writers do actually write best that way.

      But not all do.

      • Very true. I usually expect that a lot of people doing NaNoWriMo are those who don’t normally write and want to challenge themselves. Hopefully those new writers you mentioned are taking that next step and revising, or even better, are making writing a common practice in their lives. They can look back on the warped experience and see how to build themselves a better foundation so that their daily words are quality as well as quantity. But I feel it is a vain hope, because I know that NaNoEdMo exists and has far less of a following. Perhaps there could be NaNoPlanMo the month before November where they could offer the type of structure you mentioned.

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