I used Scrivener to write most of "CHRONOS". It was the first major project that I had undertaken using this software and I come away very impressed with it.
Scrivener is a combined word processor and outliner. It has been designed with the entire writing workflow in mind, right from the point the author has just a couple of ideas written down on Post-It notes through to the point at which final proofs are being generated for ebook production or physical book printing.
I used the Mac OS X edition but there is one for Windows as well. The two historically have differed somewhat in function and look-and-feel, but I believe that they have been coming closer together in recent versions.
Scrivener makes it very easy to take single line summaries of chapters or scenes and flesh them out into full passages. Moving around is lightning quick, even when project files become large (at one stage, I had over half a million words in my project file - Scrivener didn't blink at this, even on my relatively low-powered MacBook Air laptop).
I found that I review text best when I'm sitting away from a computer display. For this purpose, I would generate an ePub version of my book and load it into the iBooks app on my iPad. That would then allow me to take my current work with me to the coffee shop or library and allow me to review the text in comfort. I would mark up the ePub version using iBooks' comment feature and then email the comments into Evernote for following up on later.
Scrivener takes data integrity very seriously. It is constantly auto-saving in order to avoid losing any writing. And you can save a full backup of the project when you quit the application. Individual chapters and scenes can be versioned, allowing the author to revert to a previous version if something goes hideously wrong (with the writing I mean!)
I'm publishing "CHRONOS" in multiple formats, both printed and ebook. Here again Scrivener has proved essential. It can generate a wide range of ebook formats (ePub, Mobi/Kindle, PDF, Word, OpenOffice, HTML and TXT to name just some) as well as producing the final file for sending off to the printers for the physical book. This allows me to have one single version of the novel's text that goes into all these different versions. This helped me immensely in the last few days, as I made lots of little changes and tweaks across the whole novel.
My only real complaint about Scrivener is to have a moan at its publisher, Literature and Latte, about what is happening with an iPad edition of the software. L&L first announced that an iPad version was under development back in December 2011. In March 2015 L&L said that the software was feature complete and that the product was now going through internal beta-testing. They then published a job posting for a second iOS developer last June, saying that they needed help in polishing up the software. In the five months since, we've heard nothing.
It's all very frustrating, particularly with the new iPad Pro being released this week, which should be an ideal device for Scrivener to run on. Being able to run Scrivener in split-screen mode, alongside apps like Evernote is pretty much my dream set-up for writing, especially if the project files can be shared with the copy of Scrivener running on my desktop Mac.
In the meantime, I'm casting envious glances across the border, into Windows land, and wondering whether a Microsoft Surface Book, running the Windows 10 version of Scrivener, might make for the best writing environment for my second novel. I'm resisting the Siren calls for now, but the longer we hear nothing more about iOS Scrivener, the more tempting this option will become.
I’m going to start this new blog off by wishing good luck today to everyone beginning the NaNoWriMo challenge. For those who haven’t heard of it, the goal is to write a fifty-thousand word novel from scratch during the thirty days of November. That equates to writing 1,667 words every day of the month. That might not sound like a lot to write on a regular basis but achieving it day-in, day-out for the full thirty days is a test.
My own novel, “CHRONOS”, began as a NaNoWriMo project two years ago, in November 2013. Prior to that I had never tried to write a full-length story before. In fact I hadn’t written any fiction since I was at school, and then nothing longer than a couple of thousand words. I saw NaNoWriMo was an opportunity to test my creative powers.
As I started the challenge, I had a clear idea of the overall theme for my story, what the opening chapter was and who the main characters were. What I didn’t know was how it would end! I simply started writing, trusting that I could keep one or two steps ahead in the plotting process as I went along.
I also didn’t have a title. For about eight months I simply called it “UNN” (Untitled November Novel). I spent zero time thinking about names for the novel back in November 2013, trusting that a suitable name would become apparent as I continued to work on the novel.
And that really is the key advice I can give to anyone undertaking the challenge for the first time - don’t allow yourself to become stuck. Always find some way of moving forward. Put a placeholder in to mark things that you will need to return to (I use the string “TODO:” to insert action items into my text as I’m writing).
As you get further into the writing, it’s very tempting to go back and revise what you’ve already written. My advice is resist this urge. If you start polishing the text, trying to make it perfect, you will find your daily word count start to plummet. There will be plenty of time to refine the text after you’ve written the first draft, but you should get that first draft complete first!
There are days when inspiration runs low. The only solution is to keep grinding away, trusting that ideas will come eventually. Just keep writing. Put one word down after another until you reach your daily target.
It also helps to make use of cloud tools such as Evernote and Dropbox to make your writing available to you wherever you are, and whatever device you are using. You never know where inspiration might strike and you want to be prepared for being able to capture the ideas while they are still fresh in your head.
After I completed my first draft in November 2013, I locked the manuscript away. It wasn’t until Easter 2014 that I allowed myself to go back and review what I had written. That allowed me to forget much of the pain of writing the first draft, and detach myself from particular passages that I had worked hard and long on. That allowed me to be ruthless in cutting out pieces of the story that weren’t working.
Very little of that first draft remains in the finalised version of “CHRONOS” - I’d probably estimate that about ten percent of the text remains unchanged since the first version. However without that first draft, I would never have had a base to work from that would eventually allow me to publish two years later.
NaNoWriMo is challenging but if you take it seriously it is very rewarding. Everyone should try it at least once in their life.