I’ve been using Scrivener to write my last few novels. It is simply the best writing tool I’ve ever used. It has so many tools and gizmos that I doubt I’ll ever make use of them, or want to, come to that.
But there are still some tools which I make use of and have incorporated into my Scrivener templates. (Including the novel bibles I have started using since David Hewson wrote about it.)
The best tool is to apply my posterior to a seat and get writing. No, not like that. Never smoke a pipe near your manuscript.
In addition to taking a seat there are a few other tools which I regularly make use of and which can prove very useful.
The first is my WRITING LOG. This is a simple table showing each day of the week. I use it to note down the number of words I’ve written that day and the cumulative total to date. It is wonderfully motivating and encouraging. In fact it’s a real carrot and stick. I would not write a novel without this. It’s done more to keep me on track and writing than anything else. Scrivener has a rather more sophisticated version which uses a nice coloured bar to show how far you’ve got in your target for the day and the overall book. But I always transfer this to my Writing Log so I can see how I’m doing day by day.
The second tool is my COMBINED MASTER PLANNING DOCUMENT. In this I have combined elements of the Hero’s Journey, Propp’s Morphology of the Folk Tale and Aristotle’s Key Plot Elements. I then map my novel according to these and file it away. I rarely look at it again unless I get stuck. If I do chance to look at it I sometimes find I am keeping pretty much to the plan, other times hardly at all. Neither worries me. I find that the plotting is useful in itself as I never used to pay enough attention to this aspect of my writing.
CHRONOLOGY This is the essential tool for my historical novels. I have four columns. One is for the date. The second is for the general events which took place that year. The third and fourth show what is happening to my protagonist and antagonist (and their followers) in that year.
CHARACTER LIST This is my newest tool and I have found it invaluable. Again, it’s a simple table with the essential information about each character. It helps me keep track of who is who in the novel and important information about them. As many of my characters are historical figures I find it helps to put a picture of them, ideally as close to the date of the story as possible.
When I get stuck or find myself caught up with too many choices I resort to more lateral thinking devices such as using my subconscious.
None of these tools are essential and I don’t rely on any of them. But they are great aides when things go a little awry in my writing.
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