Twelve Writing Tools for 2012

As we head into the year 2012, I am surprised to discover that twelve seems to be my magical number. Last year, I took twelve online classes on everything from the perfect pitch to deep POV.

I entered twelve contests and received  helpful feedback as well as encouragement to keep writing.

I’m even tempted to add a few paragraphs to my manuscript, which ends on page 311. . . almost on 312.

Instead, I’ve decided to pay it forward and share with you a dozen lessons, comments, and resources from my humble arsenal of tools. Hopefully, you’ll find something useful for your own writing.

Whether or not twelve is your lucky number, I’m hoping 2012 will be a magical year for you.

Happy New Year and Happy Writing!

Twelve Tools for 2012

1. Central Idea :  What is the central theme of your story?

This is the belief system the novel is based on and the message behind the story. Your characters will refer back to this throughout your story.  This should never be obvious.

Examples:  You can’t hide from who you are. You really can change your destiny. Love conquers all.

  *Check out Seven Elements of Fiction by Tracy Wolff @

 2.Goal/Motivation/Conflict:   What does your character(s) want? Why does he/she want it? What’s prohibiting him/her from getting it?

Fiction needs valid conflict that carries the story.

*Check out Debra Dixon at


3. Asking Essential questions:  Your main character must answer these at four different points in his/his personal journey. The key is the answers differ depending upon where the character is within his/her quest.

Why do you matter? To whom do you matter?  How do you see yourself? How do you define your biggest personal challenge?

*For more, check out Donald Maass at:

4. Tiered or Layered Characterization:  Who is your heroine: her person, her emotions, her thoughts?  What is the raw depth of character that connects her to reader?

We all know a character like her–the Manic Pixie Dream Girl—the quirky, attractive heroine. But do we (the reader) really like her?

Brenda Novak offered some wonderful advice on characterization at the 2011 NJRW Conference.  A character’s endearing traits can also be his/her greatest flaw.

Examples:  An organized, rational person might become overly obsessive when her world goes off-tilt. An easy-going character might miss something important or be easily taken advantage of.

Other useful sites:

5. Character Traits Thesaurus:

 6. Adding motions to express emotion:

7.  Juxtapositions in prose and text:  Use of two themes, characters, phrases, words, or situations together for comparison and contrast.

Example:  The heroine might be saying all is fine but physically she’s moving across the room and distancing herself.

 8. Subtext:  “The scene is never about what the scene is about.”  Think about theme, word choice, and awareness of character. Symbolism can be used, as well. If you have the chance, check out a Renee Ryan workshop.

9. Laying out a scene:  You might be surprised to find a pattern to how a scene unfolds. Action/description is followed by internal conflict or external conflict. Follow that by an action/description the character must make about the internal/external conflict. End with external conflict. Dialogue and backstory are sprinkled in and used within this context, as well. 

*Check out this WONDERFUL site:

10. Do your research.

Resources:  The Library of Congress Resource Link

Ask a Librarian

 11.  Use your tools and revise, revise, revise.

Check out Susan Dennard’s site:

 12.  Writer’s Link to Links:  

Here are a few other useful links—all bundled up as NUMBER 12.

Leave a comment


  1. Great post for the start of a new year! I am taking Deb Dixon’s GMC book off my shelf NOW, so I can read it (after having bought it early in 2011).

  2. Hi Maria, I feel like 2011 was very productive and that 2012 is going to be a wonderful year for writing. Sharing resources and bouncing ideas/learning off of each other certainly helps! Wishing you the best in 2012.

  3. Great tips, Michele. Deb Dixon’s book is on my list to read.

    Here’s to a great 2012!

    • Thanks, Joanna! I love discovering new resources and considering different ideas toward writing. Hope there’s something here that’s helpful.

  4. Wow, Michelle, great post full of LOTS of useful tips and information. I’m bookmarking this blog posting!

    • Hi Diana! Thanks for commenting. My favorite is #9 – the intern spills blog. Check out how she breaks down “The Hunger Game.” Wishing you the best in 2012!

  5. Janet Pepsin

     /  January 3, 2012

    Excellent list of resources, Michele! Some of them I know (I too have Debra Dixon’s GMC book). I am bookmarking all of these sites. Thanks! Hope you had a great birthday.

  6. RoseAnn DeFranco

     /  January 9, 2012

    Thank you for sharing all these resources, Michele. This is one of my favorite things about the writing community.

    • Hi RoseAnn, You’re welcome! I love posts that help one and all. I have to say, Janet’s post is really helping right now 🙂


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