Tag Archives: scrivener

Considerations for Developing a Paperback Book (Including Creating and Revising an existing title)

As more writers eschew the mountainous path to publication via agents, editors, and traditional publishers, making wise decisions about self-publishing becomes not only more necessary than in times past, but vital if we want to compete with the million-dollar titans and their armies of production teams. And, yes, any one of us who has walked the level path around the mountain long enough has heard the cries for world-class quality by now. Fourteen years after the debut of Amazon’s Kindle e-reader, the message about moving from rushed amateurism to edited professionalism has become loud and clear.

But, if we take the cries for quality seriously, then why would we consider converting the reflowable text from a KDP e-book into a crappily formatted paperback edition? Wouldn’t we want those cries for professionalism to extend to all formats, from content to presentation?

What it looks like when KDP offers to convert your e-book into a paperback.

If we care enough about our readers to give them a paperback or hardcover edition of our e-books, then we should also care enough to give them a quality copy of that paperback or hardcover edition. That means delivering the quality inside and out. And that means not skimping out on the tools that make such quality possible.

Now, for self-publishing writers who have no design or technical sensibilities, then outsourcing layouts and cover designs to a professional is the best bet. Common sense dictates this, even if the wallet screams for mercy.

But, what if the wallet is too thin? You want to get the book out to the public, but you’d also kinda like to eat a few nights this week. What then?

Well, there’s still hope. If you wrote your book on Microsoft Word or Scrivener (with Scrivener being the much cheaper yet more sensible writing tool for writers), then you could probably upload your document (MS Word) or converted document (Scrivener) directly to KDP, Draft2Digital, or whichever service you’re using to get your book out, and cross your fingers that it’s good enough. After all, maybe it is good enough. If you’ve spent any amount of time setting up sections in Microsoft Word, or establishing hyphenation rules as I’ve outlined in my 2016 article “The Art of Hyphenation,” then your .doc or .docx file may work well enough. It certainly would for a generic e-book, and there’s no reason for it not to work if your book is straightforward fiction with no special design considerations.

But what if your book is supposed to have fancy formatting? What if you want your chapter headings to have a cool shape embedded into the page behind them? Well, the good news is you can still do this. The bad news is that you can’t really do this in Microsoft Word. You’d need a special layout program for that. The worse news is that the most-used and best-known layout program for books (especially nonfiction) is Adobe InDesign, which if you know anything about InDesign, you’ll know that it’s from Adobe, the makers of needlessly expensive subscription software that has too few updates to justify the ridiculous pricing.

The better news is that Adobe isn’t the only company making software that self-published writers can use to better their products. The best news is that its strongest competitor does not require a subscription, and its buying price is very affordable.

Yes, I’m referring to Affinity Publisher, and if you’ve kept up with my blog or YouTube channel since April 2020, you’ll know I’m a fan of all things Affinity. In fact, I’ve used Affinity products (Designer, Photo, and Publisher) to redesign my paperback version of The Computer Nerd.

Now, maybe you’re happy with Microsoft Word and Microsoft Paint for your book design. I mean, if my book had this cover, it wouldn’t change a thing about the words inside.

An example of what not to do when designing a cover for your book.

And maybe that’s fine. But I don’t think anyone would buy a book that looked like that. And I don’t think they’d want a book that looked just as shoddy on the inside, either.

This means I have to consider what my readers want before constructing the paperback version, including what they may find aesthetically pleasing.

And this means upgrading my functional but basic Microsoft Word interior:

Into something more intentional, like what I can accomplish in Affinity Publisher:

Yes, after researching and practicing the self-publishing game for many years now, I’ve learned a few things about how to make a paperback worthy of seasoned readers. And now I’d like to pass them along.

Here are the considerations you might want to make before uploading your formatted document to KDP or some other distributor where readers might accidentally find you.

Interior:

(Microsoft Word)

Pros:

  • You probably already wrote your draft in MS Word, so preparing for readers is just a matter of uploading to KDP, Draft2Digital, or Smashwords, provided your document is formatted in a way that passes inspection.
  • Creating e-books in MS Word and uploading them to Amazon is really easy and intuitive. Even if you choose not to create a paperback edition, you can still create a functional e-book through minimal effort.
  • Converting text to PDF is also very easy. If you do base your paperback on your MS Word document, then you’ll want to first “Export to PDF,” as that will preserve your format.
  • Even though MS Word is not a formatting tool, it can still handle basic layouts appropriate for fiction, like headers or footers, section breaks to permit alternative headers and footers and page layouts, and page numbering within headers or footers.

Cons:

  • Microsoft Word is not technically a formatting program, which means it can’t do complex formats, including those common to nonfiction, textbooks, and magazines.
  • Fixing a typo in a formatted Word document can throw off the layout for the entire book.
  • Because pages shift around so easily, wrecking pagination and other position-dependent sections of text or images is a constant headache. Be careful not to breathe on your text too hard.
  • Hyphenation and other typographic solutions are wonky at best.
  • Special formatting like embedding shapes or images behind text, or creating special designs for aesthetic effect is impossible.

How to Use Effectively:

  • Remember that everything from your title page (front) to your promotions for other books (back) will be part of the same document. To prevent insanity from taking over your layout, remember to set up your book by sections and be mindful of how right (recto) pages differ from left (verso) pages, as well as how both differ from first pages. And remember that these three page layouts are your only considerations throughout the section. If you need a new layout, then you need a new section.
  • Convert to PDF when you’re finished.
  • Don’t upload your PDF until you know you’re finished with it. Changing anything translates into hours’ worth of revision work.
  • Check out my article on hyphenation on how to handle the nuanced elements of formatting for paperback books in MS Word.

(Affinity Publisher)

Pros:

  • Inexpensive but powerful software that you need to buy just once!
  • Integrates well with its two companion software for images and designs, Photo and Designer.
  • Allows for custom layouts via “Master Pages” that you can apply to any page, eliminating the need for sections.
  • Because it’s a layout program, it allows you to arrange your text and images however you want, including through layers. This makes it possible to create fiction, nonfiction, textbooks, and magazines—whatever you want!
  • Basic formatting techniques like custom pagination, drop caps, and hyphenation is both simple and intuitive to use.
  • Making a change to the text while allowing the document to adapt is fairly simple.
  • If Photo or Designer is installed, you can edit images on the fly using the Studio Link feature.
  • Some repetitive tasks like starting a new chapter on a recto page a third of the way down can be handled automatically (with instruction).
  • Exports to PDF.

Cons:

  • Still not quite as advanced as Adobe InDesign, especially when it comes to handling text outside of margins.
  • Just because it’s easier to format interiors in Publisher than it is in MS Word doesn’t mean it’s quicker. Revisions (if needed) go a lot faster, but the initial design can still take hours to accomplish.
  • No software is perfect. You’ll still need to review the entire document for extra pages added whenever you make changes that risk pushing the text down past the orphan line.
  • Creating and applying Master Pages can take some getting used to.
  • Not ideal for writing, just for formatting. Any additions or changes you make to the text should begin in your origin document.
  • Doesn’t allow for simultaneous bold/italics/underline enhancements to text, if you even need that kind of thing. Your font family of choice will need a version that simulates bold italics to get that effect.
  • Isn’t ideal for electronic formats. Only print.

How to Use Effectively:

  • Buy the dedicated workbook and keep it near your desk. When it comes time to design your book, refer to Chapter 5. Trust me, it’s all the advice and considerations you need. It’s what I used to remake the paperback edition of The Computer Nerd.

(Adobe InDesign)

Pros:

  • Can do most everything Affinity Publisher can do, except for using a Studio Link to swap in toolbars from its companion Photo or Designer apps (Photoshop and Illustrator respectively).
  • Can actually do more than what Affinity Publisher can do, like manage text and characters outside the margins (if I’m not mistaken).

Cons:

  • The COST!!!

How to Use Effectively:

  • For this, I defer to anyone who knows the program because I don’t. I know what it does, but I don’t know all that it can do because I don’t use it. I just know it’s powerful, if not complicated. But really, Affinity Publisher makes more sense if you’re interested in creating an excellent product for one low cost.

(Scrivener)

Pros:

  • It’s capable of creating a formatted text for publication.

Cons:

  • No one actually understands how to do this effectively.

Honestly, I love Scrivener as a writing and organization tool, but I have no interest in trying to turn it into a publication tool, even if Scrivener 3 tries to simplify it. Last time I investigated its formatting tools, my brain transformed into a pretzel. Wasn’t worth it to me. If I ever look into its formatting tools more seriously, I’ll revisit the topic. But honestly, a combination of MS Word and Affinity Publisher can accomplish everything I need to create a worthy paperback novel (or e-book).

Exterior:

(Microsoft Paint)

Pros:

  • You’re joking.
  • Okay, it’s probably already installed on your computer.

Cons:

  • It’s Microsoft Paint.

(PaintShop Pro)

Note: This is the program I’ve been using for years until I found Affinity Photo.

Pros:

  • It’s better than Microsoft Paint.
  • It’s lightweight enough to keep you from getting overwhelmed by features.
  • Can handle moderate editing through layers and brushes, including cropping, burning, dodging, and other essential modification tools.
  • Integrates well with subsidiary programs like Painter Essentials and GRFX.
  • Doesn’t require a lot of memory to run.
  • Has a user-friendly shop integration to plugins that are actually good.
  • One-time fee (per annual version).
  • Often appears in a Humble Bundle.

Cons:

  • Saves only in RGB format (making it horrible for print books).
  • Has limited features for special effects. To accomplish certain actions, you might need to use a plugin or another program entirely.
  • Doesn’t have access to LUTs, making color treating difficult.
  • Upgrades are annual and require a new payment to access (though these are still mostly affordable, especially if you wait for them to show up in a Humble Bundle).
  • Almost double the cost of the superior Affinity Photo (unless you wait for it in a Humble Bundle).

How to Use Effectively:

  • First of all, note that I do not recommend PaintShop Pro for designing paperbacks. You need the CYMK format to design print items effectively, and PSP cannot save or display in CYMK. For proof that it’s bad for print, look at the differences between my original paperback (PaintShop Pro 9) and my updated paperback (Affinity Photo) for The Computer Nerd.
  • That said, PaintShop Pro is still competent for electronic book cover or interior picture design (in RGB format), as long as you don’t need anything fancy.
  • Just remember to use layers and save in the native format before you export to JPG. This will come in handy if you need to make adjustments down the road.

(Affinity Photo and Designer)

Note: I’m including both software because you may need either a photo composition (Photo) or a vector composition (Designer) to create your covers.

Pros:

  • One-time fee of $50 (when there are no sales).
  • Single purchase includes all future updates and upgrades (at least until Affinity releases a true successor).
  • Can handle layers, blends, masks, inpainting tools (for smart erasing), LUTs, and all the things you need to make an effective cover or composite (in both print and electronic forms).
  • Can save in CYMK, TIF, and other nonstandard formats (including PDF).
  • Integrates with Affinity Publisher for on-the-fly image editing.
  • Has useful workbooks and tutorials available.
  • Can integrate with useful app plugins like Luminar 4 and Painter ParticleShop.
  • Has a built-in plugin store for easily adding new brushes.
  • Has one of the best designer communities on the Internet (and YouTube).
  • Can mimic many of Photoshop’s special tricks, like using smart objects for mockup designs.
  • Directly incorporates stock photos from Pixabay, Pexels, and Unsplash (though you still need to check their licensing before using them in commercial works).

Cons:

  • Still not quite as advanced as Photoshop.
  • Image filter designers rely heavily on Photoshop for designing their special tools, keeping Affinity Photo as an afterthought (though they still might work).
  • Even though it handles smart objects well, Affinity Photo still cannot replicate Photoshop’s “actions,” which renders many design tools useless.
  • It cannot yet handle objects designed for Lightroom.

How to Use Effectively:

  • Really, just do what I do: experiment, watch tutorials, study the workbook, and experiment some more.
  • LUTs, blends, and gradient tools are your friends.
  • Invest in stock photos, especially Depositphotos during Appsumo deals (in May and on Black Friday), to get the most of your image potential.
  • For more generic photos, including image filters, make use of the integration with Pixabay, Pexels, and Unsplash. Just remember to convert them to Raster.
  • If you’re designing a paperback, design for the front and back cover, not just the front.
  • Always start your composition in CYMK format if you expect to print it. Likewise, make sure to use “transparent background color” if you plan to use PNG images to prevent unwanted backgrounds.

(Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and Lightroom)

Note: I don’t use these programs, so my perspective is based on videos and research.

Pros:

  • These are the top tools of the industry.
  • If it can be done, then these are the programs that can do it.
  • Every plugin and theme designer builds for them.
  • Finding instructions on how to use them for your specific use case is easy.

Cons:

  • Requires an expensive monthly subscription to use.
  • Doesn’t get updated nearly often enough to justify the price.
  • Adobe.

How to Use Effectively:

  • See my note above. That said, any sophisticated photo or vector manipulation tool needs layers and masks to work well, so you should learn how to use those features.

Other Options and Conclusion:

Hopefully this article and these checklists will help you make a decision on how to approach your print books, or even your e-books if you wish to keep things simple. If you want to see a longer form explanation of how these differences look, then check out my companion video on the topic, released earlier this morning.

But, if you want to bypass all the potential pitfalls that come with formatting for e-books and paperbacks, you could invest in a tool designed exclusively for formatting. The top performer in the market right now is Vellum, which boasts “beautiful books,” although I’m not sure what its record for paperbacks is at the moment. I just know it’s well-revered as an e-book creation tool. If you check out any presentation on Vellum, you’ll soon agree that the books it produces are top of the line in design. But is that you’re only option? And is it even your best option?

Other tools for exporting books include Calibre (my preference), Kindle Create, and the Reedsy Book Editing Tool.

Or, if you’re willing to wait a little longer, you might be interested in a new challenger entering the ring soon that will likely upset the competition.

Meet Atticus. Get on the waiting list. Learn more at Kindlepreneur.

But if you can’t wait for Atticus, just remember this:

Calibre is good for e-books only and works by converting your text to HTML (the native language of e-books), which you can then design as uniquely as you want, as long as you don’t have to make any drastic updates to your text after you’ve formatted it.

Kindle Create also designs e-books only, and provides just a handful of themes that may or may not be good for your book. It’s also limited in how it handles front and back matter. I think it also designs for Kindle only, which means you’re probably not going to get much out of it if you’re creating for other platforms. But on the positive side, it can create not only reflowable books like novels and memoirs, but it can also create textbooks and comics (early access feature, as of this writing).

The Reedsy Book Editing Tool is a bit friendlier when it comes to publication options (it creates both e-book and print editions), but it still struggles with front and back matter (or did the last time I tried using it). And like Kindle Create, its theme options are limited, if not too limited. That said, if you’re looking to go wide, this is your free tool of choice.

Note: Calibre, Kindle Create, and the Reedsy Book Editing Tool are all free to use, so it doesn’t hurt to give each one a try to see if they’re useful for you.

Lastly, Vellum is the big dog in the formatting space, and its purpose is to design not only the best looking interiors, but also the best organized books, which means boxsets are a specialty feature here. But it’s also expensive ($199 for e-books only or $249 for both e-book and print access), and it’s only available for Mac, which means many authors won’t get to use it even if they buy it (unless they want to spend even more money on a Mac emulator). Also, like all the other tools, it’s unfairly limited in its theme options. That’s actually authors’ number one complaint about it.

But if none of these options work for you, then consider why. Do you prefer to do things manually? If so, then I hope my checklist will inform your choices. But if you prefer using tools that do the formatting for you, but you just don’t like how limited the above options are, then get on the waiting list for Atticus. I can tell you right now that its theme options alone make it worth the wait. It’ll also be available for Windows, not just Mac. It will cost you some cash to own, but not nearly as much as Vellum. And, well, let’s just say there’s more to come.

Regardless of what you choose, though, I hope your publishing considerations go well. Even if you’ve designed an ugly book like I had back in 2015, you can still fix it. With the right tools.

Using Scrivener for NaNoWriMo 2020

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, is right around the corner. Chances are, if you plan to participate this year, you’ve already started getting your materials together. But my question for you is, have you decided how you’re going to write your novel?

“Er, I’ll probably type it. How else would I do it?”

Okay, not exactly the answer to my question. Of course you’ll type it. But will you type it in Microsoft Word, Scrivener, or some other software? Do you plan to write it on your desktop or laptop? Or will you pull an E. L. James and type it on your phone while sitting by a pool (in November, mind you)?

Well, if you plan to type on Microsoft Word, a dedicated fiction app, or your window of great distraction (phone), I can’t help you. But if you plan to type it on Scrivener…

Well, I’ve got a template you might like.

It’s my NaNoWriMo Basic Template, which I created last year for my work-in-progress Washed Up: A Pirate Adventure, and you can now download it directly from Drinking Café Latte at 1pm. In fact, you can check it out, along with some of my other templates, right here on my new writing template page. If you see anything else you like (and the list will be very small as of this writing), all you have to do is click the link, read the full description to make sure it’s right for you, then click the download (from Google Drive, if that matters).

Then after you try it out, come back to the description page and leave a comment letting me know what you think.

Hope it works out for you.

So without further ado, jump on over the new templates page and give it a try. And if you want, check out my other Scrivener template, Story Planning General (still a work-in-progress), if you like obsessive planning and complete from-scratch-to-published design work (read: insanity). It’s another way to bring your story from idea to “What Have I Done?” status.

Once again, if you want to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, check out my Scrivener template, NaNoWriMo Basic Template. It’s good stuff.

Watch the before video:

And the after video (Posted December 1, 2020):

November 2019 Update

In the month of Blade Runner (look it up), I’ve spent every day adding new content to my NaNoWriMo 2019 project, Washed Up: A Pirate Adventure. That was my entire month. Every day. Writing. Lots of writing. Lots and lots of writing, especially on the 22nd.

In a moment, I’ll share with you the results of that marathon, but first let me tell you that I predicted in October that I would be posting my November update late. Was that prediction by design? Not really, but I do find it fitting that I’m combining a monthly update with a Friday update. Also, it would be difficult to post a November update that is focused almost entirely on NaNoWriMo without recording the last day’s progress. So, waiting until now makes more sense. Plus, it’s Friday.

Also before I show you how NaNoWriMo went, I wanted to say that I did spend one evening working on Snow in Miami, bringing me close to the end of the first draft. I’m almost there. Though, it should be noted by now that I won’t have it publishable until next year. Sorry! But I want to get this one right.

Speaking of getting it right, I think I’ve figured out a new plan for my series of Christmas fables, originally conceptualized as The 12 Fables of Christmas (plus three more). Snow in Miami (the second in the series) features a storyteller character named Douglas McCray, who is essentially the lower class stepfather version of Grandpa from The Princess Bride, who gets his lazy points of view across to his family through a series of self-serving parables, but who must then endure one parable from a family member (or other) as a counterargument to his argument and ultimately a source of change for him and his way of thinking. I’m considering repurposing The Fountain of Truth as the first part of the “McCray Parables.” The idea came to me while I was driving home from Barnes & Noble a few minutes ago, but I think it’s a great idea. I’d have to make a new cover for it (and add a new story to give the current three a reason for existing), but I’m up to the challenge. I even have an idea: Douglas McCray may be justifying a decision he makes at his job during the holidays through his use of allegory. It could work. The downside is that now I’ll have to add him to all five of my planned holiday fable books.

Yes, I said five. More on that in the future.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2019

So, like I said at the top, I participated in NaNoWriMo 2019 by starting on Washed Up: A Pirate Adventure, the first book in my new pirate trilogy tentatively called WTF Pirate Adventure. Because I’ve raced through it with minimal research, I can safely say that it’s a mess. But it has potential, and that potential will hopefully spawn a successful series of at least three books. I used my new NaNoWriMo Scrivener template to write it, and now I need to transfer everything I wrote to a new document where I can finish it. I’ll do that today.

Regarding the story itself, I made it to just shy of the midpoint when the NaNoWriMo event ended, but I’ll definitely need to do a lot of editing for any of this to work well. It’s got some bloat at the moment. Bloat and a boat.

But it also has some entertaining moments. And that’s what we want when all is said and done. Right?

So, with that all said, here are the results of my NaNoWriMo participation, taken directly from my Scrivener “Tracking Elements” section. As you can see, I wrote quite a bit this month.

Day 1:

  • -Target Word Count: 2,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 2,414 words
  • -Total Word Count: 2,414 words

Day 2:

  • -Target Word Count: 2,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 2,000 words
  • -Total Word Count:  4,414 words

Day 3:

  • -Target Word Count: 500 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,121 words
  • -Total Word Count: 5,535 words

Day 4:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,701 words
  • -Total Word Count: 7,236 words

Day 5:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,500 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,529 words
  • -Total Word Count: 8,765 words

Day 6:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 2,060 words
  • -Total Word Count: 10,825 words

Day 7:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,050 words
  • -Total Word Count: 11,875 words

Day 8:

  • -Target Word Count: 500 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 830 words
  • -Total Word Count: 12,705 words

Day 9:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,801 words
  • -Total Word Count: 14,506 words

Day 10:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,667 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 2,611 words
  • -Total Word Count: 17,117 words

Day 11:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,667 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,822 words
  • -Total Word Count: 18,939 words

Day 12:

  • -Target Word Count: 200 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 201 words
  • -Total Word Count: 19,140 words

Day 13:

  • -Target Word Count: 500 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 604 words
  • -Total Word Count: 19,744 words

Day 14:

  • -Target Word Count: 500 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,036 words
  • -Total Word Count: 20,780 words

Day 15:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,667 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 2,264 words
  • -Total Word Count: 23,044 words

Day 16:

  • -Target Word Count: 2,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 2,746 words
  • -Total Word Count: 25,790 words

Day 17:

  • -Target Word Count: 500 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 539 words
  • -Total Word Count: 26,329 words

Day 18:

  • -Target Word Count: 2,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 2,884 words
  • -Total Word Count: 29,213 words

Day 19:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,667 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,830 words
  • -Total Word Count: 31,043 words

Day 20:

  • -Target Word Count: 500 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 735 words
  • -Total Word Count: 31,778 words

Day 21:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 2,758 words
  • -Total Word Count: 34,536 words

Day 22:

  • -Target Word Count: 3,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 7,625 words
  • -Total Word Count: 42,161 words

Day 23:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,397 words
  • -Total Word Count: 43,558 words

Day 24:

  • -Target Word Count: 500 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,111 words
  • -Total Word Count: 44,669 words

Day 25:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,327 words
  • -Total Word Count: 45,996 words

Day 26:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,667 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 3,302 words
  • -Total Word Count: 49,298 words

Day 27:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,524 words
  • -Total Word Count: 50,882 words

Day 28:

  • -Target Word Count: 500 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,277 words
  • -Total Word Count: 52,099 words

Day 29:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,178 words
  • -Total Word Count: 53,277 words

Day 30:

  • -Target Word Count: 3,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 4,238 words
  • -Total Word Count: 57,515 words

If you want to glimpse the story and the first eight days of my NaNoWriMo experience, please be sure to check out my YouTube channel for the NaNoWriMo 2019 playlist.

What I’m Reading

November hasn’t been just about NaNoWriMo. I’ve also started reading the classic Treasure Island to remind myself what pirate literature looks like (and because I’ve never read it, and I really need to read more classic literature). I have an old paperback version that was printed in the 1960s (part of my grandfather’s collection), but my go-to site for researching pirates, The Pirate King, has a faithful reproduction of the story, complete with parchment background. It’s pretty nice. (It also has better copyediting than the version I’m reading.)

I also finished reading Lee Child’s One Shot (Jack Reacher #9), which is the book that the first Tom Cruise movie adapts, and Christopher Moore’s Noir, who I’ve never read before but wanted to for some time (of his books that aren’t about the supernatural), and found both books quite entertaining. If you’re looking for a great book this holiday season, you can’t go wrong with Jack Reacher or Noir. Though, you also can’t go wrong with my favorite from 2018, Stuart Turton’s The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. I loved that debut as much as I did Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One (2011). See all of the name-dropping I’m doing?

Finally, I’ve picked two new books on the writing craft: Fight Write and Compass of Character (the latter of which I’ve just bought today). I don’t spend much time discussing the books on craft that I’ve read, but it’s often been my intention to start one of these days. At some point, I’d like to write a series on the best writing books I’ve read. Let me know if you’re interested.

So, that’s November (and the first week of December). Hope yours went well. Stay tuned for the next update, coming in a few weeks.

Cover Image: Pixabay

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.

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!