Tools I Can’t Write Without

writing funny


Sound the trumpets, drum roll please. Hell, why not a full orchestra to mark the occasion. I have finished my manuscript. (The heavens part and the sun creates a halo on around my head.)

So none of that happened. I started on a whim, and unlike many other attempts at writing a full manuscript I have finished it. And edited it. And edited it. And edited it. You get the idea.

When I started in November, I didn’t know a single piece of writing jargon. I hadn’t read any books on writing in years. I started with an idea and a desire to put it on paper. So I wrote. In three months I completed my first draft at about 65K words. The next four months I rewrote it in so many ways that version 1 barely resembles version 4.

Along the way I found tools that I love. Tools I cannot sit down and write without. First I must admit, I write by the seat of my pants – no careful outlines or other prep before I write. That said, even a panster (thanks Jamie Gold for the term) needs more than her brain and wicked typing skills.


I fall in love with my characters. They talk to me in day dreams and night dreams. And I carry their voices around inside my head. Those voice tell me the plot – my characters — not the other random voices there. But my characters were telling me things, and not showing me. Big problem. These resources helped me understand my characters better.


Positive Trait Thesaurus & Negative Trait Thesaurus: Wonderful way to define character motivations. Ackerman and Puglisi have great online worksheets that go with these books. I use the Character Attribute Target Tool and Character Pyramid. These tools helped me understand my characters and develop the basis of their internal conflict and need for growth. Then I used the Emotion Thesaurus about a million times a day – not quite that many – to SHOW my characters emotions instead of telling my poor readers how they feel. (Shouty caps necessary. This is a weakness of mine.)


Plot makes my head hurt. And as such, the timing of my first two drafts was slow, chunky and rushed. I know, it’s a talent to have timing both slow and rushed. To be fair the pacing was slow, then it would rush and needed to be slower. Thankfully, I found Jamie Gold’s blog. The woman’s blog rescued my laboring plot and gave it great pacing. Well, I paced the plot, but her blog and worksheets told me how to time it. I use a bunch of these to check my plot against several marks to make sure the timing is moving the way readers expect it to. The Master Plot Worksheet is my go to work horse. After any heavy revisions I check to make sure I am keeping my pacing on track. I have cut more wonderful prose because of this tool than any other editing device. Sometimes, extra detail isn’t necessary if it drags the pacing down. I also use Michael Hauge’s Six Stage Plot Structure Beat Sheet to make sure my romantic hero and heroine and conquering their inner conflict. And I also use Jamie Gold’s Romance Beat Sheet to break ties and to record my future story ideas.

Yes, I said break ties. Sometimes the plot structure and the inner conflict structure cause one or another to get out of alignment with word count. For example, Beat 8 is supposed to be happening by 32K words but the internal growth in Hague needs to happen at 30K, and because my characters can’t do both at the same time, I have to decide which is more important. Jamie’s sheet helps me. Please read her blog because she gives great advice on how to use them properly. As a panster, I’ve adapted them for my own purposes.


Ughh. That should be the whole entry for editing. My critique partner and I have spent many minutes lamenting that golden, perfect stories take so many revisions to find – or years and books later for a newbie like me.  But editing is more important than the original writing (gasp in shock). So I found great resources for this as well including Jamie’s blog. Besides my loyal critique partner who read my purple prose without gagging, I found several go to sources.

Editor-Proof Your Writing by Don McNair is awesome. Practical chapters that cover your most basic mistakes. And it comes with great exercises at the end of each chapter. In early revisions, I literally went chapter by chapter looking for the mistakes. I started with my first three chapters, wanting them to be strong. Then I applied the lessons, mostly internalized by then, to the other 180 pages of the manuscript.

Revision and Self Editing for Publication by James Scott Bell was recommended by my critique partner. It is another go-to resource that’s similar to the McNair book. I like Bell’s writing style and he’s got some great insight on how to break up the editing process. I especially liked his discussion of Point of View, Voice and Dialogue.

Fiction University is Janet Hardy’s blog has all kinds of great gems. I loved her posts on conflict and point of view. I spent several days lurking in her archives and reading lots of posts about revisions and several trouble spots I was having in the editing process.

In the end, I made it to the end of the process and I still like my characters, and they picked a great plot to live out their conflict and find true love. I have trusted the story to two of my friends to serve as beta readers. And of course my critique partner keeps me honest.

Now my searches focus on queries, synopsis and how to get your manuscript published. Once I make it a little further into that process, I’ll post my experiences here. Until then, keep writing, keep learning and have fun.