Scrivener Series: Write The Damn Thing

Scrivener-LogoThis is the fourth installment in my Scrivener Series, which showcases how I use Scrivener to write help me write entire novel series. Be sure to check out the previous installments (Bible, Wallowing, Timelines & Outlines) or check out my writing process post for a preview of what I’m going to cover next.

Alright, now I’ve got my final outline – my map to the novel – and I’m ready to write the damn thing. When I first started writing novels I wanted to be a total pantser, absolutely certain that if I plotted anything out in advance I’d lose all the magic of the story and possibly end up boring myself silly in the process. Indeed there are methods of plotting that are exactly like that but my final outline isn’t.

My final outline is more like having a map on a hiking trip. It keeps me from getting hopelessly lost in the woods but doesn’t ruin the feeling of exploration or wonder at all.

Following the Map

It’s up to you and the way you structured your outline really. Mine is a simple list (I love list) of the characters in the scene, the location and a few key actions that happen there in. Sometimes I manage to pull a chapter title out of that mix as well. Mostly I look at the subsections on my outline, get a general heading of the direction I’m going and then work with my characters to write the scene, one word at a time.

Word Goals and Milestones

Everyone’s actual writing process is different but I find it useful to have an idea of how much ground I can cover in a day and trying to push myself a few extra as well. I average about 2000 words per day (about 8 pages) sometimes I under perform and only manage 1500 and sometimes I have a really great day and manage 5000. Chapters will fall where they need to but a lot of the time they seem to have about 10,000 words in them.

While I’m writing the actual novel I do everything in my power to avoid even the smallest gap in writing. I skip weekends, holidays and invites out with friends or family. There is no such thing as writers block but there is such a thing as having a hard time getting your novelist cap screwed back on and putting the words on the paper, so I avoid the things that make it harder.

Sometimes it’s unavoidable however. When that happens I try working on other aspects of the process like designing the book cover and gathering resources for it.

Still with that kind of word output the novel (mine seem to average around 75,000 words or so) can be written in a little over a month!

Except there’s almost always a hitch.

The Hitch

It just doesn’t work. The flow is off. This bit right here doesn’t have the impact I thought it would. It’s taking too long for this thing to get interesting. Too much blah blah not enough uh huh.

At some point in every novel, you’re going to realize something is wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. So far I’ve been graced with not finding anything so wrong that it couldn’t be fixed with a rewrite but sometimes you look at your whole novel and despair, knowing it has to go right in the trash.

When that happens there’s nothing for it but to stop where you are (writing more only makes the problem worse) and re-evaluate your map and everything you’ve done up to that point, figure out where things went wrong and how to fix it.

This is where Scrivener’s ability to quickly move chapters and scenes around in their entirety is an absolute life saver! About 25,000 words into “Toxic Ash” I realized the opening scenes were all wrong, making the plot drag awkwardly and sublimating the most exciting parts till way too late in the story. I had to cut it out, rewrite it and put it in later, move that bit to the beginning, write a new opening scene and restructure all the scenes I’d written so far so that they made sense again – a task so large that if I was working directly in Word I might have half assed it or tossed the whole novel out in despair. It was bad even with Scrivener (seriously you should see my trash folder) but I was able to make  it through and the book proceeded far more smoothly from there (well there were a few more edits but not anymore complete rewrites so – yay!).

Don’t forget if you want to skip the extra blather about my writing process and just go to the next book release, you can always sign up for email notification!

Scrivener Series: Timelines & Outlines

Scrivener-LogoThis is the third installment in my Scrivener Series, which showcases how I use Scrivener to write help me write entire novel series. Be sure to check out the previous installments (Bible, Wallowing) or check out my writing process post for a preview of what I’m going to cover next.

By now I’ve been writing up a storm in the universe of my novel. It’s still a very random storm but it’s starting to coalesce into something nice and terrifying, a molten doom planet of madness.

I’ve started writing actual scenes for the upcoming novel, maybe the one after that or the one after that, I’ve had tea with my antagonist, put my main character on a psychiatrist’s couch and the story is starting to sit on chest in the night, restricting my breath and stealing my nightmares.

It’s time to let all that awesome out in a focused direction.

Timelines

Every important character in my novels gets one, the antagonist, protagonist and recurring side characters with specific weighty roles to play. These can start at different points in the character’s history, Buddy Jenkins starts around about his birth but Helen Raymond’s outline starts when her mother first met Pan, while playing in the woods with Helen the first.

When the outline starts depends on the character and how important or convoluted their history actually is. I find putting it in the form of a timeline allows for the important points to be quickly roughed out so you know when they happened but keeps me from getting too hung up on ‘worthless’ backstory. Without pages upon pages from each character’s past already written out, I find it’s easier to drop the important information in little bites that are easier for the reader to digest and keep them interested, without getting the main story side tracked with long bits of exposition that can really distract from the original novel.

Still, some characters you really need to work their backstories out in depth. Almost everyone in the Eldritch Elysium series has one hell of a convoluted past, Mitei’s history could probably cover a city mile and Ananke’s is so twisty the Gordian Knot was probably less convoluted but – a person is the sum of everything that’s happened to them, filtered through the lenses of their personality, so all that information helps create more interesting characters and infinitely more interesting series.

Outlines

Slightly different from timelines though each character can get one of their own as well, depending on the needs of the series. The Four Horsemen series has alternating perspectives from all four lead characters and Leslie Roth, it helps – a lot – to have separate outlines for each character’s perspective within the novel.

Each outline focuses on what they’re doing but also on what they’re thinking and feeling within each scene, whether it’s happening on camera or off. I find that this helps me to make sure I allow the characters to be themselves and don’t skew their actions just because I want such and such to happen by page 245.

Once I’ve got timelines for any new characters that need one as well as outlines completed up to the end of the novel I start incorporating the outlines into a single whole – which is often easier said than done. Individual outlines follow individual timelines that don’t necessarily lend themselves quickly to a single whole. Some scenes or chapters will need serious restructuring to get everything where it needs to go.

So the very first rewrite will likely happen before you’ve written the first chapter. Yippie!

Don’t forget if you want to skip the extra blather about my writing process and just go to the next book release, you can always sign up for email notification!

Scrivener Series: Novel Project – Wallowing

Scrivener-Logo
This is the second installment in my Scrivener Series, which showcases how I use Scrivener to write help me write entire novel series. Be sure to check out the previous installment (Bible) or check out my writing process post for a preview of what I’m going to cover next.

Alright I’ve already mentioned that my writing process has changed, a lot, since I wrote my first novel (over the course of seven horrible years). I’ve outlined what my new process looks like and I’ve started out by showing you how to start a series bible using Scrivener. Now it’s time to look at how I use Scrivener to write each novel in the series.

First up I keep a separate Scrivener project for each series. One, project. Not a folder of projects. One single Scrivener project for the whole damn series. If you’ve experienced trying to find that one note you scribbled a scene on six months ago, or trying to find where you tucked that last bit of free writing that had some vital ideas about world building then you can understand that having a single project for all those notes and bits is a godsend.

Thanks to Scrivener I can jot down any number of scenes, notes, free writing, whatev’s, all in one document and then easily find, fix and resort the pile for later use. I can keep all my notes from novel one – with all my overly early ideas for novel four – in the same working document so that when novel four finally gets here, I’ve got all those great ideas ready to review. When I’m finally ready to compile a single novel I can export as a single .doc or .docx file and then go through it with a fine tooth comb fixing formatting (the one thing that Scrivener does not seem to get right at the moment, is format retention) before I send it off for final edits and read-throughs.

Why am I harping on Scrivener’s ability to keep all your notes and novels in a single project? Because of the first stage when I write a new novel: the wallowing.

Since I write series in two, very, different universes I find the switch over thought process to be a bit easier to achieve by taking a few days (the goal is a maximum of thirty days but sometimes it takes three times as many) to wallow in the world of the novel.

What do I mean by wallowing? I luxuriate in the world. I smell the flowers, poke the things in the dark, ask questions of all the lead characters and villains and I write short stories based on whatever part of that world is catching my fancy till it’s every bit as present as the reality I live in.

A funny thing starts to happen as I immerse myself more and more deeply in the world of the story, the novel starts to take shape and soon I’m writing more scenes for the upcoming novel than I am random shorts or character assessments. It becomes more and more pressing that I start putting all of those bits into the right order, connecting the dots, figuring out why exactly this character is going to do this or that, what in their past makes them such an ass here.

That’s when I start writing the timelines for various characters and the outlines for the new novel. Which I’ll cover in the next post.

Keep in mind this all happens in ONE Scrivener project! Usually I mark a folder as “preparations for book 1-2-3″ and just stick all this stuff in there at first. I can always separate scenes and notes into different folders later but in the beginning the important part is to write and keep writing while focusing on the right universe.

Now if you’re a reader and just want to skip all the technical jargon, feel free to sign up for an email alert and I’ll just let you know when my next release is coming out.

Scrivener: Series “Bible”

Scrivener-LogoI love Scrivener, it makes writing novels (and writing novel series) so much easier! One of the things I noticed while constantly changing my writing process, however, is that there’s not that much information out there on how to effectively use Scrivener for writing a novel series. So I’m going to try and outline some ways that I use Scrivener to do just that.

First up: The Series Bible.

A series bible is a compilation of relevant information about a series that can be referenced by an author and their editor during the editing/revision process. A good bible should include:

  • Character Outlines
    • bio’s
    • important traits (physical/mental)
    • nicknames
    • key moments for their development in various novels
    • Compilation of character outlines/timelines (if you have them)
  • Locations
    • Where exactly it is
    • Furnishing
    • Style
    • Anything that’s been altered by the story over time (ex: broke that expensive Ming vase/set fire in that room and haven’t managed to clean up the damage yet/changed the color from green to blue)
  • Vocabulary
    • Special words or word usages
    • Grammatical notes specific to the novel
  • Creatures (where applicable)
  • Details Details Details
  • Style Guide
    • Any special notes for grammar usage in the novels to flag for an editor to ignore
    • aka “It’s not a mistake it’s a feature
  • Full copy of previous novels for quick reference if necessary
  • Quotes
    • Characteristic sayings
    • Quotable bits of dialogue to be used in promotion
    • Potential tie ins for later novels

I created a bible for each of my series using Scrivener. Th bible is an entirely separate document to the document that contains the actual novel writing, this helps to keep things clear and easy for reference. You’ll notice there are no notes or references for future novels in the bible, I keep all of those in the doc I’m actually writing in.

In Scrivener I create a folder for each of the main points and subfolders inside of those as needed. For example, Characters-> Rin Tyler -> Outlines etc.

A good bible is a wonderful reference guide! The first few novels I wrote, I didn’t have Scrivener – or any kind of bible. When I went on to write the second book in the series, I had to reread the first book in the series before I could edit my new novel properly and make sure there weren’t any giant plot holes! Though it was fun to reread the work I’d written so many years earlier, it was a huge time sink that’s best avoided whenever possible.

I recommend starting your series bible as soon as possible and keeping it updated as you go.

My Writing Process

Writing

My writing process has changed. A lot.

In the beginning I started out using a few books on the art and craft of writing novels and tried to follow along – often deviating about a third of the way through their recommended process as I got the hang of their method, made changes to suit my own style and my novel’s needs. Most of those craft books aren’t really geared towards writing series either so, even in the best of times, after the first novel was finished the books were pretty much useless to me and I had to find my own way.

Now my process is a culmination of techniques I’ve used before, utilizing software that I’ve found helpful (more about that later I hope) and my own preferences. Here’s a brief rundown of the process, hopefully I’ll explain and expand on each of the sections in blog posts of their own later.

You might notice that cover design and title choice aren’t on the list, those tend to happen at various times that I haven’t really finalized yet. I try to decide the title and finish the cover as soon as possible, it helps with advertising and getting readers excited about an upcoming release.

Another thing you won’t notice on the list is an estimate on how long the novel will take or when it will be released, they vary too much. I have yet to be absolutely certain of a release date more than a week or two in advance – mostly because the second a novel is done, I put it up for sale. I can’t stand making readers wait for a release that could be out sooner but if I set a date in advance based on how things are going at the time – it’s pretty much guaranteed that it will put a hex on the works.

Short, Sweet and Sassy

While I was stuck in bed away from my working computer and basically miserable, I couldn’t help but think of writing. Specifically synopsis and what really makes a good one. One that’s interesting, draws you right in but though it doesn’t lie and clearly mentions key point’s also doesn’t give anything away. Brief without feeling like an ad, in short: nothing if not distilled awesome.

In my head if it’s got to be short, sweet and sassy it’s got to be this brief description of the classic film, The Wizard of Oz.

Written Rick Polito for a 1998 TV Guide, this little gem has made the rounds of the internet meme scene for years and it’s entirely true and ridiculously intriguing for a modern audience (on the off chance that there’s someone alive who hasn’t seen the Wizard of Oz) all within the scope of one sentence.

In my fevered state of course I had to try my hand at a few similar snippets for one of my books as well.

Ash of Ambitions

  • Innocent woman gets caught up in the sinister machinations of a murderous family’s plots.
  • Sweet loner has unwanted guests suddenly heaped upon her. Body count rises.

Well that was fun. Got any sassy little blurbs of your own to share? Go ahead and post ‘em in the comments.