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Filling my toolbox

My writing education has a theme. I cannot learn and apply a new concept or technique until my brain is ready for it. I’ve read book after book and taken numerous classes on all aspects of writing. Characterization, point of view, dialog, plotting, and so on. But often, even if I see the value of a lesson, it doesn’t “take” without some basic foundational knowledge that I don't yet have.

In basketball, they don't practice three-pointers before learning how to shoot from the key. (I hope.)

For example, I’ve been exposed to Dwight Swain’s ideas on using the scene and sequel technique for writing several times. (I hear Jack Bickham’s book aptly named Scene and Sequel, is a must have.) But for some reason, the concept didn’t click for me. Until now.

I’m taking a Pacing class with Mary Buckham. Seriously, if you ever get a chance to take one of her classes, run to get in line. Two of her lectures covered the S&S concepts, and all of a sudden it made sense. I give a lot of credit to Mary’s easy way of breaking ideas down to the basic, important points, and her willingness to answer all manner of dumb questions. Many of them mine.

I had a similar experience with Story Structure Demystified by Larry Brooks. I’ve mentioned it before. But looking back, many of the things I learned early on didn’t make complete sense to me until I understood the basic parts of structure. I took classes and read books that either ignored it, or assumed I knew it already.

As I move along on my learning journey, I’m acquiring the basic skeleton on which to hang everything else. It’s a heady feeling to see it all coming together, and be able to better identify where my areas of weakness are. I mindmapped my view of the writing process and the business and it turned out as shown below. You could probably argue different placement of some of the points, but I’d be most interested to hear what you think is missing.

Some elements of writing craft

The business of writing

Yes, I don’t know what I don’t know. There’s more out there that I haven’t yet discovered, I’m sure.

But I can also see how far I’ve come from that eager writer who knew nothing at all and just wrote for fun. Sometimes I miss the ignorance of those days because writing was pure joy. But the excitement is back as I start my new WIP knowing that my toolbox is filling up and I can use those tools to get my stories closer to the end product I want.

What's in your toolbox?

Tell your friends!


  1. Christine


    Under characterization, I’d add: appearance, backstory (for oneself it is important).

    Under Plotting: the 3 or 4 Acts in the story, major Plot Points, premise.

    I think the writing business map is great. Maybe add: RWA/professional organization and local writing chapters.

    I like this mind mapping stuff. I remember you posting about it before. Is this a hand drawn map or do you do this on the computer? I can’t remember that part.

    • Reply

      Good things to add, Christine. I had a whole different type of graphic with the three-act structure and stuff, but it was too messy.

      I used MindNode which has a free version you can download. Thanks!

  2. Christine


    Oh, and want to add that I ditto the comment about Mary Buckham. I’ve taken workshops with her and Dianna Love as well as her online workshops. She is wonderful! As is Dianna. They’ve taken my writing to a new level.

  3. Christine


    Thought of another one for the business–PROMOTION. It’s a time drainer, but it has to be done. The M&B competition is teaching me that it will be a fine line to squeeze in promoting one’s work with the time necessary to write the work in progress/revise/etc.

    • Reply

      Yeah, Christine. I think that kind of arches over the whole blog, social networking, networking thing. We do it not only to maintain a writer’s support network, but to promote. Thanks!

  4. KM Fawcett


    Nice mind map. I like it. I’d probably add “character” under “setting”. Setting should be more than just a location and mood. It should be a character in the story so that if you took your story out of this particular place and plopped it somewhere else, they story wouldn’t be the same. I don’t know if I’m explaining that well, but you can find a lot of info on it if you Google “setting as character”.

    • Reply

      Good point, Kathy. I know what you mean. It’s not something I’m very good at doing, but I’ve read about it. I do know that I can only envision certain stories in specific locations because they affect the mood. Usually San Diego/Central Coast, CA or northern Virginia.

      Thanks for chiming in!

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