Can a Scatterbrained Writer Get Organized with Scrivener?

In a recent post I mentioned Scrivener, which is a word-processing and project management tool. The Scrivener site calls it a “complete writing studio.” I tried the Windows version when it was in beta testing, but trying to learn how to use new software while in the middle of writing a novel slowed me down. And though I loved the organization part, I felt the word-processing part was lacking.

Guess what I’ve been doing this past week? Yep, I downloaded the current free trial version of Scrivener for Windows, and I’ve been setting up Projects for my two WIPs. I still love the Corkboard and Binder and all the other organizing bits, but in the current version I’m also happy with the word-processor function. And I hear Scrivener easily converts your work to digital files now too!

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Click the photo to view in detail.

No more do I have to open ten Word documents and switch back and forth between them. In Scrivener I can still create as many files as I need for each Project, including character sketches, style sheets, editing notes, unfinished scenes or ones I haven’t decided where to fit in yet, and all those web links and bits of info culled during research. But the difference is it’s all in one place and easily accessed from one screen!

I’ve enjoyed adding photos of celebrity stand-ins to my character sheets and index cards, and now I can just click the Corkboard view whenever I need to get newly inspired. I’m also adding photos for the locations where my story takes place and any other photos that I’ve gathered during research.

Some quick and easy editing features are the ability to take a “snapshot” of a scene before you edit it. Those versions are listed on the right-hand side of the screen, accessed with one click, and can be viewed in split screen mode to review changes or copy and paste from, if you decide you like the original better. And if a scene needs to be moved, just drag it into proper order in the Binder.

Please click on my graphic above to view it larger. This is a view of the Project for my WIP with the working title Fish (this is incomplete and first draft state—so cut me some slack.) As you can see, I’ve divided my chapters into scenes to work on individually, but if I want to view the chapter as a whole, I only need click on the “Scrivenings” button at the top and voilà!

If I find I’m distracted by all the goodies on either side of the Editor, which is what Scrivener terms the larger middle section, I can switch to full screen mode to hide everything, but the “paper” I’m typing on—and by everything I mean: both sidebars, menus, status and taskbars. (In full screen mode, a pop-up taskbar appears when you move the pointer to the bottom of the screen.)

And I can change the colors or icons for key chapters or scenes—including the color of the Editor background, so if I get the urge to write a sweet first kiss scene in purple font on a pink background I can do that. One application of the color settings is to see at a glance the structure of your novel. For instance, in this WIP, I’m using two colors to denote which scenes are in which character’s viewpoint. I also use a third color for front matter pages and a fourth for back matter pages.

I could go on and on—there’s the multi-purpose split screen mode, templates (if you want them), compiling for print or export (yes, you can convert to Word documents) and much more, but this post is a whopper already. And besides, others can tell you about it better than a newbie can.

Users who love Scrivener are vocal about it. There are numerous videos, articles, and blog posts showing how to use various functions of the program. One such user is Lucinda Whitney who wrote a terrific article, complete with screen shots, titled “What I Love About Scrivener.” She also maintains a Scrivener Pinterest page with links to many other helpful articles.

I learn something new about Scrivener each day I use it, but I quickly learned all I need to know to get organized and start making better use of my writing time. By the way, there’s a Mac version with even more features than the current Windows version. So why not check out the free trial? At least watch the introductory video to see whether Scrivener might be useful for you.

So YES, to answer the question in the post title, I believe this scatterbrained writer can get organized with Scrivener. My trial period will run out in less than three weeks—it runs for 30 full days, no matter how many times you use it during those days—and this time I’ll be paying to register it. Finally, my brain feels uncluttered, which relaxes me and that’s always good for getting the words to flow.

Linda

Why I Don’t Want to Be a Professional Writer

Earlier this month I blogged that “I need to focus on what I CAN do, who I CAN be, and … that means I must STOP comparing myself to other writers.” Today I’m going to expand on that. For a while now, I’ve wondered why I’ve been so frustrated and discouraged since I published my first novel. I finally realized the reason: I’d lost the enjoyment of writing because I didn’t have a clear picture of myself as a writer.

whoamI.jpgWhen I first started blogging, I found the blogs of several other writers who hoped to be published one day. I followed their links to literary agents’ blogs and learned about querying. I set my sights on getting an agent because I believed that was the only way to get published. Later, I started following bloggers who were self-publishing. And when circumstances in my life changed, I decided to stop querying agents and publish my own book. But I was still reading the blogs of these successful self-publishers who were apparently selling hundreds of books a month, so I became dissatisfied with my trickle of sales and searched for tips on how to rocket my books to the top of the Amazon charts.

I wasn’t long before I realized it took more than writing well to have a book in the top 10—or even the top 100. I tried many things before I accepted I didn’t have the resources (money and influence) necessary to compete as a self-publisher. As for the advice to write, edit, revise, and publish three or more books a year? Why sure. You want me to bring peace to the Middle East too?  Two and a half years of trying to do the impossible left me frustrated, angry, jealous, self-pitying—a whole bucketful of stinking mess.

So last fall I returned to my first plan. I’d have to get an agent, who could sell my books to a big NY publisher who did have all the resources. I set off to write another book with the goal of dazzling an agent and editor. At times, I heard that still, small voice of reason, but I pushed it away.

That voice kept trying to tell me to look at the other side. To pay attention when I stood in Barnes & Noble watching a friend give a presentation at her first book signing and knew I’d faint dead away if I had to do that. To pay attention when I saw writer friends embark on blog tours, doing interviews and guest posts every day for weeks and felt my heart pound at the very idea. To pay attention when I got stressed out just thinking about having to meet, Skype, or even have a phone conversation with an agent or editor. To pay attention when my writer friends worried about meeting deadlines for their 3-book deals and I knew that my “Muse” would shut down under that pressure.

Finally I listened. I gave up the idea of being traditionally published. And then I hit rock bottom. I felt like a failure. I quit writing. For a month.

That’s all I could stand before my fingers itched to get back to the keyboard. I kept hearing lines of dialogue. I kept envisioning scenes. I had characters waiting to finish telling their stories. I started writing again, but I didn’t know why I bothered. Then I came across this post by Anne R. Allen. She defined me as a hobbyist writer. But then I read this response by Jami Gold and I liked her term better—an artist-author. Both women pointed out that being a hobbyist/artist-author rather than a professional author doesn’t mean my writing is necessarily of lesser quality. Jami said:

In fact, what Anne is talking about are the two paths for authors who do care about quality. The major difference instead is whether we have a business mindset …

I work as hard and edit and revise as earnestly as the professional author. I just don’t have a business bone in my body. I’ve stressed myself into illness trying to become something I’m not suited for. Enough of that. Sure I’d like to make more money doing what I love. But if I quit focusing on that goal and spend more time writing, maybe I will. No one knows the future.

But I know who I am now. I’m a woman who loves to write stories and who loves to study the craft of writing so she can write even better stories to share. That’s what I’ll be doing the rest of this year. And then I’ll publish those books and, judging from past experience, some people will buy and read them and some of those will say good things about my writing and I’ll be a happy artist-author. Being an artist-author sounds like a great gig, doesn’t it?

Tell me: Do you see yourself as an artist-author or a professional-author?

Read Anne R. Allen’s definitions.

Read Jami Gold’s definitions.

Why Your Facebook Page Might Not Be Working for You

Way back when having a published book was still a dream, I started a Facebook “fan” Page. I didn’t really know what to do with it, but a few of you LIKED it because I asked you to. Since then, I’ve been sharing my blog posts to my Page and even remembering to write witty and/or informative updates—occasionally. And my number of LIKES has grown, which means I’m interacting with a lot more “fans.” Right? I don’t think so.

After Facebook went public, changes were made to insure more profit for its shareholders. If you had a Page, you noticed that Facebook began showing you the number of people who saw each update in their feed. They also offered you the ability to “boost” your updates so more people would see them. You have to pay for these boosts, of course. So what happens if you don’t boost your updates? Only a small percentage of the people who’ve LIKED your Page will ever see what you share with them.

Think about all the Pages you’ve LIKED on Facebook. Remember how you saw updates from them—for a while? If you regularly visit those pages or interact with their updates, you’ll continue seeing those updates. But if you haven’t visited those Pages recently, you’ve probably forgotten you ever clicked that LIKE button—unless those Pages are “owned” by a company or person who can afford to boost their updates. (And even those boosted updates will reach only a percentage of the Facebook users who wanted to see them.)

In short, if you don’t pay to boost, you’ll become invisible to the majority of the people who wanted to see what you say on Facebook.

For example, 299 people have chosen to LIKE my Facebook Page. How many of them saw my last update? Only 23—and that took three days! In part, I believe, that was because it contained a link to my last blog post. I’ve noticed that when I publish a status update that doesn’t contain a link, the percentage of people who see it in their feed is larger—and they see it faster. My last update without a link appeared in 20 of my followers’ feeds within one hour.

My conclusion: Facebook doesn’t want our Pages to be a successful use of our time and effort unless we pay for that privilege. Great for the Facebook shareholders. Not good for poor writers like me trying to communicate through their Facebook Pages.

So, do yourselves and those you LIKE a favor. Go to your Facebook account today. Click on your Likes and visit the Pages of those you really want to keep up to date on. Better yet, interact by clicking Like or Share on a status update on that Page—and then continue doing that when you see their updates in your feed. That way you’ll never miss out on what’s happening on the Pages you so kindly LIKED.

Oh What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

Look before you leap is excellent advice—if you take it. I’m embarrassed to say how many times I haven’t. I’m thankful my leaps are figurative. In my last post, I mentioned that I’d started a book in a genre I’ve never written before. I’ve read it, though probably not as much as I should have before attempting to write it. So guess what I’m doing now? (Don’t bother checking my I Read page or my Goodreads currently reading shelf; I’m being secretive.)

xIn short, I’m looking at a lot more pre-writing preparation for this book than I’d anticipated. But that’s all right. Creating new brain cells is good. Besides, I said I this was my year of new, didn’t I? And I said I needed to get more organized. Maybe it’s time to use new writing tools. I tried Scrivener for Windows back when they were beta testing it, but I was in the middle of writing a book and the learning curve seemed a time suck. After they ended the beta, I never bought the real version. Do any of you use it?

My current method of research and writing involves creating dozens of Word files—research notes, character profiles, scene lists, timelines, etc., as well as the actual manuscript file. I save those files into a folder with the working title of the book, but still I need to open each file individually. So, as I work, I might have five or six files open in Word at once. I think Scrivener streamlines that, but I’d have to learn how.

I might even do the unthinkable—properly outline this novel. (I can’t believe I typed that!) Can a pantser turn plotter?

I will probably divide my writing time by working on this secret book part of the day and my next WF novel during the other part. I’ve already cut down on social media participation. And I guess it’s a good thing personal email, which requires a thoughtful reply, rarely drops into my inbox. So I have time; I just need to use it more wisely than ever before.

I might even have to cut back to watching only one episode of X-Files before bed, so I can start rising earlier. The truth is out there.

Linda

A Year of New—or How I Hope to Stay Sane This Year

I believe 2014 may be a year of new for me. We’re only a week into the year and I’ve already started writing a new book—in a genre I’ve never written before. I don’t want to jinx it by telling too much too soon, but I’m excited about it, even though I know how much work I have ahead me. And I don’t mean just the writing, editing, and revising. I’ll need to maintain a different mindset to write in this genre.

KG_crocusThat’s all right, though. I need a new mindset for this year. A positive, I’m-going-to-enjoy-life-no-matter-what outlook. I need to focus on what I CAN do, who I CAN be, and build my self-esteem. And that requires changes in many areas of my life.

In my writing life, that means I must STOP comparing myself to other writers. Bye-bye tons of frustration and disappointment. And I can’t afford to waste time like I did in 2013. I now have two books to write and edit this year. (The book I hoped to revise will have to wait for 2015.) I absolutely have to get organized and assign priorities.

Focus. Focus. Focus. I can’t afford to get side-tracked, which will be my hardest challenge. My brain works like someone surfing the Internet—I start here, then I go there, that leads to this, which reminds me to check that, and on and on and on until I lose track of what I originally set out to do. Eyes forward this year. Blinders in place.

I’ll elaborate on some of these points in future posts. Being a writer in the digital age is both a blessing and a curse. Maybe if we talk honestly about it, we’ll help each other enjoy more of the first and suffer less of the second.

So, that’s my plan to make it through 2014 saner than I did in 2013.


But first, I have to finish up one “old” thing—it’s coupled with a new experience, though, so that’s good. I’d planned to stop actively promoting my first two books, but I’d forgotten that a few months ago I requested to be put on the waiting list for a promotion with eReader Buddy. My name finally came up, so I decided to pair that promotion with a new tool for books in KDP Select. So for the next couple of days, The Brevity of Roses ebook will be on deep discount at $.99 and then rise in price twice over the next days until it’s back to the regular price. That’s called a Kindle Countdown Deal at Amazon. I’m interested to see how it works.

Linda

Image courtesy of Karpati Gabor / Morguefile.com

Keeping the Voices Straight

I love to write dialogue. I’d guess that in 87% of my scenes, I write the dialogue first and fill in the narrative later. So, deciding what my characters say is rarely a challenge, but making sure their voices are distinct and stay true is.

character_speakWriting in both male and female voices is a challenge in itself. Then you have to consider the character’s education, life experience, and regional influences to develop a voice that sounds natural. And you have to repeat that for each of your characters. Ideally, even when your character is not identified by name, the reader shouldn’t have to read very far into a paragraph before realizing who’s speaking or narrating.

In The Brevity of Roses, a few of my characters, for whom English was a second language, didn’t use contractions when they spoke. Because I didn’t want my main character to sound too stilted, as often as possible, I challenged myself to form a natural-sounding sentence without using any words usually contracted in informal writing.  Still, after each draft, I made an editing pass specifically looking for contraction slip ups.

Also, in that novel, two characters were upper-educated poets and because I’d written a good bit of the book in their voices, by the time I got to a third major character who was a young, streetwise woman I found myself slipping back and writing words and phrasing, both in dialogue and narrative, that she wouldn’t have used naturally. I had to edit those out.

In one of my current works in progress, my biggest challenge is staying “in character” as I write the parts from my Jesse’s point of view. He was born into a poor mining family in the West Virginia mountains and left school when he was fifteen to hire on as farm laborer in Kentucky. I don’t want to write his voice in dialect as much as I want to give the flavor of his voice. That flavor is not my own and I catch myself slipping out of character often.

In addition to Jesse, I have several characters who speak with just a touch of country and a couple who are pure “city folks.” One of those is the main female character, Nicole, who happens to be an English teacher. So again, I’ve set myself up for several editing passes just to make sure I’ve kept the characters’ voices “natural.” I accept that challenge.

If you’re a writer, what challenges are you facing in your current work?

Linda