My Writing Bag of Tricks
Writers have all sorts of strategies to keep them inspired, motivated, and on point. My arsenal of creative writing aids grew out of a desire to empty all the ideas in my head into an organized and accessible system. Of the eleven writing resources I currently draw from, only two are on my computer. Although digitizing each category into a folder on my laptop was an option, I opted to create a physical and tangible representation for the rest. Taking the time to organize a few basic go-to sources can work wonders against that insufferable writer’s block we all experience from time to time.
Notebook of Quotes – Inspirational quotes to spark creativity.
I keep a notebook of quotes that I find on the Internet, in magazines, or books. The running list flames that creative spark within, spurring ideas for passages and scenes, and also provides content for the Facebook and Instagram pages that feature a weekly quote. https://www.facebook.com/wordytips
Writing Pad and Pen at the Ready – Scattered around the house, in my pocketbook, beach bag, and car.
I had always heard about writers and authors who carry a pen and pad with them wherever they go. Now I’m one of them. Call me WPP 2.0. It’s a fact, I won’t remember that fantastic idea that popped into my head while I’m on the treadmill, out with friends, at the pharmacy drive-through, in the grocery store, etc. I might be in my kitchen engaged in conversation and sipping a steaming cup of tea with a friend when something in the conversation tickles my writing bone. If I’m on the couch watching a show, a scrap of dialogue might pique my interest. I grab my trusty pad and pen and scribble down the info before I forget. The exception to this is if I’m on a hike or walk. In that case, I employ the Notes app on my phone to record my thoughts.
Sticky Notes Collage – Assortment of different colored sticky shapes each with a writing reminder.
I love sticky notes. I use the colored shapes to jot things down that will keep me on track. Writing reminders drive motivation, start the day on a positive note, and help writers know they are not alone in their struggles. The collage of sticky messages in my office sets a positive tone and furnishes remarks for the Writing Reminder section on my Wordy Tips & Tidings pages. (See above links.)
Story Baskets – Each basket houses various story ideas.
I began this strategy after reading an interview with JK Rowling. She set up an assortment of baskets to organize her ideas for the ultra-successful series of Harry Potter books. At the time, my brain was crammed with ideas for a fantasy novel that grew out of a dream. I drove to the nearest Dollar store and purchased 20 small baskets. I labeled each with a different category like setting, character names, dialogue, invented words, fabricated foods, candy, and drinks, and established words I wanted to incorporate into the story, etc. I cut slips of paper as if I was about to host a game of Charades, scrawled down ideas, names, places and more and dropped them into the corresponding baskets. When I sat down to write my first draft, I referred to the notes in each basket. I guess you could say the baskets served as a three-dimensional outline of sorts.
Box of Words – Filled with words I love.
The notion of a word box was a no-brainer. I had so many odd words floating around in my head that I loved and hoped to use, I needed a place to house them. I snatched the package of blank index cards from my desk along with a Sharpy marker. I jotted down each word and its definition on a separate card and tossed them in the box. The first word I added to the box was snollygoster. When I see or hear a new word that stirs my interest, in the box it goes.
Whiteboard – Writing checklists written with rainbow markers.
I love a good whiteboard. I use them for grocery and to-do lists, appointments, schedules, and a myriad of other things. So, I thought, since I love check lists too, why not keep a whiteboard in my office with assorted dry-erase markers. When inspiration strikes instead of trying to retain a snapshot in my mind, I use the board to record. I maintain simple checklists of three writing tips each, to refer to on my writing journey and to help my social media followers stay focused.
Vision Board & Box – A visual representation of goals, ideas, and thoughts.
I create vision boards and boxes to remind me of my intent, desires, and objectives. Each time I glance at my handiwork, I pause to remember what's important to me on my road to success. I keep my vision box on my desk and go through it every few months. It’s nice to see when some of my goals are met and I add to it when a new objective comes to mind. My current board and box contains magazine clippings, a collection of post cards with beautiful settings, random photos of people I cut out of magazines, who inspire possible characters, words and images corresponding to the books I’m writing, and anything else that sparks an idea.
Combing the Internet Collection: Pictures, pictures, and more pictures. Images that strike my fancy.
This collection is one of the tricks I maintain in a folder on my laptop. As I’m scrolling on social media or searching the Internet, I copy and save images that appeal to me and those that I think I can use down the road for inspiration.
Spotify or Amazon Music Playlist – Songs I love.
Another no-brainer. My music list includes my favorite songs and those that inspire all the feels. Sometimes songs can provoke emotions to use in scenes or dialogue. Certain songs take me back to high school and college and evoke memories from that time. Those memories ignite responses, positive sentiments, and negative reactions. I weave those into characters and prose.
Compendium – A collection of concise but detailed information about a particular subject, especially in a book or other publication.
I have one for each of my manuscripts. Each compilation consists of things already in my books – settings, invented jargon, places, names, foods, games, sports, plot points, POVs if there’s more than one, characters, along with their names, appearance, quirks, distinctive lingo, partners, special abilities, and anything else from my stories I need to keep track of. Feel free to compose yours in a document kept on your computer. I chose to use loose leaf paper, a page or two for each category, stapled together, and a cover sheet with the name of each book. They’re kept in a desk drawer for easy access. I refer to them when the need arises.
Color Coded Folders – One for each manuscript
As you’ve probably realized by now, I love colors. I associate colors with all kinds of things; therefore, it follows that certain colors correspond to each of my books. I adopt a folder of that same color for each title. I deposit ideas written on scraps of paper into the appropriate folder. While writing or editing, I’ll often open the titled folder and go through the scraps for ideas to incorporate.
These are the novelties in my writing bag of tricks. What are your tricks?