Category Archives: Writing

Writing a Scene in yWriter6 (yWriter vs. Scrivener, Part 7)

Congratulations!

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.

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Finding and Using Custom Templates on Scrivener (yWriter vs. Scrivener, Part 6)

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!

The Fiction Template on Scrivener (yWriter vs. Scrivener, Part 5)

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:

word template books

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.

scrivener template example

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.

Exploring and Using Scrivener (yWriter vs. Scrivener, Part 4)

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.

Note 2: I like Udemy. You should like Udemy, too.

Note 3: It’s my birthday today. Leave your birthday wishes in the comments below if you want.

Advanced yWriter6: Storyboards (yWriter vs. Scrivener, Part 3)

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.

Exploring and Using yWriter6 (yWriter vs. Scrivener, Part 2)

Now that you’ve decided you want more out of your writing life than just clacking at a keyboard while Microsoft Word is open and hoping for the best, it’s time to check out a piece of writing software that can help you make your dreams of writing a novel come true.

It’s time to check out yWriter6.

yWriter6, in a nutshell, is a stripped-down story development tool that allows you to outline your novel, flesh out your characters, keep track of your important items and locations, manage your storyboards, and, most importantly, write your scenes in a way that makes sense.

Within the program, you can store bits of information on any element you find useful to remember and then organize those elements until you find a layout that works. You can also keep track of revisions, scene lengths, word counts, and the usual essentials you might expect an expert writing software to have.

The creator of the program is a writer himself, and he designed the program to create better works of fiction. But, thanks to his recognition that such ingenious software should be shared by all, he’s provided the software for free so that all writers can benefit from the very same tool that benefits him.

He also has a mobile version that you can find at Google Play for $5 if you’re all about spending money on free stuff.

For a detailed walkthrough of the program using real-time development of an idea, check out Part 2 of my yWriter vs. Scrivener series on YouTube.

An Introduction to Two Awesome Writing Programs (yWriter vs. Scrivener, Part 1)

Are you looking for a more efficient way to write your story? Have you labored over Microsoft Word in vain as you stared at that blinking cursor taunting you over the persistently blank screen that you have before you? Do you wish there was a better way to get your thoughts on paper or the ether than using whatever poor excuse you have at your disposal right now?

Well, fear not. Spacejock Software and Literature and Latte both have solutions to your advancing problems.

Introducing yWriter6, the latest generation in writing software from a bygone era where writing was about putting words in a box and making them dance. It’s direct, it’s efficient, and it’s free. But, is it for you?

Introducing Scrivener (for Mac and Windows), the answer to the writer’s prayer: “Can there be a way to write and organize my documents easier than relying on Microsoft’s a la carte systems?” Why, yes, there can be! For the low, low price of $45, you can have all of your writer’s needs come true (except for the one where the program does the writing for you).

But, which software should you choose? Well, both have benefits. Both have drawbacks. Both require some learnin’ to do before use. So, how do you decide on which one’s the best?

Introducing yWriter vs. Scrivener, the seven-part video series that shows you a sample of the many uses you might find in both programs and why adopting a regimen of juggling both (along with Microsoft Word) can maximize your writing potential.

Check out Part 1 of the video series today and be sure to come back tomorrow for links to the next one!

New Limited YouTube Series Comparing Two Useful Writing Tools, Coming Soon

Welcome back. I’m sure you never left. Thank you.

I just wanted to make a quick announcement about my YouTube channel’s growing range of covered topics. For years, it has been about me playing indie games (made by the OHRRPGCE) with a very limited slide into writing programs. But that slide is about to take a harder turn as the Zippywings Channel will soon expand to include topics about writing and reading and reviewing books (as well as to continue showcasing indie games no one else will play).

And because of this exciting new direction, I wanted to announce a limited series I’ll be launching next week to help nudge it into those new topics: yWriter vs. Scrivener.

Beginning on Monday, June 24, 2019, at 1pm EST and ending Sunday, June 30, 2019, at 1pm EST, I’ll be releasing new installments to the series where I show yWriter6 in action and then show how Scrivener can differ or complement yWriter6, maximizing your potential for organizing a solidly entertaining novel should you choose to use either program. I’ll end the series by showing you how I write, and for those of you who only see the finished product, this process should be eye-opening.

If you have an interest in either program, or if you want to see my nutty brain come up with interesting characters, be sure to come back Monday afternoon for all of the details. Hope you’ll check out the new series and subscribe to my YouTube channel in the process.

See you then. Thanks.

Oh, and in case you’ve forgotten, I do have other articles and videos based on the Scrivener program, if you want to see more about that.

Revisit: Scrivener: The Most Amazing Program for Writers Ever: A First Impression

Revisit: Using Scrivener for Game Design

The Best Article on Marketing I’ve Read in a Long, Long Time

A few days ago, several of the indie publishing whisperers I subscribe to started touting the latest writing and marketing bundle to hit the indie community this year, a $49 package of courses, books, and services that normally value at $5000 (a 98% savings, according to the featured website Infostack.io, even though I think the math leads to 99%, but I studied writing, so what do I know?) called Write Publish Profit 2.0, and I must admit that with these courses focusing on marketing plans, 10 types of story hooks, developing scenes, and other good stuff, as well as e-books I would read and discounts for services I actually want at some point when money isn’t so tight, I was tempted to drop that half a C-note (yay, slang!) and have this wonderful bundle for myself. And, if not for the realization that I’d have only 12 months to download or access these products before they expired (for the record, I still have to finish watching a series of writing and marketing interviews that I paid $97 to watch “whenever I want” back in December 2016), and if not for the fact that this summer I would really like to get that graphics card I’ve spent the last two or three years dreaming about (something I haven’t been able to do because I spend too much money on books and online courses every time I get close to buying that card), I probably would’ve gotten it. I must admit that the promise of getting book trailer software in the bundle was almost too good to pass up, even if it did consist mainly of PowerPoint slides and sound files (and likely just one series of slides per genre).

Fortunately, I chose to spend a couple of days researching the products that came with the bundle and ultimately decided that it contained mainly subjects and strategies that I’ve already paid for in other books and courses, so I thought that, in spite of the ultra-steep 98-99% discount, I probably wouldn’t get my money’s worth. So, I left it on the table.

The next day, I read this article. I think it confirmed the wisdom of my decision. It’s the best article on book marketing I’ve read in a long, long time. I think it confirms everything I’ve suspected about this industry (and about product psychology). It’s worth a read if you have any interest in selling books. It’s also worth a read if you think you’re wasting money on your marketing strategies. Warning: The article does contain strong language in places, so do with that knowledge what you want.

Also, in my research, I found myself on YouTube discovering real writing and marketing talents that have decent followings and that I’ll likely subscribe to, if I find that most of their videos are consistently useful. Why does this matter? Most of the people providing products in these Super Stacks, as much as I like them and their styles, barely have a fraction of followers (on YouTube at least) that some of these other talents have. At the end of the day, I’d rather spend my time learning from people who attract crowds than those who have a hard time proving their strategies in the metrics, so that’s what I’m going to do this summer, for free.

That said, I still like the information this channel provides (and it has the social proof to match), and I recommend subscribing to it if you still dream of indie publishing after reading the above article.

I’ll be back tomorrow with news about my own limited YouTube series I’ll be launching soon. Here’s a hint: Scrivener! Okay, you’ve been warned.

Cover Image: Pixabay

Quality Products and Ethical Practices

Every so often I like to visit The Book Designer to find out what’s new in the world of indie publishing because trends change, people change, yet books are forever, except for when they’re banned, and it’s important to keep up with it all. It is through this channel that I discover not only ways to maximize my social media outreach, but also how to avoid or address problems like predator publishers, “Cockygate,” or anything that convinces me that no one is looking out for my best interest.

Yesterday, I read an article through The Book Designer’s weekly wrap-up about Amazon’s new terms on content-stuffing, or the practice of packing e-books with “bonus materials” that equate to having multiple books in one in an effort to game Kindle Unlimited’s system that pays according to pages read, a practice which may ultimately result in “authors” directing readers to click to the end of the digital brick for some kind of bonus item (and force Amazon to pay the author as much as $15 for the click1, per the policies on pages read, or credited as read, and subsequent payment), and it left me with some opinions. In short, it’s a smart system for lazy people, and one can hardly fault the scammers who figured that out, but it’s also a harmful system for those who are actually trying to make a living on their art. The end result is that Amazon has finally banned this practice, after numerous complaints2, as it is unfair to other, more legitimate authors who want to make an honest buck.

Of course, I doubt fairness is the real reason they banned the practice. At best, responding in fairness may be counted as a positive side effect to the solution to a greater business problem. No, we’re talking about Amazon here. Prevention of bad practices, it seems, stems first from a loss, and losing authors is not the sort of thing Amazon would ever need to worry about. I have a feeling the change in Amazon’s Terms of Service for Kindle products is related more to money than to author servicing, and, in this case, authors are there to make them money (while trying to also make themselves money, which is admittedly harder to do). How well authors make Amazon money is the topic of another discussion, and, well, money in general is the topic of another discussion. What I do want to talk about, however, is service, and, in this case, the product is the service.

When we buy a book, we usually buy it to read it. Sometimes we’ll buy a paperback because we need something for the bus or the beach, and sometimes we’ll buy a hardcover because we need something to keep the door open. But, we buy electronic books, or e-books, because we need something to occupy our time without taking up much of our space. And, Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s exclusive subscription site for indie authors and readers, is a purveyor of electronic books large and small (more large than small) that readers can consume quickly and cheaply without any bookshelf clutter whatsoever, and it provides these books on an exclusive basis, exclusive in the sense that these books are available only on the Kindle platform. For readers who don’t mind reading books by unknowns for a monthly fee (so, not exactly free but close to it), Kindle Unlimited is a great platform. For authors whom these readers read, Kindle Unlimited is an okay platform (if they don’t mind getting paid by the page read, which can be very, very little3).

I understand why someone would want to game a pay-by-pages-read system. It changes the value of the book from a standard cost of purchase regardless of quality to cost of purchase or borrow (and worth) based on quality. Not everyone will have that book that everyone will want to read until the end, as much as we may want to believe the opposite. For me, I’m the type of reader who will generally read a bad book to the end to find out if it gets any better, and because I paid for it, I’m gonna finish what I paid for, dangit. But, if I’m not paying anything but a monthly service, then I’m much more likely to abandon a bad book in favor of searching for a better book, and if I get a bad book for free, well, I’m not reading that one, either. So, if I’ve written a bad book, it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve spent precious time writing that bad book, and I’d still want to get paid for it. Gaming the system to get something for that book is certainly tempting.

But, it’s not ethical, especially if the money is coming out of a pool4 set aside for all authors enrolled in the KU program, especially if those authors are writing good books that deserve to be read and deserve adequate compensation for each page read. If we were to consider the proverb, “Do unto others as we’d do onto ourselves,” then we shouldn’t even be tempted by this practice of tricking readers to click to the end of the overstuffed book, especially if the book is larger than The Lord of the Rings Trilogy because it includes content that can also be bought separately from the tome in question. But, apparently some fake authors haven’t gotten that memo.

My argument goes beyond the ethical issue, however. In fact, I shouldn’t have to explain why this behavior is unethical, or justify any time spent discussing it. The facts speak for themselves. Cheating legitimate authors out of fair compensation by tricking readers to click on a link that takes them to something else lame is just bad all around. No, my issue is with these fake authors’ unwillingness to present a quality book, both in appearance and in content. That’s the real crime. Well, it’s kind of a crime. The fraudulent practice of gaming a system for money is still the worst. But a bad book…that’s nothing to slouch at.

As a consumer of literature, both fiction and nonfiction alike, I want to enjoy the experience of reading as much as I want to enjoy the story itself. This means I want to appreciate the feel of the book in my hands (so, no crappy paper textures, please). I want to find the textual layout pleasing to the eye. Even the typography should leave me with a positive feeling. I’m a fan of the Garamond font, just as I’m a fan of matte covers and embossed titles. I like chapter headings that punctuate the story. I even like chapters that add something extra, like famous quotes, illustrations, or even in the case of The Impossible Fortress, lines of computer code that not only combine to make a functional game but also summarize the plot points of the chapter for a truly complex approach to storytelling. As a reader, I want to like the book I’m reading. As a writer, this means I want to deliver a positive customer experience, too.

When I wrote The Computer Nerd three years ago, I had what I thought were three great ideas: A homemade cover featuring my real-life desk and coffee cup, a computer-based font for the title and chapter headings, and a “post-credits scene” to give voracious readers a special surprise for reading the entire book. As it turned out, my cover was too dark for print and a bit out of standard for a thriller, and the font was way out of standard for a thriller. And that last scene? I never did get feedback on it, which makes me wonder if anyone ever saw it. My first review, most likely from a reader looking for a book on programming, not a marital thriller, came back with a single star. It was nearly the reason why I rethought the story’s entire premise and every “wise” decision I thought I had made about it. The stuff I learned afterward is what convinced me to rewrite the book under the title Gone from the Happy Place. I thought it was time to brand it as a new product. I even want to change the publishing elements to match the professionals closer. I care about my books. I care about my products. I want readers to like them as much as I do, and I want to like them, too. I rushed The Computer Nerd out the door, and the quality, while not awful, still kinda shows. I definitely would’ve done things differently in retrospect. It’s the reason that Gone from the Happy Place is even in-production.

Personally, I think these book-stuffers and Kindle-gamers are hacks. These are not the kinds of people who care about products. They’re driven by the money, but they don’t realize that the money is only as good as the customers’ tastes, and a bad product will lose the customer. It’s too bad that e-books don’t come with return policies, especially in Kindle Unlimited, because return policies force proper customer targeting and the creation of competitive products. This isn’t to say that I like return policies for my products, and I certainly don’t love the idea of including one, but I still think they’re necessary for all content producers, as return policies keep us accountable to our work. If enough people return my books, I’d know there’s a problem with them. Either that, or readers think a store is a library and are basically jerks, too. But, I wouldn’t expect that from my readers. My readers are good people, wink wink.

To get notifications on more articles like this one, please hit the blue “follow” button at the bottom of this page. I try to post a new article at least once a year. Maybe twice in a leap year, if there’s also a full moon.

Cover Image: Pixabay

Footnotes:

1. Nate Hoffelder. “Amazon Updates KDP Rules to Discourage Book-Stuffing.The Digital Reader. July 12, 2018.

2. This is a guess, but probably true, as it wouldn’t be much of a story otherwise.

3. Derek Haines. “Is Kindle Unlimited Pay Per Page Read Fair For Authors?Just Publishing Advice. June 21, 2018.

4. Nate Hoffelder. “Kindle Unlimited Per-Page Rate, Funding Pool Up in September 2017.” The Digital Reader. October 15, 2017.