Friday, July 24, 2009

Writing Software

A year or so ago I was reading a blog by a published author (Holly Lisle), and she said she was using a software package called Scrivener for her writing. It sounded rather exciting. It allowed you to create virtual "note cards" with ideas for your chapters, which you could then expand upon and grow into your actual story. So I excitedly went to the website to download it, only to discover it only worked on a Mac. Well a year later I'm happily working on my new MacBook Pro which I had purchased a month or two prior when I remembered Scrivener. Five minutes later I had it downloaded and installed.

After working with it a couple of months I can't imagine writing without it. I copied and pasted my entire manuscript for Noah Zarc into it for editing. It has a couple views for different tasks. An "Outline" view that allows me to see every chapter, and every scene in the chapter with a short synopsis of each displayed. This is great for locating key areas in the story to add in new scenes, allowing me to flesh out a sub plot I'm adding to the story. The other view is "Corkboard" with the aformentioned note cards. It allows me to instantly see each scene and drag and drop those scenes in different orders. This has been invaluable as I begin to layout the plot ideas for Noah Zarc book two.

The built in help system is a bit lacking. It took me days to figure out how to get the chapter numbers and titles to print out when I exported it. (all you had to do was turn off both Outline and Corkboard views.) Also the Search and Replace tools could be a bit more robust.

I know I haven't scratched the surface with what it can do. But overall I am extremely happy with it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Great book on how to make your novel shine

I just finished Flogging the Quill- Crafting a Novel that Sells by Ray Rhamey an author and editor. I've read probably a half dozen books on editing, but this one by far has been the most helpful.

One of the great things about the book, is it can be used anywhere along the writing process. If you are just starting a novel, or have it complete, there are sound ideas you can use to make the story shine.

He's the author of the blog Flogging The Quill, that I've mentioned before, and many of his concepts can be found there, but the book goes quite a bit further and really outlines the process step-by-step. I highly recommend this, and if you order it now, he will actually do a free phone consultation, or free critique of your first 3 pages, just for sending in a photo of yourself with the book. You know I'm all over that.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Visions of being King

A post over on Patricia Wood's blog, got me thinking about writing. I posted this in her comments.

My dad is a great story-teller. Not the fictional, sitting around the camp-fire ghost story kind. Just the everyday experiences of his life kind. Ever since I was a kid I can remember listening to him tell stories of things he'd done in his life. I discovered around high school that I had no such gift. I couldn't remember what happened last week, let alone what happened five years ago.

So I started to concoct stories up about my exploits. I worked at Disney World for a semester in college (sweeping cigarette butts) and I had all kinds of story-lines I doled out. My favorite one was I went to the lady who made our name tags and told her I lost mine. And I had her make me a "Chip" name tag (My first name is Dale) and I went around telling everyone I was twins. "Yeah, my parents were huge Disney fans, and they named us after those annoying chipmunks."

Another time I was working at a rock concert selling T-shirts and I convinced a group of girls I had fled South Africa during apartheid because I didn't like how the blacks were treated. (I'm white, born and raised in Ohio but I did a pretty good South African/British accent.) I even took it a step further and told them I was number 364th in line for the throne of England.

Then somewhere around the end of my college years, I started to realize something. I wasn't telling stories, I was flat out lying. My conscience started to eat away at me a bit. So I gave it up. Quit cold turkey. Got boring.

Then I discovered writing. The beautiful thing about writing is you can lie all over the place. You can make up the grandest stories, and as long as you make it believable, you can lie, lie lie. I was hooked. I guess I never really thought about it before, but this is probably the main reason I like writing so much. While I'm writing I can at least capture a little bit of that feeling, back when I wasn't so ordinary, and had visions of being King.