Shake It Up

Shake It Up

Normally, I have a very straightforward approach to novels. Planning varies, but once it gets to the drafting stage, I open a document in Word, start from the beginning and keep going until I get to the end. Occasionally I miss out scenes or leave pointers for parts that need to be filled in at the end, but for the most part I take a very linear approach.

As a result, I’ve used Word as my primary writing tool for years, with no need for the likes of Scrivener and all their fancy tools. Okay, so sometimes when I’m editing I wish I had an easy way to move scenes around, but on the whole they seem to have too many functions for me to deal with.

Recently, however, I haven’t had the attention span or the time to commit to writing something in a linear way, nor do I know enough about either of my upcoming projects even to try and do that. One of them is the third book in the Moth Trilogy, where I have the majority of a plot although I’m lacking a lot of the details, but I’m lacking the world-building that would allow me to start writing. The other is the ever-ongoing Death and Fairies series, my background project between other novels, and needs more research and planning than I’m going to have time to do any time soon.

As a result, I’ve been tending not to write at all, which is a terrible idea. My mood tends to plummet when I’m not working on something, and when it’s starting from a fairly low place, it’s not long before I hit rock bottom.

So what I’ve been doing over the last few days is writing a series of scenes. They allow me to flex my writing muscles without taking up too much time or energy, and I don’t have to commit to them for any length of time. But, more importantly, they can later be put into novels, making the process of writing those easier too. Win-win scenario, really.

The first one I wrote will probably form part of Death and Fairies Book 4, given the characters involved and the approximate timescale, although changing some dialogue could move it to Book 3 too, if I wanted to. It started as a oneshot designed to explore the relationship between the characters, but developed more than I expected to and before I knew it I had a chapter.

The other scenes include two from Moth 3, which is a slightly more immediate project. Writing these disconnected scenes allows me to shape the plot in a more organic way: instead of sitting down to try and figure out what’s going to happen, I can combine my usual method of writing and finding out what happens as I go along with the opportunity to plan it before I started, primarily by writing chapters that will happen in the middle of the book rather than always starting at the beginning.

Partly this has come about because I’ve been writing by hand a little, making notes of scenes as and when I think of them. But I realised I’m going to have to figure out some way of keeping these organised, especially if I want to one day reconcile my various random scenes with a continuous narrative.

You can guess where this is going, can’t you? I downloaded the trial version of Scrivener, and I’m trying to figure out how to use it.

I don’t know if I’ll get on well enough with it in the next 30 days to decide to buy it, although it’s not as expensive as I thought it was. Already I’m looking at it wondering why there are so many buttons, even after going through the tutorial. But I’m trying it out, because just because I always wrote in a linear fashion before, doesn’t mean this book will happen the same way.

My writing method changes with everything I write, so I guess it’s sensible to adapt to however I’m writing at the time. If it’s in a disjointed, circular way, I may as well use the software that makes that easiest to turn into a story with something approaching a recognisable structure. (I’m quite excited by the index cards.)

And it’s reminding me not to get too caught up in the mindset of, “This is how I do it. This is how I’ve always done it and how I always will do it.” Because that’s how we get stuck in ruts that don’t actually work. Things need to be shaken up occasionally.

A short post today, because I’m meant to be reading for an essay on the Irish Otherworld, so I’ll end on a question: have any of you used a program like Scrivener, and how have you found it? Bonus points for those of you who are normally linear writers like me; I’d like to hear your perspectives.

9 thoughts on “Shake It Up

  1. I use Scrivener to write. Before that I used yWriter which doesn’t have all the shiny GUI and export options but is free.

    One big benefit for me is parallel narratives: I can write them as two separate folders and then play around with interleaving them without the effort of cutting and pasting every time I want to tweak flow.

    I don’t use most of the settings because I have other programs to set/format for publication, but I understand the compile mechanism is good if you want reasonable ebooks without effort.

    1. I had yWriter once upon a time, on my old laptop — and by once upon a time, I remember the project I worked on using it, and that was an offshoot from one of my first projects on Protagonize, so we’re probably talking mid to late 2009 here. Wow. That’s a while ago. Anyway, I didn’t really get on with at the time for the same reasons that I haven’t bothered with Scrivener until now, but I’ll see how I get on with this.

  2. I got Scrivener from winning Camp NaNo last summer and started using it right away. It didn’t really like my computer, though, so I soon forgot about it and decided to use it for planning my next novel and editing the first one. Then my computer died and I had to get a new one, so Scrivener is gone.

    1. Oh, that sounds problematic. You can usually get things again without paying if you’ve done it once, though.

      My computer has to deal with so many complex programs that I’m pretty sure it’s going to explode some time this year. But I don’t want to get a new one until Windows brings out a better operating system because I hate Windows 8.

  3. Ohh, if you decide to use scrivener, pleeeeease post about it. I DON’T KNOW IF I WANT IT OR NOT. Well, I don’t want it because I’m poor. XD But I’m never sure if Scrivener will be useful for me because I always write in order. *shrugs* I’m very OCD about my writing and seriously get anxious if I try to do something a different way. I’m always in a better mood if I’m writing/editing/rewriting too.

    1. It actually doesn’t seem to be that expensive. Especially with the half price discount from winning NaNo — but you could do what I’m doing and download the 30-day trial to see if you like it? I think in some ways it’s more useful for editing or for when you’re doing things in the jumbled way I’m currently doing them.

  4. I started with the trial version of Scrivener during my last NaNo, and I did end up buying it. I typically write in a linear fashion and have no problem starting at the beginning and going to the end, but then I decided to write a book that was a little out of the ordinary for me, and I enjoyed being able to move scenes about.

    THEN I ended up deciding to do an entire re-write of much of what I’d written, but I still like the very beginning (and probably a few scenes from the middle) but I intend to entirely re-write large sections of the book. And now I am really glad I had my book in Scrivener b/c I can pull those completely chapters from one Scrivener document into my new Scrivener document and I don’t have to go through word, figuring out where each part I want starts and stops and highlighting what I want to copy and copying and pasting it. So Scrivener’s definitely saving me time with that.

    I also like to take notes on the books I’m writing. Usually I just keep those as a handwritten document or as a side Word document that I keep all stashed in the same folder. With the way Scrivener is set up, I can have the top part for my actual draft, and in the bottom part I can save pictures and outlines and notes on my characters and all sorts of thigns in one handy document.

    I actually have been writing my current book in Word b/c it’s fairly polished and I just want to finish polishing it up, but I’m definitely glad I have Scrivener.

    1. Yeah, I’m beginning to think it’ll be useful for this particular book because I’m not in a position to write it in order and there’s a lot of research that needs to be done as I go along, so re-ordering things is integral to the process.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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