writers toolbox

A Writer’s Checkup

This week, our leader, MJ Nordgren, led us on an exercise to do a writer’s checkup and check-in, to see where we were on our writing goals, and what was getting in our way.

Answer the following questions:

  1. What do I long to write?
  2. List four steps you need to do to be able to write.
  3. List 4 strengths that you have that will enable you to write this work.
  4. List 4 handicaps that are in your way, blocking the road, of you being able to write this work.

You do not have to share this information with others. By writing this out, you name things. By giving things names, you control their power over you.

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NaNoWriMo Tips: Your Writer’s Toolbox

Here on Writers on the Grove, we’ve been adding articles to help you add to your writer’s toolbox. A writer’s toolbox is a collection of reference material that helps the writer write.

Your writer’s toolbox could be digital, files stored in a folder on your computer. Or it could be in a file folder grouped by type of reference. Or in a notebook, the preferred method of many writers, with tabs segregating the various reference types.

Your writer’s toolbox isn’t limited to a single project, novel, or writing type. It is a reference guide to support your writing needs such as a list of common measurement conversions from metric to imperial, forms and templates for character and worldbuilding development, descriptions of genres and themes, cheat sheets, and whatever you need to keep you writing.

Whatever your method of storage, before, during, and after NaNoWriMo is the time to put that toolbox in order to help you write your stories.

What Goes Into Your Writer’s Toolbox

What goes into your writer’s toolbox? Anything that helps you write. Here are some examples:

  • Peter Halasz’s Writing Cheatsheet is a tightly packed collection of plot and character guides, specifics, and breakdowns.
  • Forms for character descriptions and personality traits.
  • Forms for place/location descriptions.
  • Forms for worldbuilding.
  • Plot and storyboarding guides and forms.
  • Notes from writing workshops and classes.
  • Pictures of places and characters.
  • Mind mapping forms.
  • Genre descriptions.
  • References that list reference material such as geometric shapes, how to describe and critic art, names and descriptions of shoe typing techniques, a reference guide for typical travel times for various forms of transportation, hair colors and hair style descriptions and names, measurement conversion charts, color names, whatever it is that you can flip to and glance at for the answer, and keep writing.

Some writers create a book for each project they are writing. Others keep one book as a reference guide and keep adding to it as they learn new writing techniques and find references.

It is your writer’s toolbox, and you get to choose whatever tools you need in your kit to keep you going through all your writing projects.

You can find more writing tips, NaNoWriMo prompts, and writing tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.

Writer’s Toolbox: Plot and Character Cheat Sheet

Peter Halasz of nowhitespace created a Writing Cheatsheet, a PDF document downloadable and printable that compresses just about all the bits and pieces you need to know about plot and character development.

On one side, the focus is on plot, outlining the hero’s journey, master plots, story structures, classic dramatic situations, myths, folktales, pacing…crammed together into the 8.5 x 11 inch space.

On the other side, it deals with character such as the basics, physical appearance, other people in the character’s life or circle, speech and language styles, soul searching, possessions, habits, personality and values, personality types, archetypes, personality factors, virtues and traits, and a wide variety of standard personality types, classes, phobias, and disorders.

The sources of the information are used in many Master of Fine Arts and writing programs such as Polti’s Thrity-Six Dramatic Situations, Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, Pinker’s Relationship Types, Myers-Briggs Personality Classifications, Edelstein’s Personalities and Virtues, and more.

Whether using this to help you with NaNoWriMo or in general, this is a brilliant tool to add to your writer’s toolbox.

You can find more writing tips and prompts and tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.

Writer’s Toolbox: Geometric Shapes

It went “Zip” when it moved
And “Bop” when it stopped
And “Whirrr” when it stood still
I never knew just what it was and I guess I never will.

Chart of Geometric Shapes from Playbuzz.The Tom Paxton song made famous by Peter, Paul, and Mary, as well as John Denver, describes a thing that defines description, a child’s toy that was amusing all the same.

When it comes to describing the physical shape of an object, we can’t get away with just the sound effects. We need the words.

The basic geometric shapes are:

  • lines
  • curves
  • angles
  • triangles
  • square
  • rectangle
  • pentagon
  • pentagram
  • hexagon
  • octagon
  • polygon
  • circle
  • arc
  • ellipse

Then we add variations on the above. These are geometric shapes based upon lines and planes, but what about solid figures or 3-dimensional shapes?

  • cube
  • cylinder
  • rectangular prism
  • pyramid
  • tetrahedron
  • octahedron
  • polygon
  • sphere
  • cone

What shape is a carrot? Do you know? Is it a triangle? No, it’s an inverted cone. Is the sun a ball? Yes, it is a ball, more specifically, the sun is a sphere.

The words you use to describe a shape may be technical or playful, finding similes to represent their shapes, such as “he was as thin and lanky as a much-used toothbrush.”

Did you know that there are some personality tests that use geometric shapes to represent a person or personality?

From “Geometric Shapes: Simple and Unusual Personality Test,” if the triangle is your preferred shape:

This form symbolizes leadership. Main ability of triangles is to focus on goals and deeply and quickly analyze situations. A Triangle is a very confident person who wants to be right in everything. Triangles find it difficult to admit their mistakes, are easy to train, and absorb information like a sponge. Their career gives their life meaning.

Here are some charts and web pages to add to your writer’s toolbox to help you define the geometric shape of the objects, and possibly the characters, in your writing. We’ve also included some lists of words to describe the shape of objects.