Let me say this: I like simple things. - Not in all aspects of life, but when it comes to the technological side of my creative process, I generally just want something that works and isn’t too hard to learn.
So when a friend told me about the program Scrivener some time ago, my reaction went something like this, “Wow! That sounds amazing. All those options. All those features! I’d never use half of them, and besides it must take forever to master.”
For a while, I kept typing my fiction of 80K words + in OpenOffice. I liked OpenOffice. I still do and I still use it for some things (like spellchecking in my native language). But I found that I was looking for a way to get a better overview of my stories than having to scroll through hundreds of pages or keeping each chapter in a separate file.
“Okay,” I finally thought, “I’ll have another look at that Scrivener thing.” So I tried the free trial, and it was not long before I used the 50% off coupon that I had from NaNoWriMo to buy the program.
See, the thing is that while I was right about not using all the fancy features, you don’t actually have to in order to get something out of a program. Yes, there is a direct link to online dictionaries. Yes, you can have a research folder with pictures and what have you. Yes, you can set wordcount goals for your project. Yes, you can toggle to full screen mode. Yes, you can convert your project to an ebook. But you can also ignore everything that you don’t need right now and use what you do need. It doesn’t hurt to have features that you may not use right now, but perhaps can one day.
So far, Scrivener has been very helpful for me when it comes to editing because I can put my chapters in folders, rearrange them, and add descriptions for a quick overview.
As for how hard it is to get started and understand the program … It’s really not bad. If you have a basic knowledge of word processing tools, you will get it pretty fast. I began typing, played around with making new folders and went, ”Huh …” and, ”Oh, I see!” a lot. There was one thing I wanted to do, something to do with the layout though I’ve forgotten what, and couldn’t figure out at once, but a simple Google search gave me a tutorial for that.
And there’s a good selection of templates for novels, scripts, non-fiction and so on if you don’t want to play around with your own layout from the start.
So colour me converted. From .odt to .scriv.
Conclusion: Scrivener is a brilliant tool for writers, but it doesn’t make your bad puns better.
If you’re interested in Scrivener, here are a few useful links:
- Literature and Latte – The company who makes Scrivener.
- Scrivener Resources – Exactly what it sounds like. A link list.
- 10 Reasons why Scrivener is the Best Writing Software – Explains ten good points, some of which I have completely ignored in this post.
- Simply Scrivener – Lots of tutorials.
My serialised novel, Aconitum, is now online on JukePop Serials!
Want the blurb? Well, here it is:
As if being a certified werewolf hunter isn’t enough of a moral morass already, Hector Rothenberg hears rumours of a wolf who can change its shape at will, and he realises that he must investigate the truth.
But he needs to hurry up – especially if routine missions keep going almost fatally wrong.
Aconitum is the story of one man’s physical and mental journey. It is also the tale of a society which knows that werewolves are a real threat, of a doctor with a dark secret, a skilled lady in a lucrative business, a rich aunt, a grumpy, old mentor, a cheeky Frenchman, a village idiot, tragic death, romance gone wrong, and a young man who really wanted nothing to do with any of that.
A literary supernatural tale of werewolves, the ones who hunt them, and the people who are caught in the crossfire.
Is that biting off more than a werewolf can chew?Well, come and see for yourself.
I have been looking so much forward to sharing this story with you, and I really hope that you’ll check it out.
And hey, while you’re there, I recommend taking a look at some of the other stories on the site. There are some really good ones on there.
You can browse your favourite genre, see which ones are currently most popular or look at the newest stories uploaded. You can even download an app to your phone or tablet to read the novels on the go.
Aconitum will be updated weekly, every Thursday, but in order to read more than the first chapter, you will need a profile on the site. It’s 100% free and super easy. Oh, and also … If you like a story, you can give the chapters +votes. Those votes can earn the author a nice ranking and the possibility of payment. And, even more importantly, it makes the writers happy and motivates the them to keep updating.
When it comes to writing, I consider myself fairly prolific.
Not compared to those writers who wring out several pages every single day or write a 100K word story three times a year. But I do manage to type up a novel length story or two and the odd pieces of short fiction (short stories, challenges, writing prompts) every year.
But when it comes to editing I feel like such a slowpoke. – Why is that?
Well, the obvious answer is that for me, creating is what motivates me to write in the first place. By writing, I put into existence something that would not otherwise be there. I like watching the story unfold, I enjoy getting to know my characters and going with them on their personal journeys. I love what it gives me. I can turn off that inner editor fairly well and just see what happens.
Editing presents me with two things that I’m not that keen on:
First, it is a lot more restrictive. The process of editing is about finding mistakes and faults and everything wrong with the story. When is it enough? How much nitpicking will I do, and will I end up destroying something good on the way?
And second, the finish line feels like it is so far away. Even if I have a bigger picture in mind when I write, it is pushed to the back of my head and the here and now of what I am typing is the important thing. When editing, I am looking for the result rather than enjoying the process.
Is there a way to make editing more enjoyable? I think that I have found one solution while editing one of the stories that I am working on right now. It is very simple, but may actually help: Think of editing as a creative process just like writing. Take one chapter at the time and consider each of them a goal in itself. Yes, there is a finish line at the end, but that is the case when writing too. And then remember to notice the strong points of the story as well as all the weak ones. Yes, editing is about remedying problems, but it may not be so bad to notice what you are doing right along the way.
There’s always that awkward feeling when you have been away from a social media site such as a blogging platform a for a long time. The kind of awkwardness that makes you take even longer to return and which is brought on by … what?
Is it the sensation that you bailed on your readers and may have disappointed them? Or the fear that there is no one left when you get back? Or the dislike of the blank screen with a cursor mockingly blinking at you? Or the confusion over the new user interface or layout of the site? Or dreading that you may end up just disappearing from that same site again?
Or is it the apprehension of what made you leave in the first place? – And what did make you leave? Was it a clean break because of a specific event related to that site? Or was it a declining interest in it on your own part? Or a cataclysmic event in your life that you had to devote your time and effort to? Or the demands and restrictions that you made for yourself when it came to posting? Or the subject of the blog that took up all your spare time instead of writing about it?
- It is after asking all those questions that you kind of realise that the whole thing is probably only a big deal in your own head and decide to work your way through that awkwardness. You get back in the proverbial saddle and see where this ride is going to take you.
Hello, blog. And hello, followers. Nice to see that you’re still around. Admittedly, I haven’t paid much attention to WordPress lately, but it’s not for lack of writing.
So, without further ado, please allow me to indulge and go through the last year in writing:
April 2012 was Script Frenzy, an event arranged by the people behind NaNoWriMo. I just managed to participate the last year before they cancelled it. The idea was to write a script in a month, and I teamed up with a friend for it. We have written a few short stories together before starring two characters from our respective stories. Their own stories are not related, but we like the absurdities that happen when we put them together in a story. So we wrote a “film script” (will never actually be filmed), an action-packed comedy involving a shady group of people who want to summon a monster in a field in the countryside with the help of brainwashed gamers.
In August 2012, I participated in Camp NaNo. I had an idea roughly two weeks before the beginning of Camp and managed to work my way a little more than 50,000 words into a story about a bloke whom I lovingly like to call “Hemingway’s code hero as a licensed werewolf hunter”. I didn’t know exactly where the story was headed until the middle of August, but it turned out to have a direction that involved a lot of development for the protagonist as well as some ethical questions, and I grew very fond of it.
- So when NaNoWriMo arrived in November 2012, I decided to work more on that story. 50K words were not nearly enough to complete the tale. I spent the month adding another 50K to it, extending the narrative chronologically only a little, as I focussed mainly on adding a lot of stories within the story – backstory, character development, exploration of themes that I originally only briefly touched. It is the most complete first draft that I have written in the past … Well, if I say ten years, I’m not stretching it.
I spend the rest of 2012 revising (and I’m not yet done), taking notes for another story that is very dear to me, and writing scenes and snippets of a web of related stories that I hope to someday connect.
Now (April 2013), I just completed another Camp NaNo. This time I experimented with writing a fantasy story for children or young adults. I set my personal wordcount goal at 40K, which seemed quite sensible in terms of time. It did turn out that I underestimated how much story was really in that story (again), so I now have a part one of two and will hopefully finish the story over the next few months.
I feel tempted to pick up blogging again. But we’ll see. I’m not expecting to deliver consistency in that area, but I do think I have some thoughts, ideas and news to share.
You know the walk and the talk of your protagonist. You know his dark secrets and the stories of his childhood. Briefs or boxers? Simple question. You know what and if he votes, his religious inclination, his sexual preferences, what calms him down, and his pet peeves. You know exactly what shade of colour his eyes are and whether he has to shave regularly. – Do you? If you do, it’s probably a good thing. But it doesn’t necessarily have to mean that your readers need to.
I was typing up an entry on character development and well rounded characters (with a twist) when the idea for this came to mind, and I decided to publish it first instead.
Knowing a lot about your main characters is important. No one wants cardboard cutouts who stand around and say their lines. We want real people in our stories with the exception of a few genres with typecast caricatures (please do correct me if I’m wrong). And there is a number of ways to get to know a character.
Now, after learning all these exciting as well as trivial facts about the character, it’s times to put them to good use. I am always eager to share my knowledge. I hold back what needs to be held back for plot reasons of course. But sometimes I find myself in danger of cramming too much information into a story because of the sole reason that I know all these things about the protagonist and want to share them. I want the reader to get to know the character, and I want there to be no mistakes or misrepresentations of my guys.
In order to avoid character info dumping, though, I ask myself, Is this piece of information relevant to the story or the character development? And am I unintentionally shoving my protagonist down the readers’ throats?
As much as I like descriptions and gaining an insight into the characters of a story, and as much as others may so the same, some things have to be left up to the reader’s interpretation and imagination. What is not being described may be as significant as what is. And I think that putting a character’s life story in chapter one can be both tedious and have the opposite effect from the desired. Instead of liking the character more, there are no mystery and questions left to the readers, and it can annoy them because it seems like the writer is stumbling over his or her own feet in order to make everybody like the protagonist instead of letting them make up their own mind.
I think it’s all about balance. As with so many other things. I have short stories about some of my protagonists that hold information about them which will never make it to the “real” story. They are nice to have, and I am a great fan of collecting background material on the characters, but some things are better left just hinted at, or completely out of the story.
… Oh, and if you are curious to see what some of my characters may look like, I created a blog called Visual Flipside. – In order not to force them upon you here.
Did you ever have your main character look at him- og herself in the mirror and notice more details than believable? Do you enjoy reading lengthy character descriptions? Do you like your protagonist so much that you can’t bear it if everyone else doesn’t?