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November 8, 2011

Phyllis Middleton asks What's in your toolbox?


Writers do not only rely on our muse and imagination to write wonderful stories that intrigue and embrace our readers.  Our wits may be great to get the guts of a story onto paper, but sometime after that we have to face facts….they will need work. Our characters must be groomed, our settings redecorated and the plots require a compass for direction. So what resource is in your toolbox that you turn to for that help?  Here are some of my tools.

I’ve gained a number of tips from the Writer's Digest Write Great Fiction Collection that include:
Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell;
Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress;
Dialogue by Gloria Kempton;
Description & Setting by Ron Rozelle;
Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell.

My favorite resource is the Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus by Christine A Lindberg. It’s a big book and full of neat helps for finding just that perfect word.

Plotting Princess Vicki Batman highly recommended this next book to me.  Write Tight: Say Exactly What You Mean with Precision and Power by William Brohaugh.  I am told you can’t find it in the bookstores anymore. I found it at Amazon.

There is always the classic that is highly regarded, The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White.

I also have special websites I refer to quite often…

These are just a few of my helpful resources in my writing world.  These do not replace any of my human companions known as critique partners and Plotting Princesses. Those ladies are special and precious and no amount of books can replace them.

So, what are some of your resources?  Do you have favorite places to turn when your muse is stumped? Please share…I may add a few of them to my library.

BTW, if any of the books mentioned here perked an interest into purchasing, you might first come to the DARA Holiday Workshop and enter the raffle for the PRO Basket, which includes all the titles.

Phyllis Middleton


Addison said...


This is a great list! I'd also add a trick I've picked up since buying an ereader.

I download my manuscript onto my Kindle and read it that way....there's something about seeing it in book form vs. manuscript form that helps you "see" word repetition or holes.


Patricia said...

Thank you for the list of resources. I am in the middle of writing my fourth book and my words are boring ME. I will have to use some of your suggestions.

Kathy Ivan said...

Addison, what a great tip! I've read critiques of other's works on my ereader but it never dawned on me to add my own to that. Duh!

Phyllis, a great post and lots of new books for me to check into. Thanks.

Karilyn Bentley said...

Hi Phyllis,
Great post! The books listed are helpful. I have some of them. Also liked Addison's comment. I'll have to try it. My favorite website is Like a dictionary, but for slang terms.

Liz Lipperman said...

One of the things I need help with is my use of tags. My characters all smile, grin, huff, blow out breaths, etc. So, I use two books religiously.

The Millennium Phrase Book for Romance Writers by Rebecca Andrews

The Romance Writers' Phrase Book by Jean Kent and Candace Shelton.

I love Addison's tip and will definitely give it a try. I have most of the books you mentioned, Phyllis. I was just thinking how we could do a raffle basket with all our used writing books in it. It would be a treasure chest of info for a new writer. We could throw in a three chapter critique and/or line edit and chocolate!!

Phyllis said...

Hi all!

I am going Ho answer asmuch as possible, for now. I'm at work and the big wigs are in, so most of my comments will beater this evening.

Addison, wonderful idea using the kindle. I have to try thT, thanks!

Karilyn, thanks of the addition website. I will have to Che ck it out!

Liz, oh, new. Sources for me to get! Yippee! The books I listed in my post are already going to be a basket for DARA, so much fun!

Patty and Kathy thank you for stopping by, I love it!


Phyllis said...

Don't you just love what happens when the iPhone wants to take over! Forgive the misspellings!


Linda Steinberg said...

When creating characters, I like Tami Cowden et al's book on archetypes, Heroes and Heroines. She also has one for villains. Once I know my characters' archetypes, it really helps to look at the How they Mesh and How they Clash sections. I often get great ideas for conflict, even scenes.

For editing, since I love color coding, I use Margie Lawson's EDITs system. You can see at a glance where you have huge chunks of introspection, or too many pages without dialogue.

Pamela Stone said...

Hi Phyllis,

Write Tight by William Brohaugh is one of my favorites since I tend to be wordy. Great subject.


Phyllis said...

Thanks Linda, I will have to check into that book.

I have Write Tight and I'm still wordy! I'm still learning, I guess.


Sylvia said...

Hi Phyllis,
Don't you wish the big wigs would go away and let us conduct our writing business at work. Tuesdays and Thursdays always seem to be the days that go crazy.

I love the book called Lifetypes. It uses the Myers/Brigg personality types and tells me what kind of job my character will have, their love life and what they are good and bad at.

I also love Make Your Words Work by Provost.

Great Subject and I'm going to try some of these.

Phyllis said...

Thanks Sylvia,

I've picked up some great ideas and have already bought some of the books mentioned here. I have to go in search of your resource.

Yea, I hate dealing with the DC executives.

Phyllis said...


Your mention of Margie Lawson's EDITS program, reminded my that I have her Empowering Characater Emotions in addition to her EDITS class.

Speaking of editing, I took Angela James' Editing class at Kathy Ivan's recommendation. I found her class helpful with plenty of notes.

Just some more food for thought.


Kathy Bennett said...

Hi Phyllis;

For me, a good critique group is invaluable. They each have their strengths and each one zooms in on my different weaknesses as a writer.

This is a great post and I'll be putting a couple of those reference books on my wish list for Christmas.

Sheri Fredricks said...

Thank you, Phyllis! I appreciate your resources.

Unknown said...

Fantastic info!!! Thank you Phyllis. I will certainly be adding a few of these to my list. One book I read that I found fascinating is Stephen King's "On Writing". I honestly have to admit, I haven't read any of his books (seen a couple of his movies) but his approach to help writers was really good. He also tells much about his own journey to writing and it is a captivating read. Thanks again for sharing. I love Plotting Princesses!!

Phyllis said...

Hi Kathy, Welcome back!

I agree Critique groups are worth their weight in gold.

Get ready, girlfriend - you are up next month!


Phyllis said...


You are most welcome. Hope you checked out the other posts as they are also full of awesome info!


Phyllis said...


You are welcome. I am so glad you love us!

I've heard of Stephen King's book. I will admit I've not read it, yet.

I'm so glad I was helpful.