Saturday, January 15, 2011

Writer Scouts: Be Prepared

I've recently become the Cub Committee Chair for my local Cub Scout Pack. I get to help the den leaders the pack master, and the assistant pack master (aka My Husband) with... whatever they need help with. (Sill trying to figure out what my job is, frankly, but I know it involves designing spreadsheets, so I'm happy.) I also have to design  a pinewood derby car. Ideas, anyone?

As everyone knows, the Boy Scout motto is "Be Prepared." (Turns out the Cub Scout motto is "Do Your Best." Who knew that?)

So I'm making a list of things a writer needs to have nearby all the time to be prepared. And to do their best.
  • Something to write on / with. For tech-lovers like me, that means a laptop, though a regular peice of paper and a pen should work fine. I just can't compose on paper: I need the clickity click of the keyboard to inspire me. Thursday night, when my nine-year-old son, BoyD, tried a highly scientific experiment to find out what would happen when a foot wearing a sock collided at high speeds with a foot wearing a shoe, necessitating a trip to the ER for stitches, I took the time to grab my laptop on the way out the door. Just in case we were there forever and I was going to have time to write. It stayed in the car, since we were only there a few hours... but my husband still mocked me. What? Just because he has two fractured toes doesn't mean he needs undivided attention.
  • A book. Sadly, this works a bit counter to the purpose of bringing along your writing materials, but what writer can survive without a book? If you only have five minutes of "down-time" you can read a page or two. It would take that long just to turn on the laptop. Thursday night, my husband and son ganged up on me and actually made me keep my book in my purse. Even during the long and boring period while we were waiting for the doctor to come and do the stitching. Even despite my repeated assurances that, as soon as I pulled the book out, the doctor would appear. (Books are magic like that.) It was torture, but I survived it. Harder to survive was that night when my husband forced me to bed at 11 pm by hiding said book before he went to the store. When BoyD woke up hurting at midnight and needed some mommy attention, I had no book to keep me occupied while I held his hand. Instead, BoyD helped me play a computer game. (Yes, the computer was already on--you try writing at midnight!) (No, I'm not addicted to reading. I can stop anytime. I just choose not to.)
  • Imagination. This is for those times when neither of the above are available. You can't write, you can't read. You are forced to just sit there and look bored like a "normal" person. Doing nothing, for the sake of... solidarity? Good parenting? (I refuse to believe my children are benefited by mommy looking bored, but whatever.) Anyway, during these periods, you can foil them all by using your imagination. Figure out what is supposed to happen next in your WIP. Play "what if" by rearranging elements to see what would happen. Run through the plot looking for obvious holes. Or, hey, think up ideas for your next WIP. The sky isn't even a limit, here. (Now if only there were a good way to record all your great ideas as you come up with them....)
BoyD is doing okay, by the way. He has a walking boot and won't be skiing for a while, but we have some lovely gross pictures (which I won't share here--you're welcome) of his toe in various stages of lacerated disrepair. After the fractures were discovered on Friday (after we finally grew a couple spines and figured out how to insist on x-rays--by visiting our favorite medical professional), he was prescribed some lovely drugs to stop infection and pain.

And I have another going-to-the-hospital memory to add to my arsenal for when something similar happens to one of my characters.

What about you? What things do you find essential to have on hand to support your writerly instincts? Chocolate? (Chocolate makes your book jacket picture look fat. So I hear.) MP3 player with your favorite tunes? (How can you write with that noise?) A quiet room all to yourself? (What? You haven't learned to tune your kids out? Need some tips?)


  1. My iPod's a must because it's got my entire audiobook library on it and a host of movies as well, if I think I have that much time (my pod is 160 gigs).

    And now I've got my Nook, too. Since I usually have a book going on both, I can choose which to read. I had not having something to read, while I wait.

    People ask me about television shows, and I'm clueless. Watch TV (and suffer the subsequent death of brain cells--I have enough trouble with that on my own, than you very much)? Really? When I can read? Or write?

    For me that's a simple choice.

  2. I confess that I used to be a TV addict. I watched lots of shows religiously. A DVR helped--it's not so urgent to watch RIGHT NOW when you can watch later... and then, later, you can decide at your leisure if you really want to watch at all--but substituting a reading addiction really did the trick.

    Now I need to work on getting addicted to writing, instead of reading. Darn those published authors and their hundreds of awesome books I can't put down!!!

  3. Robin, thanks for stopping by and commenting on my blog. I like your post especially the part about using your imagination.

    Unfortunately, I usually find myself somewhere without something to write on/write with when I get inspired. I've been known to use napkins. I guess anything works.

  4. Napkins are cool--make sure you save them so that when you're famous you can scan them in and show your fans what you went through for them. :)

    I use my cell phone to take some notes. It's not good for full composition, but I can at least jog my memory later.

  5. I find that sometimes my best inspiration for my story comes when I am not thinking about the story at all. Of course, when it occurs while I am at the gym, I need to do my best to remember it. Of course, if I don't remember it, then I have concluded the idea probably was not as good an inspiration as I thought, unless of course I rethink the idea at another date.

  6. LOL, Eric--I assume the same thing about any idea I've forgotten. Mostly since the reverse would be too, too tragic.

  7. Hi, Robin! Fellow YA writer here. I have to have chocolate and coffee to pound out that first draft!!! :)

    Nice to meet you!

  8. Hi, PK! Thanks for stopping by! Chocolate is really yummy, but not so good for my diet plan. Still, I cracked open a toffee chocolate orange last night as I wrote....

  9. I think one of the absolute necessities a writer needs to develop and keep with them at all times is a thick skin. This isn't an easy industry and we have to learn to think of criticism as not only something we need to listen to, but as one of our most useful tools in improving our writing. :)

  10. Jenn--ooh good point. Thin-skinned creative types are the worst! Divas? Blech!

    It doesn't matter how talented you are--someone is going to hate your work and say so. If criticism makes you want to curl up in a ball and die, perhaps you'd be happier in a less visible profession.

    Though I will disagree with one very minor point of your comment--we don't have to listen to ALL criticism. Not all criticism comes from a reliable source. Along with a thick skin, we should have a discerning ear, so we know which "advice" to take to heart... and which jealous idiots we should just ignore. :)

  11. I will second that thick skin, lol!

    Also, a small notepad and a pen, for the times when I'm somewhere random and the perfect bit of dialogue hits me. I never remember it if I don't write it down!

  12. Lynn--strangely, I can't remember ever having the perfect bit of dialogue come to me when I'm not sitting in front of my computer, trying to figure out what my characters will say next. Not sure that's a good sign for the general wittiness of my dialogue.

    Last night lying in bed a had a great idea for... what was that again? Hm. Good thing I put it in my cell phone....

    Thanks for stopping by!