Tag Archives: using scrivener

The Writing Workflow for Plotters, Pantsers, and Whomever Sits Between Them

Writing a novel is no straightforward process, in spite of what the “experts” may say.

Okay, the experts, whoever they are, make no actual claim that writing a novel is straightforward, though the pantsers (like me) will argue that it comes pretty close, given that we start at the beginning and drive toward the ending, discovering as much as we can along the way (hardly straightforward, even though the momentum is almost always forward). In reality, of course, writing a novel takes planning, dedication, and follow-through, with a heavy dose of insanity—I mean organization—and reaching its proper ending will require seeing it at both the big picture level and the micro-scenic level. In short, writing a novel means you gotta have some foresight. There’s no way around that.

But I didn’t always have a problem with that.

For years, I would just open a document in Microsoft Word, crank out a chapter in a day or two (or sometimes a week if I let it get too large), and move on to the next one, making sure to save it in a folder dedicated to the novel. Once I’d finish the last chapter (usually six weeks to a year later, depending on the novel), I’d read what I have, take notes on what I like and what I don’t, and then move on to the next revision. Then somewhere along the line I’d decide that something doesn’t work, at which point I’d start adding, moving, or removing scenes, relabeling my documents to something better reflective of its current state, and make such an atrocious mess of my work that nothing would make sense anymore, yet I’d somehow bring it back together, and then I’d shelve it for a few years until somebody would ask me if I’ve written anything lately, to which I’d say no, then go back and see if I actually like that old novel that I blew up in the rewrites now, because, hey, somebody reminded me that I should really finish what I started because, hey, I’m not exactly starting on anything new. At that point, I’d take note of the scenes I like, try to rethink the ones I don’t, and then shelve the thing yet again for another few years because now I have no idea where to begin fixing it.

(Okay, I’m referring specifically to my first thriller, Panhandler Underground, which I wrote in 2005 but put on the shelf until a time I could make sense of the main character’s profession. Fortunately, I’ve ordered my copy of the Occupation Thesaurus, out now, and should receive it in the mail soon, so maybe I can finally sort this dude out and get his story back on its proper track.)

Nowadays, I find that organizing a novel is as difficult as writing it, especially when I go back and try to repair the damage I’ve already done to an existing novel, so coming up with a plan to make sense of it all is necessary. But merely going back through all of my Microsoft Word documents and trying to remember where everything is supposed to go is madness when my memory is so bad that I often read a story I like, check the author to see if he’s got anything else I might enjoy, and discover my own name on the front cover. (Okay, this doesn’t happen with my published titles, but it definitely happens with old stories I find in my documents folder. The fact that my name is on it is the only proof I have that I wrote it because I don’t remember a thing about it.) Because this is no way to work, I’ve decided it’s time to implement a new system for organization.

This is where I’ve decided to integrate multiple resources into my writing workflow, each one dedicated to a particular function within the writing process, and each one designed to keep me on track.

For the record, I just put together a video about this, which you can watch for more information, but the short version is this:

  1. If I’m writing a novel from scratch or nuking a story that no longer works in favor of starting over, then I’ll want to begin conceptualizing with the Snowflake Method and using the software dedicated to the Snowflake Method, Snowflake Pro, to accomplish this goal. This will allow me to develop the idea and move it through all ten steps toward a fully-fledged outline.
Writing Workflow Slide 1
Snowflake Pro in Action
  1. Next, I’ll want to develop the flowchart and additional character and/or scene details (like setting or items) that Snowflake Pro doesn’t visualize for an alternative way to see the story from a bird’s eye view. I can use Plottr or Campfire Pro (or Plot Factory or some other story planning software) to create the visual map, as well as fill in the additional details that Snowflake Pro doesn’t cover. If I use actual maps (created with Campaign Cartographer 3+, for example), then I’ll want to use a program like Campfire Pro to tie my maps to their descriptions. Using these programs, I can create the world and backstory I need to understand my characters and their motivations better, as well as to keep track of the nitpicky items in their lives that I’ll want to remember and quickly access at some point.
Writing Workflow Slide 2
Outline Tool in Plottr
Writing Workflow Slide 2a
Character Builder in Plottr
  1. Once I have a clue what the story is about, then I can start writing my scenes in Microsoft Word. Or, if I’m revising an existing story, I can write whichever scenes are still missing.
Writing Workflow Slide 3
Writing the Scene in Microsoft Word

Note: If I’m revising a novel, which is my case for The Computer Nerd, I probably won’t use the first two development steps unless I need to go for a complete rewrite, which is currently my case for The Fallen Footwear. The exception would be if I wanted to create an outline or summary or synopsis of an existing novel for verification of its integrity or for various marketing purposes. I would also map an existing novel if I know I’m going to write a sequel, as having a snapshot of the previous story would be immensely helpful in developing a new chapter for its characters, because, you know, my memory sucks.

  1. Once I’ve written my scenes, I can move them into Scrivener, where I can then write notecard summaries and provide status labels to help me determine whether the scene is in its proper location and achieving its proper goal. From the notecard view, I can make a more informed judgment about whether the existing work is, in fact, working.
Writing Workflow Slide 4
Creating the Novel’s Assembly (or Repair) in Scrivener

So, that’s the current workflow I’m using to either write or revise my novels. Are you a writer? What’s your workflow? Let me know in the comments below.

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!

Using Scrivener for Game Design

It’s been quite a while now, but once upon a time I wrote a post about a software tool for writers called Scrivener that revolutionizes the way authors create worlds. This post attempted both to inform how it works and to review it as a product, based on the lessons taught in the tutorial. I had planned on writing a follow-up post that covers the remaining sections of the tutorial, but I never tackled that post because I never finished the tutorial. I’ve since bought an online course at Udemy on how to learn to use Scrivener and haven’t looked back. I decided not to write the second half of the post because there are plenty of videos that do a better job showing what I can only write about, and my point was pretty much made in the first part anyway.

But, the moral of the story, in both my post and the many videos on the software that you can find on Udemy, YouTube, or anywhere that Scrivener exists, is that Scrivener is the best tool for writers since the typewriter, and it’s just a good idea to have it.

What none of these courses, posts, or the like will tell you, however, is that Scrivener is not just a decent world-building tool for writers, screenwriters, and bloggers. It can also be used for game designers.

What???

Yes. But to make that make sense, let me first remind you what Scrivener is:

Scrivener is a project-based design tool that keeps all of your documents, web links, video files, PDFs, etc. in one place. What does that mean? It means you can use the program to plan out your games extensively, from the journal itself, to character bios and files, to maps of your games, and so on. You can also tag your assets, keep notes on every file, view select files at once, maintain side-by-side comparisons of documents (perfect for scripting), and so on.

Here is a sample of what my game design journal for Entrepreneur: The Beginning looks like in Scrivener.

From my May 25, 2009 entry:

scrivener game design 1

Notice all of the many tabs in the left binder that have dates attached? Yep, those are journal entries. I can track my development progress, ideas, etc. by clicking on the tab for that day. Because I can tag items with labels and/or keywords, searching for specific terms is quick and easy. If I need to find out what my plans are for the trashcans west of the game’s town, I can search for the keyword “trash” and see what pops up.

Next, here’s an early version of the game map that I produced in another program. I’ve imported it as a PNG file, and here we are. If I need to get a quick reference on where a store is located, I don’t have to open the game file to find it. I can just look at the graphic I posted in Scrivener.

A visual map of Hybrid City to remind me where everything is located:

scrivener game design 2

And that’s not all. Games require a programming language specific to the engines they’re designed on, and Scrivener, while not a compiling source, and not recommended for actual coding, can still be used as a storage container for active codes or scripts, and even used as a before and after example if certain code needs revision.

Here is a sample of what my plotscript file looks like in Scrivener. This comes from HSPEAK, the scripting language for the OHRRPGCE, which is the engine I use to design Entrepreneur: The Beginning.

The script I use for starting the game:

scrivener game design 3

Because Scrivener does not work as a compiling source, you would need to copy your scripts to a text file and compile from there. Or, you could probably export your scripts into a single text file, or into a document that you can convert into a text file. It’s neither hard nor time-consuming. But again, it is perfect for keeping track of scripts and for taking notes on what each script is used for, and even where you might be using it in the game.

An example of the side-by-side view, using the search parameter “random text”:

scrivener game design 6

You can also keep a chart that tracks how you’re using your assets in case you want to make a drastic change to one of your systems.

Keeping track of game assets:

scrivener game design 4

But Scrivener is not just a place to update your design journal or list locations of assets. You can also write the story in the same file you keep graphic images, research, etc.

Here is a sample of a story script in Scrivener. The program comes with various templates to help you draft the perfect story in your preferred format. It also comes with character and setting sheet templates to help you flesh out your people and locales during the design phase.

Note: Those templates are usually located in the novel formats, but you can import and use them wherever you want.

A sample story script from the game’s introduction:

scrivener game design 5

If these screenshots don’t do enough to convince you that this program is awesome and a great tool for game designers, then check out this three-part video I recorded on the topic.

Video 1 (Design Journal): https://youtu.be/N9kcDbOBB_Y

Video 2 (Plotscripting): https://youtu.be/9DhhU0CZJCo

Video 3 (Screenwriting): https://youtu.be/YNnj6G5d8Ho

Full Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2ihfMnuinWPyDkNfgtqSotqWuonxKqWM

This is just the tip of the iceberg regarding all of its possibilities. Scrivener is the ultimate organizational tool, and it can even import mind maps if you have supported software. It’s extremely versatile, and after going through a minor learning curve, anyone can find a use for it in game design planning, or any type of design, and it can even replace the need for a Trello account if you’re clever enough.

It does come with a price tag, but it’s low compared to most writing software, and probably more useful than most of them.

So far, it’s saving me the burden of getting lost in my plotscript rewrites, and it’s reminding me of all of those unimplemented features I’ve forgotten about.

scrivener game design 7

Scrivener can be bought and downloaded at https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php.

You can also try it for free for 30 days. So, if you’re on the fence, you can explore that fence without fear of falling too hard on your crotch.

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Cover image from Pixabay