Creative Writing, Gwen Hernandez, My Dream Guy, Scrivener, word processing

5 Top Tips For Writing With Scrivener

Scrivener‘s not simply a word processing package, it’s a project management tool for writers. It allows you to store all your research, ideas, images and metadata in one place—the same place you’re creating your manuscript. It saves you from drowning in a sea of notes made on the backs of envelopes, or in half a dozen different notebooks (if you can find them). When your book is finished, Scrivener can export it in any number of forms, including compiled and ready for publishing online.

Once you can navigate the Scrivener system it’s brilliant, but to begin with it can be daunting. You can find out more about the possible downside here, but now I’ve been working with Scrivener for a while these are my top tips:

1. There’s no substitute for diving in and tinkering. Use the free trial facility available from Literature and Latte. Press all the buttons, switch from view to view, drag and drop, and try out various forms of compilation to create different types of document for publication or upload. You can customise the system, so that each time you start a new project the fonts and formatting are exactly as you want them. Take your time to become familiar with the whole Scrivener experience. It’s lovely to open a new project and start typing, knowing you’re free to work without having to fight the system. Which leads me to…

2. Never try to learn a new system such as Scrivener when you’re working to a deadline. Learn first, write later. Or write using your normal word processor (regularly saving to flash drives or the cloud, of course) then import it into the Scrivener project where you store all your research and ideas. I did this when I was working on my latest short romance, My Dream Guy. I wrote the first draft in a single document, using Pages for Mac. Instead of giving each chapter a title, I put a hashtag (#) at the end of each one. When imported into Scrivener, the system automatically created a new file for each chapter.  After editing my work in Scrivener, all I needed to do to format it ready for publication was hit Scrivener’s “compile” button and—bingo! One ready-formatted manuscript, ready to go.

 myBook.to/MyDreamGuy 

3. RTFM—Read The Flaming* Manual, which in Scrivener’s case rather handily shows up each time you open the package. It’s there, along with interactive and video tutorials, visible on the front page, and for a reason. Use it. The video tutorials provided by Literature and Latte are great if you’re a visual learner—the type of person who needs to see things done, rather than simply having them explained in words.

4. Scrivener For Dummies, written by Scrivener Wizard Gwen Hernandez is an invaluable book, although in common with every other trouble-shooting system for computing I’ve used, if you don’t know why you’re stuck, it won’t be much help. You need to know the exact questions to ask the index, and the terms to use. I found fiddling about free-form (see Tip 1, above) and then cross-referencing the effect I achieved with this book was a great way to learn. I’ve always got my copy within reach. As a result, it’s covered with notes, and remnants of those two vital components of a writer’s life, tea and cake. Gwen Hernandez also has a Scrivener Corner on her website, with loads of useful tips (and no cake crumbs). You can find that here.

5. If all else fails, type your question into a search engine. You’ll be amazed how many articles and YouTube videos have been produced by enthusiasts. A word of warning: because these people are enthusiasts, you may find the instructors go too fast, or skip over exactly the details you need to know. More than one of these personable geniuses uses the phrase  “you’ll know how to do that already….” about the precise part of the process you want explained. The screenshots these video artistes use are often tiny and indistinct, too, so use these only if you’ve got 20/20 vision, a degree in mind-reading, and you’re willing to take a chance.

Have you tried working with Scrivener? What’s your favourite tip?

* other words beginning with F are available…

#mywritingprocess, Creative Writing, Love On The Run, Princes Of Kharova, roses, Wild Rose Press

This Writing Life…Summer Inspiration

With a heatwave forecast, I’m trying to get out of the office as much as possible. I’ve been taking some pictures around  the garden. What do you think?

High summer is hard on the flowers. The roses hang their heads in the heat, and the petals soon drop, fluttering through the air like confetti. As we’ve had lots of weddings in the village this year, we know all about that!

The lily in my greenhouse sends up two spikes of flowers like this (below) every year. I was sent a packet of seeds as part of the RHS seed distribution scheme, and sowed them carefully in a pot, following all the instructions. Eighteen months later, I got fed up of lavishing care on a pot of bare compost with no sign of any seedlings, so I tipped the compost out on the greenhouse border.

The following spring, an unusual weed popped up. As birds and insects are forever importing unusual plants into our garden, I give every weed a chance to turn into something I can identify. You never know when an ugly duckling will turn into a swan. It’s not often I get something as beautiful as this lily, though. This is only a common Lilium Regale, but I grew it myself from seed (or rather, it grew itself) so that makes it more precious to me than any expensive variety from a plant nursery.

The only problem is, this lily is in a really inconvenient place. it’s right by the greenhouse door,  and so close to the path you have to brush past it to go in and out. It’s growing so well in that spot,  I’m afraid to move it. With this lily, like a lot of plants, studied neglect works better than tender care. It’s dong fine, and I don’t want to upset it.

When I open the greenhouse door each morning the gust of warm, richly perfumed air is a real treat. In hot sunny weather like we’re having at the moment, the flowering time is only a couple of days before the individual flowers fade, but in cool cloudy weather each one can last for over a week.

I’m working on the next book in my Princes of Kharova series for The Wild Rose Press (you can see more about the first two titles, His Majesty’s Secret Passion and Her Royal Risk here) at the moment, so I’m taking a holiday from the indoor keyboard to write outside. It’s a shame to waste this beautiful weather when the English Summer is usually nothing more than “Three fine days and a thunderstorm”! I’ll be chasing shadows around the garden, as with our climate we always get too much of a good thing.  A few years ago, our house was cut off by snowdrifts from the main road half a mile away. I couldn’t get my car out of the garage for three weeks. Now we’ve got some sun, we don’t know when it will rain again. We have water butts collecting the run-off from every roof here at Tottering Towers, so we can usually water the garden whatever happens, but the runner bean plants can never seem to get enough to drink.  In a drought, I have to save all the washing-up water to pour onto them, as well. Our collection of potted blueberries gets first call on the “soft” water from the rainwater tanks. Their containers stand in troughs, to save every drop of water. Blueberries are originally bog plants, so they need all the rainwater they can get. The runner beans aren’t so fussy, and will drink anything.

My summer newsletter will be out soon. You can sign up for it here, and to keep up to date with my writing news, tips and lots more, you can “like” my author page on Facebook, here.

Creative Writing, Success, Top Tips

This Creative Writing Life—Four Top Tips For The Newbie…

By Antonio Litterio
Whether you’re writing for your own pleasure or with the aim of getting published, follow these four tips for success…
Read as widely as you can, and write all the time. Take classes, whether ‘real’ or online. Visit your local library to find out about local groups for readers and writers, and check out online sites such as http://romanceuniversity.org. It’s also vital to join groups such as The Romantic Novelists’ Association (http://www.rna-uk.org/) in the UK, or if you’re in the United States, the Romance Writers of America (http://www.rwa.org/). They’ll give you lots of help, useful information, and contacts. Follow up every lead, and never miss an opportunity.
Set aside some time for yourself every single day. ideally, this should be writing time, but thinking time is vital too. Remember, write down all your brilliant thoughts the second you get the chance! They get lost so easily in the chaos of everyday life, and once forgotten, you’ll never get them back. Keep a pad and pencil close at hand at all times to make notes when you think of them. It’s so easy to forget to do it later. Like ‘tomorrow’, ‘later’ never comes.
Read your work aloud. It’s amazing what a different perspective this gives you. It’s best to do this when you’re on your own somewhere, whether in the house, or outside in an isolated spot. That way, you can really inject some feeling into your precious words. It’ll help you to polish your manuscript until it shines.
Finally, never give up. If you’ve got a good story to tell, and take the time and trouble to hone your craft, your work will be a credit to you.

What advice would you give to a new author? A copy of my latest release for The Wild Rose Press, Her Royal Risk, will be awarded at random to someone leaving their favourite tip below.
Creative Writing, Incentives, Mission statement

How To Get Your Writing Done

Magnificat by Sandro Botticelli

You’d never set off for a job interview without knowing exactly where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, and how long it’s going to take. So why not apply that thinking to your writing?  Develop a mission statement to keep your work on track.

A mission statement is a short, snappy way to keep your objective in focus as you work your way to success. Draw one up before you start your next big project. It will really help to keep you focussed. Don’t just say, “I want to write a book.” That’s too vague. It’s your future we’re talking about. Make it your plan.Tailor it specifically to what you want to do, such as; “I’m going to write a full-length historical romance by 30th April 2016”. That’s smart in more ways than one. It’s Specific, Measurable (you’ll either reach your target, or you won’t) Achievable, Realistic and you’ve given it a Time limit.

Print out plenty of copies of your mission statement. Keep one stuck to your fridge, on display in your office, beside your bed, as wallpaper on your computer screen—in fact, put one anywhere anywhere you’ll see it often.

Use incentives to encourage you. I use treats such as time out to watch my bees, eat a peach or a long reading session.  Choose bigger treats for when you’ve had a successful week: a long soak in the bath, some time lazing in the garden, or my own favourite, retail therapy in a  bookshop or stationery store. Choose a really big treat as the ultimate prize for when you complete your writing project.  I forget the diet for once, and take my OH out to dinner. Of course, where there are prizes there have to be forfeits. Mine is to avoid social networks!

Here’s a basic template so you can create your own mission statement, with some ideas in italics to get you started. Substitute those words as necessary, and don’t forget to be specific. Personalising this declaration will make your project mean more to you, and that will help you to succeed.

MISSION STATEMENT

“I am going to write a novel/non-fiction book. My long term dream goal is to record my thoughts for my descendants/achieve publication, which I’m going to achieve by (date).
In order to achieve my objective, I will draw up a schedule of what needs to be done each day, and set weekly targets, too. Every single time I hit my daily word-count, I’ll select one reward from my “daily” list of treats. At the end of each week, if I complete all my tasks I’ll choose a treat from my “weekly” list.  After successfully completing my project, I’ll celebrate by spoiling myself with my ultimate prize. I will read my mission statement daily to remind me of the rewards I have planned, and my ultimate objective. If I miss any of my weekly targets without a very good excuse, my forfeit will be to stay completely offline for one whole day. If I miss my final deadline, my forfeit will be to  stay completely offline for one whole month.”

Then date and sign it, to make it official.

I’ve given you a couple of ideas for rewards and forfeits. What will you put on your own list?

Creative Writing, second draft, synopsis

Birth Of A Book, Part Seven—Revising and Reducing

By Antonio Litterio

Taking a break from your writing work lets you see it with new eyes when you pick it up again to add polish. It’s like meeting an old friend—only better. If you think your manuscripts looks tired, overweight, is less fun or more shallow than you remember, you don’t have to be polite. When it comes to your book, you’re the boss. Rip into it. Make all those changes, and keep going until it’s perfect.

Once you have the basic story, structure and characters, you can play about with your draft as much as you like. There’s no limit to how much you can alter it, this side of a publishing contract. You’ll find this stage is much easier than when you were winding yourself up, ready to write back in Birth Of A Book, Part One. The work of fleshing out the skeleton of your book is much more fun. First drafts are driven through solid rock. The really creative writing builds on that. Sculpt your words into something unique, then sand them down until they shine.

This is your Pygmalion moment. Take your time. Enjoy it, but don’t make the mistake of adding layers of complexity to your work for the sake of it. If your story is strong and your characters engaging, you won’t need it. Each scene should either give meaningful insight into one or more of your major characters, or move the action along.

When you’re happy with your work, run a spellcheck for all those descriptive words ending in —ly, such as excitedly, grimly, perfectly and the like. Take out as many as you can, and let your decriptions do the talking.

The next step is to rework any phrases where you tell your reader what your characters are doing, rather than show them.  Describing your character as deciding, thinking, or feeling something, rather than letting your reader experience it through that character’s eyes twitches a curtain between them and the story world you’ve created.

See http://bit.ly/1C0CxOU for more details!

The first draft of my work always has plenty of room for improvement by way of “show, don’t tell”.

Here are the opening lines of my current work in progress, which is the third book in my Princes of Kharova series for the Wild Rose Press:

They were driving through Kharova at its wild and rugged best, but Maia wasn’t in the mood to enjoy it. She stared out of the car window, seeing nothing. 

These are my last hours of freedom. I shouldn’t be cooped up in here. I should be diving off the top board of life. 
She pursed her lips. Okay, so maybe diving wasn’t her style, but given the chance she might tuck-roll in off the side.

Extract From Heart Of A Hostage, Copyright 2015, Christina Hollis

And here’s my latest, revised version—

A silent movie of Kharova at its wild and rugged best spooled past the car window. Maia’s eyes were open, but only the cold glass against her cheek kept her awake.
These are my last hours of freedom. I shouldn’t be cooped up in here. I should be diving off the top board of life. 

She pursed her lips. Okay, so maybe diving wasn’t her style, but given the chance she might tuck-roll in off the side.


Extract From Heart Of A Hostage, Copyright 2015, Christina Hollis

What do you think of my improvements to the original?