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Laurie Buchanan Shares her Writing Toolbox

Laurie Buchanan is the author of the Sean McPherson mystery series. You can find out more about her here, see her books here, and read her last post here.

Words, words, words. Writers string them together in a specific order to create stories and draw readers to their work. And if we’re fortunate, we keep them there, turning page after page. 

But sometimes, readers stop short. They get in a page or two, maybe even more, and then close the book. Decide to quit. Why didn’t they stay? What went wrong? 

That’s hard to say without seeing the work, but experientially I’ve learned that the following writing tools go a long way toward helping me. In turn, they elevate my work which helps to keep readers engaged:

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TOOL #1 — DEDICATED WRITING SPACE

It’s not large, but it’s mine. Having my own space works on the Pavlov’s Dogs principle—when I enter it, something happens in my brain that tells me it’s time to let go of everything else and write. 

TOOL #2 — SCHEDULE WRITING TIME

I schedule writing time in my planner just like I do for appointments with other professionals—doctors, dentists, stylists, or therapists. 
Consistency is my best friend. So I schedule the same days and window of time each week. That way, I count on it. And it’s an excellent way for my family and friends to become familiar with my schedule too.
Honoring my writing appointments is easier if I keep the length of time realistic. For me, that’s four hours a day. I don’t write until I’m drained, and my writing is weak. I stop while I’m ahead and jot down ideas for the next day’s writing session. 

TOOL #3 — PRIME THE PUMP

“Primers” vary by individual. What works for one writer may not work for another. I discovered that walking unleashes my creativity. With that in mind, I walk before I write, at the midway point, and after I wrap up for the day.

TOOL #4 — CONCISION IS A WRITER’S BEST FRIEND

At the beginning of each writing day, I print what I wrote the previous day and sit with the pages and a red pen. This does two things. It reminds me of where I left off. And it allows me to right-size the work. Like a scalpel, I use the red pen to remove the fat and pare it down to make it stronger without losing the meaning. If it can be said better with fewer words, I change it.

TOOL #5 — AUTHENTICITY

Crime fiction books are only as good as they are authentic. So my research is intense, and I additionally consult with experts. Some of my information has come from a detective in the Major Crime Unit of the Idaho State Police, a DNA specialist at the Idaho State Police Crime Lab, a forensic pathologist, and a real-life private investigator.

I also invest monthly hours at a shooting range with a Ruger GP 100.

TOOL #6 — QUALITY vs. QUANTITY

Many writers work toward a daily word count goal, but we’re all different. I aim for quality over quantity.

TOOL #7 — EDITING

It’s by no means the be-all-end-all, but my first line of defense is an online editing tool. But the buck doesn’t stop there. I hire a copy editor to wade through it when I complete a manuscript. Her job is to correct grammar, sentence structure, resolve inconsistencies, and anything else that might be amiss so that I can deliver the most polished manuscript possible to my publisher.

TOOL #8 — LISTEN TO MY WRITING

My husband reads my writing to me. That way, I can hear mistakes or tongue-twisting sentences and can the problem. 

TOOL #9 — MY SECRET WEAPON

I have a writing coach. She’s been my writing mentor for almost a decade. I hire her to not only tell me what’s right but, more importantly, what’s wrong. Her feedback is respectful, honest, and objective. It’s well worth the investment.

TOOL #10 — READ

The best writers are people who read. I read inside and outside of my genre. And I read a lot! Stephen King said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time—or the tools—to write. Simple as that.”


I’m always happy when a reader chooses my work. But I’m elated when they come back for more. The writing tools I shared with you from my writer’s toolbox help to make that happen.

Laurie Buchanan

Laurie Buchanan is the author of Note to Self: A Seven-Step Path to Gratitude and Growth, and The Business of Being: Soul Purpose In and Out of the Workplace. You can find out more about her on her website, lauriebuchanan.com, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

This Post Has 27 Comments

  1. Avatar
    saralynrichard

    Laurie, you are one of the most disciplined writers I know! Thanks for sharing the tools that help you stay on track!

  2. Christine DeSmet
    Christine DeSmet

    Great tools and they are pretty much my tools, too, except for the gun, LOL. The thread I see throughout this blog post is “discipline.” Dreams usually require discipline. Professionals are disciplined. And you are one heck of a professional. I’ve enjoyed your nonfiction and fiction books. Good luck with your thriller series, Laurie!

    1. Avatar
      Rose

      Thanks much for sharing. I needed that.

  3. Avatar
    Laurie Buchanan

    Christine — Instead of a gun, you use FUDGE. A heck of a lot more FUN!

  4. Avatar
    Laurie's Stor

    Great tips, Laurie. Thanks for sharing your tools of the trade!

  5. Avatar
    Laurie Buchanan

    Laurie — I’m glad you enjoyed reading a bit about the writing tools that keep me on track.

  6. Jacqueline Vick
    Jacqueline Vick

    Love your list. I’m a writer who gets it all down before I pick up that red pen. I agree that having your work read aloud is a valuable tool!

  7. Avatar
    Laurie Buchanan

    Jacqueline — I’m glad you enjoyed the list. Thank YOU for stopping by!

  8. Margaret Mizushima

    Great post, Laurie! I love your writing tools and can see how they would all be valuable. The one I’m missing out on right now is the walking for creativity. I’m slowly getting back to that after a painful bout of plantar fasciitis. Thanks for organizing these tips in such a readable fashion!

  9. Avatar
    Laurie Buchanan

    Margaret — I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. Oh, man, plantar fasciitis is wicked! But, I’m happy to hear that you’re able to ease back into walking.

  10. Anne Louise Bannon

    I also start my writing time with a quick edit of the previous writing, but I don’t do it on paper. Thanks also for giving the online editing tool a shout out. No, they are not a substitute for human eyes, but they’ll find out of place commas that even the best human eye will miss. I use Grammarly and am liking the new Microsoft editing tool that comes with Word now.

    1. Avatar
      Laurie Buchanan

      Anne — You’re right that there’s no substitute for human eyes. Even then, things still slip through. But having that first line of defense sure does go a long way.

  11. Tracey Phillips
    Tracey Phillips

    Hi Laurie, I so agree with scheduling the time to write. Very few things get in the way of it for me. Family emergencies, and well, nothing else. I like your idea of quantifying your toolbox. That gives me something to do later. When I’m not writing.

    Thanks for an excellent post!

  12. Avatar
    Laurie Buchanan

    Tracey — Like you, if it’s in the calendar, it happens (barring an emergency). Happy writing!

  13. joyribar
    joyribar

    Thanks for these great reminders. Even though they sound so logical, we often forget the basics tied to good writing. I especially like the idea of my hubby reading my work aloud – clever and something I hadn’t thought of doing.

    1. Avatar
      Laurie Buchanan

      Joy — I’m so glad that having your husband read your work out loud resonates with you!

  14. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    Thanks for this helpful list, Laurie! I need to employ your idea of acquainting friends
    with my dedicated writing schedule. We possess many of the same writing tools–dedicated space, a schedule, walking the muse, and research, but not the target practice! I think of you whenever I work to improve concision in my writing, which is often. You are truly gifted at it.

    1. Avatar
      Laurie Buchanan

      Sherrill — Having friends and family understand that my writing time is equivalent to me being at a “traditional” job is huge. I’m glad it rings true for you, too.

  15. Sheila Lowe
    Sheila Lowe

    All excellent tips, Laurie. I have no legitimate excuses. I have the perfect writing space, time to write, good books to read, etc., a new story in my head and in my notes and yet, I procrastinate getting it started. Perhaps because once I make a real start, I must keep going until it’s finished. Happy writing to you.

  16. Avatar
    Laurie Buchanan

    Sheila — But once you DO start, I bet you dive in headfirst, and it’s a long time until you come up for air again.

    1. Margaret Mizushima

      Yes, Sheila and Laurie! I couldn’t help but comment because I know exactly what you two are talking about. There is that pre-initiation hesitation because once you start a project it becomes all-consuming. As in, getting lost when you’re driving because you’re trapped in your story and you wake up somewhere way off your route wondering where you were driving to in the first place! Or waking up at 2:00 a.m. and not being able to fall back asleep until you write everything down. Or looking at your conversation partner knowing that they just said something but you were lost in thought and you have to ask them to repeat. It’s endless! 🙂 Good luck with your new project, Sheila!

  17. Sharon Lynn
    Sharon Lynn

    Oh my goodness, Laurie! You are so kind to share your secrets to success! The hardest one for me is a scheduled time to write. I need it, but it is so elusive. And I think that is partly due to the fact that I do not have a dedicated space. So much to contemplate!

  18. Avatar
    Laurie Buchanan

    Sharon — Carve out space for yourself (even if it’s in a closet) and then establish and maintain boundaries. When I’m writing, I put a sign on my door that says: “Do not disturb unless there’s blood, flood, or fire!”

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