Changes Amid the Darkness

It’s a late morning for me, with a lot of slow writing last night and this morning.  I’ve been taking my time with the current scene, probably because the words aren’t flowing from me as they once did.  Seven hundred fifty words written yesterday; four hundred twenty this morning.  After burning up the pages for a while, I’m still getting out the plot, just not the way I have since–how long have I been working on this?

Wow.  I started on B For Bewitching on 11 April, 2015.  Today is 2 August, 2015.  According to the date calculator on the Time and Date website, tomorrow will mark one hundred and fifteen days since I started working on this novel, which means I’ve been writing, with just a couple of days off, for three months and three weeks:

Numbers never lie--well, almost.

Numbers never lie–well, almost.

If I calculate my word count right, by tomorrow I’ll have averaged eight hundred and eighty-seven words a day, which isn’t a bad average when I consider I’m mostly doing this in the evening after work, and finding the time on the weekend, when I’m not running around getting things done.

Just keep writing, as they say.  Just keep writing.

Last night I sat down and did something I’ve mentioned a couple of times during the last few blog posts:  I separated Chapter Ten into two chapters, and then began renumbering the old chapters.  It took some time, and I still have to do the chapters in Act Three, but now that it’s done the segregation makes sense.  Racing is in one chapter, dancing is in another.  All is right in my Bewitching World . . .

It also looks prettier.  Sort of.

It also looks prettier. Sort of.

I did this a few time with A For Advanced, and I sometimes find myself wondering why I put myself through this craziness.  The answer is simple:  because I’m always trying to do what I think is right.  I think about how this will look if and when published, and part of my mind is saying, “You know your readers will like it when things are formatted correctly.”  So you pull things apart and set them up correctly.

It’s easy to do when you have project management software.  Of course you then have to go through and change numbers and that sort of thing, but it’s something you do.  Laying things out four months ago is when I created the road map, but it’s only once I began the journey that I started seeing the route.  And I figure the route is gonna change some more as time goes on, so it if does, I just keep making changes where they are needed.

I’ll finish up Samhain today and start on the next chapter, which is pretty much Annie-centric.  You know how I say you don’t want to make Annie mad?  Well, you’ll see what happens when that happens.  In the meantime it’s nighttime in the Pentagram Garden, and a couple of kids are about the finish a discussion that Annie started some hours before–

They've been here before, and believe it when I say they'll be her during a few more Samhains.

They’ve been here before, and believe it when I say they’ll be her during a few more Samhains.

We’ll see where their route goes, that much I know.

A Roadmap For Your Private Wonderland

I really coulda, shoulda, woulda finished the first scene of Part Five, Chapter Fifteen last night, but I didn’t?  Why?  I was crashing hard by the time I made it just past a thousand words for the evening.  I had perhaps a few hundred more words to go before finishing the scene, but when your head is in danger of falling onto the keyboard, you recognize your limitations and stop what you’re doing.

Today is another travel day, however–I’m heading back to The Burg in about four hours–and I’ll have ample opportunity to finish up at one of my two stops along the way.  Maybe after I finish the scene I can work up the names of the five students who are suppose to be in the Advance Spells class using the Name Generator in Scrivener.  I know two of the students; I need three more.

That’s a great feature in Scrivener, and the newest release–just out a few weeks ago–has a time saving feature that will save your life if you write ebooks:  Scrivener has made it easy to create a table of contents.

I’ve had to create table of contents for two books, one of them a novel, and it is the one thing that I’ve truly, truly hated.  Now, you don’t have to throw a table of contents into your ebook, but if you are a writer who comes up with insanely long stories–slowly raising hand, I am–having to build the links by hand could turn into an enormous pain in the ass–as it was when I built one for Her Demonic Majesty, and spent nearly a day and a half getting it right.

How easy is it to build a table of contents in Scrivener?  Being that I’m a nice girl, I’m gonna show you.

Lets start out with a quick look at my binder.  To start out you need to set up a file, probably up in the front after your copyright notation, that your readers will find right away.

Right up there under the Big Red Book.

Right up there under the Big Red Book.

Nothing fancy in there:  keep the margins, the font, and the spacing the same as the rest of scenes.

Since I’d like a lot of scenes for my example, I’ll table up Act One, because if there ever was nightmare fuel for a writer, it’s dreaming about having to build the table of contents for that one hundred and fifty thousand word monstrosity.

Whatever gave you the idea there was a lot here?

Whatever gave you the idea there was a lot here?

Given how many scenes you have in your story, you can either start building from your binder on the left, or from outline view in the middle of the screen.  What you need to do here is open up all your folders:  Acts, Parts, Chapters, Scenes under Scenes–you have to be able to select everything you’re going to use to created your Table of Contents, because programs are funny in that they do exactly what you tell them to do, and if you select an unopened folder, then that location is all you’ll get in the ToC.

Right now I have every folder in Act One of my story open.  What I do now is highlight the first item I’m going to select for my Table of Contents:

Act One seems like a good place to start.

Act One seems like a good place to start.

And then, with a bit of magic almost worthy of my students, scroll down to the last entry you want to put into your Table of Contents, hold down the Shift Key, and use your mouse to highlight that last entry.  Everything in-between gets selected.

Yes, I really did want all that.

Yes, I really did want all that.

While you have it all highlighted, go up to your menu.  Select Edit > Copy Special > Copy Documents as Scrivener Links.  With that little act you’ve just saved yourself about five hours of misery–or at least I have.

Really, it's just like magic.  Or something close to that.

Really, it’s just like magic. Or something close to that.

What do I do next.  Go into the text file I’m going to use as my Table of Contents.  Open it–

Table empty--

Table empty–

And now Paste what you copied.

Table Full.

Table Full.

Now, you’ll see there are a few things in the table that appear to be duplicates.  This is because I’ve also selected folders along with text files:  remember, you’ll grab everything when you do this copy.  So how do I know what I want to keep and what I want to delete?  Simple:  click on the link.

I certanly don't want this--

I certainly don’t want this–

As you can see I clicked the first Act One, and what I got was the folder itself, showing me the filed under.  Scrivener automatically went into split screen mode when I clicked, so no need to do that yourself.

Since that first link isn’t the title page, I’ll click the second one:

Yeah, this is more like it.

Yeah, this is more like it.

Since I don’t need that first Act One, I can simply delete it out of my table.  And since I set up my story in an Act, Part, Chapter, Scene format, I’ll know that the first of every duplicate is a folder, and I can delete them.

There, all nice and clean.

There, all nice and clean.

If you’ve ever wondered why I put a title on every scene I write, it’s for two reasons.  One, it’s metadata giving me a hint as to what happens in the scene, and two–it’s there to help build my table of contents.  Which Scrivener has done for me.  And I know the links work because I can click on them and the program takes me to where I want to go.

It's almost like getting a Special Invitation.

It’s almost like getting a Special Invitation.

The last thing to do is, if you are of a mind, is to pretty up your Table of Contents by indenting your entries.  I usually set them a quarter of an inch inward based upon what they are:  part, chapter, scene.  You can even indent the subscenes if you want to roll that way.

There we are, all nice and neat.

There we are, much prettier, don’t you think?

The great thing is I can leave this Act One information in place, and add Act Two later.  Or, since I intend on splitting the novel into three separate stories as ebooks, I can set up individual Table of Contents for each act/book, and then combine them later when I decide to release this monster as one novel for people who just wanna read it all in one place.  After all, that’s the nice thing about ebooks:  one novel or three combined, it all looks the same on your reader.

But getting from place to place in that incredible wonderland you created is a lot easier if you have a good roadmap.

The Curtain Parts

Today is Travel Day once more:  that day where I hop in the car and drive six hundred and thirty-five miles back to The Burg after a week of sleeping in my old own bed.  So on the road about ten my time, and back to the apartment about ten at night Burg Time–or as the kids in my story would say, around twenty-two.

I managed to get Parts One and Two formatted and set up as a pdf for beta reading.  I sent the first one out last night, so right before I headed off to bed someone was reading this:

Yeah, this is what it looks like when you give Scrivener the go-ahead to make your manuscript look nice and pretty.

Yeah, this is what it looks like when you give Scrivener the go-ahead to make your manuscript look nice and pretty.

Two parts, one hundred and seventy-six pages.  Part Three is waiting in the wings, and I know one of my readers will demand I have it to her soon.  I’ll be mean and ship it off about the time the season finale of The Walking Dead comes on, because I’m that sort of mean girl.  Naw, I wouldn’t do that.  I’m not that mean.

This is another of the great things about Scrivener.  I set up what I wanted printed, told it I needed a pdf, set the basic formatting, and there it was–and there it was again, because I’d find something I didn’t like, and I’d go back and fix it, then tell the program I needed another pdf.  I did this for a few hours, because I pretty much did another read through of the manuscript.  My beta reader found a couple of things like words that are unnecessary and a few other things, but I know that’s coming.  There’s one hundred forty thousand words there, and I’ve only given this a pretty good read through, and a so-so yesterday.  There’s probably three or four more edits ahead of this act before it’s to where I want it.

I know this, because I’ve become a better writer in the last year.

But the manuscript is nice and need, and if I’d wanted I could have made this an .mobi and let someone read it straight up as an ebook without navigation.  Or maybe with it, because you can have Scrivener set up your own table of contents.  I should try that and see if it works.  The people could get here sooner:

When Helena smirks, a shiver should run down your spine, 'cause it's not a good smirk.

When Helena smirks a shiver should run down your spine, ’cause it’s not a good smirk.  Don’t worry:  Annie will get to see it next week, ’cause she’s gonna have fun . . .

And right there is where I go from one scene–The Witch House–to another–Selena’s Meadow–with the four “#” there to show where the break happens.  I have them labeled for me, but the reader won’t see them–unless I set it up in a table of content and allow the person reading this on an ebook to go right to the scene.  Not a bad idea, actually.  A bit of work, but . . . if you’re paying to read a huge first act, then you should have the option to do it your way, right?

This gives me extra incentive to get back to The Burg in one piece, ’cause I’ll have someone eager to read Part Three real soon.  Like . . . yesterday soon.

I knew I should have formatted that when I had the time last night.

Acts of the Madness

Back home it’s Indiana Blizzard Time:  here isn’t cold, but nothing near that bad.  Tomorrow, though, we get wind chill out the butt, so that’ll make the walk into work all the more interesting.  Though back home it’ll drop to twenty below zero, so I’m not complaining.

So Nice, So Neat.

So Nice, So Neat.

Home stretch time on the novel.  Not only did I whip out one scene last night–short and sweet, just under thirteen hundred words that sets up what’s coming next–but I also organized my novel into what I feel is the final format.  In the picture I’ve placed here for all to see, I’m showing what the current act looks like, with parts and chapters and scenes laid out in Scrivener Outline Mode, but looking in the binder to the left one can see the other parts laid out in the other acts.  Yep, she’s looking good.  I even managed to get everything named the way it should be named.

I’ve had more issues getting this thing laid out and sections named than I’ve had with any other book, but then, I’ve never written anything this big and complicated before in one sitting.  When I look at the other acts and realize there’s probably a quarter of a million more words waiting to get written, this is a long-term project, and may end up being the only original material I write this year.

What did I write about last night?  The Midnight Madness.  What is that, you say?  At my school, every Friday and Saturday night the school lets all the students who want to join come to the main dining area and hang out with their fellow classmates.  The one main requirement is that they have to come in appropriate sleepwear.  Once there they sit around and play games, read, have snacks and refreshments, or just spend the night talking with friends until sometime after midnight.

It’s a school-approved pajama party, and everyone’s invited.

Does this mean that some couples are off in shadowed corners locking lips and sucking face?  They’re teenagers:  what do you think?

When you think about it, when you have a few hundred advanced and intelligent kids locked up in one spot, and all of them are either witches, gifted (they got crazy mutant powers, yo), or budding mad scientists, you gotta give them the chance to get out of their coven towers and relax.  And some of these kids occupy all three spots on that Vern Diagram, which means they’re really burning the candle at three ends, and they probably need to drink fluids, munch on sandwiches and pastries, and play a few card games to unwind.

Only when you’re losing a game of Magic at Salem, you flip that table with your mind.

There you have it.  Kids unwinding, author unwinding.  Lucky for them their weekend is just starting, and I’m having to get back into the week.  At least it’s not twenty below zero outside, but rather a tolerable cold.

Makes the walk to work feel like less of an impending doom.

The Reads and the Writes

Obviously I made it through Monday, yeah?  After the hassle of getting my computer account going again, and almost falling asleep a few times in the afternoon–it was a long day–I made it home and I started getting my other story together for beta reading.

Crazy me, though:  getting it compiled into a pdf format should have been a simply matter.  But, no, I had to check the document after I converted it, and discovered a mistake here, a mistake there, and before you know it I’m doing little edits throughout the story when I saw something that didn’t look right.  Yes, it was a first draft, but still:  I didn’t want to put out something that had crap in a couple of locations.  I’m sensitive about those things.

Because I had so many speaking parts in this beta story–it’s the prequel to the novel I’m writing now–I needed to created a cast of characters listing for my readers.  It didn’t take that long, but when it came time to list a few of the students, I had to go back through the manuscript and remember where they were, class year-wise, before I could list them.  Fortunately I’d listed that in their bios.

Yeah, always think ahead, kiddies.

I finally got it out last night, and even managed to speak with one of my readers while I was busy writing away on my current novel.  Yes, I did the crazy thing and split up my screens and had the novel on the right side of the screen while the chat box with my reader was on the left.  And I chatted with her while I wrote a few lines here and then over by there.  It’s a bit schizo, but I’m sort of used to that.

Did I mention I had two other conversations ongoing at the same time?  Yeah, I’m nuts.

The upshot to all this is I managed to get a story formatted for reading, connected with one of my readers, and finished the scene I was working on by adding another seven hundred and fifty words to the count.  Even I was surprised by that, because I was certain I’d topped out around five hundred.  That leaves one short scene to finish out the chapter, then I can write about breakfast–or maybe not, I’m still thinking about that–and then I can start in on the first week of school.

I realized that I’ve not written a great deal in the last three days:  after all, what’s eighteen hundred words when I’ve cranked that out in the course of a night?  It happens.  And tonight I start the little experiment I want to try, so it’s a good thing the scene I have in mind is short, because I can probably knock that out with a few hundred words.  Writing will likely be slow during the month of December, but unlike the last two years, I’ll be writing, and not looking at something with editing in mind, or just siting and wondering what to do next.

Any forward movement is good movement, right?


On Beyond Completion

Let me tell you, this weekend has been one of the busiest I’ve known since NaNoWriMo.  I sat down on Saturday morning determined to burn through the chapters remaining in Part Two of Her Demonic Majesty, and late in the afternoon yesterday, that goal became a reality.  Four chapters, about eleven thousand words, one part:  it’s all good now.  I’m on the home stretch, and the end is very near.

Not that the work didn’t leave me feeling a bit out of it.  I was so burnt by five-thirty Sunday afternoon that I actually checked to see if there was something on TV to way, and discovered the movie Prometheus was going to play.  While I knew of the movie, I’d never seen it, and decided to take a couple of hours out of my life and give it a watch.  What it did was confirm was that spending a trillion or so dollars to send Extremely Stupid People Into Space is a Bad Idea.  Next time just give me the money and I’ll figure out a better way of getting you a return on your investment.

Though I can see the set up for another movie, but I’m not giving up anything.  Not that anyone in Hollywood is interested–they’re too busy turning Ninja Turtles into aliens.

After letting my mind drip, I headed back to the story and did some playing.  With the big of formatting I’m performed I tried another .mobi compile, but I came up with a four thousand page story, so The Phantom Pages are still there, and I’d rather not deal with that crap.  I can convert it to a .doc and run it up for formatting, so no worry.

I also ran the story off to a Word .doc, just to see what I was going to have in terms of page count.  I was surprised to find something messed up with the title page right away, which is why being able to look at your story in several different formats is always a cool thing.  That was fixed, and the it was a look-see at the page count.

The great thing is Scrivener can give you an estimation on your page count.  I could look at that, or bring the story up in Word and zip to the end . . . which after I did told me there were two hundred and thirty-five pages.  Now, I know there are seven pages which really don’t add to the story:  title, Table of Contents, copyright and dedication pages, and the Part Headings, so what I’m left with is two hundred and twenty-eight pages of story.  Which is a nice little chunk of entertainment when it comes time to do the reading.

Unless there is a massive rewrite somewhere in one of the chapters of Part Three, I don’t anticipate the page count for Her Demonic Majesty changing that much.  I know what it’s going to run, I know what I’m going to charge.  All that remains is to finish out my work this week, set up a couple of things, and upload.

Before you know it, I’ll be looking for something else to do.

Station to Variable Station

Saturday morning, having my coffee at the local Panera, listening to Station to Station, an album that I enjoyed in my youth, and which continued to set me apart from those friends who were still into Top 40 AM pop.  I know I have some work ahead of me today:  a bit of editing, maybe some article writing, a little beta reading . . . we’ll see.  I also have somewhere I need to be at noon, and that’s going to keep me busy for a couple of hours.

Oh, I also have my final cover for Her Demonic Majesty.  Yeah, it’s a good day, even if it is rainy.

While I haven’t figured out my Phantom Pages issue for mobi and epub compiles, Scrivener reveled itself to me while I was trying to figure out why some of my text files wouldn’t page break when I was compiling my novel into a Word document.  After some playing with the document, I went into Scrivener mode . . .

Let me explain.NaNo Day One

Within Scrivener, you can examine your story in one of three ways.  There is the Corkboard, which is my favorite.  The visual for this is as you’d expect:  it’s like a corkboard you hang on the wall and tack up note cards.  As you can see on the right, the corkboard is an easy way to lay out your story, tell you where you are as far as what you’re doing with each section, and give you a little metadata so when you look at Chapter Ten, you know that’s the chapter where your characters get together and flog each other with chicken legs they bought an hour before at KFC.

Then there’s the Outline, which gives you a top to bottom review of each section you’ve created, and you can show as little or as much meta data as you’d like.  One of the nice things you can show in Outline mode is the word count for each chapter, as well as target word counts, and your progress towards reaching those counts.  If you have your metadata set up correctly, you can see if your story is progressing as you expect, or if you’re way the hell off the rails.

Lastly, we have Scrivener mode, which lets you see the whole store in one long scrolling document that also shows you where each section starts and end.  If you’ve set your metadata to break for each new text file, then those dashed lines indicate where your story is going to start at the top of another page, just as it would in a novel.  Also, if you show the hidden characters, you’ll see where every space is, and each carriage return, aka your Return/Enter key.

I went into Scrivener mode and started looking for hidden characters that could be causing my “not page breaking” problems in Word.  Didn’t see anything, so I went back into the corkboard and started moving cards around–which are, in reality, my chapters and part titles–and ran off another compile to check.  I didn’t see anything, at least not right away . . . but an idea started to form, because the more I looked at my troublesome sections, the more I saw they were different than my chapters–

I was using two carriage returns to drop the “Part” titles from the top of the page.  I removed those returns, and–ta da!  Problem solved!  Really, it was that simple.  After I figured that out, I went into the compile formatting, told the compile to drop the titles six lines from the top of a page break–and just like that, when I looked at the word document, everything was as I wanted.

With that out of the way, I looked for the “very” word, because it’s a weak word, and it looks stupid when you see it in the story.  Still in Scrivener mode, I set up the Find, located all my verys, then hit the Replace to remove them from the story.  When I was finished I’d removed sixty-eight “very” from the story, either deleting them, or putting another adverb or adjective in its place.  In an eighty-six thousand word novel, finding the word “very” sixty-eight times may not sound like a big deal, but in the year and a half since I wrote Demonic Majesty I’ve learned a bit, and using “very” is one of the things I’ve learned not to do.

Today I’ll look for my “suddenly” words, and superscript those suffixes that require the format, then start on a read through, because I believe the story is formatted well, and all I’m checking for are errors right now.  This may take a couple of weeks, but with everything else in place, there’s no need to hurry.

It’s all coming together faster than I thought.

And you know what they say about a plan coming together . . .


Publisher Row

It was a rough day yesterday.  It was raining, it was cold, it was windy, there were assholes on the road, three whom nearly wrecked me, and one guy who felt that driving over 75 mph in a hard rain was completely legit, and nearly took himself and a few other cars out when he almost lost control.  When I am allowed to mount heavy weapons on my car, idiots like that will vanish quickly . . .

Thus it was that when I sat down to continue my conquest of my current novel formatting so that I can transform it into the epic story that folks will line up to by.  The way it’s suppose to look is good:  I’ve figure out the ways that compile time formatting should work, and I’ve begun employing that process.  I also tried a epub creation, then converted that to mobi, but the phantom pages issue remained.  Hummm . . . phantom pages.  I could use that as a movie title.

One question that I received this morning was, “Why is this Scrivener so great?”  What I did last night is a prime example.  I have a story that I’m trying to convert to different formats, all three which are nowhere comparable to each other.  And yet, I’d make one change in the Scrivener compiler, and off I went, creating a .doc, then a few seconds later creating a .epub, then trying a .mobi format a few seconds after that.  Nothing else was required; information I’d used for formatting on one format was good for information on another, and where I had formatting styles particular to .epub and .mobi, that information was retained when I switched over to .doc.

I could call Scrivener “Out of One Comes Many,” but that is stretching things just a little.

Though I’ve not gotten to the very root of my phantom page problems, I’m learning a great deal about the creation of an ebook without having to do a lot of extra work.  Trust me, though:  I will work this out, one way or the other.  Part of the issue could be that the Windows version of Scrivener is not quite as powerful as the Mac OS version of Scrivener, but it’s getting there.  I’m a programmer, which means I not only understand this concept of “getting your software up to speed,” but I know work arounds.  I’ve created an ebook before, and I’ll do it again using my work around.

I will not be found wanting.

It’s back into cleaning up the chapters tonight.  I think I’ll throw Scrivener into Outline view and just pick chapters and go through them, so that I get a feel for how that part works.  I love my Corkboard, but trying the Outline view is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, and tonight is just as good a time to play as any.  Besides, with the change I’m going to try with my story, the Outline will work better than the Corkboard.  At least that’s how I see it at the moment.

Editing is boring?  Are you kidding?

I’m having a blast.

Mobi Dick

Falling back to the famous opening line from Shoot and The Mist (which King admits he stole from Shoot), this is what happened:

Last night was Formatting Night at the casa, and it was time to play with the Table of Contents.  Almost every ebook needs one, particularly if you’re hawking a novel, and you want your readers to jump to chapters quickly.  I’ve done this for Kuntilanak, and I started playing with it for Her Demonic Majesty.

I discovered quickly, however, that while you can set up a text file in Scrivener for you ToC, you can’t link to things as you would in Word.  That functionality simply doesn’t exist.  But wait!  After doing some research using this strange tool that a lot of writers seem to be unaware of called “Google”, I was reminded of something Scrivener does, and that’s compile your documents into epub and mobi formats.

For the less and tech savvy out there, epub is a common ebook standard that’s been around a few years.  The other format, mobi, has been around even longer, and is what’s used by Kindle.  When you compile into either of these formats, if you have things set up right, you’ll build your Table of Contents automatically.

With that being the case, why not give it a try?

I decided to try out mobi, since I could shoot this straight up to my Kindle Direct account when the time came to complete this magic.  So I selected a few things to test this out, and . . .

Wait a minute.  Since you need a way to see your ebook before it becomes an ebook, I needed a little tool for that.  I downloaded Kindle Previewer from the Kindle Direct page, so once I had my mobi file, I could pull it up and “read” my story.  Great!  I get that on the machine, then I start the compile . . .

Oh, wait.  In order to compile anything as a mobi, Scrivener needs to know where you store your KindleGen program.  KindleGen lets you convert files that could be ebooks into mobi format, and even though I’m creating a mobi file, Scrivener wants to know where this magical program resides on my computer.  Which meant I needed to go and download that–

I have all the tools in place.  I selected my text, click to Compile, say I want mobi, and do it.  A few seconds later–success!  I have a mobi file!  It was that simple.

With the mobi file in place I started Kindle Previewer, loaded by file, and–there it was!  My test book, all nice and . . . well, not exactly neat.  The ToC was a mess, but this was due to how I named things rather than something Scrivener did.  But things were in place, and the pages looked great . . .

That was when I noticed the page count:  1,452.  What?  What is his insanity?  It seemed that when the mobi file was created, all sorts of pages that I can’t see were created, and this led to this incredible page count, rather than the 72 pages which should have been.

Obviously, there is something I did when writing that brought about this issue.  That means more investigation and research, and more testing.  But when the time comes, I’ll have this book made.

Oh, yes, I will.