Writer’s Toolbox

June 14, 2009 at 11:08 pm | Posted in Tool Box | Leave a comment
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Writers rely on the tools of their trade, just as an electrician or plumber will rely on theirs.  A writer’s tool box contains imagination, language and style, each applied at various times. 

Writers hone their tools through experience.  You can’t learn to write simply by reading how to articles, rather you must apply the techniques to your writing. 


Every muscle can be built and strengthened through repetition application.  You can build your imagination by exploring various genres and mediums and practicing creative writing exercises.

Freewriting is the practice of writing without censure.  Silence your inner critic and allow the words to flow.  If you don’t know where to begin write nonsense. The objective isn’t to write usable material, but rather to discover your voice and to unleash your imagination. 

Clustering is a creative writing activity that generates ideas, images and feelings around a stimulus word. Write a word or phrase, such as “elephant,” the brainstorm all words related to elephant, such as “gray” and “memory,” then work outwards from “memory” to “brain” to “surgery,” and so on.   


Great writers make writing seem effortless. Don’t be fooled by appearances: great writing requires a thorough knowledge of vocabulary, punctuation and grammar.   The rules of language can be learned.  However, within the rules a writer can arrange words in many ways:

The loose sentence begins with the main point (an independent clause), followed by one or more subordinate clauses.
The periodic sentence places the main point in the middle or at the end of the sentence.
The balanced sentence is characterized by parallel structure: two or more parts of the sentence have the same form, emphasizing similarities or differences. (1)


The application of language requires artistic finesse.  Choose a paragraph from something you consider well written and emulate the writing style in your own story. Writing style reveals the writer’s personality and is the result of the choices made in structures, diction, and expression.   

Style is subjective, though some styles are more readily accepted than others.  Passive voice or active voice; wordy or simplistic; formal or casual; these are all decisions a writer makes and no choice is right or wrong. 

Once you recognize the choices you make, you will have more control in your writing. 

When you hide the actor by putting it somewhere after the action (not in the usual subject part of the sentence) and add a “to be” verb, you are using passive voice. If you typically write in a passive voice, change to an active voice and judge the results. Locate passive voice by circling every “to be” verb (am, is, are, was, were, be, been, being). If the “to be” verb is sitting next to another verb, especially one that ends in “ed,” (“was lost”, “was wrecked”) then you may be using passive voice. (2)

If your writing tends to be wordy, with filler words and phrases that delay delivery of your message, scale back for lean writing

Wordy constructions such as cliches, qualifiers, and redundant pairs are easy to fix once you recognize your tendency to use them. (2) 

Clichés stand in for more precise descriptions of something. Slow down and write exactly, precisely what you mean. If you get stuck, ask yourself “why? or “how?”

Some qualifiers are necessary, but you should use them carefully and thoughtfully.  Eliminate most of the qualifiers (very, often, hopefully, practically, basically, really, mostly) and you will have a stronger, more direct point.

Overuse of prepositional phrases (prepositions are little words such as in, over, of, for, at, etc.) Locate this problem by circling all of the prepositional phrases in your paper. A few are okay, but several in a sentence obscure your point.  (2)

Like other fine craftsmen, you must strive to improve constantly:  everything you’ve written or will write, could be better.  You must learn to write it better.     

1. Writing Style: Wikipedia, June 14, 2009

2. Style: University of North Carolina, June 14, 2009


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