Monday, 1 July 2013

Writing Resources: Part I – What’s in your Toolbox?

by Kate Robbins 

One of the first things I learned on my journey as a writer was that I needed a figurative toolbox and that I would never cease to add to it. It’s good advice. The writer’s toolbox is that list of resources used time and again for anything that helps writers write.

Sounds basic enough, right? Yeah, just Google writing resources. Seriously, go do it. I’ll wait…

How many hits did you get? I got 767,000,000. Now, unless you’re a super speed reader, how in the name of all that is holy do you widdle that down to a sensible wish list? And which ones are good?

Step one, and I can’t remember who told me to do this so remind me if you’re out there, pick up Stephen King’s On Writing. Every new writer should read this book for two reasons. One, you’ll give yourself permission to write whatever it is you write and never worry about it. Two, SK lists some basic must have resources like The Elements of Style. And why will you do both of these things? Because Stephen King said so and I don’t care who you are, you’re not arguing with his track record (I’m a huge fan in the meantime). 

Step two, subscribe to Writer’s Digest. My fave, fave, fave online resource for all things writing. Doesn’t matter if you’re writing literary fiction or blurbs for Cracker Jack boxes, this website has something for everyone including resource book suggestions.

Step three, take some workshops, either online or locally. Doesn’t matter. Just find something that resonates with your writing needs and do it. A couple of things will happen. You’ll meet other writers (I’ve gained some lifelong friends), but also learn more than you even realize you need. One of my favourite online courses in now part of a new book by Don McNair and I highly recommend both the online course and the book. Editor-Proof Your Writing is available online at Chapters, Amazon, etc., but if you’d rather benefit from interacting with Don, go to his website at and check out his courses. I would not have grasped author intrusion without his instruction. And I’m now a defogging force to be reckoned with.

Step four, join a writer’s group. I’ve raved about RWAC before and I’ll do it again. I’m with the RWA chapter almost a year now and can’t imagine this journey without them. My local writer’s group has recently acquired some additions and I must say the Scribe Wenches in St. John's, NL have never looked so lovely as well.

My toolbox runneth over. And I love it so I want to share. Below is a list of my fave writing resource books. I hope you find them helpful. I certainly do.

Writing resource must haves:

On Writing
The Emotion Thesaurus
Editor-Proof Your Writing
The Elements of Style
A Natural History of the Senses 
The Careful Writer

Kate Robbins is the pen name of Debbie Robbins who lives in St. John's, NL with her man-beast and two man-cubs. She writes historical Scottish romance.

You can find her here:

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  1. I love writing books, Kate. And I have most on your list but haven't heard of the Careful Writer before. Off to check it out online.

  2. "You’ll give yourself permission to write whatever it is you write and never worry about it" -- great advice from Stephen King and you!

    Love all of your toolbox items, Kate (especially the joining-a-group part -- it's funny how many writers out there still go it alone. It's so much better to have peeps that 'get' you.)

  3. Great post, Kate! I own half of the resources you listed, so will have to check out the others. Other ones I also have in my toolbox (the ones that get used the most) are the Save the Cat series, GMC by Debra Dixon and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

  4. While I love all the resources listed above, I admit I love the groups most. :)

    Annette, I recently ordered Save the Cat, but will definitely check out GMC and Self-Editing. Thanks for sharing! :D