Autumn and Catching Up

I left the apartment this morning, and the chill in the air told me that without a doubt, fall has finally arrived. After a sweltering summer, it is nice to finally have that crisp fall air hit me as I go out each morning. Between work and apartment hunting, my late summer and early fall look to be keeping me on my toes. As I put my laptop in the back and hustled into the front seat, I sat back and planned my day. I knew that more than anything today, I wanted to get in some solid writing time. First on my agenda is a blog post; then I will get back to Victorian times and deal with a certain captain and her loyal, if not completely law-abiding crew.

I intended to get some blogging done last week, as I spent three days in Rochester and Buffalo New York for the yearly manager’s meeting that my manager sets up. Although we were in meetings all day, my evenings were free, without my other job. My original goal was to post a bit each evening after the day’s work was done. Well, that did not pan out. I was so exhausted when I got back to my hotel room that I promptly passed out. So three days, and no new blog posts.

That said, I was able to sit down and do a little work on my various projects when there was some downtime. I didn’t make a ton of progress during that time, but I had a few ideas, and was able to get them down on paper, and into my computer before they flew completely out of my head. Thankfully.

The ongoing theme in my life is trying to complete that which I have started. To that end, I have branched out a little bit. I gave myself a little birthday present in the form of the iOS version of Scrivener, which is now downloaded onto my iPad. Between that and my sorely underused Dropbox account, I am now completely mobile with my writing!  I played around with it a little bit over the course of those three days, and after a little bit of a learning curve, I think I have the syncing down pat.

This last weekend I was able to close out three chapters that have been bugging me on a couple of my projects. I am now just past the half-way point in Mademoiselle Durand and the Dead Man’s Map. While I enjoy the project, it has been causing me grief since I first typed the sentence “The falcon circled the mast of the Morning Star, keeping a watchful eye on the deck below.” I also spent some time working on my untitled science fiction project. That one is fun to write, but I am having a few issues getting my characters to where they need to be for the climax of the story.

So now I leave you, readers, so that I may continue with my creative writing pursuits. Until next time!

 

So Many Books, So Little Time

I just returned from a week-long trip to Maine on Sunday. After weeks of 80+ degrees, it was nice to pass the time in the woods by a lake where, at best, the temperature barely broke 65 degrees. It was heaven!  I was even able to get a little writing done. I would have gotten more done, but I made the massive mistake of bringing my Kindle.

I feel bad for her. I’ve downloaded who knows how many hundreds of books and short stories, yet I rarely have time to sit down and do any significant amount of reading. But I decided I would make my way through my “novels I’ve been dying to read, but due to my short attention span, will probably never get to” list.

The first order of business was finishing The Scarlet Letter. It was a bet I made with myself over a year ago. The book, to me at least, is tedious. But I finally made it through. After that, I decided to treat myself with something I’ve wanted to read. After years of waiting, and watching some of the T.V. series, I cracked open (figuratively) the Song of Ice and Fire series. As of This afternoon during my lunch break I am a two-thirds of the way through A Game of Thrones. I was worried, because my last attempt to read epic fantasy was The Wheel of Time novels. That did not go so well. I am pleased to report that I am eagerly anticipating finishing the first book by next week, and shortly thereafter beginning book 2. Alright, GRRM, bring it on, I can take it.  By the way, for the fantasy fans, have you read these books? If so, what are your thoughts?

On the writing front, both of my major projects are humming along…slowly (I know, huge shock, right?). I’ve also been working on couple of short story ideas when I am having trouble, creatively. They are two Sci-Fi shorts, and are wonderful for getting the creative juices flowing. Whether they will ever see the light of day, or be expanded upon, I cannot say, but they let me put some of my crazier ideas down, get them out of my system, so my projects don’t get too silly.

I’ve been playing around a bit with some of the settings in Scrivener, which is my writing platform of choice, and I think I may have it customized nearly to where I like it. While I love a lot of its features, I miss some of the other features I had with my previous writing software, WriteitNow. I have the newest version of WriteitNow (WriteitNow5) in the shopping cart, and have been contemplating making the purchase, just to see what the new version offers, and if it is worth the switch back. I may do a compare/contrast post in the future, should I decide to make the purchase. For those of you that use either/both pieces of software, what are your thoughts?

It has been a long first day back to work, but I figured that while I still had a little energy, I’d put a post up. It has been a little while, and I miss updating the blog. I have another update planned in the next couple of days, so check back soon.

Organizing my Cluttered Mind Part 2: Keeping My Stories Straight

      Continuing on from my last post, I have been trying to maintain some semblance of organization while writing. I am a note taker, sometimes to the point of obsession. However, when it comes to keeping those notes organized, I am guilty of complete and utter failure. In the past I’d have three or four different notebooks on my desk, loose sheets of paper I stashed in my pockets, and my research folder on my laptop.

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Not my desk, but a close approximation.

     In my last post I mentioned that I have been using Scrivener in an attempt to become more organized. I have been using each project I’ve created in this software to house all of the research, links and photos I’ve gathered for each project.

     For the most part, I have only written one-off stories up until last year. Recently I’ve been in sequel/shared Universe mode. Two of my projects are closely related, so I decided to try and create a single file to keep track of what is going on in my stories. After doing some research on Scrivener templates, I downloaded a story bible template from here.

     I went through the template to see if it would fit my needs. It fit when I was looking for more or less; so I started using it, adding or subtracting elements as needed.

     The first thing that I did copy over my reference information that crossed over between the different stories. For example, I made a master timeline of all of the events that have occurred in each story, as well as events in the past that help to establish well known facts when in the universe created. I also created folders for the two different series sharing this reality. In those folders I put all of the character profiles, location profiles, and the synopsis for each of the stories in those series.

     I like the fact that now as I progress through each subsequent entry into either series, I will be able to reference any necessary information by simply referring to my story Bible, rather than trying to figure out which story I need to reference in order to get the information I need. I must admit that in the beginning I was afraid but I was going to be spending more time keeping track of my story Bible than I would be writing. But I’ve been spending no more than five or ten minutes at the end of each session updating any new information if needed.

     I’m also a writer that seems to receive inspiration for my stories at the least convenient times. In the past I would attempt to carry my notebook around with me and jot down any notes that I felt I needed in order to remember what came to me so suddenly. Using Evernote, and sometimes even my phone’s note taking app, I don’t have to worry about looking for my notebook to jot down my ideas. Most of the time I only use these apps to jot down notes: possible locations for a story, ideas for characters or backstory, and especially names for characters. I am horrible with names. So in the event that I think of a name I really like, I jot it down – or more accurately, type it into my smartphone. then when I get home, all I need to do is elaborate on those ideas within my story file.

     A couple of times, inspiration has led me two ideas that needed to be written down and greater links. Sometimes these passages how complete enough to go into my draft. When that does happen, transferring that information over isn’t all that difficult.

     As always, I’d love to hear from you:  how do those writers working on one or more series keep your storylines and characters organized for continuity purposes?

Organizing My Cluttered Mind Part 1: The Tools

     I am not the world’s most organized writer.I admit it. I have the best of intentions. I sit down with my notes, my research, and anything else I might need for any given project., but inevitably, it ends up hopelessly mixed up and all over my work surface. Eventually I just give up and try to work in a sea of papers and tears of frustration!
     I have tried to organize using technology using a few different means. At first, I switched from handwritten manuscripts to using MSWord. That helped a bit, insofar as it allowed me to eliminate the risk of writing a story into the wrong notebook.
    Along came the early 2000s. I stumbled across WriteItNow. The ability to separate my book into chapters and scenes was a handy addition to my writing toolbox. Making character profiles was both easy and had a great deal of depth. Creating personality profiles, character biographies, and keeping notes was easy. I didn’t need as many physical papers while writing. One notebook for quick jotting is all I needed.

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    Finally, last year, I saw Scrivener for the first time. I fell. Hard. It has nearly everything I love about WriteItNow, plus it is super easy to use the software. There was definitely a learning curve with WriteItNow. Creating your own custom templates for projects was not quite as intuitive. And despite my love for the older software, I was not going to find much in the way of tech support. I slowly began transferring to Scrivener. I completed my projects that were closest to completion, then started new projects directly in Scrivener.
    It has done a lot of things very well. The corkboard feature is a favorite, allowing me to jump to the section requiring my attention ASAP.
    The main writing surface in Scrivener is set up quite simply. It is a basic word processing software. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that Word has, but it doesn’t need it. If your goal is to write a manuscript, report, for any heavily text based document, you don’t really need 200 fonts for those types of projects.

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    There are a lot of features I enjoy with this software, including the ability to create ebooks in the format of your choice. If you plan on making your work available on multiple eBook retailer’s sites, this can save a lot of time. My only real gripe about the software is that the character and location profiles are very basic. Basically just a worksheet to fill out. Even after using the software for a little over a year, I still miss the much more in-depth options provided by WriteItNow 4.
    The final piece to my organizational puzzle is my note taking. In an effort to eliminate the use of a physical notebook, I have been using Evernote for the last couple of months. Since my cellphone is always with me, I have the ability to not notes whenever inspiration hits. It is a simple interface, that has won me over due to how easy it is to retrieve this information from other devices for use in my story.

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    Now, as I’ve learned today, while visiting each piece of software’s websites, WriteItNow apparently released version 5.0. Now I know I will be upgrading, to see if Raven’s head has been listening to the wishes of their customers. It will be interesting to see how I feel once I’ve been able to explore the improvements they have made to the overall experience.
    For the writers out there: what do you use to keep yourselves organized? Is anyone still using pen and paper? Typewriter? Is MSWord still the norm, or are people using other pieces of software to organize their thoughts and put them into a publishable form? I look forward to hearing about other people’s methods.

Here are some links to these pieces of software, for anyone who might want more information;

WriteItNow
Scrivener
Evernote