Praise Literature and Latte

For giving Scrivener five automatic backups. Or Tarien would be gnashing his overambitious teeth right about now. Having been spurred to place a book 5 between my recently finished 4 and the series finishing 6, I thought again on putting a book 2.5 between my present books 2 & 3. Which are of course, in the can.

The outline for the book was again, frighteningly simple. But when I started rearranging scenes and moving files, I started to get a headache. The timeline, which is fairly neat now, was about to become a mess only Steven Erikson could approve of. But by now I had pulled chapters out of existing works, piled up a dozen new chapters. And still had 4 pages of outline.

Well, right about then, the throbbing in my head told me that nuking the outline was better for a writer’s sanity than introducing my very own Garden of the Moonism to my Hellenistic Fantasy. So I managed to find my backup from last night, save all my real work, and pretend tonight didn’t happen.

Then of course, I saved it for all perpetuity. Because the internet is forever. One note to Scrivener users who might recall the distant past where I discussed using it with this series (And all my fiction writing outside short-story length since 2012). Decide whether to break the project into chunks (of novel size or greater) or keep it unified at the beginning and stick to that choice. Your humble blogger tonight also experimented with breaking up his project, as I thought seven books would become unwieldy for the laptop’s memory. That choice did not last as long as the book 7 outline attempt. A good chunk of my keywords got nuked going from volume 1 to 2 and 3. I would’ve had to rearrange all of them, and rewrite a passel. I thought that acceptable, as then I could change ranks, and put characters who were deceased now back into live columns in earlier volumes for editing purposes.

Erm…not so much. It seems editing the keyword in one project changed it for all…even though they were distinct projects. Maybe because I had all 3 open at the same time, and if I closed the others it wouldn’t. But opening and closing them each time represents a level of tedium even I am not masochistic enough to endure. And I was a goalkeeper in soccer and hockey. So I know pain. 😛

Using Scrivener for an Epic Fantasy

You’ve probably heard a great deal about http://www.literatureandlatte.com/. I bought it before attempting NaNoWriMo 2012. Since then, a number of friends have asked how I use Scrivener, and is it really better than Word Processor. Given that it usually is half-price on their website when you have a winner’s coupon, that might have been a minor mistake. But even at the full price of $40 dollars US, it’s been a bargain. Originally a Mac program, it’s Windows counterpart (which I use) is approaching feature parity. I’m not doing this on their solicitation or the encouragement of anyone but the friends I’ve had who’ve been curious how it works.

Since obtaining it in May of last year, I’ve used it for five separate new projects, two of which are multi-volume. And then adapted one previously written novel that I imported to Scrivener for editing. But for this, I’d like to talk about how I set it up for my intended five-volume Epic Fantasy (Sword, Sandal, & Sorcery style).  The basic format is set in the “Novel With Parts” template. Here it is on the ‘Corkboard,’ (with my own custom background).

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The Binder, which functions exactly like a three-ring of our project would if you printed it all out, is set on the left. It’s currently open to the 2nd (in-progress) book of that series. But the corkboard is open to the ‘volumes’ page, furthest back. You can see the “First Draft” over my 1st volume. And I already have volumes 3-5 set up on the corkboard. Here’s the volume I’m working on in detail:

 

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Here again, you can see the ‘index cards’ marked “first draft” and “to do” where I’ve been distracted from working on the novel by my need to blog. 😉 Every chapter has at least 1 index card. In fact, every scene has an index card. Each is organized with the appropriate chapter. What’s cool about this? If I decide I need to reorder my chapters, all I have to do is slide the index card to the new location. NO copy-and-paste like with a word processor. All I have to do is recompile and it’s all in the right place. The only editing concerns I have is to check consistency in the timeline.  I can compile all this all at once, or a few chapters to check scenes.

Also, Scrivener saves whenever I’m idle for 2secs. And it keeps FIVE full backups. So unless I blow up my laptop, it’s protected from corruption. Of course, being OCD, I copy the Open Office version saved to a flash drive. Also, in the binder, I can keep all my documentation on characters, setting, plot sequences, and research web sites. All of them are organized in the Binder. 1 click to open them, and I can hide them when I don’t need them.

It’s not immune to my mistakes. But it’s pretty darn close. Plus, if you make changes you’re not sure you will like, you can use the ‘snapshot’ feature to roll back to the version you preferred. This is especially useful in editing.

I was able to lay out the entire plotline for all five books on the corkboard. I’m sure I’ll add/change/move things around between now and then. But I can use this at a glance to find where I am, and anything I may need, before or subsequent, to maintain consistency and ensure I don’t show too much, too soon. Or leave a plotline underdeveloped.

It’s a great tool for the writer. The larger the project, the more useful it will prove. But even in my single novel projects, it’s a profitable experience.

 

Happy Last Day of Summer!

And a mild summer for us at that.

I recently tried out the beta of Scrapple, the mind-mapping software from Literature & Latte, the people who made Scrivener. The latter product I can highly recommend, and write all my long-term fiction in. The resources it provides are exceptional and I love the full-screen mode when it comes to a no-distractions environment. Also between the 5 backups, saving every time you’re idle for 2 seconds, and the ability to snapshot a save whenever you like, it’s virtually impossible to have a file go completely corrupt.  I could sound like an advertisement for Scrivener, without ever getting paid by them. But it’s a great product, and it’s paid for itself in spades. Here’s another blog endorsing it, with a lot more of the technical bits, which was beyond my purpose in this blurb: http://sressiambre.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/scrivener-and-writing-groups/

I wanted to like Scrapple, and I have to say, if you’re a mind-mapper, you probably will. But after a dozen or so attempts, I quickly came to recall why I never liked ‘brainstorming,’ no matter what title you put on it. I’m a very linear thinker. An outline comes pretty naturally to me. And I like to think progressively, not just throw things against a wall and see what sticks. I’ve had people tell me that doesn’t sound creative. I give that a shoulder shrug and say, ‘Meh.’ I don’t buy the ‘A creative mind is a messy mind’ argument either. What works for one person doesn’t work for another. And I have enough rough drafts on the table to know I can craft a story.

So in the end, I have to say Scrapple isn’t for me. But it may be for you. It certainly is good at what it claims to do. And the good folks at Literature and Latte will support it.

On another note, I hold in my ink-stained fingers the third and (seemingly) final volume in Larry Correia’s Grimnoir Chronicles: Warbound. And I can say it’s a fine read already. Most people will know the author from his B-Horror meets Gun Porn guilty pleasure of a series: The Monster Hunters. I actually got to him through this series, which has been whip-smart from the get-go. But all his writing is intense, lots of action, yet still possessing humor and character to spare. It’s not on the Jim Butcher Dresden Files level of pure reading bliss yet. But he’s getting closer every book.