Posts tagged with: writing tools
Posted by Anne Barton Feb 26 2013, 12:00 am in characterization, golden heart finalists, guest author, voice, writing tools
Recently, I’ve been rereading a series I discovered when I was younger. It’s a five-book middle grade fantasy series based on Welsh mythology entitled The Chronicles of Prydain. Since I’ve become a writer myself, I can’t help but noticing the author’s craft. Something really jumped out at me this time. The author, Lloyd Alexander, is a real master of character voice.
Each of his characters has his own unique way of expressing himself, and that voice helps them leap off the page. You get an immediate sense, through a character’s dialogue, of who that character is.
Take, for example, Eilonwy, the heroine of the series. She’s a secret princess, a bit of a motor-mouth, and one of the first feisty heroines I read about. Oh, and she often showed more sense than many of the male characters. I loved her. I wanted her to be real so I could be her friend. One of the ways the author sets her speech apart from the others is her penchant for spouting similes and metaphors—and they’re often just this side of implausible.
Posted by Autumn Jordon Sep 20 2012, 12:01 am in Autumn Jordon, characterization, craft, golden heart, inspiration, Movitation, muse, Point Of View, Seasonings, Seasons, writer's advice, writer's journey, writer's life, writing romance, writing tips, writing tools
If you’re thinking this blog is about setting, you’re totally wrong. Maybe I should’ve changed the title so you wouldn’t have thought so, but after I started brainstorming ideas for a blog it actually fit.
My original idea was to write about two lessons I learned many years ago from my creative writing professor which, yes, would’ve pertained to setting, but then two of my Ruby sisters had also mentioned on our private loop that they planned blogs about the subject. Although I knew we’d approach the subject matter from different angles, I kind of figured our readers would say enough already. So I’ll save my thoughts on setting for another time.
Anyway, going back to my creative writing classes— since I know you’re all dying to know what they were—the first one was free writing. We all know what that is, right? You just write whatever comes to mind without stopping for a length of time and the writing doesn’t need to follow rhythm or reason. It’s a way of freeing your muse. Thinking about that lesson helped me put a twist on the second lecture, which was setting sense and had to do with experiencing your world, and ‘Wala’ I think I came up with unique tutorial for our awesome followers.
Posted by Hope Ramsay Sep 13 2012, 12:01 am in craft, Scrivener, writer's advice, writing tips, writing tools
I am a plotter, not a pantser. I would no more think about starting a book without a plan for it, than I would leave my house on a long trip without my GPS. I’ve been a plotter for a long time, and it used to be that I kept all my notes, GMC charts, photos of characters, plot outlines and whatnot in separate documents for each book. Then I would create a great big fat Word document for the manuscript. And I would start writing the story at the beginning and end on the last page. Every book was written in a linear fashion.
Enter Scrivener, a word processing program that’s designed to help authors manage bigger works of fiction. I tried this program out about a year ago. And it’s changed everything. I honestly don’t know how I would plot or write without this software program. I mentioned this recently in a comment on the blog, and immediately my Ruby Sisters suggested that I write a blog. So here it is.
Organizing the plot, subplot, and plot layers.
My books are complicated. They have one main romantic plot, a romantic subplot, a couple of plot layers and a series arc. To get all this straight in my head before writing a book, I used to graph it all out on a piece of paper. Here’s an example of the kind of graph I would make before starting out:
In these visual plots I would assign a color to each arc and jot down (in teeny tiny writing) a bunch of scenes that I thought would be important to telling the story. I used to keep this chart in front of me as I wrote and I would amend it and scratch stuff out and by the end of the process I usually had a book, but my plot paper would be wrinkled and erased and a total mess.
I may still use a piece of paper to get me started, but once I’ve got my ideas down, I immediately transfer them into Scrivener, making a lot of use of the the program’s virtual index cards.
Each of my scene cards is given a color code to indicate the plot, sublot, or plot layer that applies. I provide a title for each of these scene cards and then a short synopsis about what I think is going to happen in the scene. I will then apply plot steps to the cards so that I know whether a scene is showing the ordinary world or a turning point of some kind.
How do I do this?
For the plot colors, I use Scrivener’s label options, which I edit to reflect the various plots, subplot and plot layers of my WIP.
For the plot steps I use Scrivener’s built-in status tags, which are designed to show which scenes are finished which are yet to be written. But I ignore the way Scrivener wants to use these tags, and have changed them to story step tags that I can apply to my scene cards. These story steps take the place of the W form of my hand written plot arcs. I know where along that imaginary arc of rising and falling action each of these story steps falls.
I want every scene to move one of the various plots or plot layers along. But sometimes there are scenes that may move along more than one plot or layer. I will assign a color to the card to reflect it’s main purpose in the story, but I’ll use Scrivener’s Key Words to put a little splash of color along the edge of the card to tell me that the scene is going to relate to actions in other layers or arcs.
So in the example above. The scene in question is the initial scene of the Last Chance Book Club and falls into the book club plot layer (yellow). Its story purpose is to show the ordinary world of the book club members, but it will also move along the main plot (green) having to do with the hero and heroine battling over possession of the abandoned Coca-Cola bottling plant.
You can set up your own labels, status values and keywords by checking the options in the “Project” menu on the Scrivener menu bar. Since I’m plot driven my tags and colors relate to those things. But if you’re more of a character driven writer, I’m sure you can figure out ways of organizing your scene cards to help you figure out what’s going on in the character’s arc. The program gives you so many tools to organize your work before you even start writing.
Keeping me on track as I write
Eventually I have to quit organizing myself and start writing. Here’s where Scrivener’s writing interface provides some more cool tools. Here’s a picture of the main interface:
Down the left hand side of the interface are all of my scene cards – from beginning to end. I end up adding scenes as I go along, and being able to see them in color is is incredibly helpful. I can see my story from forty-thousand feet. The colors tell me if I’m veering off track. And, most important, when I get to the end of a scene, I don’t have to think too hard about what comes next. And if I’m not really feeling it for the scene that’s supposed to come next, I can jump ahead and write in a non-linear way. Most important, I can move scenes around. I do this all the time. Scrivener makes it easy for me to keep the tension going by helping me to see where the story is going next.
In addition, on the right hand side of the screen is a place to put document notes. I cannot tell you how helpful this is. Instead of having editing notes scattered all over the place in comments that are hard to find. All my editing or drafting notes are right there. In the case of this example, you can see that I spent a moment before drafting the scene to think about what my POV character’s goal is, who the antagonist is in the scene and how the scene will turn out in a mini-disaster for my POV character.
All the plot notes are right there
I still have documents with character GMCs, character names and descriptions, research, maps of the town and whatnot. But now, instead of having them printed out and tucked into a folder or notebook, I can load all of that right into Scrivener. If I am confused and need to refresh my memory, all I have to do is split the screen and open up the research document or GMC. Below is a screen shot of my current WIP with the scene in the upper screen, and my GMC chart in the lower screen.
A few last words
Scrivener also does a few nifty things that I really love. It allows me to track how many words I’ve written in a writing session. I set my goal at 2000 words per session, and it’s amazing how that accountability keeps me producing words at a faster rate than ever before. I can also see my overall progress on a project which can be terrifying or gratifying depending on when my deadline might be. Finally, all of my problems with where to place chapter breaks have disappeared. I don’t worry about them anymore. I just write form scene to scene and in the end I insert chapters where they make sense.
I can’t imagine writing a large project like a novel in another other word processing program. I’ve become a total Scrivener convert.
I hope this gives you some idea of the program’s features and how you can use them for your own writing process. I certainly wouldn’t impose my OCD writing process on anyone. But Scrivener allows me to be ultra organized which makes me sooooooo happy.
I’m happy to answer any questions about the program or my crazy writing process.
Posted by Liz Talley Aug 23 2012, 12:01 am in giveaway, Gwen Hernandez, Scrivener for Dummies, writers, writing tools
Welcome, Dummies! Ahem, I mean Ruby blog readers!
We’ve all heard such wonderful raves about the power of Scrivener and how it turned messy, frustrated writers into organized, competent authors who got the BIG picture at last. Ever wonder what the fuss is about? Wonder if you might be helped by this miraculous writing tool? Well, today I have the answers to all your questions about Scrivener because I have the Scrivener guru with us on the blog. Without any further ado, I give you Gwen Hernandez, author of the soon to be released Scrivener for Dummies.
Posted by Hope Ramsay Aug 7 2012, 12:01 am in craft, inspiration, writer's advice, writer's journey, writing romance, writing tips, writing tools
In the middle of May, I took some time off from my hellish work schedule for a retreat, up in the mountains of North Carolina. The occasion was a weekend hosted by singer-songwriter David Wilcox. As always, listening to David’s music recharges my batteries. But I have to say that the most surprising and inspiring moments of this year’s retreat came during a workshop for songwriters given by Laura Hope-Gill, a North Carolina poet. (http://laurahopegill.blogspot.com/)
Laura spoke of the alchemy of the writing process. And her discussion of alchemy has led me on an interesting writer’s journey.
Posted by jbrayweber Aug 24 2011, 3:00 am in accountability, craft, mash up novels, mash up story writing, writing challenge, writing tools
Perhaps you’ve noticed. There is a strange, but interesting quirk arising in the world of fiction, called the mash-up novel. What’s a mash-up? It’s fiction combining pre-existing work with new text from popular genres. Think Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. Authors are taking public domain classics and applying their own spin with new material and alternate plot lines. It’s quite a fascinating endeavor. One with which my reading comprehension deficiency would not allow me to explore. Unless I mixed it up with Green Eggs and Ham and pirates.
A pirate ship! A pirate ship!
Could you? Would you? On a pirate ship?
Not on a pirate ship! Not in a tree!
Not in a car! Sam, let me be!
I could not, would not, in a box.
I would not, could not, with a fox.
I will not eat them in the rain.
I will not eat them on the Spanish Main.
I will not eat them with a bum
I will not wash them down with rum
I will not eat them over or under.
I will not eat them while I plunder.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham!
I do not like them Sam-I-am.
No, I’d fail miserably at a mash-up book. But recently, a writer friend approached me and two others with a great idea using a similar technique. The four of us meet regularly to decompress and ‘talk shop’, and for the sake of protecting the innocent, we’ll call this merry band of writers The Usual Suspects. Kind of an oxymoron, now that I think of it. Anyway, he approached us with a unique experiment.
Usual Suspect #1 would write the beginning of a story up to around 1000 words. He would then send his story to the next author, who in turn would pick up the story and write another 1000 or so words. Then Usual Suspect #2 would pass it along to Usual Suspect #3, and so forth. After Usual Suspect #4 finished their contribution, it went back to Usual Suspect #1 for another round. When it was our turn again, we read the story thus far and added another chunk. The idea was to go several rounds and create a short story. There was no discussion of genre, plots, characters, or motivation. Imagine our surprise each time the story landed back in our laps, especially given that each one of us has our own unique voice, writing in different genres.
But the bigger surprise came when we finished. We had a great story! Sure, there were plot holes big enough a convoy of beer-toting truckers could drive through and moments of mass confusion. (Where’d Clyde go? He was here a moment ago? Oh, he’s dead now? Really? How’d that happen? Oh wait, it was just a flesh wound? Yeah, someone should fix that.) But the bones were strong. We talked about the problems and how to fix them. We didn’t always agree (can’t trust those shifty-eyed Usual Suspects), but we worked out solutions. Editing came in the same roundtable fashion, sweeping up any evidence of the writer-ly crimes committed.
Though it was an experiment, we didn’t treat it as such. We put thought and honed skills to task. The end goal was to have a marketable finished product. Now the real work begins, agreeing on a title and book cover.
One of my biggest surprises participating in this co-written short story was how much I enjoyed the process. It was … fun! I stepped out of my comfort zone, away from the historical romance genre I write, and blindly tried my hand at something completely different, suspense. There is value in that. I challenged myself and learned I could be flexible with my craft.
I strongly feel that challenges such as our impromptu mash-up and being held accountable by other writers flexes and strengthens our writer muscles, making us understand and grow as authors.
What about you? Have you stepped outside your comfort zone? Have you participated in a writer-related experiment? If so, what were your results?
Posted by Sara Ramsey Aug 19 2011, 12:01 am in Free-For-All Friday, writing tools
It’s almost the end of summer (sob), and as the days get shorter I inevitably develop the desperate desire to hoard writing supplies. I’m sure this comes from the annual pilgrimage to buy school supplies in my lost youth — even though I opened my last textbook almost a decade ago, I still feel like fall is a great time to stock up.
In honor of the end of summer, this Free-For-All Friday is all about your favorite school supplies — whether it’s something you had as a child, supplies for your adult life that you can’t live without, or that special something that’s on your wishlist. What writing supplies are you coveting? Anything goes — I’d love to hear what’s on your shopping list (and maybe steal some of your wishlist for myself!).
Posted by Sara Ramsey May 24 2011, 12:01 am in craft, plotting, writing tips, writing tools
As much as I’d like to be a plotter, I’m a confirmed pantser. My latest manuscript, ONE NIGHT TO SCANDAL, shows the consequences: I scrapped the first two hundred pages — not once, but twice. I love the finished product (and it finaled in the 2011 Golden Heart, yay), but I would really prefer not to go down that dark road again. So as a pantser, the most nervewracking part of finishing my manuscript wasn’t the edits or the proofreading — it was hearing my agent say that she wanted a synopsis for the next book so that she could pitch it to editors along with my finished baby.
That meant she wanted a synopsis for a book I hadn’t written.