Wide Awake but Dreaming

Slip into my thoughts and do watch your step


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The Road to Camp Reka

Cassidy is dragging a little this morning, in part because of this stupid Daylight Savings Time thing which should be abolished to hell and gone, and in part because I was out last night and didn’t roll into the apartment until half-past midnight.  It was nice getting out for the first time in a long time, and I’ll have to do this more often.  Of course, I need to find a few more friends to go out with to make that happen . . .

Since I was out yesterday, this means I spent a lot of time getting ready, ’cause that’s what you do when you’re planing on a night out.  A big part of my afternoon was spent doing my nails, and if you’ve ever had to do your own nails and get them so they look half-way decent, you gotta put in the time.  This means there are a few moments when you can’t type on the computer, but you can use a mouse–

And you can think.

I did some of that yesterday because this scene I have in my head for a part of a novel to come is really obsessing me.  And when I get like I tend to work on it a little if I’m in the middle of a work in process, or a lot if I’m not.  As I’m not, then I’m working on this sucker like crazy mad.

The strangest thing about this scene is that things are happening, at one point or another, in four different locations in three different time zones.  Since people tend to get a little freaked out by time, it’s always a good idea to know your zones when you’re reaching out on a global stage.

The main website I use for this sort of thing is Time and Date, which has been around for a long time.  Most of the time I use it for it ability to give me a calendar for just about any year–do you need a calendar for Saudi Arabia for 2132 so you can figure out when Ramadan begins?  Have at it, people.  And in case you didn’t generate the calendar, it’s 10 November–but of late I’ve been looking at the time zone calculator.  ‘Cause if you get confused about when things are suppose to happen at a certain time in different parts of the world, then you need to check out their Time Zone Converter page.

For example, for the scenes I’m imagining, this parade of crap begins when Annie and Kerry–yeah . . . Kerry–get hauled out of bed at somewhere around six-fifteen in the morning.  The person coming for them has teleported in from San Francisco, and the hell that has initiated all this activity happened far gone and out in the wilds of Siberia.  So I go into the Time Zone Converter page, put in a date and time and some city names, and . . .

I know I said four locations, but the forth is in the same zone as San Fran.  Chill out--I got this.

I know I said four locations, but the fourth is in the same zone as San Fran. Chill out–I got this.

If I was the sort of person who needed to know when all this stuff was happening–and you already know I am–I’d just plug this into one of my Aeon Timeline spreadsheets.  In fact, I just this moment came up with something insane for keeping track of everything.  Just wait until I show you . . .

The gist of this little part of the story is it takes about three hours to get everything explained–this is where the fourth location comes in, because the rest of the gang going on this trip are located there–so when Annie and Kerry and the people they’re working with finally jaunt over to Russia it’s 23:00 local time, or eleven PM for a lot of other people, and the thing Annie and Kerry see when they get their wits about them is a sky burning bright with the aurora borealis, something Kerry got used to seeing for a couple of nights while flying The Polar Express.

"So it was like this when you did The Polar Express?"  "Yeah, only it was Emma holding my hand--"  "SMACK!"  "Owwww!  I was just kidding!"

“So it was like this when you did The Polar Express?”  “Yeah, only it was Emma holding my hand–” “SMACK!” “Owwww! I was kidding!”

No, Kerry:  never kid about shit like that with a witch who can kill you in the time it takes to think about the magic she needs to kill you.

And just as an added bonus, since I wasn’t certain about how to do that Owww! I Googled “Sounds of pain” and was instantly given directions to The Written Sound website, and in particular the Onomatopoeia Dictionary, because sometimes you do need to know the sound uttered by a person choking, or that Blam is the sound of explosion–unless it’s being uttered by Rocket Raccoon after he, well . . .

He gets testy when he discoverers you've locked down your trash bin lids.

He gets testy when he discoverers you’ve locked down your trash bin lids.

There’s my madness out in the open for all to see once more–

Yeah, it’s a great life, isn’t it?


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To Map, Perchance to Plot

Let’s met Annie.  Say hi to her–

"Hi, Annie!"

“Hi, Annie!”

When I was working towards understand Kerry’s far, far, better half, I started throwing around what I knew about her, and began format that knowledge into the world I was creating.  This is where Scapple, the mind mapping program created by the same people who make Scrivener, came in handy, because I could make notes and interconnect them to other notes, work them around and get an idea about where I was going with the character.

I’ve seen where others have also used Scapple to work out plots for their stories.  I’ve played with this a little in that area, but I’ve yet to work out a story where my notes and ideas would find themselves interconnected in such a way that a coherent tale springs forth.  Though there are a couple of scenes I’m considering working out this way . . .

On to the current work in progress.  When I prepared to start the novel, I did so–as I usually do–with two things in mind:  I needed a title, and I needed an ending.  The idea of the title I got from Harlan Ellison, who commented on more than a few occasions that he couldn’t write until there was a title on the page.  Now, my titles may change as I get deeper into a story–that happened a few times with The Foundation Chronicles:  A for Advanced–but I always have a title.  And the ending idea comes from Issac Asimov, who was quoted saying that it was necessary to know how his story finished so he’d know how to get there.

I knew how I wanted to start the story.  There would be a prologue with two scenes:  the first would have Annie standing next to a tree near her lake house, and the second would be The Foundation people convincing the parents of a sullen and likely depressed Kerry that he was getting a free ride to a school for special students outside Salem Massachusetts, and that he should pack his bags because he was leaving for London in a couple of hours if he said yes.

The last two scenes would mirror the intro:  the first scene would show Kerry returning from school, someone depressed because he’s parted from someone special to him, and now it’s time to go back to his old, “Normal” life, while the second scenes would show Annie standing next to a tree near her lake house, equally sad from having said goodbye to her “Ginger Boy”, and now having to face the summer without him.

With that in mind, it was time to start plotting.

Since I was working in parts, chapters, and scenes, I decided to work in Scrivener through Outline Mode, because as folders and text files were added, and metadata added, it was a simple matter to move things around when and where needed, and lay out dates and times as needed.  As the Prologue and Chapter One were almost all Annie and Kerry there wasn’t much of a need to keep track of other characters, because the one who did walk onto the written stage didn’t require a great deal of attention.

Carefully taking my kids on the trip of their lives, one scene at a time.

Carefully taking my kids on the trip of their lives, one scene at a time.

It was easy to plot things out like this, but keep in mind this is a small section of the story.  There’s a lot more in the next two acts–which were added about half way through writing the first act.  This is something that’s nice about Scrivener:  you need to add or move something around, you do.

Something else I used for the first time were document notes.  These came in handy when I was writing about Annie and Kerry’s day trip around London, which was done almost entirely via tube travel.  Notes stay attached to a scene, so once in place they’re always there inside the Inspector (the area on the right) all the time.

Sure, you could make up how you get around London, but it's easier if you do it with notes.

Sure, you could make up how you get around London, but it’s easier if you do it with notes.

Another thing I did on this novel was layer scenes under a top scene.  I used it extensively for the scene “Over the Pond”, where all the action took place on-board a 747, and point of view switched from my kids to some traveling instructors, and back.  The date and time were already set, so here it was just a matter of knowing who was in each sub-scene aboard the plane, and that information was kept in the metadata for each scene.  The great thing with these layered scenes is when you don’t need to see them, you just collapse them under the top lead-in scene and all is right in the world once more.

There's a party in the sky, and you're all--well, you'll get invited in time.

There’s a party in the sky, and you’re all–well, you’ll get invited in time.

One last thing to mention about this layered scenes is that they were added as I wrote.  I did the lead-in scene, then decided I’d write about Annie and Kerry finding their seats, or the instructors talking about Phee–I know who that is–and I’d add the text file, do a copy and paste on the metadata, set the Label and Status, and away I’d write.  Easily Peasily!

And that leads to cross-checking what I’d laid out in Scrivener by seeing if the time lines matched up.  There was always the possibility that something was off, and sure enough, once I started plugging things into Aeon Timeline, there were a few things that didn’t make sense.  Now, this didn’t affect the plot, but in terms of when things happened, it was a good idea for me to see if everything worked.  I didn’t actually need to do this for what became the first act, but this was practice for something that was coming in Act Two, and the practice of laying out this first section of the book helped me understand how I was going to lay out an important set of scenes that required things to happen at certain times, within a certain time frame.  And that would be important to the story . . .

Time be time, mon.  And here be the time for Act One.  Looks so different here, doesn't it?

Time be time, mon. And here be the time for Act One. Looks so different here, doesn’t it?


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Back to the Beginning of the Beginning

How did I start writing my current work in progress, The Foundation Chronicles?  It started with designing buildings.

The main characters in the story, Kerry and Annie, were originally created for an online role play.  I made Kerry, and a good friend of mine created Annie.  We played these characters for a few months, but with most good things the role play came to an end and the characters were shelved.  In the process of building the game there was a great deal of material the two of us developed, both characters and world-wise–

However, I was always pushed to show the buildings, to show the grounds, the show the towers.  My partner in crime kept after me to make maps and building layouts, and being that I was the sort of person who loved doing that kind of thing, I obliged.

It was from there that the Salem Institute of Greater Learning and Education was built.  It was from there that we named our covens, and the buildings, and figured out where everything went.  It was a great learning experience for that fantastic summer of 2011.

Over the next two years I thought a great deal about writing about these character’s adventures.  Even while working on other projects, the story of Annie and Kerry was never far from my mind.  Kerry I knew, but Annie was always a problem for me, because I wanted to get her right, and she wasn’t my created, at least not at the beginning.  So it took a lot of thinking to get where I wanted to be with her, and I probably tortured myself for a year thinking about her motivations, her feelings, what she wanted the most.

So after I’d finished publishing Her Demonic Majesty in May of 2013, I decided it was time to tackle the tales of Salem.  I didn’t want to start right in on Annie and Kerry, but rather I wanted to do something else that would help build The Foundation World, but at the same time introduce a number of characters that would end up in their world.  I decided that for Camp NaNo, July 2013, I’d write The Foundation Chronicles:  The Scouring, a story of a traumatic event that occurred just before the end of the Twentieth Century.

While speaking to Annie’s creator about the upcoming story, we started talking about Annie’s Lake House.  This is an important location, a place that plays in a lot of scenes not only in my current book, but will have a place in the hearts of both children in their future.  And I wanted to see what it looked like, inside and out.

So it was time to get into the software and design.  I used a program that would allow me to make floor layouts and then show the building in three dimensions.  I could even place furniture inside and imagine the scenes that hadn’t been written yet.

The building that launched a couple of hundred thousand words.

The house that launched a couple of hundred thousand words.

And there it all ways, the house that little spoiled Annie pestered her father to build.  With living room and dining table and kitchen, a library and a private bedroom, and the loft guest area overlooking the ground floor below.  And the wall of windows facing to the south, keeping the house illuminated from morning to nightfall.

I showed it to Annie’s creator and she loved it, even going so far as to say it was perfect.  To hear those words made me feel wonderful, and empowered me to prepare to get my world ready–

Because if I was going to write the story I wanted to work, I needed to build something else:  my Great Hall.  I knew it in my mind, I saw it in my imagination, so it became necessary to lay out with floor plans that would display it as I’d displayed Annie’s Lake House.

I wasn’t able to created it fully, because my computer couldn’t handle all the rendering needed.  But I did most of it, and . . . it was so worth while.

Because if you're going for "Great", you best go all the way.

Because if you’re going for “Great”, you best go all the way.

I had building all created:  I had my Atrium and Rotunda, the Library, the Security Center and the Instructor’s and Headmistress’ Offices.  There was the Clock Tower and the Transepts, the Hospital and the Dining Hall.  It took me about a week of work, but when I looked at this building, I saw my Great Hall.

I was just about ready to write.  Except–

I needed a school.


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Tools for the Making

I’ve been around software a large part of my life.  I started taking classes in computer programming in 1979, and began writing code for real in 1982.  Most of what I’ve written has ended up on IBM boxes, though I have dabbled in web based applications, including one that took the better part of a year to write because I ended up slinging about fifteen thousand lines of code before it was all over.

Even today I’m coding.  That’s my day job:  playing code monkey for the State of Pennsylvania.  As it is said, it pays the bills, though after thirty years of it I’m ready for something else.  That’s one of the reasons why I write, because I’d like to be able to work on my projects full-time and not have to spend nine to ten hours a day engaged in endeavors that hold very little interest for me.  I also write because I love to tell tales, but I would love it were it to become my full-time job.

Because I’ve found myself so connected to software for so long, I find dealing with it to be somewhat intuitive.  Most writing software seems to follow a pattern for me, and once I get the basics down the more difficult stuff tends to come once I’ve had time to play with things.  I’ll find something that looks interesting and mess around, get a feel for what I can do, and if it works for me I’ll keep it.  If not, I file the information away just in case it is something I can use later.  Most of what’s in a program really falls under a 40/60 rule:  about forty percent of the stuff in a program is gonna be your go-to stuff, and the other sixty percent is there if you find a reason to use it.

Yesterday’s post received a lot of attention.  Probably because of the pretty picture I included with all kinds of time lines and talk of history, but I have received a bit of feedback about the things I’ve done and what I’ve used to get there.  I’ve written about software a bit in the past, and most of the time the responses I’ve gotten are great.  Sure, I’ve gotten a few, “I never plan anything, ur a hack,” comments, but I tend to laugh at those these days, because who needs that negative energy?

"No, I don't need negitivity in my life:  that's what my job is for."

“No, I don’t need negativity about my writing: that’s what my job is for.”

Since I have time, I thought I’d spend a few days talking about my process:  how I set things up, how I get things plotted out, how I try to tie things together to make my story coherent, what I do with the software I use.  I’ve done a little of this from time-to-time, but this would be with a little, or lot, more detail.  And since I’m intimately tied into my current work in progress, it’ll make a good test bed for discussion.

The hope is that someone will see something that I do, and imagine how it might work for them.  As I told someone last night–someone who was like, “Most writers say they just write”–what I do works for me; what you do will work for you.  That doesn’t mean you might not see something that looks like it might work for you and use it, however, so why not throw that out there?

It’s always worth throwing things out there and seeing what happens.


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The Far and the Near

My jaunt into The Black has reached one milestone:  last night I finished creating the main system–aka, The Core–for The ‘Verse, which I’ve been working on here and there since Saturday.  Lots of things to put into this sucker, and even spending an hour or two at night means you only get to add a couple of planets and their moons.  Or a protostar and its planets and their moons–yes, there are stars within stars here, and it makes for one of the most impossible systems I’ve ever seen.

The more I build the more I look at this and shake my head.  It’s such an out there system, but hey:  it’s suppose to be considered canon these days, and who am I to argue with a bunch of Browncoats?  Though I’m sure at some point I’ll probably write about how all the core planets exist outside the habitable zones–the “Goldielocks Zones” we sometime say–and the most massive of the stars is in orbit around all the other smaller stars.  I don’t even want to try and calculate those parameters.  I know there’s one article I want to write that’s based in part on this system, and that’s something I think just might pop up this weekend.  If I’m not shopping, that is.

Then I was into the mind mapping for a while.  I love the Scapple program:  it has certainly become one I want to get when it comes out of beta.  I love the flow, I love how you can put notes wherever you like, and links them not only to one thought, but to many if that is your choice.  I’ve found a few bugs, but it’s beta, remember?  There are suppose to be bug, and they get corrected before the program goes live.  Or so one hopes, yeah?

The one thing I don’t like is how I’m using it.  I reached a point last night where I realized the story I’m playing with works, but I’m flowcharting, not throwing out ideas and seeing if they stick.  Tonight I’m going to “play” with it, do some character sketching, see how that plays out.  I need to think out some characters, and there are a couple I can use to “create them” with the program.  ‘Cause they ain’t gonna build themselves, you know?

That’s the fun when it comes to new software:  you test it, and in doing so you test yourself.  You look for things you could do, and you go there and do them.  You follow new paths, you try new things.  I’m great at thinking things through in an analytical sense, but I need to be a little more spontaneous, more of a throw things out there and see what sticks sort of person when it comes to the craft.  Then from that point, I can build.  I can make things that are incredible, that are inspiring, that feel real.

Just like the gift I sent someone last night, something that, I hope, will give their kids many hours of entertainment, and at the same time get their imaginations a-growin’.  Get them to thinking and dreaming at the same time.

Everyone needs to dream, and have fun while it’s happening.

 


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Builder of Worlds

I received a new toy the other day:  the beta version of Scapple for Windows.  Scapple is a mind mapping program, a very simple system that allows you to diagram your thoughts and working out plots, characters, locations, anything your heart desires.  I’ve waited for this software for a while, since it’s made by the same people who make Scrivener, and on the Mac version of both programs it’s possible to drag notes from one program to the other when you’re in the mood to think things out in the middle of a complex story.

When I posted this link a discussion came up about the uses of software for writing, and I mentioned that I’ve used mind mapping software before, and that I’ve used a number of other programs, too, when building a world that is my story.  The question came back, “What software do you use, Cassie?”    I sent a PM to the person who asked, then started thinking last night, “Hey, maybe someone else will be interested to see the sort of tools I use when the writing madness strikes.”

If you’ll allow, I’ll show the thing I use, and maybe you’ll find some of this information useful.

Shall we begin?

First off, I use Scrivener for writing.  I’ve wrote about Scrivener many times, even going so far as to post pictures of SA Startmy projects–like the one at right which comes from December of 2012.  Lets get this out of the way right now:  Scrivener is not simply a word processor, it’s a project management tool.  The idea is to have all the things you need for your story in one place, and eliminate the need to bring up multiple files onto your desktop and flip back and forth looking for something.  If it were “just” a word processor, it wouldn’t be worth the $40, but it’s more than that, and that makes it well worth the price of admission.  Plus I have a fifty percent off code from Camp NaNo, and you never know who might end up getting that little gem.

Since Scapple is in beta mode at the moment, and will likely not be ready for full-out production until right before NaNo 2013, I use FreeMind for all my mind mapping needs.  FreeMind is Java based so it’ll run on any computer that uses Java, and it’s open source, so it’s free, but kick in a donation if you’re in the mood.  It’s not a perfect tool, but once you learn the ins and outs of how it works, you can build mind maps in no time.  Another nice thing is that the saved mind map can be imported into Scrivener, and it’ll set up separate text cards for each point in your map, which means you only have to go and fill in the words.

Aeon Timeline isn’t available for Windows at the moment, though I’ve seen that they are working hard on a Windows version.  Time Line Blog 01Since it’s not available, I use Timeline, which is another Java-based, free program released under the GNU General Public Licence version 3.  I’ve written about this program and its use a few times as well, and thought it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that Aeon has, if you are looking for a quick and dirty way to lay out your time graphically, it does the job.  The learning curve is minimal, and since it doesn’t have a lot of stuff loading up in the background, it runs fast on just about any machine.  It’s also great for plotting out all those stories you’re going to write about characters who’ll be around for a very long time, and figuring out where all the events of their lives take place . . .

I’ve said it before:  I like to make maps.  For some stories you need them, or at least I Pentagram Closeupdo.  There are a few programs out there that will allow you to draw up maps, but years ago at GenCon I bought Fractal Mapper, which was really designed for the gaming community, but works wonders if you want to lay out something for a story.  The shapes may not be exactly what you need, and the sometimes drawing roads and paths isn’t always easy, but once you figure out how all that stuff works, you can draw up towns and villages, or those secret government complexes that people seem to want to write about so much.

When I want to look at the layout of a building I use Sweet Home 3D, another Java-based, open source Main Hall 518program.  This program will not only allow you to develop the floor plan of a building, but you’ll be able to see it in 3D from both an aerial view, and a walk-through view.  This program came in handy, because for my last story i created the structure you see on the right, and I was able to figure out where action occurred when I needed it to occur.  Some might call it overkill:  I say I’m getting it right.

If you are of a mind to see how your worlds really look, Pentagram Southeastdo what I do:  get Blender and start modeling.  So far I’ve used it to create a space ship, and to lay out the school where my last story takes place.  Once you figure out how to scale your models, you can build something huge:  for example, the building on the right is five hundred fifty feel from front to back, so you can imagine the size of everything else in that picture.  This is a step most people will never take, but I’m one of those people who sometimes need to see their creations, and there’s few programs that do this better.  Blender is, if you haven’t guessed yet, free to all, and will run on Windows, Linux, and Mac operating systems.

The last program I use from time to time is only for those of us who write science fiction and like to create real worlds–as in, I build solar systems.  I’ve done this more than a few times, both for stories and for games I’ve run/played.  The program I use for this world building is AstroSynithesis, which is currently on version 3.0.  I’ve Cymru Newydd Systemwritten about this software before, most famously in a post when, because I had a character speaking to a person he’d just met he guessed the world she came from orbited a K Class star, I decided I better design that world just in case my character was wrong about his observations.  You can see that world and its moons to the right, because the program not only allows you to lay out orbits and figure out the rotational periods of the worlds, but you can see what your systems look like the 3D.  I plan to get the newest version–I’m still on version 2.0, since I bought it at the same time as Fractal Mapper–because the next thing i want to map is The ‘Verse, which is something I should be able to do with the newest version.  Why do I want to do that?  I’ve an article I want to write . . .

It goes without saying that I also use Google a lot–everyone should try it, it’s like magic!–and there are a number of websites with conversion calculators that I’ll use from time to time, depending upon what I’m writing.

There you have it, the tools I use for building my worlds.  Maybe some of these are going to be useful to you, maybe not.  But you now know where they are if you suddenly have the urge to start time lining the life of one of your characters.

Oh, I forgot:  there’s one tool on here that I didn’t mention, one that I absolutely need for any of my stories–

My imagination.

Just try writing a story without one.


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Beyond the Farthest Handwavium

Thursday night is Relaxation Night due to a combination of things happening early in the evening, then Project Runway coming on and remaining on my television until nine-thirty PM.  There are only two or three more episodes of that show remaining, so I’ll soon be back to working on Thursday nights–and by working, I mean writing.

The way things work our, I’m looking at a lot of editing and formatting throughout April, with an occasional article here and there posted just to keep my hand in.  I’ve looked at my Idea File (I do have one), and I’ve not seen too much that is blowing a draft up my skirt, at least not yet.  Yes, they are my ideas, but what seemed like a good idea one moment doesn’t always translate into, “I gotta write this now!”  As I’ve found, you gotta let an idea stew a bit before you jump into it, otherwise it’s going to die stillborn.

But what do I want to write next?  I’ve been into the horror and the fantasy the last two novels, so I need something different.  But what?  Science Fiction?  Erotica?  Maybe Science Fiction Erotica, where In Space, No One Can Hear You Orgasm Unless You’re Really Loud.

I have been thinking of trying to write some science fiction that’s more in line with what’s considered “hard”, which means there’s no energy weapons that vaporize people, no gravity fields that make your space ship layout look more like the Queen Marry 2 than any tall skyscraper you can bring to mind, no super-duper space drive that will get you from Point A to Point B in a matter of hours.

There’s a term for that in the community:  Handwavium.  We’re talking a complete disregard for any of the laws of physics, where we can travel faster than the speed of light, or we can use an electromagnetic field to deflect light, or we don’t worry about heat when we’re using weapons that can take out stars.  Most of the science fiction from the Golden Age was like this, mostly because there were a lot of things we simply didn’t know at the time, but these days most writers have a better understanding of the universe, and they know what can and can’t be done . . .

Yeah, but we still like stories about getting from one star to another, and doing it in a way that doesn’t make us wait forever for our characters to make the trip.  Star Trek wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if it took an entire season of fifteen shows (actually twenty-two back in the day, but that was back in the day) to travel from Earth to Vulcan, which in terms of the scale of the galaxy is like me walking to the end of the driveway to get the mail.  The Dominion War becomes a lot less worrisome if it takes the Jem’Hadar six months to travel from the Bajor Wormhole to DS9–and Starfleet won’t show up for eight months after that.

There is something intriguing about staging a story in a world where most of what happens in a world is more or less real.  Sure, you can stretch science and engineering a bit to make the world a little move interesting:  you see that happen now and then where the space habitats are little too nice, the ships a little too fast, the terraforming a little too quick.  And yet, the reality is just enough that it feels like a world that isn’t too out there, that’s it’s just real enough to be a place that could happen.

Now all I have to do is come up with that world–

And write it out.


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Novel On!

After the little down period I had the last few days, and the bit of affirmation I received yesterday morning, it was time to get to work.  I’m not ready to start on the novel I’ve written for NaNoWriMo, so what’s next?

Why, how about looking at my first novel?

When I first got into this writing thing I did a couple of short stories–which went nowhere, which happens–and then thought, “Hey, I’ve got something to say, why not do a novel?”  This was 1989 or so, and I had almost no idea what I was doing or what I was getting into.  But I went there anyway, because I had a lot more enthusiasm and grand ideas than I had knowledge about what was coming.

I’ve mentioned, in passing, my first novel a few times.  It’s one that is huge, and it’s gotten away from me more than once, but I’ve decided that I am going to rope this beast and bring it down.  And perhaps, in the process, get it published.

Now, in the beginning of this novel I wrote in Word Perfect, then moved to Word.  Now, I am using Scrivener to “reverse engineer” the story, and let me tell you–I’m loving every second of it.

A little quick background: my first published story, Kuntilanak (found on Smashwords and Barnes & Noble) was started in MS Word, but I started using the beta version of Scrivener for Windows to see how it worked.  I liked how quickly I was able to not only figure out how to use it, but how I could “see” the whole story laid out before me, as well as having access to notes while I was working away in a chapter or scene without having to start looking for other files.

I did another story, one of about 10,000 words, in Scrivener, and I loved how I was able to do most of the formatting in the Compile function before sending it off for (what I hope is) accepted.  I was using Scrivener, but I wasn’t using it the way I felt it should be used.

Now, with my NaNo Novel, everything was written in Scrivener (or should I say “wrote”, which I’m saying with a wink).  I used Scrivener to figure out each chapter, give a little note about what was going to happen, when that event happened in the time frame of the story.  I would write split screen and pull up notes and pictures and, for me, a listing of my word sprints.  And I used the Project Targets feature to set how many words the novel would require, how many words I had written, and how many I’d done while I’d had the program up.

The novel ended up with a final word count of 86688, and it took 25 days.  And Scrivener kept me going the whole time.  It helped me write in a way I’ve never written before, and I don’t believe I would have finished the novel without the program.

Right now, for my first novel, I’ve set up three parts corresponding to the three parts I have in my story.  Within each part I’m creating a “chapter folder”, and inside each of those chapters I’m setting up scenes.  On the note card that shows each chapter and scene I’m giving a little description of what is happening, and I’m also setting up the date and time when this all happens.  For me, knowing when is very important, as nearly the entire Part Three is predicated on something happening within a limited time frame, and knowing the dates is going to help me a lot in terms of keeping track of everything.  I’ve also indicated, through one of the characters, that everything takes place over a nearly two year period, so with the dates in place I can verify that as I go along.

It’s going to be a big project.  I’ve completed the first five chapters and I’m already at 38,600 words.  Like I’ve said before, I’m wordy.  The main reason for all this work is so I can look at what I have, see how the story flows, and decided if I need to cut something–or, add something into the mix.  I know I’ll have to end this thing–I’m maybe 3/4th of the way through it–and that will require a Part Four, but with the novel laid for like this, with everything at my virtual fingers, the writing and editing process will become much easier.

So there you having it.  My next WiP, which is really an old WiP.  Maybe by this time next year I’ll have this novel done, edited, and–fingers crossed–published.  Then you’ll be able to see if all this hard work was worth every second.

Oh, and one last thing: I might sounds like I’m shilling Scrivener, but it’s not my intention.  However, that said . . . if you write, and you’re serious about writing, buy it.  You won’t be disappointed.


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Hail, Scrivener!

With the writing I’ve been doing the past week I’ve gotten curious if there are ways to make, you know, the job easier.  Word has been my tool of choice if for no other reason than it’s something I’ve used for 20 years.  The biggest issue I’ve been having with my latest story is the amount of research I’ve done.  Info on ghosts and other creatures in Indonesia, maps of Bali, keeping long character and village names straight in my head . . . it was a bit of work.

A few months back I found information linking me to a program known as Scrivener, a writing studio program originally developed for the Mac.  Not so great for me, however, is I have a Devil Dell and Windows is my platform.  But, what’s that you say?  There’s a beta for Windows?  Yeah, there is.  And so I downloaded it.

Now, I didn’t really know what the hell to do with it.  Write, yeah, but what else?  With my current project, and the notes I’ve created, the research I’ve developed, I thought, “Hey, lets see what I can do with this.”  So this morning I started loading everything over from my Word document to Scrivener–

Oh, man.  It’s like having a Companion Cube and knowing you never have to burninate it.

You have everything right there at your fingertips, in an online binder, and when you need something do you a quick click and there is information on a character, and there is information on town, or link to a map, or a wiki entry . . . it lets you have everything you want in one place so you don’t have to start looking for a bunch of files to help you bring your story together.

The one function I love is the ability to work on your story scene by scene, which is something I’m doing now.  You can develop and build each seen, put them in sections, and when you’re ready use the Compile tool to merge everything into a single document for submission or publication.  So you can break your story down to the easiest levels, get them nice and tight without needing to scroll all over the place, then put them together in the end the way you like–or your editor likes.

It’s not going to make you a better writer–I mean, if you suck you’ll just be a sucky writer who’s better organized.  But if you can walk the walk, then this is gonna help you enormously.

And if you find Scrivener isn’t your thing, The Lierature and Latte sites gives you a number of alternatives.

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