Greetings, padawan! Today I’m so excited to be writing a post for a fellow Ashley. Because us Ashley’s need to stick together…we’re only the number 154 ranked name in the world after all 😂
Today we’re going to dig into one of my favorite sections in Chuck Wendig’s book 500 Ways to Tell a Better Story. Have you read it? It’s a great writing resource, and I highly recommend it. He shares some fantastic insights, and I got a lot from it!
So, let’s go, 25 Things Writers Need:
#1: A good chair
As a writer, we spend a lot of time sitting, so investing in a good chair is paramount to both comfort and marathon writing sessions. But here’s my bone to pick…standing desks. Smart ass scientists have proven that sitting on your tush all day long isn’t exactly good for you, so I say forgo the chair and get a standing desk instead…or maybe a treadmill desk.
Lose weight and kill off characters at the same time, what’s not to like!
#2: A word processing program you don’t hate
Like any opinion, the answer to this varies wildly. Some love Scrivener (I’m in that camp), others hate it. Some use Google docs, others Word. And there are SO many writing programs available out there to choose from.
But my advice, try them all. Experiment. Learn exactly what works for you and run with it. Because at the end of the day, it’s about you, the writer, and the specific program to you doesn’t much matter.
#3: A way to track change
I use a simple numbering system. My first draft is 1.1, my second is 1.2 and so on. Once, I got up to 1.15! As with all these suggestions, do what works for you. BUT, the most important thing I’ve learned as an author is don’t delete anything (anything as in entire stories, I’m not saving like individual sentences…well, maybe sometimes, lol).
I might put a story in my ‘this is shit’ pile, but I don’t delete it. Because you don’t know when and where you can reuse something.
Okay, my husband loves his spreadsheets, but I never really learned how to use them. But they are a useful and clear way to organize some sorts of information if that’s your jam. If you’re smarter than me, go for it!
#5: A way to back up your work
Thankfully, being married to a tech-savvy dude has saved me. Because early in my writing career, he drilled home the importance of backing up my work. He got me a Dropbox, and I totally love it. I have my photos, and everything I’ve ever written. Like I said above, I delete nothing so there’s a lot in there!
I’ll stress this: Get SOME sort of backup service, and regularly (or automatically) backup your stuff. Because that sinking realization that you’ve just lost an entire manuscript is the worst feeling in the world.
#6: Another way to back up your work
Proper previous planning prevents piss poor performance. In the military they say “two is one and one is none”, so in this case, assume your one backup will somehow fail, and have a secondary system. Or hey, if you’re extra paranoid, triple down. I always put my manuscripts on a thumb drive as well. They’re a cheap way to ensure that I always have what’s important.
#7: A way to take notes anywhere
Be prepared, padawan, for a story from my past. I was walking my kid to REI, (they have a great slide there), and I was listening to music. When the song “Sway” by Rosemary Clooney came on, I thought (and I still do) the chorus said ‘I can hear the sound of violence, long before it begins,’ but the actual lyric is violins, not violence.
Since I misheard the lyrics, as I walked I began plotting a story where these dudes can actually sense violence. When we got to REI, I whipped out my trusty iPhone and began world building.
It was then that I learned the truth of this statement. Always have something to record your notes, thoughts, musings, ideas on, wherever you are. It can be paper or digital. Always be prepared to follow the muse.
Some go to the extreme and wake up in the middle of the night to record dreams, but I value sleep way too much for that. If it’s good, I’ll remember it again in the morning…hopefully. Lol.
#8 A most excellent pen
I’m almost confident saying that all writers are a little obsessed with notebooks/pens. I love them 😍
Granted, I’m not really into like fancy pens, I’m more of a cheap BIC pen type (remember, “most excellent” just means you like it, doesn’t have to be fancy). But as it so happens, writing engages a different part of the brain than typing, so I always have to brainstorm/plan on paper. I can’t seem to be happy with what I brainstorm when I type. Weird, I know.
Anyhow, having a good pen and paper is inviable to give your musings a little boost.
#9 Whiteboard and/or cork board
This one fills me with sadness, so I might cry a little. 😥
My fam and I are digital nomads, so I travel around Europe, moving every 90 days or so. This means that I live out of suitcases. And unfortunately, I can’t travel with anything very large. I miss my whiteboard so much. It’s such an excellent resource to organize, plan, and structure. I could put up notes and keep track of elements I wanted to. I could write little encouraging notes and pin baby pictures. One day I’ll have an entire wall that’s a magnetic whiteboard, and that will be bliss.
You haven’t plotted a book until you’ve done it full scale on a whiteboard!
#10: The Internet
Both a writer’s best and worst friend: the internet. Between the dictionary and thesaurus, Reddit, and Wikipedia, the internet is a must-have to construct stories, edit them, and publish them.
You could go all Thoreau and write off-grid in a cabin somewhere, no internet, no electricity, but meh, that’s overkill. Having the internet at your fingertips makes writing 1,000 times easier.
And this leads to our next point.
#11: A way to escape the internet
The dangers of the internet are very real, and no, I’m not talking about spending hours and hours browsing pancake recipes. Though, that is a really perilous rabbit hole if I do say so myself.
I’m talking about procrastination.
Spending hours researching the accuracy of one line, or the endless distracting black hole of social media. It takes some self-control not to spend every moment of writing time doing something other than writing, but once you strengthen that muscle, it gets easier!
Flow helps a lot also, because once I get into the flow of writing, social media doesn’t seem as appealing. There are some tricks you can do, like website blockers and full-screen mode, but mostly it’s just self-control.
#12: A website
Every author should have one. Period. Even if it’s just a pretty picture and your name. Because once you publish, you’re going to want to have a nice place to showcase all your books and merchandise. It should be easy to remember and spell. Ideally, it should be your name (or pen name). I was lucky enough to get aemcroberts.com. Super simple, and it’s me!
You don’t need to be tech savvy either to have a nice site, you can easily throw up a nice template via WordPress or build a one-page site in Carrd.co in a matter of minutes. But your website will be the spoke of your digital presence, and your publisher will expect you to have one, so chop chop!
#13: Books and Stories
I’m of the firm opinion that a writer should also be a reader. It comes with the territory.
You can’t write good stories if you don’t read extensively, because creativity requires seeds of inspiration! So, all authors should collect favorite books and stories. I have easily fifty super-duper favorite books that I can read over and over. The good news, this doesn’t have to mean shelves and shelves of traditionally published paper books. This means fanfic, audiobooks, Kindle Unlimited, and even little kid stories!
The more widely you read, the more idea sex you can have. 😊
#14: Music and other art
This one is a little obscure, sure, but relevant. Authors are creators. We imagine and daydream and harness the muse. As creators, we should collect and appreciate material from all sorts of other creators. This means artists and musicians, sculptors, performers, you name it. The muses aren’t just limited to writing. They are that piece of you (or anyone) that urges them to go make something new!
#15: Healthy snacks
As discussed above, writers spend a lot of time sitting. That means not a lot of time spent moving. Which means that you shouldn’t be cramming artificial sugars down your throat, cause that’s a recipe for becoming corpulent, very corpulent.
But here’s the catch: brains use glucose, so sometimes to get your brain really working, you need brain snacks. That doesn’t mean go straight to some factory processed shit. Grab nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit.
#16: Blood flowing to your brain
This, Padawan, is important. Your brain is a highly efficient and complex organ. Sitting on your ass for hours at a time isn’t an ideal recipe for success At least once per hour, get up and move! Do squats or pushups. Go for a short walk. Do something to get the blood flowing.
Fun fact, I do squats as part of my prewriting routine every day. It tells my brain that I’m about to get creative and it works wonders!
#17: A good shower
I’m a shower girl. I love showers, even more than a nice hot bath. It’s the feeling of water hitting my skin and washing everything away. But when you do something routine, something familiar, that frees up your brain to think about other things. That’s why showers and driving can be so important to solving problems. So next time you’re stuck, take a shower!
And think of me while you do it. 😉
#18: An afternoon pick-me-up
Afternoons can be a slog. They drag on, you get lethargic, and sort of blah. But that doesn’t have to be the case! No!
Take some time to do something invigorating. Listen to some screaming punk music, or go for a run. But it doesn’t have to be something major. Turn on some opera and sing your heart out. Recite dirty limericks to yourself in the mirror. Mix it up. Live a little.
#19: Other writers
Writing isn’t entirely a solo sport, it’s actually very much a team effort. It takes lots of people to bring a story to life. Sure, one person might write it, but there are so many more involved in the full process.
There are alpha, beta, and gamma readers. There are editors and proofreaders. There are cover artists and formatters. It doesn’t just take a village to raise a kid., it also takes a village to make a book. So, go out and find others!
This one is hard for me because I’m an extreme introvert. Between my husband and kid, I get enough human interactions to last me forever, so it can be a little challenging to reach out. But it can be worth it!
#20: People who have absolutely nothing to do with writing, ever
Stories are about humans surmounting challenges and obstacles. To really learn how humans would react/interact, you need to have some experience with people. Experience people and all they offer, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the most excellent 😊.
Every single person you encounter, in real life or media, is a potential source of character and story inspiration!
#21: An editor
The best writers need great editors. The worst writers need editors. Editors are the saviors of the written word (cough, like me, cough).
You should have a strong relationship with your editor. They should understand you, get you, and your writing voice. But, you should also trust them enough to listen to their advice, and don’t take every editing recommendation as a personal attack. Find someone who you can strike a good balance with, and who gets you, because a partnership with a bad editor can be as poisonous as poorly prepared pufferfish sushi…well, maybe not quite that bad, but close enough.
#22: A daily writing goal
I don’t necessarily agree with this one. There are some days that I can’t write, because of whatever circumstance, or if I’m taking a writing break. But sometimes authors need that sort of push to motivate them. Stories burn in me. I have to write, and if I don’t, I go insane. Literally. So, to me, a daily goal isn’t needed. But I’m a unique pancake. If you need that motivation, then set it. Make it reasonable and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t make it, but have clear, simple, and achievable daily goals.
Some perform well under pressure. Others, not so much. So, this one is entirely personal and you should decide what’s best for you (unless you sign a book deal, in which case you have a responsibility to deliver on time, and missing deadlines is no bueno…I’m looking at you Rothfuss and Martin).
Writing should be a joy. It should be fluffy pancakes piled high with fresh strawberries, whipped cream, and maple syrup. It shouldn’t be stress and heartache and misery. So, if you work better under a deadline, give yourself one. Or if you work better without a deadline, then don’t…unless you have a book deal, and then see above.
#24: A finished manuscript
It doesn’t matter if it’s shit. It doesn’t matter if it’s poorly written or the best thing ever. Just finish. You can set it aside or polish it to publish. Just finish. I have like ten stories I wrote as practice that are just sitting in my Dropbox, and I’ll probably do nothing with them other than mine them for cool characters or random ideas.
But I finished them. It’s that hard, and that easy.
#25: An audience
I’m of the opinion that you should write about what inspires you, and the audience will follow. But that has a big caution flag next to it. If you write about a demented old man who goes around murdering babies, your audience might be tiny. But generally, there are people who will read anything.
Just be aware that your passion might not translate well if it’s more extreme. I find that it’s harder to write when you’re not burning with the need to write *this* specific story though, so I hope the stories you burn for have nice large audiences 😉
Well, padawan that’s it for Chuck Wendig’s 25 Things All Writers Need. What’s your score? Do you have all 25?
As I’ve said, this list is his opinion and highly subjective, and even with none of these things, you can still be an amazing writer. So, don’t stress about it, take it or leave it as you see fit, and maybe go out to Hobby Lobby and buy all their whiteboards.
Now, go forth and write!
AE McRoberts is a romance/fantasy author and developmental editor who lives out of suitcases and travels Europe with her husband and son. When she’s not writing or editing, she’s reading, gaming, or eating pancakes. You can read more of her writing at AEMcRoberts.com, or you can find her on Twitter and Reddit.
Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois. She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University. Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside Detective. Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous. Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world. You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.
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