Back To School: A Writer’s Care Package

You know how in college sometimes there’s lots of those little care packages that people can send you? Some of them are awesome, like when your mom picks out cute things for you and sends them right before finals when you’re on the edge of a caffeine and studying induced panic attack 24/7, and some of them are weird like where someone hands someone else twenty dollars without even knowing what might be in the box that’s being sent to the student.

Well, for today’s Back To School post, we’re going to chat about what a writer’s care package might look like.

Imagine yourself sitting down in an empty room. You want to write a book. But you have nothing. What could someone send you to make this pit of despair a happy place in which to create marvelous things?

Let’s begin with the basics – what would you like to write with? Most of us use a laptop, some a desktop, a few like a typewriter or ipad, and some go for the old-fashioned pen and pencil, but some even use alternatives such as dictation. In your care package, make sure and leave room for a few of these options. You never know when a pencil will yield the words the keyboard wouldn’t, or when a computer will be the only thing that can keep up with your lightning fast ideas.

And on that note, your care package needs some supplies for the long haul – do you outline? Do you have a list of your characters? What about plot points, or twists, or subplots? Every writer is different this way too – some make book bibles with pages of details, outlines the length of senior thesis papers, and everything they’ve ever imagined or pictured about their characters. Other writers launch into their creations without a single structure in place. Make sure, though, that you choose your care package options carefully. Don’t assume that you’ll blast through the finals week of writing a book without a few hiccups and questions along the way. If you’ve always known every detail ahead of time, maybe it’s time to stop studying and have a wild night of fun just writing whatever pops into your head. If you’re a partier of pantsing fame, maybe you should take a shot at a brief outline, or at least a logline to guide your studies 😉 Explore all your options, and don’t expect your needs and style to be the same from one book to the next.

Finally, the candy of your care package – the beef jerky, the cheese and crackers, the butter soaked popcorn…the SOUR PATCH KIDS!! What do you want to put into your book? Are you more of a character person, who focuses on the people and lets the story unfold through them? Are you a plot person, swept up in exhilarating events and letting the characters discover themselves along the way? Maybe you’re more about the theme, and you know you have something to say about an issue but you’ll have to find the way to do it as you go. Whichever items you go full out out on in your care package, don’t forget that the best ones have some of everything. Because even if you love some character candy, you need to protein of the plot and the caffeine of theme to keep your story strong and make it through finals week to the end of your first draft. You don’t know what you might need most from one day to the next, but you know that the way to ace your book is including some of everything, in all the best flavors and styles.

So tell me – what does your writing care package look like?

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