Don't miss a freebie, deal, or new release.Join Now!
banner with headshot and name

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?

Do you need a map?

Back in 2003, I listened to a course by Michael J. Gelb about a creativity device called mind mapping. The idea is that using a non-linear method for keeping notes and organizing your thoughts will spark creativity and help you better see connections between seemingly disparate ideas or parts of a subject.

A mind map is essentially a diagram representing whatever subject you want to take notes on. I've used it to outline my goals, take notes in class, and plan a project. I'm also going to use it to help me visualize and organize my next book. I may even use it for the current one to help create my synopsis, pitch, and query letter.

So, by now you're probably wondering what a mind map looks like. Here's a sample mind map created by Danny Stevens that illustrates the guidelines.

Despite its freeform approach, mind mapping actually has several guidelines for making it effective. They include the following (from

  1. Start in the center with an image of the topic, using at least 3 colors.
  2. Use images, symbols, codes, and dimensions throughout your Mind Map.
  3. Select key words and print using upper or lower case letters.
  4. Each word/image is best alone and sitting on its own line.
  5. The lines should be connected, starting from the central image. The central lines are thicker, organic and flowing, becoming thinner as they radiate out from the centre.
  6. Make the lines the same length as the word/image they support.
  7. Use multiple colors throughout the Mind Map, for visual stimulation and also to encode or group.

There's no limit to what you can use mind mapping for. As an example, I created a simple mind map for the hero of my current book, using the free version of MindNode (which does not support images or connections but is still a good option for getting started).

If you're the hands-on type, get out your colored markers and blank paper. Start making links and drawing pictures and see where it takes you. If you're more inclined toward digital media, try one of the many software programs out there created specifically for mind mapping.

And most of all, have fun!

NOTE: Tech Tuesday is on hiatus until I'm struck with new ideas for Scrivener or other technology posts. Feel free to make requests for any tech topic, Scrivener or otherwise.

[tweetmeme source=”Gwen_Hernandez” only_single=false]