An Empty Tool Belt…

I found the idea for this blog in an email conversation last week. I lost it for a few hours but thankfully it came back. Lets say I want to build a bookshelf. What would I need? Wood, saw horses, nails, glue, a tape measure, a saw, and clamps. Could I do it without any of these things? I might be able to skip the glue if I’m ok with some of the shelves not being perfect. I could do without the saw horses if I want to crawl around on the ground which would make it more difficult. I could go without the clamps if I think I could do some twister moves to hold stuff together. And maybe, if I have half of the nails I need, I could just slap it together and not worry if it’s not the most sturdy bookshelf.

The problem is, I could never slap something together and feel good about it. My personality requires that if I build a bookshelf, I must be able to put it next to anyone else’s bookshelf and it be just as good if not better. I’m not saying this makes my way the right way, it’s just the reality of who I am. So, when I write a book, I have to be able to put it next to other books and feel it holds it’s own. It’s just as good if not better. That means I need the tools required to write a good romance novel. And right now, my writing tool belt is sorely lacking.

Almost a year ago I came up with a reasonably simple love story and created two characters of which I’m quite proud. I started writing, made it seven and a half chapters in and realized there was no story. These two met, they liked each other right away and there was no reason for them NOT to be together. She had some abandonment issues that would need to be worked through and he had a dead fiancé he was still getting over but less than five minutes with the heroine and fiancé girl was long forgotten. In summary, I had no conflict.

Now I’m starting over and realizing the problem is how little I know. Not about my characters or about the action that unfolds throughout the story but about writing itself. I don’t have the tools I need to create a powerfully emotional story that sucks the reader in, makes them laugh, makes them cry and leaves them with a satisfactory sigh. That is what I want to create. I must find the tools.

One of the first stops is the New Jersey writers conference in three weeks. I’ll be attending workshops on topics such as dialogue, making the story stick with the reader, forgetting the rules, creating non-Alpha heroes (perfect for me!) and writing emotional love scenes. I have another conference in November in which I’ll learn more about creating conflict and real characters plus I’m looking into a popular and powerful online course that dives deep into emotion and editing among other things. And I can’t forget the book recommended by Elizabeth Hoyt – How to Write the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. I did purchase it but I’m afraid I haven’t found the time to read it!

What about you? How is your tool belt hanging these days? Feeling a bit light? Or perhaps so full you can’t fit anything else. Where do you go to find the tools you need for success. If you have any links or how-to book recommendations, please share.

9 thoughts on “An Empty Tool Belt…”

  1. TiffinaC says:

    Trust in yourself. That is what you need. And Margie Lawson recommended that book and I plan on getting it soon. I’ll be back with more thoughts soon.

    You have all the tools, you just don’t realize it. Don’t over think what you are doing so well at, I’ve read quite a bit of these two and you are on the right track. First drafts need to be rewritten, so just get their story down, and then you’ll be less worried on the rules of the craft.

  2. MsHellion says:

    NICE toolbelt.

    The world is about to end. I agree with Tiff: Trust yourself.

    But I agree–making sure there is enough conflict to sustain 300 pages is something we all could work on. But don’t try to complicate it, just IDENTIFY it. Usually picking it out of the lineup is the hard part because we think we need to make it action packed or it MUST be exactly like this book we read.

    No, simple but clear conflict is best. And I’m quoting my CP Kris here because I’m incapable of creating SIMPLE anything.

  3. terrio says:

    Isn’t that tool belt nice? I had to search a while to find that one. LOL!

    It’s not that I’m worried or even about the rules, it’s about feeling competant and equipped to do this. It’s my own hangup and I’m well aware it’s probably not rational. I just like to know what I’m doing. Or at least feel like I know.

    I really believe after this conference I’ll have more confidence which is most likely all I need. I’m more interested in learning the little details now. But it could also be my mind finding ways to avoid doing the real work. *g*

  4. quantumphase says:

    It seems to me that you could spend a lifetime on the theory, learning how others think it should be done. If you are really serious about becoming a successful author you have to have something that is uniquely yours and that people find entertaining to read.

    There is no point trying to emulate successful writers as you will be trying to force yourself into a mould that doesn’t fit, and the results will be disappointing. It seems to me that highly successful writers are born with latent skills and are not trained. If the talent is not there you can never be more than mediocre. If the talent is there it will burst out regardless of whether you go to lots of conferences, join writers groups or whatever. Though doing these things could help to polish the raw talent.

    The same is true of any profession. David Beckham was born with the hand-eye coordination and inherent ball sense to make him a great soccer player. Richard Feynman ignored all the rules and developed his own unique way of studying physics. Solzhenitsyn was a great writer with ideas burning within him, demanding to be expressed, and he succeeded despite much persecution and lack of support. The list is endless.

    It is a tough world out there and the market for romance novels is saturated.I think that it is necessary to examine yourself and answer 3 questions in the affirmative:

    1) Do you have a story worth telling?
    2) Do you have a unique voice that is attractive to readers?
    3) Do you have the ambition and drive to make it happen?

    If the answer to any of these is no, then stop kidding yourself and write for fun.

    Just my humble opinion, based on negligible experience of writing novels!

  5. Janga says:

    You know, I think my tool belt is pretty full. I’ve taken creative writing courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels, I have read countless how-to books and articles, and I have studied some of the best books by some of the best authors in our genre over several decades. It isn’t that I don’t realize that there is still much to learn, but I think, for me at least, that I have been so consumed with shopping for the newest gadget and latest technology to add to my tools that I am in danger of forgetting the bookshelf that prompted the need for the tools in the first place. My latest resolution is to focus on building with the tools I have already acquired.

  6. MsHellion says:

    I think the American version of what Q just said was “Tinkle or get off the pot.”

    Of course, you have to make sure you have something worth tinkling. I hate ghost tinkles.

  7. Sin says:

    Ghost tinkling?

    What have I missed today!

    Yeesh. My dearest, T, you must trust in yourself and believe in your ability to write. If you can’t do either, nothing will help. We *all* have doubts. (I freely admit that there are writer’s in this world that don’t doubt a word they write.) But the single most important thing is to believe in yourself. Believe as others believe in you. I think in the toolbelt should be a good back support. Because there will be a point when you get such a bad pain (the headache of trying to figure out if you’re doing the right thing, if you are plotting right, if you have conflict.. hell I can go on and on) and the back support will help you through it and get you back on your feet.

  8. terrio says:

    Yes, Janga, I would say you don’t have a tool belt but a tool box and it is overflowing. We’re just priveledged that you share your work with us from time to time.

    Let me clear this up by saying the point of this blog was not to imply I question whether I *can* write. I know I can write, I have always written something and I enjoy writing but I know enough to understand writing a 400 page novel is not something you do on a whim. Or at least I don’t.

    Even Becks wouldn’t be the talent he is today if he didn’t have the right teachers and equipment and didn’t dedicate an incredible amount of time and effort to learning and perfecting his craft.

    My point was I believe I need to seek the knowledge I need to do this right. The same as anyone else seeks the education, experience and knowledge in the field in which they choose to practice.

    And thank you Sin. I think Hellion is trying to tell us that sometimes she goes to the bathroom and there is no tinkle to tinkle. Hence, the ghost tinkle. If that’s not it then I have no idea. LOL! And I believe in you too!

  9. Oh dear. I’m a brick and raw boards kind of bookshelf builder…no nails, glue or anything else. This explains much. The only “expert advice” I can offer is write. Then write some more. 🙂

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