I just posted a video about NaNoWriMo 2019 and how we can prep for it with Scrivener. This comes with the idea that I may actually record my writing progress this month, for those of you who want to see a story written in real-time.
Will this likely end in disaster?
Probably! So, now you gotta watch, right?
In the video, I reveal two new templates I’ve developed this year: one for planning a story (and is still a work-in-progress), and the other a basic template for NaNoWriMo that includes options for journaling, tracking progress, and writing a postmortem when all is finished.
If you’d like to use either template for your own prep or writing adventure, you can find them both here.
If you plan to participate in NaNoWriMo, then comment below and talk about it.
Today, Google’s “Recommended by Pocket” blog roll (shown whenever a new tab is open in Firefox, as well as in maybe other browsers that I never use) showed an image of a younger Nicolas Cage holding a baby up to the camera, taken from the classic film Raising Arizona, a movie that I used to catch in syndication on my local FOX station back in the early ‘90s. The headline, “Disney Is Quietly Placing Classic Fox Movies Into Its Vault, and That’s Worrying,” worried me, so I checked it out. The article by Matt Zoller Seitz, published in Vulture, goes on to tell the tale of big corporate Disney sucking out the lifeblood from theaters who rely on classic FOX films to cover 12% or more of their annual income and eating their bacon.
The thesis is that Disney is applying its scarcity model to old FOX films that were previously available to any theater that requested them for special screenings, and it’s costing the theaters big time. For instance, before Disney acquired FOX last spring, if a theater wanted to screen, let’s say Die Hard, at Christmas time to provide some nostalgia to, let’s say, men in their mid-forties who may have seen it in theaters back when they were teenagers and were like, “Boom! Pow! Yippee-ki-yay, moth—” and, well, you know the rest, then FOX typically let them. The theaters, in return, could give these fortysomethings and their teenage sons an opportunity to relive the experience of seeing John McClane throw Hans Gruber off of the 30th floor of the Nakatomi Plaza—on the big screen!—while the rest of their family go Christmas shopping. It’s a model that boosted theater income whenever the current run of films outlived their welcome.
According to the article, Disney’s model prevents theaters from doing that anymore.
It reminds me in part of what Amazon has done to the book industry, but in a reverse kind of way. While Amazon has gobbled up the New York publishing market and spat it onto the shores of the River Styx, those stores that subscribe to the New York model, like Barnes and Noble, have taken to a standardization model that may actually perpetuate their demise.
I think the real worry here, as far as movies are concerned, is that Disney may fall somewhere in between these two models: Kill the competition, as Amazon does, but through a standardization practice like what New York and Barnes and Noble does. My question is, what happens if the whale gets super huge, and then somebody comes along and kills it? What if that somebody is consumer apathy?
In the end, I hope Disney knows what it’s doing.
Though, I guess I’m okay with the outcome either way because I don’t love movies today like I used to. I still have a few franchises that I look forward to, like Mission: Impossible, The Fast and the Furious, James Bond, and Batman. But even those aren’t enough to get me interested in movies like the ones that came out in the ‘90s did. Disney has its hand in too many of them, and it’s beginning to show, so I’m getting a bit bored. This isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate a good Marvel movie. I’ll stick with that series for as long as it doesn’t suck (which, hopefully, won’t be anytime soon). This isn’t even to say that I’m not interested in the Disney+ service because I sort of am. But I’m also skeptical. I don’t think I watch enough content to justify spending a monthly fee. And even if I did, I don’t own the content. If they decide I can’t watch something I want to watch, then I can’t watch it without help from a pirate, and I don’t deal with pirates. So, rather than get upset, I simply put the movie out of mind. By the time they decide I can watch it, I don’t want to. I choose when I want to watch something. Not Disney.
This weekend, as the title implies, I ran my concept cover for Lightstorm through another round of edits, this time by employing the services of a few new programs that I picked up in the Painter: Create with Confidence Bundle over at Humble Bundle (available until Wednesday at 1pm EST).
The bundle, which includes a number of designer products, including PaintShop Pro 2020 Ultimate, Corel Painter 2019, and Pinnacle Studio 23 Ultimate, cost me just $25. Individually, I would’ve spent over $250 for them, maybe much more, and finding the bundle was perfect timing, as my copy of Paintshop Pro 2019 (normal edition) kept bugging me to upgrade to 2020 for just $47.99 (a 70% discount!), which I was planning to do anyway until I found the bundle, but now I don’t have to, though doing so would’ve meant I would also get a video editor program, VideoStudio Pro 2019 (noticeably absent from the bundle, but hopefully Pinnacle Studio will work just fine), which probably would’ve been nice. But I ended up getting a lot more for a lot less, and I’m typically fine with that.
So, just to give a little backstory, I released Lightstorm in September 2015 with this cover (created with my old copy of PaintShop Pro 9, which is probably 14 iterations of PaintShop Pro ago):
As you can see, it isn’t very good. I needed to upgrade it, but I didn’t have any software that would be particularly useful for the job.
Then last year I found another photography bundle at Humble Bundle that included PaintShop Pro 2019, and I thought, Yeah, I’ll buy that for adollar! I think I actually paid $25 for that bundle, (a dollar would’ve gotten me just the cheap stuff) and I got a load of decent software for designers that I haven’t really used yet outside of PaintShop Pro 2019. I plan to use them eventually. Maybe.
A few months after getting that bundle and practicing my cover design on other covers, particularly Eleven Miles from Home, by locating free stock photos and manipulating and combining them for effect, I decided it was time to upgrade Lightstorm. This is what I made:
And when I wasn’t fully satisfied with that version, I kept toying with it until I got this:
So, that’s the version I have online at the moment. I thought it was pretty good. But I still had my doubts. Compared to the original, it’s a masterpiece. But compared to other book covers, it’s meh. I figured I could do better, but I didn’t know how if all I had at my disposal was PaintShop Pro 2019 and other painting programs I hadn’t actually used yet but probably should’ve looked into. Oops.
So, then came along the Painter Bundle, and now I’ve got programs that can do more than simply adjust the visuals of an already assembled composite photo (I used four different images and a lot of blurring to make the above image). With Corel Painter, I was able to add particles, including glow brushes, make my title font (Vallen) much better detailed, and I ended up with this:
Now it’s looking more thematic, but I admit I wasn’t fully satisfied. As much as I liked the new particle effects, I worried they were cluttering the image too much.
So, I doubled-down and opened up GRFX Studio Corel Edition (included with PaintShop Pro 2020 Ultimate) and added a bunch of light flares:
So, that’s the state of Lightstorm‘s cover and what I did this weekend with my new design programs. Just to recap, I went from this:
I’m sure PhotoShop and a proper graphics designer would’ve made this cover even better, but as I say on this blog from time to time, I’m not rich, and while that remains true, I won’t throw money at high-priced subscription software or someone I can’t afford.
For the resources and skills that I have, I think I did pretty well. What do you think? Can you do better? Hopefully the answer is yes. Comment below if you have an opinion!
Today on YouTube, I launched the beginning of what could become my next big feature: “The Audiovisual Book Experience.” The premise behind it is that people don’t read anymore, but they do listen. At least, that’s what I’ve heard from people who listen exclusively to audiobooks and podcasts and can’t be bothered with an actual book or blog post. I think these same people watch YouTube videos on occasion.
I confess that I don’t get it. And, I do think the information is a little suspect. Of course people still read. I’m a person, and I read! I read books and blogs. I also write both. If you’re reading this blog, then you’re a reader, too. Already, you’re proving them wrong.
But, I also see the point they make. The people who prefer audio text to visual text are the people who are too busy to sit down with a good book; they probably spend more time looking through their windshields, making sure they don’t hit something or someone than they do staring at the pages of a paperback or the screen of an e-reader. Of course, they still stare at their phones for some reason, on the road and off. But it makes you wonder: Has no one told them they can read a book on their phone? What else are they going to do at a red light?
Okay, they shouldn’t read a book while driving. Point made. Audiobooks are much better for that. And they’re also much better for running. I’ve tried reading a book while running a few times. It’s definitely too shaky to concentrate. An audiobook would’ve been nicer for that scenario. If these people are so active that they can’t even spend a few minutes in bed with a good book, then perhaps the audio version is necessary.
But what of the people who want both, the reading and the listening experience? Haven’t we all started our reading lives by reading with an adult, where the adult reads out loud while we follow along and try to understand each word? Would it be so odd if we were to read along with someone else again, but as adults?
Maybe. Probably. But we’re going to try it anyway!
And that’s the point of the Audiovisual Book Experience, to allow YouTube users to read a book while someone else narrates it to them. That way, if they need to, they can do other things while the book is “playing.” Or, if they’d rather follow along, they can see each word in its book form. This gives each reader the option of reading the book however he or she wants. For free!
Is it a good idea? I don’t know. That’s why it’s an experiment. But, if it does generate interest, I’ll likely do another. If not, then I’ll commit my time and energy to something else.
I do wonder, though, how other authors with better voices than mine could make use of an audiovisual book experience. It might be worth it for them to give it a try for their own books.
That said, I’m launching my own experience with Amusement, a short story about a businessman who must confront the corporate entity responsible for the faulty product that ruined his life.
The overview video has already launched. The introduction and legal information video will launch at 1 p.m. tomorrow (Monday, September 23, 2019), and “Part 1: Professionalism” will launch immediately after, at 1:15 p.m., both Eastern Standard Time. Each additional episode will launch on consecutive days at 1 p.m. until next Sunday when the final episode, “Part 7: Crash,” airs.
The entire audiovisual book will be curated into a playlist that you can run at your leisure.
If you decide to check it out, please let me know what you think, either here or on YouTube. Hope you’ll enjoy it.
Did you read a good book lately? Review it. How about a bad one? Review it!
Why should you post a review of that book you just read?
Because we all benefit from reviews. The writer benefits because it shows the world whether he or she is any good at this. You benefit because more reviews means a higher likelihood that the author can afford to keep providing you with new stories. And, the world benefits because robots can’t yet tell the stories that authors can tell, at least not as well.
So, in short, don’t let the robots win. Leave a review of that book you just read at your preferred retailer today. I, you, other authors, and the world would be grateful for your input. But it’s up to you. Silent praise is still praise. Written or spoken praise is a little better. A wise man of undetermined time or origin once said that, probably. Remember, he is wise for a reason, also probably, so I hope you listen to the assumed wise man today. Leave that review and stick it to the robots.
Remember, you can give public feedback in the form of a review on your favorite retailer’s website. You can also review books on Goodreads (and, perhaps, network with other readers to find your next favorite book). You could also give the author direct feedback through his various contact channels. For example, here’s my contact channel in case you’d like to give me feedback.
As a writer of books that need reviews, I’ll say thanks again for the time you took to read the book, but I also thank you for the time you took to review it.
Note: Some retailers have specific rules for leaving reviews. For example, Amazon requires that you spend at least $50 that year before leaving a review. We all want reviews, but we also want ethical and rule-abiding reviews. Please familiarize yourself with each site’s or retailer’s review policies before placing your review. Violating rules doesn’t help anyone. Thanks.
(This post adapts and modifies the Review Request section of most of my e-books.)
Yep, that’s my way of saying that you’ve made it to the end of the yWriter vs. Scrivener series. (You have been watching the videos and reading the articles, right?)
Before I close, I want to remind you that using either yWriter6 or Scrivener works only if you plan to write an actual story or, at the very least, plan a story. If you use them only for pretending to work on a story, just putting them on your screen whenever you have company over instead of writing the story, well, that’s not effective use of either program, nor is it an effective way to tell a story. So, don’t be that guy.
But, I know you’re going to use them to write your story. Why else have you gotten this far if you don’t intend to use them the right way? That would be insanity! Right?
So, to celebrate the end of the series, I want to show you what it’s like to write a scene in yWriter6. Now, if you’d rather use Scrivener, or even Microsoft Word, to write your scenes and chapters, that’s perfectly fine. Part 7 of yWriter vs. Scrivener isn’t really about yWriter6 or Scrivener. It’s about how to turn your outline into a scene by watching me do exactly that.
Yep, this is your chance to see my brain in action. It’s also a way to stand over a writer’s shoulder and watch him write (and justify his choices).
This is, by no surprise, the longest video in the series, but it’s also the one you’ll get the most out of if you care anything about writing, reading, or creating characters out of thin air. So, be sure to take some time out of your day to check it out. It’ll be worth it. Yes, I say that subjectively. It’ll be worth it if you like writing or reading. Hopefully!
Also, please let me know if you want to see more of Pop Goes the Waterbed, which is the story I’m writing in this video. I may make a separate series out of it on YouTube if enough viewers are interested.
For now, that’s it for yWriter vs. Scrivener, but I’ll be back with another article about books and book reviews soon. Subscribe at the blue button below to find out more about that. You’ll be glad you did! I say that subjectively, of course.
Once you’ve had a chance to explore the differences between yWriter6 and Scrivener, you’ll see where both programs shine, and what both programs lack. It may be that you’ll develop a preference for one of them (assuming you’re not a Microsoft Word nerd who swears by its sexy software-giant sleekness and believes that all other programs are but peons in this vast digital soup), but you’ll certainly benefit from using both (or all three, again, if you’re a Word nerd) in creating your masterpiece (or your disasterpiece if that’s the case—hey, the world needs those, too).
But, in this digital highland, when it comes to versatility—and winners—there really can be only one. Thanks to Scrivener’s template system, I’d say the winner in this battle is clearly decided.
For those who missed yesterday’s article on Scrivener templates, the short version is that Scrivener comes with a few built-in templates designed to help writers format their novels, nonfiction essays, screenplays, commercials, etc. accurately and efficiently. But, what the article doesn’t cover is Scrivener’s network of rock star-level users who have made and uploaded their own templates to accomplish development feats that range from detailed outlines, to character creators, to world-building tools, and to genre fiction beat sheets to name a few choices.
In Part 6 of the yWriter vs. Scrivener series (on YouTube), I’ll show you how to find some of these templates, briefly go over how to use them, and I’ll even show you one of my own templates-in-progress that can help manage a writing career. By the time you get to the end, you’ll see just how much more you can do with a Scrivener template than you can with just about any other document type, including anything you’ll find in that oversexed Microsoft Word program.
Granted, you’ll still have to bring your imagination with you. At the end of the day, it’s still an overview. But, it’s a fine overview indeed.
Just watch the video. You’ll learn something about planning a story if you do.
Also, don’t forget to leave a comment if you have any Scrivener templates you’d like to see. Leaving comments is a great way to make yourself even more important!
For anyone who has ever explored Microsoft Word thoroughly, he or she will find that the beauty of Word is not in the user’s ability to type in a bunch of words on a document and hit save, but the ability for him to type in a bunch of words on a pre-rendered template and hit save. For students and professionals, this beauty is a hottie.
But, for the average storyteller, Microsoft Word’s templates are—how shall we say?—quite limited:
Sure, Microsoft has made the effort to recognize the average novelist by providing a manuscript template that’s great for those who aspire to publish traditionally. For a $300 piece of writing software, it had better do at least that.
But Scrivener has that exact same template, too, and it offers that template because it knows it’s made for writers, not just for business professionals and academics who think a thesis is supposed to be nothing more than a list of three arguable points and a loose interpretation of how those points fit together.
Yes, Scrivener considers that writers of fiction (and non-fiction and scriptwriting) want the templates to do the job right, but they also want the tools to organize the job so that the scenes and chapters fit into the manuscript format seamlessly. They also want to do all of that stuff while having the freedom to cram all of their research materials (including character and setting sheets and templates) into its own folder where it cannot corrupt the story document, nor can it get lost through the unfortunate process of misnaming the research files and putting them in the same place where you put all of your old college literature critiques from 20 years ago, which you think might be in My Documents 1998_a2_crit lit alpha, but it could also be in that folder you refuse to open because it’s labeled “In the Event of My Kidnapping,” which you created during your intense paranoia stage (or your quarter-life crisis) in the early 2000s (not to imply that I would ever do such a thing…).
But, Scrivener goes one step further: It allows you to compile that manuscript into the appropriate format and includes self-publishing formats for e-books, if you’re inclined to skip the process of pandering to the traditional publishers.
All of this for a sixth of Microsoft Word’s cost.
In Part 5 of my yWriter vs. Scrivener series on YouTube, not to be confused with my Microsoft Word vs. Scrivener series that does not yet exist, I show off the fiction template and how it can help writers stay organized within their chosen parameters. This part will also serve as a foundation for tomorrow’s follow-up video, where I explore other templates in Scrivener.
Well, so far we’ve learned quite a bit about yWriter6, about how to use it, and about why we should use it. But, I think we can begin to see its limitations when we consider the things it can’t do. For example, it can’t feed the cats for you. Nor can it pay your bills. It also doesn’t do the writing for you, which, I think, most of us want in a versatile writing program.
Scrivener, on the other hand, can’t do these things, either, but it can provide a much larger viewing field with zoom options, more robust tracking analytics, greater visual and tactile control of the story’s layout, as well as plenty of other features to make sure the writing gets done, and that it gets done well.
Conceptually, Scrivener has everything the writer’s toolbox demands. It even has a built-in dictionary for checking word usage and a project manager that can track your writing progress (which is great for participants of NaNoWriMo). The more you explore Scrivener, the more you realize that, even though you never knew you needed this stuff, you know you definitely need it now!
yWriter6 can be versatile, too, but most of its special features are component-based and require additional downloads and spotty success at modding the program to get them to work properly (assuming most writers are as bad at installing components to existing programs as I am). Scrivener provides the majority of these features out of the box.
Scrivener is also the most widely recognized and trusted writing software for budget-minded writers. For $49 (as of this month), the writer can gain access to a complete story management experience that includes having a canvas to actually create the story along with organizing, structuring, and planning the story.
The drawback with Scrivener, of course, is that the writer needs to create his own resources to make the most of the software. But, that’s sort of the point of Scrivener. It isn’t about fixed rules. It’s about flexibility. Its main purpose is to give writers a place to store all of their ideas in an effort to craft the best stories they can. Where yWriter is fairly narrow in its design (you basically fill out the fields to create your story), Scrivener spreads its wings and flies, giving you the freedom to do what you want in your stories.
Really, the trick to using Scrivener well is to learn how to fly with it.
In Part 4 of my yWriter vs. Scrivener video series, I’ll show you Scrivener in action. But, I must deliver a warning: Scrivener has a steep learning curve. I can’t possibly show off everything that it can do in a single 16-minute video. To get the full picture of what Scrivener can do, I’d recommend Joseph Michael’s “Learn Scrivener Fast” to see what you’re not yet doing.
Note: There’s a basic version of Joseph Michael’s “Learn Scrivener Fast” on Udemy if you’re on a budget but still want to learn something useful. I believe the Udemy version is the first module of the complete program.
One of the advantages to using dedicated story software over traditional writing software is that traditional writing software, like Microsoft Word, gives you just the blank document to work with. Now, sure, that document can contain mountains of information and unlimited supplies of inserted media and special formatting to bolster that document’s information, but these elements tend to consider the needs of the student or the business professional while keeping the needs of the novelist as an afterthought.
This isn’t to say that Microsoft Word is terrible, though. No, no, no! Such an accusation is unfounded! But, it is severely limited in what it can accomplish for the novelist (or the fictionist if you want to include all types of storytelling).
For example, let’s say I want to write an article for a blog. Let’s say I want to write this article for this blog. If all I’m doing is typing my thoughts and linking them to Internet resources, then Microsoft Word is plenty fine, as is the case right now as I compose this article (on Microsoft Word).
But, what if I don’t want to write an article? What if I want to plan a story? And what if I need a storyboard for that story? Am I going to find such a luxury embedded in the $300 word processor I had to buy from Office Depot when my old computer crashed (along with my tried-and-true copy of Word 97 that I’d been using for 15 years)? No!
Instead, I’m going to get that option for free in a program dedicated to writing fiction, called yWriter6, for…er, free.
You can see how that option is true in today’s installment of yWriter vs. Scrivener, a seven-part video series I’m doing this week at my companion YouTube channel, Zippywings. Check out Part 3 to see storyboards in action. Then come back and complain about how I didn’t show off enough of it!
Note: In fairness to Microsoft Word, it does provide numerous templates for business-related documents, like letters and résumés, for example—things you’ll never find on the writing software I cover in this series. So, it’s still worth the $300 (or the subscription if you’re on Office 365). You’ll also find as you watch the series that I prefer to integrate Microsoft Word into my writing regimen, but let’s take this one step at a time.