research, Scrivener, Women Of Bristol 1850-1950, Women's Lives

Setting Up With Scrivener

I wrote here about my new non-fiction project for Pen And Sword Books, Women’s Lives: Women Of Bristol 1850-1950. This will involve a lot of research and will stretch out over several months, so it’s vital that my work should be well-organized. 

Some people are methodical by nature. I’m not, but working with the dedicated writing package Scrivener developed by Literature and Latte makes it easy to keep track of things. Instead of having box files, ring binders filled with notes and jottings on odd bits of paper, I collect everything together in one Scrivener project. Each chapter is given its own file within this Scrivener document, and so far I’ve created other files within it with the main headings of Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Contacts, interviews and Images.  Each of these is further sub-divided so in theory, nothing can get lost—unlike notes scribbled on the back of envelopes. 

Each time I come across a useful website or find a quote, I can store it in the appropriate information file. Although the manuscript pages of my Scrivener project will only accept text, video and audio links can be stored in other parts of the 

Bristol Docks


I’ve already got general headings for my chapters such as; Education, Work, Family Life, Health, Leisure, and Active Citizens, and I’ll sub-divide these as work progresses. The big advantages of working with Scrivener is that I can summarise each chapter as a synopsis of my ideas. These can then be displayed in Scrivener’s ‘Corkboard’ mode, in the style of index cards. There’s a facility to colour-code each of these, so I can see at a glance where I am—not yet started, notes, first draft, revised draft, completed and so on. 

Scrivener has a useful split-screen mode, which comes into its own for cataloguing. While I’m writing or editing a document displayed on the top half of my computer screen, I can add sources or create an index entry on the lower half of the screen. 

You can read my top tips for working with Scrivener here

Finally, if you’ve got any gossip about a woman’s life in pre-1950’s Bristol, I’d love to hear from you! Add a comment below…

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…

His Majesty's Secret Passion, Jewel Under Siege, Pantsing, Planning, Scrivener, Snowflake, Three Act Structure

Birth Of A Book, Part Three: Find Your Writing Style…

By Antonio Litterio

Does your novel have a beginning, a muddle, and an end? Do you want to find out the secrets of a well-rounded, satisfying story? First, discover what kind of writer you are by answering these 3 simple questions:

1.     At the supermarket, do you:
a)     dash round grabbing the first things you see because you’ve run out of food, time, or both
 or
b)     Visit once a week at exactly the same time, with a list (and a full stomach).

2.     Fancy a holiday?
a)     Yay! When do we go? I love surprises!
or
b)     No, thanks. Every year I rent the same little cottage for two weeks in August, in a place where all the locals know me.

3.     Is your working day…
a)     A roller coaster of triumphs and disasters, with snack and/or cigarette breaks here and there to liven up the mix
or
b)     A production line of completed tasks and problem solving, and you always get ready for the next day’s work before you leave.

If you answered a) to those questions, you’re more likely to wing your way through your writing, without much forethought. Answering b) means you like the order outline and planning brings to your life. I’ve written successful novels using both methods, and each has their good and bad points.

ADVANTAGES: Just sitting down and letting the words pour out is a great way to get a first draft finished in record time. If you’re a planner who’s written their way into a cul-de-sac, letting your mind wander and writing free-form for a change can pole-vault you over your problems.

DISADVANTAGES: You don’t jump into a car without some idea of where you’re going (I hope). Winging it while writing might turn your original short story into a 100,000 word epic, which still has no end in sight. On the other hand, if you’ve planned in so much detail any suggested revisions have you reaching for the gin bottle, you’ve lost sight of the release (and enjoyment) writing can bring.

Find out more at http://amzn.to/1s1xFHH (UK)
 http://amzn.to/1AEgP5b (US)

I wrote my historical novel, Jewel Under Siegewithout any formal plan. Researching a non-fiction project on the eleventh-century daredevil, Robert Curthose, I discovered 3 things:

–  Robert would make good comic relief for a serious story,
–  Not all mediaeval ladies culled florets and sighed in solars—some rolled up their sleeves and ran successful businesses, and
–  Talking rather than fighting is the best way to counter ignorance and bigotry.

I sat down and blasted my way through the first three chapters, and then wrote the last one. This was to give me an idea how my characters would get their Happy Ever After moment. Then I went back and filled in the thousands of words which were missing from the middle of the book.

With the first rough draft finished, I put the manuscript aside for a while to let it marinate (to find out why this is always a good idea, however you write, take a minute to read this).

In second and subsequent drafts of Jewel Under Siege, I tightened everything up, made sure timings agreed and all the continuity was right. By the time it was published, I’d had a whale of a time, but the whole process took me several months longer than the writing of my next release, His Majesty’s Secret Passion.

Before starting to write His Majesty’s Secret Passion,  I spent a lot of time thinking how the internal conflicts of Sara, my career-obsessed heroine, could strike sparks off hero Leo, a man who has abandoned his own career for the sake of family loyalty. Once I’d filled out a sheet of details for both Sara and Leo, I was ready to start my first draft.

Send an email with the words Character Sheet in the subject line to christinahollis(at)hotmail.co.uk, and I’ll send you a copy of the detailed form I fill in for each of my fictional characters. 

Order your copy here http://amzn.to/14udZUC!

I’ve written here about the joys and woes of the Scrivener writing package. It’s a kind of virtual filing cabinet where you collect every link, image and note you need, and produce your manuscript, all in one place. You can have hours of fun naming folders and dividing every chapter into individual scenes, complete with sidebar of notes for each one. If you use the basic Three Act Structure for your novels—I’ll be talking about that next time—writing sessions become an easy matter of opening your Scrivener project and seeing at a glance what you should be doing next.

I’m a Scrivener devotee, but I’ve also used Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake system with success. This is a more free-form approach. You start by identifying the big idea at the heart of your novel, then gradually add layer on layer of more detail. In the same way every snowflake is built up of simple shapes, your book grows organically into a novel of many facets. I like Snowflake a lot, but Scrivener stops my desk disappearing under a sea of Post-It notes and scrappy bits of paper!

If you don’t want to use a commercial word-processing package like Scrivener or Snowflake, try making a simple “And Then” list of all the important and exciting events in your story. This way you can make sure you’ve got plenty of page-turning action, and juggle the order before you start writing.

Here’s the “And Then” list I could have used for the beginning of His Majesty’s Secret Passion‘s first chapter

Sara—shark attack? And then…
Leo saves her, and then…
She’s embarrassed —it was a false alarm. And then…
Attraction tussles with suspicion, until…
Leo’s distracted by his jealous PA, but…
He’d rather help an injured woman than socialise, although…
Sara’s recent history makes her put up barriers, and so…
Leo takes direct action…

There’s an added benefit of this type of brief list. It makes creating a detailed synopsis easy later on, when you’ve settled on the content and order of your story.

When it comes to writing, are you a free spirit, or a planner?

Marcher Chapter, NaNoWriMo, RNA, Scrivener, Tasting The Peach

Writing A Book In A Month, Part Two…

http://media.iwm.org.uk/iwm/mediaLib//138/media-138613/large.jpg
H.M.Bateman, via Wikimedia Commons

…including The Woman Who Said No To A Launch Party, Nibbling Is The Thief Of Time, and Creative Accounting, NaNoWriMo Style…

Last week I told you how I’d signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2014, to give me the perfect excuse to shove all other work aside and concentrate on a new project I’ve been thinking about for ages, but never managed to do much about.

You can read about how I joined here. Once I’d signed up, I became part of the NaNoWriMo community. Although it originated in the US, there are now members worldwide and where there are writers, a support group soon follows. My local NaNoWriMo chapter invited me to a grand launch party in Cheltenham, on Hallowe’en. The idea was to round off a social meet with a countdown to midnight. Then the writing would start. I was Trick or Treating elsewhere, so sadly had to refuse but I can’t think I’d have got any writing done. I can’t wait to start my project (working title, Tasting The Peach), but I need to get right into the zone before I can write. Complete silence and a total absence of crisps, drinks and nibbles is my recipe for writing productivity (Coo, what a diva! Ed.)  My office is in a part of the house furthest away from the kitchen. I have to shut myself off from everyone and everything, and well away from every distraction (especially food).

I hope everyone got off to a good start with their NaNoWriMo projects. I sat down at my desk at 6:30am on 1st November, and opened a new Scrivener file to begin. You can read about the amazing help (and enjoyable hindrance) Scrivener can be to any writing project here. To write a book in a month is a tough challenge. It takes an average of one thousand, six hundred and sixty seven words every single day to hot the 50K target. That’s pretty relentless. NaNoWriMo offers all sorts of help and support, but I started with a shortcut of my own. As well as uploading the character files and background research I did in preparation for November 1st, I cut and pasted in the opening of my embryo novel, which was worked up for the most recent creative workshop organised by the Marcher Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. It was only a few pages, but it was better than siting down to a blank page.

At the end of each day, NaNoWriMo participants log the number of words they’ve written. No way was I going to claim I’d written nearly five thousand words in one day—and on a Saturday, at that! Apart from anything else, my word count would fall off a cliff on November 2nd, so I ignored my uploaded figure, and entered the words I actually wrote on the day.

So as at the start of Monday, 3rd November my total word-count is 6,129, although I’ve only written a daily average of 1,700 words.

My NaNoWriMo efforts are likely to be derailed as I’ve had some very exiting news. To be among the first to find out what it is, mail me at christinahollis(at)hotmail.co.uk. As an incentive, I’ll include an extract from Tasting The Peach.

PS: Don’t forget to change (at) to @ in my email address.

Harlequin Mills and Boon, Ian Skillicorn, Jessica Hart, Julie Stock, RNA Pamela Hartshorne, Scrivener, Tom's Midnight Garden

Timeslip-The Most Creative Writing?

A Little Light Reading…

I wrote here about the amazing day I spent at the RNA Conference a couple of weeks ago. One of the sessions I attended was Pamela Hartshorne’s One Author, Two Genres. As Jessica Hart, Pamela has written over fifty books for Harlequin Mills and Boon. She spoke of her decision to juggle writing romance  with returning to study for her PhD. It was a really absorbing hour, especially when Pamela explained how she used her post-graduate research and intimate knowledge of York to write a single title, Time’s Echo. This led to a contract with Macmillan and a second stand-alone historical novel, The Memory of Midnight.

I’ve now read The Memory of Midnight and I can strongly recommend it as a great read. I’ll be featuring it here shortly, so make sure you don’t miss that by subscribing to my blog (use the box on the right).

The Memory of Midnight is a timeslip story of Tess, whose move into an apartment in an ancient house thins the veil between her present-day existence and the life of Nell, a girl who is married off to a monster in Elizabethan York. I was fascinated by the historical setting, as my daughter has been working with Archaeology Live! for the past few digging seasons.

The stories of the heroines are interwoven, and keeping track of the two threads while writing must have been a work of art. Combined with splitting her professional life between writing short romances and full-length, altogether darker fiction, Pamela needed discipline and planning. There were some light-hearted suggestions in the audience that it might be easier to set up two separate computers, one for each story-type, or to use child labour to help with the admin!

The last time I’d read any sort of timeslip story was when I read Tom’s Midnight Garden to my children, but Pamela’s session enthused me. I always have a few story ideas looking for homes in the back of my notebook, so inspiration wasn’t a problem. My only worry was how to keep tabs on all the different story elements.  If you’ve read my blog about  Scrivener, you’ll guess what happened next!  During Ian Skillicorn’s session Going Solo later that same day, I heard Julie Stock talking about the joys of using the system.  The next step was obvious. I got the software, and started planning.

What’s you favourite timeslip story? Have you ever tried to write one?