Tag Archives: how to write a novel

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!

Why It’s Okay to Write for Fun (Part 8): The Importance of Finding Useful Education and Resources

Missed Part 7? Read it here:

“The Importance of Finding Useful Education and Resources”

Writing should be fun. But it becomes more fun when we know how to do it.

Okay, so how do we write? Or better yet, how do we teach ourselves to write? I’ve spent seven parts building up this idea that we can become mavericks, writing whatever the heck we want, however we want, but that’s not really my goal here. My goal is to take away the stress of writing that professionalism often puts on those of us who want to succeed as an author. This, in no way, means that we should go into the game without the right education, or even without professionalism as a goal.

In “The Importance of Knowing the Rules of Writing and Storytelling,” I gave you a list of eleven tips to get you started, but the tips are purposely vague so that you have an understanding of what to look for in your path toward writing improvement, so that you actually go out and do the research to better yourself.

When we talk about research, we tend to limit it to items we wish to use in our books, but we often forget that learning how to write requires just as much research as learning what to write. Likewise, research is important for instructing us how to get our message out into the marketplace, should we decide to take that path.

As I said in “The Importance of Learning from Our Past,” college alone won’t teach us everything we need to know about writing, marketing, or any of the things we actually care about when we decide we want to be authors. It’ll teach us a few useful fundamentals, like how to write dialogue effectively, and it’ll do it as quickly and vaguely as possible, but even then we need to be careful, as the exercises we’re often given as warm-ups can lull us into a pattern of self-destructive story ideas, where simple actions like searching for the perfect jelly in which to put on a sandwich, can feel like a good idea at the time we write them, when in reality those scenes, if used in a real story, would probably waste a serious reader’s time, and if that happens, then why did we write that practice scene in the first place?

To get the full education we deserve, we need to look for outside sources, written or taught by experts in their respective fields. And I don’t mean experts on how to write a sex scene. Even though that’s helpful, we don’t need to start there. What we need is to start with the people who understand what drives a story, then work our way into learning from those microscopic masters who have so much knowledge of the steamy love scene that they can fill an entire book about it.

Of course, my message here is to read more. I did not improve by watching hours upon hours of reality television (though, I contend that watching reality television isn’t a complete waste of time, as they are edited to give viewers the maximum amount of conflict in an otherwise lukewarm scenario, so you can still learn the importance of storytelling from them, even from shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians, I’m guessing). I improved through practice and reading the types of stories I enjoy. I also improved my skills from reading books I’ve found in the Reference section at Barnes & Noble or the virtual shelves at the Writer’s Digest shop.

As an author exploring the indie market, I’ve also studied from newly minted experts in their respective fields, like cover design, editing, copywriting, and so on, to better understand my place in this saturated market, and what I need to do to stand out. More and more this journey teaches me that it’s not always about writing for fun. But the more I learn, the more I realize that knowing nothing is merely ignorant, and there’s nothing fun about realizing either through education or a bad review that everything I’ve written up to a certain point has been crap riddled with more crap. At some point, I need to acknowledge that learning from experts (not just teachers at a high school or college) is just as important as reading the masters or tapping into my imagination.

This means that I need to study my craft, whether I go to college or not. This means I need to study, whether I’ve finished college or not.

There’s no end to the ways we can improve ourselves. I still stand by my message in “The Importance of Imperfection” that we should never wait until things are perfect to share our works with our intended audiences. But we still need to make sure we’ve done all that we can to properly educate ourselves with the expectations that readers will have of our works. This includes understanding the conventions of the genres we’re writing in, understanding what readers are buying our books for in the first place, and so on. To get there, we need to chart an educational path for ourselves. We need to start by reading those instructional manuals that the pioneers before us have written in order to prevent us from making the same mistakes they made when they first started. We need to start by putting into practice the sound advice that the experts give us.

If we write irresponsibly, then we may find that the fun in writing will eventually run out, as writing, while cathartic, is at its best shared, and we want to share what we know is good. Right? Writing well without doing the work to ensure great writing is hard to do. Our intuitions, our laziness, and our justifications for each will take us only so far.

Now, I cannot tell you how to chart your path. I do hope to begin a resource education series in the near future to make figuring out that path a little easier, but I still need some time to prepare that, as it will require a lot of reading and remembering. But, here’s a quick list of books I recommend you look into while you’re forgetting everything you learned in school or in this series:

On Writing by Stephen King

Story Engineering, Story Physics, and Story Fix by Larry Brooks

Hooked by Les Edgerton

The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne

Note that these books are great for foundations, but may not give you all that you need for settings, characters, dialogue, etc. But again, part of becoming a better writer is to do the research, and if you take my advice, you’ll find your way down the right path. Personally, I like reading newly released books to see these authors’ takes on a subject I’ve already learned, as every writing instructor will have his or her unique way of getting a message across, and inevitably somebody will teach me something new. So, even if you think you’ve learned everything you need to know, I can assure you that you haven’t. That said, you can still certainly learn enough from just the five books I’ve highlighted above to get you on the right track.

So, I hope you’ve gotten a lot out of this series, especially if you’ve thought about writing but weren’t sure you could do it. You can, but make sure you don’t do it blindly, and don’t expect to be great at it immediately. Like any skill, it takes a long time to get good at it. But I guarantee that your favorite author wasn’t always good at it, so don’t let the thought of learning stop you from starting or doing. Just forward-think a little before you start sharing.

Keep following Drinking Café Latte at 1pm for more articles on writing, storytelling, resources, and so on. You can also check out some of the stories I’ve written to get an idea how my journey has panned out. Many of them are available to read in their entirety via the “My Books” dropdown in the header above. My favorite is “Shell Out,” if you want to start there. It’s a short story in seven parts. Also, if you want to stay centered on your writing journey, I’d highly recommend you familiarize yourself with Writer’s Digest and visit its online bookstore. I believe it publishes 16 books on writing a year, and each book is tailor-targeted to a specific element in writing, including structure, characters, scene-setting, and even nonfiction.

Leave comments if you have any questions.