By tricks, I mean little writing games and process stuff and ways I actually approach a book. For a while, I was just obscenely into note cards. I used to write plot points on note cards like a deck, then lay them all out on the floor and shuffle stuff around until it clicked. Then came the Monster Outline phase, in which I once wrote a 60-page, single-space outline of a book I never actually got around to writing. And lately, I've discovered a new thing ... I call it talky talky.
Every night this week, after the "writing day" is done and I'm sitting in front of the TV or wherever, I've had a notebook propped open and I'm writing pure dialogue scenes. The game is this: all dialogue, with only the most minor of stage directions. It's actually really fun, and it's the best way I've found yet to get into my characters' heads. I used to write "character sketches," but that never really worked for me. But if I just let them express themselves, and their own histories and ambitions, in the words they would actually use--well, I find that big chunks of that notebook make their way into the book.
Let's see. I also read my book out loud. I edit chapters randomly, just opening the file, clicking somewhere in the middle and starting to edit. And every so often, I'll do the dreaded "book in a day" edit, in which I'll read and edit the whole book in one long day. I do the Post-It thing, the margin thing, the argue-with-my-beta-readers thing.
Jeez. It's actually starting to sound a little crazy.
But I don't really care how the process looks from the outside. My thing is pretty simple: it's all about words on a page at the end of the day. If the final draft ends up right on paper, I don't care if you had to write the first draft in mayonnaise on your naked body by the light of the half-moon to get it that way. And in fact, if that actually works for anybody, let me know. I'm pretty much willing to give anything a shot.