Writers' toolkit

Though I've been writing since I was about seven or eight, my writing really picked up after I started to read more about writing. This post is a collection of all the things that have helped me on the way, whether it was about perfecting my style and structure or understanding the mechanics behind the publishing market. As I'm still learning, I will continue to update this post whenever I come across a new useful resource. Here it goes.

Stephen King's: On Writing was the first and so far one of the best books on writing I've read. It gives you all the basic dos and don'ts that are true regardless of which genre you're writing in. I read it twice and will read it again.

After reading Nicola Morgan's Write to be published, I realised I would have to rewrite my first novel. This was very frustrating, especially because the novel was already out in Slovenian and it took a while to have it translated and edited in English. Some of my beta readers told me the story picked up only after the introduction. After reading these two books, I understood why. It is always good to know why some books get published and others not.  This can help you check your story and measure it against the market. Will it sell? If not, better cut out those information dumps, long descriptions and slow first chapters.

In hindsight, I wished I discovered the Writing Magazine and Writer's Digest sooner. Much sooner. When I subscribed to it, I didn't know what to expect, but hoped it would help me get more serious about my writing. It did much more than that. Regardless of whether you're writing fiction, non-fiction or poetry, the magazine provides countless tips on writing, editing, pitching, marketing and selling your book. It provides many useful contacts for traditional and indie publishing, writing competitions and story analysis. As a subscriber, you have some additional perks (e.g. free promotion of your book in Writing Magazine). I love both magazines, devour them and count down the weeks till the next issue.

Writer's Digest weekly newsletter is a free resource that provides useful concrete tips for writing and getting published, e.g. 7 Tips on Writing Great Mystery and Suspense Novels. The newsletter is not genre-specific. 

Start writing fiction podcast by Open University only have a few episodes and haven't recorded new ones in a while. Still, listening to the writers' talk about how they work and plan (or don't plan) helped me a lot to understand more about my own writing habits. There's also Writer's Market Podcast

Agatha Christie's Secret notebooks. Okay, this one is probably not an essential, unless you write crime, but it did have an immense impact on my writing, because for the first time I realised that the queen of crime didn't have everything figured out from the start. She only had ideas and pieces, until she puzzled them all together. Both books give a great insight into the mind of the greatest crime writer of all times.

Until I tried Scrivener, I though writing software was a swindle. Why would you need it when you have Word or any other text editor? How wrong I was.

Scrivener not only makes it very easy to access everything without opening hundreds of windows and files (manuscript, characters descriptions, research) but it also provides very useful templates (e.g. character and place descriptions), allows you to divide chapters into scenes and move them around, assign a POV to each chapter and once your manuscript is finished, it exports it into all formats, so it's ready for publishing. Yup, no mess with formatting, no pulling out hair with looking for your research files and no more mixing which colour of eyes your character had in which chapter. The only disadvantage for impatient writers is that the software comes with a very, very detailed manual. I never read it and went for Vivien Reis' YouTube tutorial instead. 

And last but not least, notebooks. I prefer the small ones, so I can carry them in a pocket or a purse and always have several ones in circulation. In there, I write down all my ideas on plots, scenes, characters or research, because we all know that ideas can hit you when you least expect them, such as on your friend's wedding, when waiting for a bus or walking down the street. Have your notebook ready to catch them all.