Scrivener Series: Re-outline, Reorder, Rewrite

Scrivener-LogoThis is the fifth installment in my Scrivener Series, which showcases how I use Scrivener  write entire novel series. Be sure to check out my writing process post for quick links to the currently published posts and 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.

At this point in the process things are really humming along. I’ve stopped writing random scenes, finished digging up facts and compiling them for easy reference while I write and finished my first chapter, second chapter, maybe my third and fourth. By now I’ve got a pretty sizable word count (say around about 50k) on my hands and I should be sitting on cloud nine knowing that all is write with my world.

But I’m not.

Something is wrong – very, very wrong – with each paragraph, no, with each and every word, the certainty grows. Wrong, all wrong and getting worse fast. Part of me screams that I’m in too deep! There’s no turning back now! If it’s that wrong I’ll have to toss more than half of the book! Despair overwhelms me and my head hits the desk. Repeatedly.

But there’s hope, thanks to Scrivener!

Re-outline

When I wrote my first novel and came to the point where I realized it all just didn’t work, things weren’t flowing properly the pace was stagnant and dead and I couldn’t figure out how to write myself out of the muck I’d made for myself – I tossed the whole thing in a drawer and left it there, for five years. I’d have thrown it out entirely (that came later to my second novel when it hit a similar sticking point) but I still thought that maybe somewhere in the future, maybe when novels were written entirely with software linked directly to our brains, it could be saved. Eventually I came back to it, printed the whole thing out, marked up each page with notes and created a separate document for an entirely new outline while I ripped it apart and tried to put the pieces back together in a way that made more sense than the original. It was a mess, painful, frustrating process that involved many paper cuts and printer ink refills before I was ready to continue with the story again.

I don’t recommend it. All told, from start to finish, that novel (“The Uncertainty of Death”) took seven bloody years to complete. Not nearly fast enough to come close to earning a living as a writer. My second novel (a horror novel I might start again someday) went straight into the trash and when my third (“Ash of Ambitions”) hit a similar, though slightly less throat-slitty, wall I was kind of beside myself with frustration and self loathing.

I began using Scrivener with “In the Absence of Famine” and didn’t hit quite the same wall but with “Toxic Ash” I didn’t just hit it – it fell on me. There was a moment of black panic as the weight of the thousands and thousands of words I’d already written slammed down on me. Then the dust settled and I was able to realize I could fix it, starting with the outline and working my way out.

Old-OutlineFinal-Outline

Pictured above are side by side screens of my outline before the wall and after. Just the first few sections as I rearranged things mostly by manually copy/pasting from one section of my Scrivener document to the other. Sometimes adding in connections that were missing or deleting connections that were present in the previous. The evolution of the outline is obvious though it’s hard to really get a feeling for the flow seeing it this way but these first few sections were also the most heavily reordered. Again, this part was the only manual copy/pasting I really had to do largely thanks to the next section.

Reorder

I believe I’ve covered Scrivener’s handy dandy ability to move notes, scenes and even entire chapters around with a mouse click before. This is only one of many moments where it really shines. My novel’s Scrivener structure is pretty basic: each novel is a folder, with that folder each chapter is another folder, within those folders each scene is a document. In my outlines it averages out that each numbered section is about a chapter and the subsections are scenes (more or less, remember it’s an imprecise map).

So once I’ve edited my outline/map it’s a simple thing to move around the scene/chapters to match. Pretty much click and drag. A far cry from my days with a dozen pens, hundreds of papers and paperclips and a million paper cut/migraine combos.

Since this was my first time trying this method (just encase I decided later that I wanted to go back to the beginning again) I copied everything I had done so far and moved them all to temporary folders within each chapter, then copied those sections so I could play with the order without losing the old order. Not strictly necessary but gives me an easy backup point if I need it. That just leaves one more step.

 Rewrite

This is probably the hardest part. Reading through your reordered chapters and scenes, making connections and transitions, checking for plot holes, sometimes rewriting entirely from scratch. There really isn’t much I can say about this slog except that at least it’s better than editing!

Now you’ve got the most drastic rewrite out of the way and it’s been hard, very hard, but it hasn’t been turn your eyes away from writing for years and years and hate yourself and your work and the gods and anyone else that looks at you cross eyed and asks about that “book” you were “writing” kind of hard. Which is actually almost easy by comparison. So we’ll call it “easy” and wink when we say it.

Next up on my Scrivener Series: exporting the draft!

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: Final Outline

Scrivener-LogoThis is the fifth 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.

At this point I’ve got timelines for everyone new, I know when they were born and what shaped them into the horrible horrible people I know and want my readers to love; I’ve also given every major character and the antagonists in the novel their own outlines for the book. So you’d think I had a pretty good idea of what’s gonna happen when and could just get to writing the thing.

Nothing is ever that simple.

Final Outline

Outline

I’ve said before that the Final Outline is a map of the novel but there’s still room for plenty exploration and getting lost along the way. Before I can even get to the final outline however, I’ve got to get all these headstrong characters’ actions and reactions to merge in a single continuous timeline – and of course they have other ideas.

With “Toxic Ash” whose final outline is pictured above, I came to the final outline with five individual outlines (Ash, Buddy Jenkins, Caliban & Caine, Helen) and while the main points line up somewhat in each individual outline, timing, reaction, action and when each individual character wants something to happen – don’t line up at all. Usually it’s close. Very very close. Close enough that I’m often tempted to just merge them together like shuffling a deck of cards and trust it’ll all work out.

Unfortunately it’s more like shuffling several different decks of tarot cards, one for each character outline, and that means you’re going to end up with one heck of a muddled reading. Two or more Death cards will appear, two or more Devils, Lovers and Fools; not together probably just far enough out of sync to make deciphering the resultant mess a real headache.

So you start over. From the very first scene, letting the characters outlines inform their actions in each scene (a headache and also a big help, especially in the Eldritch Elysium series which is all mostly from one characters POV). As you go you add other elements from your notes (I keep a color key to remind me to put science fiction elements here, romantic elements there, tie ins from previous books here and a foreshadow of the next there) so all of that time consuming research doesn’t go to waste.

All of that is made easier by being able to keep all my notes and elements open in the same document as I work. Need to see what Caliban gave Ash at the end of book one, it’s a few tabs up, that bit of research on Shub-Niggurath, two tabs down, information on the rest of Helen’s illustrious family, over there highlighted in purple. So much easier than trying to find all the documents and notes I scrawled on bits of paper and tucked into various folders on my various computers! Allowing for ever richer, more complex, stories.

You can also see from the image above how simply I’ve sketched out each scene and chapter. Partial sentences, sometimes just a single word give me a sense of where I’m going but don’t even come close to taking away from the joy of pantsing it – just makes sure I end up lost without a shirt a good deal less likely.

Hopefully some of that will be helpful. 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.

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

I’m Back?

Bit nervous to actually say that I’m back to writing and Mom is doing well, seems like every time I do that she ends up right back in the hospital and I face a writing block to end all writing blocks. Hopefully this time she really is doing better but I am experiencing the hell of nothing that is popularly called writers block and which I’d normally swear doesn’t exist.

Since Mom’s last exit from the hospital I’ve settled down at my computer every day and opened up my Scrivener document for the next installment in the Eldritch Elysium series which I’d just decided to name “Tasting Ash” before the last round of hospitals. I open it up and I stare, stare, stare. I stare till it’s about 10 pm and then I give up for the night.

If I remember correctly I was just about ready to start working on the outline before the heart attack but after all my notes make absolutely no sense and my characters won’t let me get back in. Worse, some of them have been laughing at me. Tried writing something else, anything else and it’s gotten a bit better though the nightmares are actually getting worse.

It feels like I’ve forgotten how to do the thing. You know the thing. That wonderful thing that’s part way between magic and skill where you slip sideways through reality and words flow from your fingertips, if not well at least on demand.

This – lack of words – more than anything else seems to mean I’ll be lucky to make my usual deadline for release of the next book. I will, of course, keep beating my head on this brick wall till something comes out. Anything (please gods anything).

Amazon, Hachette and Smashwords

So – I’m re-reconsidering Smashwords, for several reasons. First and foremost, though the meat grinder is still their prefered method of upload for new titles and though it still sucks mightly, there is now the option to upload checked epub files instead. I’ve yet to figure out how to create an epub that they’ll accept but I think this option really makes them a lot more worthwhile than previously especially since I’ve seen some wonky things happen with my Draft2Digital publications.

Recently files have gone online and offline at D2D with seemingly little rhyme or reason. I’ve cracked down on one cause, which is entirely my fault, while the others seem to have more to do with disputes between the various distributors themselves. My mistakes are bad enough but they come with the territory, I’ll learn from them, make fixes and move onto releasing a better product. My work seemingly caught up in dispute I’ve got nothing to do with? Not so much.

Which is where Hatchette comes in. Initially, I looked on Amazon’s feud with the one of the big six traditional publishers the way I look on anything that seems to spell trouble for traditional publishing – with miserly glee and much mwhahaha’ing. Of course, that was largely because the feud is partially shrouded in mystery (we don’t know what Hatchette’s particular demands are) and slightly because all the articles I’d read on the subject really looked at the situation from a traditional publishing standpoint.

Until I saw an article on Smashwords that clarified a few things I’d been thinking about recently as well as the Hatchette/Amazon feud in a way relevant to me as an independent author. So I’m rethinking Smashwords, again, though the final decision will likely hing on my abilities to use the new tools properly.

 

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 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 I.

When the timeline 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 sidetracked with long bits of exposition that can really distract from the main plot.

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, and my Four Horsemen aren’t slouching either. 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 in a scene, but also on what they’re thinking and feeling, 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.

Free Friday!

Ah weather. Last week there were ice storms bad enough to knock the power down in my area for three days of frozen hell and today it’s scheduled to be in the 80’s. That’s going to be hell on my herb garden.

Anywho, enough of my domestic misery – I’ve got a present to make up for all the downtime! On Friday, I’ll be giving away copies of my first novel, “The Uncertainty of Death,” for free on Amazon.

The-Uncertainty-of-Death-cDeath… it is the most frightening unknown to us all. For centuries people have personified and anticipated the horror and majesty of this unavoidable reality. We even invent legends to avoid it.

Unfortunately, she is someone we cannot escape.

No one expects a harried, overworked, and socially awkward business woman to become the deliverer of their fate. Death has never been good at games of skill or chance and is keenly self-conscious, always going the extra mile to make others comfortable. But in The Uncertainty of Death, two mortals, Leo Kaylor and Jules Harper are about to meet Death for the first time, and she is not what they imagined in. Together, Leo and Jules embark upon a chaotic journey that will test the very meaning of life and friendship in the first of this apocalyptic Four Horsemen series.

See you Friday, enjoy the freebie!

Tumblr

Big news flash and sounding of sirens.

I have a new Tumblr account.

That’s it.

I honestly have no idea what I’m going to do with it or if it really has anything to do with my writing and should therefore be brought up here. Probably not. Though I did notice a lot of villain love going on on Tumblr, which is why I made the account (all of my characters could be called villains, even the nice ones, no really) but I’m not sure what to do with it beyond that except enjoy basking in the love of really questionable men and women with my people.

If you’ve got a villain related Tumblr feel free to post in the comments! I’m desperately looking for more villainy to follow. Especially female villains. So far my Tumblr is almost entirely Hannibal, not that the well mannered cannibal isn’t an awesome villain – I just live for variety.