Count the Ways to Count the Story

With NaNo right around the corner–less than two weeks to go now–one of the key points that comes up again and again is, “How do I track my word count?”  It’s an important thing with NaNo, because you gotta run that 1,667 words a day count every day, or you’ll fall behind quickly.  The reality it, however, that when you write you usually have a need to know about how much you’re writing every day, and how big your story is becoming–or how many more words you need to write to turn a novelette into a novella.

Keeping track of your word count in easy in Scrivener, and there is a great deal of flexibility when it come to knowing the counts of scenes, chapters, parts, and even the whole novel. I do that to track my current novel, and I’ve used it with all my other works.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

The easiest way to keep track of your progress come from using your Project Targets.  This is done from the menu, using Project>Project Target, or by selecting Ctrl-,.  I show these all the time on my screen shots, and here is my current view.

I know, it feels like I'm bragging.

I know, it feels like I’m bragging.

Project Targets allow you to set the size of your story–the Manuscript Target–and how much you want to write while Scrivener is running–the Session Target.  Something to keep in mind here:  a session is the time that Scrivener is up and running.  If you bring the program up, type in 800 words, then close it and bring it up again later, the session bar resets:  it doesn’t track what you type in a day.

You can see that the pop-up window allows you to define your targets for both the full manuscript and how much you want to write.  Now, there is a bit of a cheat with the Manuscript Target:  notice the check box, “Documents Included in Compile Only”?  Yeah, that’s an important item.

Let’s first look at this screen, which is of one of my chapters in the recently concluded Part Seven:

I don't miss you, you monster.

I don’t miss you, you monster.

Over on the right you’ll see the column, “Include in Compile.”  Compile is the function that Scrivener uses to take all the stuff I have on the screen in front of me and turns it into a document of your choosing.  Such as–

I take all of Part Seven--

I take all of Part Seven–

Press the “Compile” button . . .

To 149 pages of awesome.

And turn it into 149 pages of awesome.

Whatever you have ticked off as “Include in Compile” will be converted into whatever you like by Scrivener.  It’s a great way to not only control what you print and create, but track your wordage.

But if you’ll notice, that’s a check box under your Manuscript Target.  With my story I have everything in Act Two–the part of my novel I’m currently developing–checked for Include in Compile, but everything in Act One is turned off.  Why?  Because I want to check my progress for Act Two only.  However, if I uncheck that box–

Now it really feels like bragging--

Now it really feels like bragging–

Everything in the manuscript–see the very top left of the Binder–is included.  And you can see how my progress bar jumped from the orange of Act Two–which is only about half way to the three hundred thousand total of the manuscript–to the bright green of “I’m almost to the end.”  Numbers and colors help you visualize where you are in the writing process.

You can see that even better when you are tracking the progress of your document.  Let’s look at the last scene I completed and check out the lower right hand corner of the screen.

Right down here.  See?

Right down here. See?

Click on that little dot and you’ll get another pop-up that allows you to set the total wordage for the document you’re working upon at the moment.

Three thousand seems like a good number.

Three thousand seems like a good number.

Hit Ok and you’ll see the following pop up at the bottom of your screen:

Look--new stuff!

Look–new stuff!

That first number–the 2,152–that number id always there–just look at the picture above.  Now you have your target number to the right of what you’ve written, and there is a progress bar next to the button, which is now red to indicate you haven’t reached your goal.  Once you do, that dot turns green:  trust me, it does.

This is also a great thing for keeping track of your progress if you’re bring up Scrivener and closing it several times during a day.  You can either keep everything in one document that you’re working on for the day, or adjust the target number as you go from document to document.  Easy Peasy.

Last of all, we can look at our Project Statistics, which you can find on the menu under Project>Project Statistics, or by selecting Ctrl-..  Scrivener will give you a snapshot of your identified manuscript–using your Compile and how you set up things under your Option tab–and what you may have selected in your Binder.  Here I’m identifying Act Two as the manuscript, and I’ve selected Part Eight.  So I bring up my stats, and . . .

Act Two seems quite the page turner.

Act Two seems quite the page turner.

Just so you know, I have my pages set up on my Option tab as three hundred and fifty words per page, so that’s how Scrivener figures that my Act Two is 370 pages long once you figure in the page breaks for Act, Part, and Chapter headings.  Not quite A Dance With Dragons, but I’m getting there–with fewer deaths, too.

There you have it:  so many ways to watch your counts.  Now all you gotta do is write.

One Program to Bind it All

NaNoWriMo is three and a half weeks away, and for sure people are either in the process of getting ready, or wondering what the hell they should do for their project.  Many are wondering how they should write up their novel:  do it by hand?  On a typewriter?  Word?  Or are there other unexplored options for the budding writer?

There’s a metric ton of software out there, but I’ve written three NaNo novels and two Camp stories on one particular program:  Scrivener.  If you know me you’ll probably have heard me mention it once or twice.  Probably.

Scrivener was developed by Literature and Latte for Mac OS.  People raved about it enough that in 2011 a Windows version was developed, and while the two versions are not identical–the Mac version has a few more bells and whistles than the Windows version–both are more than capable of lending a writer a far better portal into their literary world.

Let’s get this out of the way:  Scrivener isn’t a simple word processing program.  There are probably a few programs that do a better job of letting someone put words into a computer.  Scrivener is a project management system.  It’s designed to allow for the development of a novel, to set it up as the writer sees fit, to allow them to keep track of research and access web pages from inside the program, and then compile your work in any format you desire.  It’s like a one-stop shop for novelists:  there’s no need to run around the Internet at the last minute searching for the perfect dragon’s name.

Assuming, of course, that you like to do research for you stories.  Otherwise you’ll still run out looking for that dragon’s name.

Let me use my own project, The Foundation Chronicles:  A For Advanced, to show off some of the abilities.  I use the novel because, at the moment, it’s up over a quarter of a million words, and if there is ever a story that I researched the hell out of, it’s this one.  Let’s look it over–

First up there’s the Binder.  This acts just as you’d image a physical binder would work:  you set up folders, assign tabs to them, and use it to organize your story so it makes sense.  Just like a physical binder you cna move things around, delete things, and add things that help make the story more manageable.  This is what it looks like closed:

Cute little thing, isn't it?

Cute little thing, isn’t it?

Here it doesn’t look like much.  I have my novel tab at the very top, my title page–that green thing that says The Foundation Chronicles–my copyright page, and my table of contents for Act One, though I don’t have it labeled here, but I showed you how to make one in this post.  The card saying “Measurements and Scaling” came from a suggestion from a friend that since I’m using the Metric system and Universal Time throughout the novel, I should tell people how each works.  That card was added on 3/30/2014, and last modified on 5/28/2014.  I know this because Scrivener tells me so.

Just like a physical binder I can open up my virtual one, and what do I see once that happens?

I got more story than I got display.

I got more story than I got display.

It’s easy to see my folder layout here:  I have the whole binder as my novel:  in the physical world that would be the hard binder itself.  Then I break it down to Acts, and within acts I have Parts, inside those I have Chapters, and each chapter is made up of two more more Scenes.  As you can also see, Scenes can be added to Scenes, which would make them Sub-scenes, I suppose.  The sub-scenes were added as I went along:  they all related to something going on in the main scene, so I decided to keep it all together rather than spread it down the binder.

Are there other ways to look at the binder?  Glad you wanted me to ask that question . .

In the body of Scrivener one can use three different methods of seeing their story and accessing those parts they want to write or edit.  First up, and the one I used to use all the time, is the Corkboard.  This presents your story in the same way as it would if you had everything written down on notecards and had them pinned to a corkboard at home.

Act One, nice and neat.

Act One, nice and neat.

You’ll only see what is highlighted.  If you want to see the detail beyond this, it’s just like Inception:  you must go deeper–

Down a level, still just as neat.

Down a level, still just as neat.

And deeper . . .

I could go deeper, but I didn't bring my totem.

I could go deeper, but I didn’t bring my totem.

Inside the cards at the chapter level is the story proper, what you’re actually writing–

See?  I wasn't lying.

See? I wasn’t lying.

Corkboards within Corkeboards–is there an easier way to see this?  Sure:  you go into Outline Mode:

Again, more story than I've got display.

Again, more story than I’ve got display.

These days I use Outline all the time, because you can tell the program what information you want to see for each section of your story–and as you can see I like to watch a lot of things.  And what does all this mean?

I’ll tell you in the next post installment.  Promise.

Never Say Never Say Never Again

As you may have guessed, I’m riffing on a James Bond movie title.  And why am I doing this?  Because once again I’ve been saying there’s something I’m not going to do, but in the end I turn around and–well, it seems like I’m doing said not doing thing.

Allow me to explain.

NaNo is coming up.  If you write, and you spend any amount of time on the Internet, you know this, because about now is where everyone who writer–well, everyone who isn’t pretty much making a living off their writing, that is–begins talking about what they’re going to do during NaNoWriMo 2014.  It’s what all the cool kids do, doncha know?

You can tell she's a writer simply by the strategically placed bowl of fruit . . .

You can tell she’s a writer preping for NaNo simply by the strategically placed bowl of fruit . . .

Now, I’ve participated in three NaNoWriMos and two Camp NaNos, and I’ve had fun.  More or less.  See, NaNo is a huge lark for some people:  you get down and write, and when it’s over you file away the story and move on to something else.  For some people it’s a struggle, like pushing a huge stone up a hill, only you don’t know what kind of stone, and you’re not sure of the name of the hill, so you’re having to stop and ask questions of others along the way.

And for some, you get to the end of the month with this huge document in front of you, and you think, “You know, maybe I should edit and publish this sucker . . .”

I’ve done this last one once, and I plan on doing it again . . . once I get this monster of a Last NaNoWriMo story out of the way.

Yes, I see you.  Stop that gloating, right now!

Yes, I see you. Stop that gloating right now!

As I’ve said before, I’ve not given NaNo any thought because I’ve always writing anyway.  Of late it seems like I’m taking a night off here and there, but I’m keeping it going.  Slow but steady as they say.

Then, the other night, a friend asks if there’s anyone going to do NaNo this year, because her son wants to do it, and she’s thinking about doing it, and oh, man, it’s like dangling a big carrot in front of me, because when someone says, “Hey, anyone wanna WRITE?” I kinda want to join in the fun.  Also, she was the one who kinda sorta got me to do Camp this year, and even though I lowballed by total (I only did twenty thousand words), it still gave me a goal to shoot towards.

And since I find it hard to say “No” to this person . . .

Yeah, I’m probably going to do NaNo.  But what am I writing?  The same novel I started for last year’s NaNo.

Now hold up there, ’cause don’t start in with the “But you can’t do that!” because it’s already been done:  Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus was written over the course to two NaNos, so if she can do it, so can I.  The way I see it, I can set a goal of sixty or sixty-five thousand words–as I did last time–and do what I can to take a good bite out of Act Three of the novel.  I’m hoping to be almost finished with Act Two by the end of November, so using NaNo to write out close to seventy thousand words–if that is even possible–would go a long ways towards finishing the project.

And since I’ve already planed and plotted everything, it’s just down to the writing, isn’t it?

Oh, wicked NaNo and the friends I have who like to dangle literary carrots before my eyes.  I keep trying to walk away–

You keep pulling me back.

Returning to the Intimate

Since I’d written in the morning, there wasn’t anything written yesterday afternoon or evening–which is good, because I spent most of the evening in something of a carb haze, as I’d went out for a late lunch/early dinner sort of thing, loaded up on bread and pasta, and then felt like I was going to fall into a coma the rest of the night.  It was a good thing that Breaking Bad was on, otherwise I’d have probably crashed by eight PM and woke up about 2 AM.

The closest I came to writing last night was readjusting the time line of the story.  There are things that needed to get tightened up, and I sluggishly went through that about the time someone was blowing up a nursing home on my television.

Message

Out with the old, and getting ready for the new.

The last chapter was all about protecting people and trying to stay alive.  And, in the case of one girl, sorta venting your death wishes in her direction, but we can’t be all sunshine and unicorns all the time.  This chapter is gonna be different.  It’s almost all gonna be scene from Annie’s point of view, with the exception of the scene All Clear, which really shows things from Isis’ point of view–though I’m actually rethinking how I want to write it now.  I like the idea of the whole chapter being Annie-centric, and I’ve already decided how to go about writing the scene.  Short, sweet, and to the point.

And it keeps the chapter on Annie’s point of view the whole time.

The interesting thing is that Kerry is actually in four of the five scenes as well, but he says almost nothing throughout the chapter.  Needless to say I didn’t kill him, but since the second scene is Back to Bed #2, astute readers will realize that Bed #2 seems to be the one he gyrates towards, and it only makes sense that we’ll find out what actually happened out in Selena’s Meadow, and just how badly he was hurt.  The last scene, Dreams On the Ward, it probably going to be the most intimate I’ve written, and it will start to answer some of the questions about how Annie knew Kerry before they met in London.  But only will it start:  there will be more head scratching, I’m sure, and it won’t be until sometime in the Third Act I give up all the answers.

Funny how I work that way.

In a way I’m glad the Attack chapter it over.  It’s been just a little over a month since I started, and it was a bit of a slog.  I’ve been through some personal issues during this time, and there’s nothing worse than dealing with your life while trying to create other lives.  Though this is the stock in trade for writers:  you put aside your own emotional and mental baggage for a while so you can develop emotional and mental baggage for your characters.  It’s totally tit for tat, and if you have to suffer through that stuff, it’s only fair you make your characters share.

It makes them so much more believable when they’re crying over nothing, don’t you think?

Aid Time, Angry Annie Aftermath

I’ve been rocking out on David Bowie this morning, writing to Station to Station, and now blogging to Scary Monsters and Super Creeps.  Both brilliant works, and standing up to what passes for music today.  Maybe it’s because I grew up in this time that I love the work so much, but the truth is I wasn’t a huge Bowie fan as a teen, and it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve been able to revisit his catalog and revel in his brilliance.

Why am I bringing up Bowie?  No reason.  Just into the music this morning as I grow closer to the end of Chapter Twenty-Two.  The penultimate scene is finished, and all that remains is the last scene, Intervention, then I can move on to the end of this long and dangerous day for my kids.  As for now, Annie’s part in this chapter is over, but Chapter Twenty-Three is almost all her observations of ongoing events inside the Great Hall as night falls.

Until then, she has to resolve these issues she is having–like whether or not to rip Emma’s lungs out and squeeze them . . .

 

All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

Annie never let her emotions rule her; she never allowed them to driver her impulses. She’d told Kerry that she never cried, and it was also true that she was never angry in the ways that people understood anger. She wouldn’t scream or shout, but rather turn cold and keep her fury contained.

But now . . .

She’d never been in the position of having someone she loved put in a position of danger that could lead to injury or death. Kerry was out there, on the school grounds, perhaps with an Abomination after him—or maybe it had caught him and he was lying in the forest dead and . . .

Either way, alive or dead, whatever was happening to Kerry was due to this girl . . .

Annie pull Emma’s jacket tight around her throat. Her eyes never left those of the frightened and now-drugged girl, and Annie resisted the urge to shake and scream at her for being such a silly, stupid, ignorant girl, but she kept the words she wanted to yell at the top of her voice within her thoughts. How could you do this to Kerry? How could you not listen to him? How could you leave a safe place and lead him to his death

A hand tightened around the back of Annie’s neck and she was ripped away from Emma. She was pulled away from the triage area and towards the West Transept; a few seconds later Coraline spun her around and shook her roughly. “The hell is wrong with you?”

Annie quickly gathered her wits about her and realized what was happening. “I—”

“I said you could use that shit against the Deconstructors if they got in here.” She pointed back at the triage area a few meters away. “I didn’t mean you could use it on our patients.”

Annie’s vision followed Coraline’s outstretched arm. Emma was still in her examination chair; Nurse Gretchen hovered over the girl, swabbing away the rivets of blood emanating from Emma’s nose and tear ducts . . .

“Get her up to the ward: Bed Fourteen.” As soon as she received an acknowledgment from Gretchen, Coraline returned her attention to Annie. “You better have a damn good reason for what just happened, or I’m gonna lock you up in my office for the rest of this situation, Annie.” She folded her hands in front of her, trying not to come off as too domineering. “Well?”

 

The question came up yesterday, “Is Annie the only one who knows death spells?” and the answer to that is, out of all the A Levels, yes, she’s the only one who knows death spells–in particular, she knows one, Exsanguination, which is a D Level spell if one must know.  Both of Annie’s parents were pretty good with Sorcery, and while they didn’t go that route, they have books about the house, and little Annie found those books and read through them.  Ergo, that’s how she learn a death spell.

And what is Exsanguination?  Here is the definition:  “The action or process of draining or losing blood.”  In laymen’s terms it means you bleed a lot, and if you bleed enough, you’ll bleed to death.  Those rivets of blood coming from Emma’s nose and eyes?  Yep.  Annie was laying a little death spell on her, and if she’d actually put her mind to it, Emma would have had blood spurting from her nose faster than a teenage Japanese boy in a hentai animation.

That’s what she was being tasked to use on the “bad guys” if they got into the Great Hall.  Annie was gonna bleed them out–and not slowly.  Someone who knows what they’re doing, like Professor Lovecraft, could make a person bleed from every pore and opening in their body, which means you could put a person down in a mater of seconds.  Yes, it’s a messy way to go–but in my world it’s them or you, right?

There are other students who know how to do this sort of thing.  Do they used them against other students?  No.  Why?  For one, most students at the level where death spells are taught are also taught how to block them.  But also because if someone starts slinging that sort of magic, they’d vanish.  It’s that simple.  Kill a student while you’re a student and that’s it, you no longer exist.  Remember how Isis thought The Foundation might have to do something with Kerry and Emma’s parents if something happened to them?  They’d have basically made them vanish from existence, and anyone who’d come in contact with them would forget them–forever.  Same thing happens to wacky students going around trying to kill people:  they vanish.  Usually into Cloudland.  But that’s another story . . .

There was another question as well:  is that the only death spell?  Nope.  There’s no Avada Karvada in this world:  there are many ways to kick someone off this physical plain in a permanent fashion.  I know this because I have a list:

Spell List:  a work in progress you never leave home without.

Spell List: a work in progress you never leave home without.

Anything listed as “Sorcery (Morte)” is a spell designed to kill.  Yes, it can be used for other things:  Lovecraft used Electrify on Kerry the first day of Sorcery class because she wanted to see if she could get Annie to react, and her skill with the spell is such that she can shock you a little, or she could flat-out fry a person where they sat and they’d be dead before they knew they were dying.

Really, though:  any kind of magic could be used to off someone if you’re inventive enough.  During The Scouring–the other time The Deconstructors came and tried to destroy the school–Wednesday, while a student, killed a Deconstructor by creating a little tornado around his body and flaying him to death with dust and stone particles.  As she’s been known to say, Visualization, Energy, and Willpower:  if you can imagine it, you can make it happen.  If you can see how to do it, and you can channel that magical mojo into your Craft, all you need is the will to make it happen.

Annie’s had it drilled into her that using a death spell just to use it against someone is bad.  She had a slip-up, and . . . yeah, she explained to Coraline that she lose control for a moment because of what happened with Emma and Kerry, and it was her bad, don’t worry, it won’t happen again.  And Coraline, knowing how magic can go sideways when you’re upset, understands . . .

 

“Okay.” Coraline put a finger across Annie’s lips. “Don’t say that. Don’t think the worst.” She began slowly running her hands over Annie’s shoulders, trying to comfort her. “I’ll make this one up as a loss of control—” She leaned closer and eyed Annie hard. “But it’s not going to happen again—is it?”

“No.” Annie shook her head. “It won’t. I’m sorry, Nurse Coraline.”

“Yeah, well . . .” She looked back at the now-empty examination chair. “Emma’s the one you should apologize to, not me.” Coraline tapped Annie’s shoulders. “Let’s get back to work; I have a feeling more are coming.”

They’d taken no more than three steps when Coraline touched Annie’s arm and stopped her. “Hey. Kerry’s a smart boy.” She gave the worried girl a smile that she hoped would put her at ease, though she knew it likely wouldn’t. “If there’s anyone who can get away from an Abomination, it’s him.”

 

See?  All is forgiven–more or less.

As for that last statement, Coraline–

I may have something to say about that . . .

Though intervention usually means help is on the way . . .

Though intervention usually means help is on the way . . .

Living Beyond the Walls

I’ll tell you, I had every intention of getting into writing last night.  Computer was ready, I was ready, there was nothing on television, I was ready for music and typing out words.

But life never lets you do what you want to do, right?

As I’m leaving work I check my phone and find I missed a call.  I check it, and it’s from the place where I was getting my new glasses from, and they tell me they’re it.  So I get home, get ready–just to even go out a have to get ready a little–and head out.  Fortunately traffic isn’t bad, but I still have to make a run to somewhere on the north side of the city.  And I notice that traffic going into the city is bad because of a wreck.  Not something good, particularly when things are backed up for miles.

I get my glasses–yeah, they look great . . .

Oh, and new earrings, too.  Wonderful.

Oh, and new earrings, too. Wonderful.

. . . and after picking them up I decides I need to pick up a few things at Target, and then get something to eat.  I wasn’t planing on staying out long, but I didn’t want to try and fight my way back through the traffic, so I took my time with my dinner.

By the time I rolled back to the apartment to snap the above picture, it was about eight PM.

Then I had to roll out and do something on Facebook, because I’m hosting a book club this month, and I had to set up which three books people can choose from.  Since I’d made my selections months ago it was just a matter of doing the ol’ cut and paste and getting things in place before setting up a poll, but it still took time to get that and the notifications together.  And as soon as I finished getting that set up–

The questions came.

Because they always do when there’s a new book.  Because people want to know things, they have interests in what you’re presenting.  I should have known, but sometimes I can be . . . clueless.  It’s not an easy feeling.

Oh, and I didn’t mention the PMs from people wanting to get together in a couple of weeks.  Did I mention that?  No.  I have now.

This is life, and it’s something I haven’t experienced in a bit.  It’s where unexpected things jump out at you and you do what is necessary to handle them.  My plan had been to come home, start dinner, get the book club stuff set up, eat, then write.  Silly me:  what did I know?

It’s a nice change up to be able to do something unexpected–and I had been waiting for my glasses for a few days, so there was a bit of excitement there.  I just didn’t expect it all to happen like . . . this.

Writing tonight, I promise.  I’ve got Isis trying to explain a school break-in where there shouldn’t be one, and gargoyles hiding in the wall.  I’ll get back into my fantasy . . .

And hope that life doesn’t throw a curve at me tonight.

Here I Am, Speaking Wise Stuff

Today I’m doing something I haven’t done in long time:  I’m speaking on another blog!  Yes, I did a guest post over at My Write Side and I am giving Wednesday Writers Wisdom–which you can probably take or leave.

You’ll find me here on this link, so come on over and share the love, and see what I have to say.

I'm even having coffee.  Come join me.

I’m even having coffee. Come join me.