I’m quickly coming up on two years work on this book. Seems like a long time, but it is my first, and I’ve learned a bunch. I’ve learned better by doing than if I’d started in classes. Sure I’ve taken classes and read books along the way, but they didn’t make sense to me until I was facing problems with my own work.
So, why is it a new beginning? Because I wrote a new beginning to my novel. I’ve heard from more than one critique partner/reader that they didn’t feel much empathy, if any, toward my main character when she worked through the opening scene. That’s not good. So, I backed up in the story, just a bit, just enough to give the reader a sense of the main character, their relationships, and the things important to them. Seems like it worked.
Oh, and all these months I’ve been working with an author coach; a couple month long sessions. I’ve also been writing back story, history, character profiles, etc. All that work was like drudgery to me, but has led up to now when I can actually focus back on writing the story. I’m 10k words in on this draft and the story feels stronger, more three dimensional.
Here’s hoping that this draft will be worth the time to edit and finish. Well, I will finish it, regardless. Just to be done and move on to a second book.
I recently went through every scene in my book and created an editorial map using guidance from Fiction University’s Janice Hardy. Plug: Fiction University is a great blog with relevant daily advice for writers. http://blog.janicehardy.com/.
The first part of creating an editorial map means going scene by scene and documenting these elements.
(from Janice Hardy’s guest post at http://writersinthestormblog.com/2014/09/the-benefits-of-doing-an-editorial-map/)
- What is the POV character trying to do in this scene? (the goal)
- Why are they trying to do it? (the motivation for that goal)
- What’s in the way of them doing it? (the conflict)
- What happens if they don’t do it? (the stakes)
- What goes wrong (or right)? (how the story moves forward)
- What important plot or story elements are in the scene? (what you need to remember or what affects future scenes)
When I went through my WIP and answered these questions scene by scene I could easily see scenes to cut, and scenes that didn’t have enough conflict.
I spent the summer through October writing backstory and researching. Now that my editorial map is done, I’m back to writing.
This method is working great for me, and I encourage you to give Janice Hardy’s guest post a read.
I find these kinds of posts helpful, so I thought I would share the tools I use for my writing.
- Number one. Most important is Scrivener. I would be lost without this tool. I can write scene by scene into separate notes/documents, keep multiple versions, organize them into chapters when I’m ready, and collate a selection of them into a draft manuscript ready for printing or my Kindle. I do my world building and back story creation and cataloging in a section separate from the manuscript. I can describe my characters, one per note/document, and places. I also keep much of my extracted research in a separate Research folder. You can delete things and keep them in a trash folder as well. I use the Windows version, but wish I were a Mac user. Theoretically they will have an iPad version in the future. — $40 US
- iA writer. I started with this clean editor on my iPad. I typed on the screen itself until recently when I broke down and bought a Logitech keyboard case. iA Writer is a simple text editor. I like it because I can save all my scenes or world building into my Dropbox folder (more about Dropbox later). Main advantage of using my iPad and iA Writer is that I get to be in the same room with my family at night instead of hidden away in my man cave. Of course it is useful for writing/people watching trips to Sbux. — $4.99 US (apple store)
- Hemingway App This is my main grammar checking application. It gives you a passive voice checker, reading level, adverb killer, sentence clarity, and difficulty warnings. Very simple to use. Copy your text into the Web or app window and click “edit”. Check it out. Free on the web, $5 US for Windows app
- Grammarly – I splurged here before I found the Hemingway App. I’m not sure I’ll renew now that I use Hemingway App more. Grammarly is a Word plugin that does everything from grammar checking to plagiarism checking. I wish it had a direct Scrivener plugin, because I have to export some section I want to check into Word then run grammarly and copy the edited version back into Scrivener. Great and accurate tool though. Pricey, however, can be cheaper than paying for copyediting. (annual subscription at $11.66/month US)
- Evernote — Research assistant extraordinaire. When I’m doing web research Evernote is my go to clipper. I have multiple notebooks and Evernote has tagging capabilities. I love Pocket also, but I use Pocket for keeping track of general articles to read and Evernote for my book research. Evernote has its own cloud storage location. There’s supposed to be a way to integrate the two, but I’m happy for now. Free for limited storage
- Scapple — I just started using Scapple. It is a great way of documenting ideas, lists, relationships, etc. Made by the makers of Scrivener. $14.99 US (Mac/Win)
- Microsoft Word — Not fair here as I got a copy of all the Office programs for nearly free as part of my work benefits package. I’d use OpenOffice if I didn’t have this copy of Word. Basically Word is just the program that receives my exports from Scrivener for manuscript versioning (I save draft manuscripts this way), for editing with Grammarly, or printing. (too expensive normally, use OpenOffice)
- Microsoft Powerpoint — There are great templates of maps and timelines that are useful for documenting the journey of my character or just a great high level view of the area. (too expensive normally, use OpenOffice)
- Rootsmagic — My dad is a genealogist and uses Ancestry.com and Family Tree Maker. I liked Rootsmagic because it has an iPad companion application that works if you save your files in your Dropbox folder. Why the heck do I use a genealogy program? The book I am writing might be part of a series so I need to understand the characters, where they came from, dates, sequencing, etc. Rootsmagic has all the built in charts and reports that is making my character management much easier. $29.95 US
- Personal Historian — Personal Historian is an add on to Rootsmagic. I use it to capture my character traits and histories. Again, probably unnecessary, but it does have nice built in reporting. I like it so far. $29.95 US
- Maps Engine from Google — Hidden gem if you are using the real world as the basis for your story. I am researching castles and other ancient sites in Wales right now. I am building a map showing pins and labels for all my castle and other sites. It is giving me a great idea of the area, since I’ve never been to Wales. Maybe someday. Free on the Web with limitations
- Dropbox — Dropbox is my cloud storage tool. I used to use it just for backup, but it is my primary storage location now for all my content. Free for limited storage
- Pinterest — I need to put my castle pictures up in a folder on my Pinterest account. It is my visual tool. I keep pictures of people and places that trigger my creativity for the book. Free on the Web
- Spotify — I’d be lost without tunes playing while I’m researching, writing, or editing. Today’s tunes are from the Neal/Steve Morse, Dave Larue and Mike Portnoy group – Flying Colors. Music, it’s not just for your car. Free with Ads or $9.99 US / month
Overall, I’ve spent too much on tools, but this is my hobby so I’ve made an investment. Everything is working together for me so I won’t complain. I’m a bit of a gadget guy and pretty structured, so the tools are useful for me. Hopefully you’ve found some interesting information here. I like it when other writers share their tools, so thought I’d share mine.
My second writers conference. Four days of learning and encouragement. I focused on craft this year, Character Development, Tension, POV, Dialogue, World Building, Scene Structure, & Editing. Great stuffs, great teachers. The most difficult and most beneficial part was being an introvert among introverts and trying to make personal connection with other writers. I’m not good at it, but did meet a few other writers. It is always good to hear other’s writing process. Some notes here to help me remember what I learned:
- Character Development – Police Report / Military Report / Psychological Report. Level of report/detail depends on the importance of the character
- Tension – Suspense – What is going to happen next // Tension – uncomfortable, gritting your teeth, needs reader empath
- POV – Omniscient is the only reliable narrator (God)
- Dialogue – I’ve been doing it wrong… 1) Move the story forward, 2) Provide Information, 3) Importance of Unique Character Voice, 4) Subtext where needed
- World Building – world becomes a character
- Scene Structure – Mini stories. Establish a desire/need/deprivation, set a goal, action toward that goal, obstacle, resolution and setup
- Editing – Differences between line/copy and developmental editors. Approximate rates for each.
And, of course, lots more.
If there is a writers conference in your area, I would highly encourage you to attend. Invaluable and cost effective when you consider how much instruction you get.
And, if you are in the Northwest, consider next year’s PNWA conference.