Tag Archives: dialogue

Shannon’s Top 5 Scrivener Tips

18 Apr

It’s no secret that I love Scrivener and have since I first bought it back in 2016. In fact, here’s my first ever post about it: Writers, Should You Get Scrivener? Granted, I’ve learned a lot about Scrivener since 2016, and the software has upgraded, which is why I thought an updated post talking about my favorite features might give some insight into those who are curious and/or help out those who have it but feel lost.   

Before I begin, I want to clarify that this isn’t a paid promo. Scrivener has NO CLUE I am writing this. I am just a regular author, who bought and explored the software all on my own, and I’ve used it ever since. These are my favorite features and ones I actually use every day. 

1. Keeping Track of Writing Stats (Including Overused Words)

The other day online, a fellow writer asked me how I kept track of my stats. (For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter, I often chat about how many words I write a day, or month, and what that means to me and why.) I’ve always been a numbers person. Spreadsheets are where I LIVE. I tend to use them in retrospect, meaning I like to look back at what I accomplished every month, and seeing all that work helps me stay motivated the next month. (I’m the type to feel like I didn’t do anything if I don’t have something tangible in front of me, and since writing tends to be on a virtual space, my spreadsheets become that tangible thing.) Scrivener actually tracks stats for you. Select Project from the top menu, then Writing History, and it will break down your averages for you, day-by-day, and monthly. In March, I wrote on average 1,193 words a day, but if you look at the breakdown, I have days I never wrote as well as negative days (days where I deleted more than I added). It’s really interesting because you might also notice patterns. Ex. I wrote 3,365 in one day. If you check March 22, you might notice that’s a Sunday. Of course I was more productive. I wasn’t at work. 😛 If you really want to go deep, explore Project->Statistics->Selected Documents->Word Frequency, and it’ll show you your most frequently used words. Might help you find those pesky repeats that you can change or cut.

2. Color Coding revisions

I didn’t want to start with this one, because I’ve been talking about it on the blog a lot. Like, a lot a lot. In fact, I just wrote a blog post—How I Revise My Novels—about this very topic. I use the Revision Mode in Scrivener all the time, even while I’m initially creating, but I mostly use it when I’m revising. To get there, you’re going to want to click, Format->Revision Mode->Select Color. Be warned: Once you’re in that mode, you will have to turn it off to get back to another color. I love this because it helps me keep my revisions straight. But another tool that does that is the snapshot features. 

I’m actually not revising in this scene. I’m using revision mode to organize my thoughts. I love color-coding everything.

3. Snapshots of previous versions 

The Snapshot feature allows you to save various versions of your book. I have screenshot me snapshotting. (I hope that makes sense.) You can find that screenshot below. Basically, after every time I finish writing a chapter (or revising it), I take a snapshot. (Which is the little camera icon on the far right.) I name the file something that makes it clear to me what version it is and hold onto them. This is super helpful while revising, mostly because you can go back if you realize Version 2 was better than Version 3. You can also click the “Compare” button and it will show you the differences. The photo below is showing you my very first draft compared to my most recent draft. As you can see, there were a lot of changes. In fact, you can see from this photo that I’ve been writing this scene since February 2018, I’ve rewritten it four times, and had it beta read. Another huge feature that I use in this part of Scrivener is the Comments button to add comments from betas, but that’s another feature entirely!  

4. Linguistic Focus

Under Edit -> Writing Tools -> Linguistic Focus, you’ll find an array of options: Nouns, adverbs, dialogue, etc. This is one of my favorite tools (and one I think is often overlooked), because it allows you to look at any given file in one way. Looking to cut out those pesky adverbs? Highlight them. Wanting to see how realistic your dialogue feels without the action tags? Make it stand out. In my screenshot on the right, I highlighted my dialogue only. It helps me see the spacing, but also lets me focus on the flow of my characters’ speech. I mostly use this for dialogue, but I’ve definitely used it for other things, too. What’s really neat is how it counts it, too. For instance, I had 93 quotes in this chapter, 944 verbs, 210 adjectives. Granted, it isn’t always perfect, but it definitely speeds up the process of cutting out certain phrases. 

5. Character Name Generator 

Okay, so I admit, I don’t use Scrivener to get my character names. However, I think it’s an awesome tool that is often overlooked, and it’s found in the same place: Edit -> Writing Tools -> Name Generator, and you can select from a variety of choices: names by country origin, first letter, ending letter, alliteration, and more. If you’re curious how I actually name my characters, read my blog post Naming Your Characters. Mostly, I use Babynames.com, yearbooks, and Pinterest boards. The reason I included it in my top five despite not using it is to highlight how neat all the options and tools are, even if I don’t personally use them during my writing journey.

These are just my top five tips, but honestly, I could go on forever. Scrivener has a countless number of tools, like the progress bar and target goals. It can honestly be overwhelming (but in a good way). I admit I don’t use all the tools it offers, but isn’t that the beauty? You can use what you need and want to pursue your art. But first, you have to understand what they offer and why, which is why I want to leave you with one last tip—my #1 tip. 

My #1 tip? Take the time to go through the tutorials when you download it. Without them, I would’ve been lost and confused, either giving up completely or struggling along with very few of the tools Scrivener has to offer. 

Are there tools you love?  

Let me know if I missed your favorites! Maybe there’s a feature I would love but have yet to hear about or use. 

~SAT 

P.S. If you’ve ever wanted to attend any of my events but couldn’t due to distance, now is your time to shine! I’ll be teaching a publishing course virtually on Monday, April 20: Online Publishing Events and Opportunities at 6:30 PM (Central). It’ll be on Zoom, and you can find more details on The Story Center’s Facebook by clicking here. See you then!

Writing Tips: The Five Senses

18 Mar

Special thanks goes out to actress, director, and dancer, Gracie Dzienny, for quoting my first novel, November Snow, on her Twitter. She is known for her work on Nickelodeon’s Supah Ninjas and multiple shows on AwesomenessTV. Visit her YouTube channel by clicking here.

Grace

 

nice

“This is a story of forbidden love, hidden love, and a war of love.” Find out why Endless Reading said they can’t wait to read Seconds Before Sunrise in the latest review of Minutes Before Sunset by clicking here.

I wrote this post in a way I don’t normally do so. Below, I ranked the five senses from easiest to hardest in terms of including them into a story – which was a task in itself because I kept questioning my order – and then I choose a random chapter in the middle of two of my novels – Seconds Before Sunrise (SBS) and November Snow (NS) – to tally my use of the senses. So the tallies might seem contradicting because I wrote the post before I collected the tallies to see if my perception was the same as my reality. Then, below that, I have a quote from those of you who commented on my Facebook author page.

Join me on FB, and your responses might be used next!

Join me on FB, and your responses might be used next!

But I want to add one last thing: there are many novels that do not include one or more of these senses for many reasons, mainly novels that cover blindness or deafness. Although those novels are very strong, I am dealing with the average novel that cover all senses in order to explore which senses are the most and least difficult to use so that we can analyze our styles together in order to improve in our five categories. But I want to thank those writers who have written novels with blind, deaf, or other protagonists in those various fields, so thank you.

#1 Sight

I’m not sure many will argue this being the easiest, especially if the novel is in first person. We see from the character’s eyes – and we see a lot. Whether they’re looking at road while driving or searching a library for answers, their eyes are working to keep the story moving forward.

Tally: Since both of my novels are from first perspectives, I decided not to tally this one at all because it’s practically every other sentence.

Paul Davis: “Sight is the easiest by far. I think it’s really easy to forget touch and smell.”

#2 Sound

I decided to forget about dialogue in order to really study this sense in reading and writing. If I included dialogue – just hearing someone speak – then this would probably be like number one, but I thought that was too obvious. However, I am including the way someone’s voice sounds, but I mainly wanted to hear thunder or creaking doors or a television rattling on a stand as a train zooms by an open window. Because of this, I did not include dialogue associated sounds in the tallies.

NS: 11: “Trees brushed against each other to the never-ending music of the crisp, November wind.”

SBS: 6: “…a rush of sounds consumed my senses.”

Alexis Danielle Allinson: The easiest I think is sound as we are taught to familiarize a sound with a distinct description from an early age.

#3 Taste

I think this was the first one I wrote down. For me, taste isn’t necessarily the hardest sense; it’s just the least likely used. A character needs to be eating or kissing or in an accident or a vampire or something along those lines to be reminded of taste.

SBS: 5 “I opened my mouth to speak but spit blood out instead. He wiped it away, but I tasted it.”

NS: 2 “A stream of salty water drove down my cheek to my lips.”

Alexis Danielle Allinson: Taste is the hardest as everyone does this different from each other.

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#4 Touch

At this point, I have moved the five senses around on my list so many times that I don’t even know if this is where this sense originally started, but alas – this is where it ends up. For me, touch is a debatable and difficult area. Sure, characters can “grab” something, but that doesn’t necessarily make it “touch.” I feel like touch must be how rough a surface is, how cold someone’s skin is, how gravel coats hands with powdery dust. Touch isn’t a verb. Touch has texture or a sensation. 

NS: 13 “My lips were still tingling.”

SBS: 8 “The suffocating air was filled with electricity, and it burned against my exposed flesh.”

Aurélia Evangelaire: And still as a writer, the easiest sense for me to use is touch. I like the feeling of things under hands and I love to describe it.

#5 Smell

Oh, god. This exercise is not easy. At this point, I realize I didn’t know how hard it is to choose which sense goes on what ranking. You think you do until you try. It was really difficult to choose the most difficult, but I finally went with smell because smell, in many ways, is like taste. It’s limited in the sense (haha, see what I did there?) that it’s difficult to include this sense without it seeming forced. It’s often rare moments a character takes the time to “smell the roses.” Just like real people, their lives are hectic – they may even be chased around by enemies – and it’s often the slower, more intimate moments that they have smell. This goes to say that I just had another instance where I realized how the senses change dramatically over genres. I feel like smell, taste, and touch are much easier and more important in romance, especially erotica, but those same senses may not be at the top for things like sci-fi, especially if they are in a space suit that prevents all kinds of smells.

SBS: 11 “The smell of smoke broke through the blood dripping from my nose.”

NS:5 “The rusty smell of whiskey split the air.”

Phillip Peterson Smell, I think, is the easiest and most useful. It’s more of an all-encompassing scent to the scene, which, if done well, can most effectively put the reader into your world (as smell is the most connected to memory).

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Those are my five senses as well as a few other writers’ senses.

It was a fun exercise to write down what I thought about the five senses before going through my novel to tally away. In the end, this allowed me to see the difference in my perspective and in reality. (Like how I used smell a lot more than taste.) I definitely recommend writers try this out themselves. I realized quickly that senses change dramatically from novel to novel. For instance, the setting in November Snow is very dirty and dangerous, so sound and touch were actually HUGE. Taste? Not so much. But Seconds Before Sunrise was nearly the opposite. Then again, these were only passages. It would take me weeks to analyze the entire novels, but I still think this is worth it.

You must be tempted by now.

You must be tempted by now.

What about you? Did you try this exercise? Do you have certain senses you use more? Ones that you avoid? Were your results different than what you thought they would be?

Comment below!

P.S. “Look Inside” of Seconds Before Sunrise is now up on Amazon! Check it out by clicking the book cover on the right 😀

~SAT

Creative Licence or Obsolete Language?

4 Nov

Win a signed copy of Minutes Before Sunset today

First, some exciting news: Seconds Before Sunrise received an ISBN. I love these moments. It’s these moments that remind me it’s real. Seconds Before Sunrise (book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy) is coming, and you can win an advanced ebook! Enter the contest for free by helping with the cover reveal on December 1! Send me a message here, comment, or send me an email to shannonathompson@aol.com. Thank you!

The English language is constantly changing. In fact, it has changed so much that the Father of English Literature, Geoffrey Chaucer, is considered to have written in an almost completely different language. I should correct myself: we write in a completely different language. One of my most fascinating moments in college was when my professor of my Chaucer class actually read The Wife of Bath’s tale how it would’ve been read when it was written. As a reader and a writer, this moment stood out to me because we’d been studying Chaucer’s works long enough that I could comprehend reading it on my own, but then I listened to it (I have to admit I purposely didn’t read long because I wanted to submerge myself in what this was like.) Perhaps, if I read along, I would’ve thought this was nothing because I would’ve understood what she was saying, but I’m glad I didn’t read along. It proved how much has changed. Obviously, Chaucer isn’t the only one in history. But the purpose of sharing this story is less about Chaucer and more about how much has changed.

According to this article, changes have happened in the “sounds (phonetics), in their distribution (phonemics), and in the grammar (morphology and syntax).” I think most people agree on this fact, but what does this mean for the future of the English language?

As writers and readers, we might see a few grammatical errors, strange diction, and/or syntax we wouldn’t expect. In fact, we might mark this as a mistake. But what if the author intended this? When I come across something “strange” I begin to think of all of the “rules” we are given when studying writing.

Don’t use the passive voice. Don’t tell, just show. Don’t use adverbs. Don’t use anything but “said” after dialogue. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. But how will the English language change if we are stuck in our ways? When did we–as artists–stop challenging expectations and conform to rules because someone told us “this is the better way to write”?

I think dialogue is the easiest thing writers and readers can change and agree upon: it can change because no one speaks very properly. But what about prose? Personally, I think writers need to consider their settings and characters but ultimately follow their writer’s heart. If it doesn’t sound right, even if it’s proper, change it. If it feels right to be proper, be proper. For instance, I know a lot of writers who write historical fiction, and everyone insists they write in that time’s speak, but who’s to say there isn’t an audience who wants to read historical fiction written in today’s language in order to relate to it easier? In this case, I think it’s a risk, but, at the same time, I think the writer should be true to themselves. Challenge the English language. It’s meant to change. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, I would suggest there are many rules that are in place for a reason: like commas. Missing commas can be a HUGE problem.

So where do we draw a line?

Personally, I think we need one in certain areas–mainly with slang. I suppose this line is more about how quickly slang changes rather than the inappropriate usage of it. For instance, I wouldn’t want to read “OMG, he’s totes my bb4l, broseph.” (I don’t even know if that’s right or up-to-date.) Then again, when I was 14, I enjoyed TTYL by Lauren Myracle, which is entirely written in an AIM format. So, yes, I just contradicted myself, but I have a point to it:

When it comes to drawing the line, I think it more comes down to a balance of realistic, entertaining, and comprehensible language rather than whether it’s technically correct or not.

On my FB Author Page, I asked this question, “The English language changes constantly. Words that were once used daily are now obsolete. For instance, I was reading and a character asked, ‘Whom is that gift for?’ And I was taken out of the story. Although correct, I found the dialogue to be unbelievable. So my question is what are your opinions on instances like this (not necessarily whom)? Should writers change basic grammar like this since language is changing or be proper?”

Here are some opinions:

Samantha Ann Achaia: I think that a writer should write in the way that they feel best fits the time period, location and audience of their story. For example, if someone was writing a book in the 1500s, today’s grammar, spelling and sentence-structure probably shouldn’t be used (unless they want to). If a story is set in London and the characters are London-born then they should speak like the British do. If the book is aimed at senior citizens or children one may not want to curse as much as they do in books that are for Young Teens to Middle Adults

LeeAnn Jackson Rhoden: Characters speak the way the do according to their age, culture, location, era, and personality. I never worry about grammar in dialogue. In the text, that’s a different situation. I try to use correct grammar unless it sounds too awkward.

Carra Edelstein Saigh: I’m more bothered by spelling errors, and the use of the wrong word (ex: isle instead of aisle–isle is like an island; aisle is like an aisle at the grocery store). I don’t mind it so much when the story is written the way most people talk as long as it doesn’t get crazy. Outdated grammar rules become that way because no one wants to sound like an English textbook.

So what are your thoughts? Do you think authors should follow the current grammatical rules or do you think there are exceptions–such as in dialogue? If so, is dialogue the only exception or can the creative license move over to prose as well?

~SAT

Writing Tips: How I Form Dialogue into Writing:

26 Dec

I separate writing into steps, so work with me here, and read twice if you need to start over after the end. This is an excerpt from chapter thirteen in a writing of mine, so don’t read for content; read for basic instruction to help focus on one writing aspect at a time.

First: Dialogue

Personally, I like to write out my dialogue at once, using an abbreviation for who’s speaking, so I know who’s speaking when I come back. This way, I don’t have to worry about description, but I can simply concentrate on the art of conversation.

In this scene, my protagonist, Amea (A), is crying with her back to the door when Emmy (E) checks on her.

EX:

A—What?

E—It’s Emmy.” “Are you crying?”

A—No

E—Good

A—What are you doing here? Where’s Leena?

E—Still sleeping.” “I was in the garden. I don’t play much, but do you want to come with me?

Second: Conversational Description

This is where I separate the speech, so it sounds more realistic and/or add basic character descriptions.

EX:

“What?”

“It’s Emmy,” she said, and I slid the door open as I wiped my tears away. She frowned. “Are you crying?” she asked, and I shook my head. “Good.” (I cut this dialogue to make it sound younger, as Emmy is nine.) 

“What are you doing here? Where’s Leena?”

“Still sleeping.” Emmy shrugged “I was in the garden. I don’t play much, but—” She grinned with crooked teeth. “Want to come with me?”

Third: Further Description and Edit

This part is where I add the description, placing the basic scene and adding to the dialogue with scenic descriptions

EX:

I slammed my bedroom door and pressed my back against it, sobbing. Water curled down my fingers, and I clutched my face, falling to the ground. I laid my forehead on my shaky knees as my body shuddered, vibrating as knocking rocked my entrance. (All of this is added)

“What?”

“It’s Emmy,” she said, and I scooted forward, (added necessary movement) sliding the door open as I wiped my tears away. She frowned, pulling at the ends of her curly red hair (added childish action), and rocked back and forth. “Are you crying?” she asked, and I shook my head. “Good.”

I smiled. “What are you doing here? Where’s Leena?”

“Still sleeping.” Emmy shrugged, pointing down the hall. (added—hall for scene) “I was in the garden. I don’t play much, but—” She grinned with crooked teeth. “Want to come with me?”

Four: EDIT EDIT EDIT.

It is necessary, so take that beautiful red pen of yours and get to work 😀

I hope this may separate your writing into bits in which you can concentrate on important aspects one at a time, rather than worry all at once.

Have fun and write endlessly,

 

~SAT

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