My first novel was published in 1991. It doesn’t seem that long ago to me, but I suppose it is a while. I wrote my first draft of The Novel Writer’s Toolkit in 1994 after four books published. It was all of 11 pages long. That was the extent of what I consciously knew about writing a novel. In 2009, I wrote my first draft of Warrior Writer, a book designed to teach writers how to succeed as authors after my frustration over the lack of education for writers and all my experiences. I still have not had a single response from an editor or agent showing me what their formal training program is for an author they sign or contract with. In today’s fast moving marketplace, writers can’t afford to learn like I did—the hard way.
Over the years, I rewrote the Toolkit every six months, adding all I was learning about writing. The Toolkit ended up being 80,000 words long and was published by Writer’s Digest in 2001. It earned out in less than six months and had a great run. I got the rights backs and re-wrote it one more time, adding all I have learned since 2011.
Last year I updated both books extensively, partly because I’ve grown as a writer. But also because today’s publishing environment has changed and with that change has come the ability to update books to meet the changing needs of today’s successful writers. The Novel Writers Toolkit now focuses 100% on the craft of writing. I removed the business section because that belongs in the other book, formerly Warrior Writer, which I renamed Write It Forward: From Writer To Successful Author.
One key thing I added in the Toolkit was a section on Conflict, especially the Conflict Box. I have to say I believe I’ve learned more about writing in the past two years than in my first twenty.
In the Toolkit, I teach how to answer key questions about your book including:
Can you state what your book is about in one sentence?
Do you clearly have conflict lock between protagonist and antagonist?
Do you know where your ‘camera’ is when you write each scene? i.e. Point of View? Do you know when you’ve done a cut?
Do you know all your characters’ primary motivations, their motivation levels, and their blind spot?
Write It Forward is the sum of what I’ve learned in 20 years of traditional publishing and two years as an indie author and publisher. I made many mistakes over the years and I wrote this book to keep others from making the same mistakes. I’ve included where I believe publishing is now and where it’s going. I also focus on helping writers sort out their own path to Oz, given that each of us are starting from a different place and our vision of Oz is unique to each of us.
For example, can you answer these questions, which Write It Forward poses as exercises and then teaches you how to answer:
What is my strategic goal as a writer? Where do you want to be in five years?
I’ll do anything to succeed as a writer, except don’t ask me to do . . . . ?
My greatest fear as a writer is?
How high is your ‘imposter syndrome’ as a writer?
Are you in command of your writing career or are you counting on an agent or editor?
Do you know where you stand on the three P’s: Platform, product and promotion?
Both books focus on building the complete writer: one who masters the craft of writing into being an artist, and one who develops their work into being a career writer.
A writer just can’t afford to learn things the “hard way” by trial and error. It’s also grossly inefficient.