My Top Five Tools for Writing (Melissa Robbins)

There are so many stages of writing with different tools helping in each stage.   Here are my top five.

Plotting Board –  When I wrote in my teen years, I didn’t plot, so my stories eventually failed.  Now, with my plotting board, I can move around scene cards and see what’s missing. It’s hard to see the big picture in a word document.   I use Alexandra Sokoloff’s screenwriting techniques and her Element of Acts. 

Sketching – I find if I sketch my characters, describing them comes easier and inspires me to write more.  Oddly enough, my sketching also helps my critique partners when I sketch their characters.  They see what I see.  Did they give enough detail that I could draw a scene or too much?  These sketches are Fran and Connor.  Of course, I drew Connor shirtless.  You’re welcome. 

Critique Partners – For years no one knew I liked to write, because I kept the pages hidden from everyone else including my family.  I became friends with Fran in Irish Dancing and discovered she was a writer too.  We swapped our wips and have come a long way since then.  Critique partners see the things we miss and help you when the words won’t come with encouragement or ideas. 

Spreadsheets – Wonderful invention; I have an aerodrome full of people, eight pilots in one story!  Spreadsheets allow me to keep track of all my WAAFs, pilots, RAF support personnel, and their families.  Just call me Group Officer Robbins or better yet Air Commandant Robbins (highest rank a WAAF could receive, equivalent to a Major General).  I also have family tree spreadsheets since my characters seem to hook up.  ;0) 

Lately, spreadsheets have helped me with my plot.  In mystery writing, everyone has secrets.  The key is finding out which character would kill to keep those secrets hidden.  My Agenda Spreadsheet lists my main characters, but not my first person pov character.  I always know what she is thinking, but by keeping track of the agendas of the rest of my characters, I can see where to insert clues or reveal them.

Google – I’m convinced that writers need to know a little bit about everything.  That’s probably why I earned the nickname, Queen of Useless Knowledge from my husband.  I have googled things on occasion, like the scientific name of clouds because a pilot will know that.  I guess before Google, writers spent all their time at the library.  

Do you use any of these tools?