Friday, January 25, 2013

How I Use Scrivener (Now)

I've never finished a single novel I've ever attempted. I get these brilliant ideas, start scribbling, and get burnt out. A lot of the times it's because I've only thought through a few scenes and then I get writer's blocked and I totally crap out and give up. Sure, I could probably go back and outline and plot and get it going again, but I get sick of it and throw it in a corner and I'm done with it. And even with Scrivener, I've never been very good at planning. I never was one for the notecards and corkboards and outlines and any of that. I always winged it (wung it? wang it? hehe, wang...) and wrote til my heart gave out.

I've got a new idea and I think I have a plot and I've got multiple characters I'm fleshing out largely before writing. I'm outlining and culture-building before writing. I plan to have this nailed out and "finished" before I even write. I'm so proud of myself right now lol.


At risk of spoilering everyone (on the off-chance I finish and publish this), I wanted to show off my system. I learned how to ditch the rounded edges and turn the corner labels into "pins" and it is so much more appealing, visually, and it really feels like index cards now. You can change the background, too, but I like the illusion provided by the corkboard image. I changed the font so it looks like I hand-wrote the cards. I added three new pin categories (Labels on yours, but I've changed mine to the word "Pin" in the edit menu where you add new Labels and you can see how it actually changed it in the Inspector), changing the "Scene" one to "Drina," following a character's separate line. I didn't like having them all blue for scene and then having to look more closely when I was just trying to see how they wove in and out. There will be a third line to follow, probably, besides Zvi/Agnes and Drina. That one has a pinkish pin and I think the three colors (plus the blue-black scraps/bonuses pile for anything I feel the need to scribble) complement each other very well. I still use the green for Chapters, but may change that.


I used the pre-made pins for "Idea," "Notes," and "Character Notes." I was going to just use the cute little round white pins (they change to push pins when you designate a colored label) and steal these colors for use in the Manuscript, but I love the way they coordinated lol.

I'm going to actually stop talking about Scrivener for a minute, but first I want to point out that PDF file (which will still lead me away from talking about Scrivener). I made that in gDrive and then from gDrive you can save as a PDF. I imported the PDF to Scrivener. I have made several other spreadsheets taking hours of my time because I wrote all sorts of weird math and am really obsessive like that. I still have those in Excel. I love Excel. I rarely use Word anymore, unless Erik's gotta write up a technical thing for school and uses my computer instead of his for some reason because Scrivener confuses him. I also use it for short easy things because Word does have much prettier formatting and effects, but Scrivener is my general go-to now for anything fictional.

Loooook at meeee, I'm OhhhhhCDeeee!

This won't make one bit of sense.

Anyway, use Excel. Excel is beautiful (except I have the ugly Starter pane on mine). I have had to make 2394792347987 versions of that PDF as I keep tweaking things in the gDoc and try to keep my Scrivener version updated. Having Excel open with Scrivener at the time is really the way to go until Scrivener creates a functional way to also have working spreadsheets that are as effective as Excel. Which will probably be never. Sorry, Scrivener. I still love you first. Excel is just my mistress.

Here's where I'll actually divert away from Scrivener. You all need to go to Holly Lisle's How to Think Sideways. You need to buy her Culture Clinic (if you write anything that isn't modern day shiznit) and her Character Clinic (if you write anything). They're around ten bucks each. Some are less, I don't think anything's more. Anyway, buy it, no tax or shipping, download it, and revel in the awesomeness. I got the Culture Clinic first, years ago, and it's incredible. I've barely used any of it, but what I have fleshed out in a day led to several scenes, a plotline I wouldn't have thought of (at least not for a while, without it), and two new main characters.

The Character Clinic is new to me, but has so far proved to be very fascinating. It also stemmed new plotlines as I figured out the aforementioned Drina and her motives. (My bad ass actually used to be a nice girl.) The two have already helped me on the way to a much richer, more believable, and interesting novel than I've ever written and I've only written half a scene, two scraps, and a bonus backstory thing. Brooke loves the Plot Clinic as well, but I haven't gotten much use out of it yet myself.

I reccomend buying these from her site, but they are available on Amazon for the Kindle. I know if you've bought it from her site, there's a link to download it in Kindle format, too, but I haven't tried it. I recommend downloading the PDF (and maybe the mp3 to go along with it) so you can copy and paste questions and exercises into your Scrivener. That's what I've been doing.

That's all I got right now, kids! It's almost 4am! (I did fall asleep around 8, though, and then woke up at midnight.) So this is my Scrivener. What's yours? Got any more tips for me?