The Well-stocked Writer’s Arsenal

If you’re a writer, odds are you’re a storyteller. You have a story or a hundred stories inside you, all clamoring for your attention, struggling to break free of your mind so the world can know them.

And more stories sign up for the chance to be told on a weekly, daily, hourly basis.

In an article I wrote for Let’s Talk Romance, I gave some advice to learn basic document formatting prior to submitting. I suggested some people might want to take a computer class or at least read the tutorials. This is good advice because publishers will love you when you have taken the time to learn how to format and are able to follow their submission formatting guidelines. Today, I want to make a suggestion of another kind. One that involves writer’s tools.

It is not enough to put words on paper or computer screen. They must be the right words, the ones that convey the meaning you intend. And they must be correctly spelled words so others will understand what you’re saying. I know many people who are spelling challenged, and yet they are storytellers with the need to tell a story. Two of my daughters have dyslexia but they tell fantastic tales.

So, the first took in a writer’s arsenal (all writers, even those who have good spelling) should be a dictionary. More, the storyteller must have the knowledge and ability to utilize this tool correctly. Two other books (paper, electronic, or on-line) that will come in handy are a thesaurus and a reputable grammar resource.

A style guide such as CMoS is a great resource, especially since it’s the one most publishers will base company style guides on. Learn the rules of fiction writing and practice them until you know them by heart. Learn when to use quotation marks, and when a sentence inside those quotation marks should be ended with a period (.) or a comma (,). Learn the proper placement and use of dialogue tags. Learn when it’s appropriate to change paragraphs.

In short, a good start for a life as a storyteller is to learn the basics of grammar and style as applied to fiction. A good second step is to seek out a great critique partner or group. But critique partners should be a resource for helping you develop the content of your story and not someone to check your spelling and punctuation. If you’re challenged in those areas, look into finding a proof reader who can read through your work and locate any mechanical errors.

Happy writing!

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