Tag Archives: Scrivener for writers

Starting a Novel: Tips, Tricks, & A Little Chaos

11 Jul

I recently finished a major revision on a manuscript. Typically that calls for a well-deserved break, to which I shake my fists at, because I am a write-aholic, and I love nothing more than to immediately jump into my next, shiny, new project. That’s right. 

I already started another novel. 

Why did I already start another book? Well, for one, I’ve been working on the aforementioned revision for six months. It’s been a bit, and I’ve been dying to oil my creative gears and discover something new, whether that be a fresh, exciting world or a character that shocks me. I also know that a writer should never put their writing dreams into one book. If my revision doesn’t work out, well, I need something else, don’t I? Might as well get on that. 

So how does someone start a novel?

Quick answer: It’s different for every writer and often every project. Some of my projects are more outlined than others. Some come to me in a blink; others fight me the whole way. But there are ways you can enhance your chances for success. 

Here are those tips: 

  1. Set Yourself Up Before You Begin

On any given day, I’m working on about three novels. One that I’m revising, one that I’m writing, and one that I’m outlining. Because my recent revision was more of a rewrite, it had been taking up both my revising and writing focus—so, when I turned that in, I had space available for one of the novels I’ve been outlining. (I currently have three strong contenders.) These three ideas have been rattling around in my brain for a while. (One I recently came up with only a few weeks ago; another is based on an idea I actually started drafting when I was 14. That’s right, the idea is 15 years old! But now I’m giving away my age. Always keep your notes.)

By having notes ahead of time, you won’t feel burdened by the blank page, because, well, you aren’t starting on a blank page. You’re starting with bursts of character, fun dialogue snippets, exciting scenes, and more.

2. Research, Research, Research

Research comes into the writing process at different stages for everyone. For example, when I write my fantasy novels, research might not come into play until the later drafting stages. I typically write the book, realize the type of research it needs, then do that. My science fiction novels are the complete opposite. I need to know how certain technologies work long before I start writing, or I’m going to have a mess on my hands. Same thing with the historical novel I wrote. Research happened before writing. Significant research. Knowing what sort of project you are writing and how research will affect the project is important. If you aren’t sure, go ahead and jot down a couple topics you know are in your story but you don’t know that much about. Next time you’re having a writer’s block day, guess what? You now have something to do. Better to research earlier on and prevent a blundering plot hole than to write an entire book and realize the premise is flawed. Amiright?

3. Start Writing that FIRST Draft 

Write however you want to. Write messy. Write in order. Just write. Right now, I’ve been writing in one of those three fun ideas I’ve had laying around, and I’m still at the stage where I’m writing snippets all over the place. I wrote Chapter One – Six, and then I went back and added a short prologue, flipped three chapters, and started outlining the rest. I have one document titled ORGANIZEDwhich includes notes I can put in order by scene, and one called UNORGANIZED, which is my chaos document. I have no idea where these snippets will go or even if I’ll use them, but I love them and hope to use them as the book shapes up. 

A sneak peek behind the curtains

Basically, my Scrivener project looks like a mess right now, but I’ve been here a dozen times before. I trust that it will come together as it should. I trust the process. I trust me. If you don’t trust yourself to write or finish, then you’re still at the stage of your writing career where you’re figuring out what your process is and how to go about it, and that’s totally valid. Try different times of the day. Experiment with new writing methods. Are you used to plotting? Go ahead and be a pantser for the afternoon. Play with a new genre you’ve never tried before. Explore, and eventually you’ll find an adventure worth pursuing. If you’re struggling with meeting your goals, try NaNoWriMo, setting goals, or using tools like PaceMaker Planner

At the end of the day, you’re at the start line, not the finish line, so treat it as such. You shouldn’t be comparing your new words to someone’s edited words. Remember: This is your first draft. You can be as messy as you need to be in order to figure out what your book is about—as long as you plan on revising later. And guess what? No matter how perfect you think your first draft is, you will have to revise, so embrace the moment. 

Start writing your novel today.  

~SAT

P.S. For more tips and tricks on starting a novel, I will be teaching a FREE virtual class on Monday, July 27 at 6:30 PM (CST). More information: Starting a Writing Project. It is taught through ZOOM. Go ahead and register, and I will see you there! 

#MondayBlogs Writers, Should You Get Scrivener?

14 Nov

I’m a writer. Nowadays that means spending a lot of time on a computer, typing away word after word until the glorious moment of THE END is reached. Granted, I don’t always type. My favorite two tools remain a pen and paper. Oh! And Sticky Notes. But I’m also open-minded. I love trying new technologies like Dragon Speak or Character Planner on my Android. Recently—and I know I’m super late to this writing party—I downloaded Scrivener.

For those of you who don’t know, Scrivener is a writing software. It claims to help organize the chaos in your mind by supporting numerous ways to view, edit, and write in your manuscripts. It’s available for Windows and Mac, it’s $45, and there’s a free download to try out.

Let me start out by saying I went into this skeptical as hell. I love, love, love Microsoft Word, and I’ve lived on Word since…Well, as long as I’ve been alive. (Literally.) In Word, I have a system. I have files. I know what to click on when I need it. Word is my first and only love…right?

Well, it’s safe to say I learned a lesson.

I love Scrivener, too.

Why? Honestly, there are quite a few reasons, but I don’t plan on keeping you on here forever, so I’ll only name my top three. One thing that’s super popular, for instance, is the corkboard, but I won’t list it here since it’s not in my top three. Definitely check out their website to see other features, since these are only a few.

1. The Layout

In the screenshot below, from left to right, you can see my book’s outline and notes in what’s called the “Binder”, the synopsis notecard, the chapter I’m drafting, the current status, and my character inspiration. I love being able to have everything in one place all the time—AND I can change whatever I’m seeing whenever I want. I love being able to look at two documents and a photo at once. This saves me so much time. In Word, I kept flipping back and forth between documents, forgetting things, and having to flip back all over again. Yes, I can get one or two documents on my screen in Word, but Scrivener makes it much easier to adjust size and visibility, all while accessing whatever I need without leaving the program.

Scrivener Double Screen

Scrivener Double Screen

2. Character Board

For me, I love having my characters photos and notes in one place. I often use Pinterest to find inspiration, but this can be a deadly game when writing. If I need something, I might end up on my Pinterest for an hour before I realize I’m not working. In Scrivener, I can keep my photos (and notes) right next to my manuscript without going down the Internet rabbit holes to find something. And Scrivener also comes with Character Profiles that ask for basic descriptions, background info, and more. 

Character Board in Scrivener

Character Board in Scrivener

3. Cancel Out Feature (Compose)

As an editor and a writer, I spend my workweek and my free time on the exact same laptop. This can cause a lot of distractions for me. As an example? In Word, I might minimize my manuscript to open up another document…only to see my work folder and recall something I need to do. It also opens up the Internet for me…and then, my ADD is in full swing. But Scrivener saved me. Scrivener allows me to fill up my screen (as does Word), but Scrivener allows me to flip back and forth through numerous documents, photos, and screenshots of websites without having to actually exit or risk getting distracted. If I use another tool known as Quick Reference, too, I can have numerous documents open while in this mode as well. Below is a Quick Reference note next to my current chapter in Compose mode. This mode can also be modified to show pictures, themes, and other fun scenarios.

Quick Reference in Compose Mode on Scrivener

Quick Reference in Compose Mode on Scrivener

In all honestly? The free download sold me. I loved that they allowed me to open it 30 times—rather than put a time limit of 30 days on it—and the tutorials paved the rest of the way. Listen, when you open it, it might be overwhelming. (It freaked me out.) But I took the tutorials, figured out all the tools, and got to work. I will confess to one thing. The tutorial took me about 3 hours. Granted, I was taking the time to log off of the tutorial to try everything out with a novel rather than work through the tutorial videos. Anddddd I’m still learning new capabilities. (For instance, while writing this piece, I figured out how to move my notecards around on my corkboard. So far, the corkboard isn’t something I personally use. I prefer my Sticky Notes on my office wall. But it’s a great tool.) My latest new discovery was the Simple Notes app, which is a syncing tool that allows me to take my Scrivener files wherever I want through my phone. I have a feeling I’ll be using that way too often.

Now, I will give Word its dues. I still work on Word. I always transfer my drafts to Word, because I find Word’s editing software—specifically Track Changes—more universal with my clients and easier to handle, even for myself. So, as an editor, I use Word and only Word. That being said, Scrivener has an editing tool, specifically screenshots that will save numerous versions as you work through your book, but I haven’t been sold on that yet. It seems too complicated and a bit confusing and disorganized. However, that could be me and just the way my brain works. Maybe one day I’ll love editing on it, too. In fact, Simple Notes (the app stated above) is forcing me to embrace it as I type this. (And Word has a syncing app as well.) For now, though, I transfer everything to Word in the end.

So what about transferring files? One of the best parts is the ability to transfer a Scrivener file into a Word file. It also formats your manuscript for querying or publishing. If you’re like me—and struggle way too hard to get page 1 on page 5—you will love that feature.

But why take my word on it?

Download the free sample (a sample that doesn’t require a credit card for once!) and check it out. Here’s their website.

I wish I had tried it earlier.

~SAT

 

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