“It’s best to have your tools with you. If you don’t, you’re apt to find something you didn’t expect and get discouraged.”
Stephen King shares this advice that he got from his Uncle Oren in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.
The wooden toolbox King describes was handmade by his grandfather, a carpenter by profession. It weighed between 80 and 100 pounds and Uncle Oren took it to every job; even if he just needed a screwdriver.
King describes the toolbox in vivid detail. It had three levels, the top two were removable, it contained little drawers and was made of wooden slats that were bound together by small nails and strips of brass.
It’s this type of toolbox, perhaps a bit bigger, with four or five levels, that King encourages us writers to construct.
Construct. Not buy. Not inherit.
And the question is, how?
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get stuck.
I want to breathe life into my story. I want a noun to burst with colour, a verb to dance the samba and I want my reader to pay attention to the Venice canals forming in a character’s living room.
But sometimes, no matter what I try, my writing seems flat.
The day before yesterday, I was trying to find the right adjective to convey the sound of water.
Sure I could use trickle or gush. But those are typical of water and won’t make the image memorable.
I needed a tool. Something to help me get my mind working or somewhere I could look for the answer.
I didn’t have the tool I so desperately sought, so I created one.
I quickly jotted down a list of all the sound-type words I could think of.
I came up with: rumble, whine, ring, shriek, whistle, clang, flump, boom, giggle and scrape.
I wrote myself a memo and sent it to Evernote, my new best friend.
When I read and come by a sound-type word, I add it to my list.
It’s like a thesaurus but it’s also different.
A thesaurus can help you when you know the word you’re looking for. But what if you don’t know what word you’re looking for? What if you’re looking to bring your writing alive and you have no idea what adjective you’re looking for?
I found that having an open-minded list simplified my quest for the right word and inspired me to think of other words or combinations that I could either use in my story or add to my toolbox to use later.
Instead of getting frustrated, I become inspired and keep writing where I once may have quit.
What tools do you use to help you writing?
I’d love to hear from you.