Posts Tagged ‘Scivener’

blog-hop-for-writers imageThe writing tools I use can be divided into several categories:  those that are essential, those that are convenient or beneficial to efficiency, and the extra things that are nice to have.

Essential Tools:

  • My MacBook Pro – my first introduction to computers was to Apple, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
  • Paper and Pen/Pencil – of course a writer needs a scratch pad nearby.
  • The World Wide Webhttp – my connection to the internet is always on (thanks to changing technology that took me from one phone-line and dial-up to designated line and wi-fi).
  • Resource books – my Webster’s Dictionary and Roget’s Thesaurus.
  • Words – my love of words is why I write; without them I could not communicate what’s on my mind and heart. I discovered a cool website while researching for this blog which reinforces the importance of our basic word-tools: http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/newsgathering-storytelling/writing-tools/76067/fifty-writing-tools-quick-list/
  • My Day Planner – I found a lovely, thin, coil bound planner this year with each month day plannerdisplayed on a two-page layout. It’s not for the detailed hour-by-hour details (which I don’t do) but for the daily and weekly and monthly reminders and commitments in my writing world. I’m a visual person, so it helps to see my calendar in larger format than on my iPhone.
  • Quiet – I’ve tried the coffee shop thing but it doesn’t work for me. Maybe I don’t get out enough, but I end up staring and get no work done. My small balcony office at home is best for this introvert.
  • Social Media – Not that long ago I would have consigned these to the extras list, but with forced introductions to some of these I have begun to see the important and even essential nature of social media. If we want our writing to be read, we must make it accessible. In this area, I include:

My Website / Blog





Amazon Author Page

Convenient Tools:

– series of writing books from Writer’s Digest Books:  Plot & Structure by James Scott     Bell, Scene & Structure by Jack M. Bickham, Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott   Card, and many more.

  • Scrivener Scrivener Logo– my favourite writing software (there are inexpensive courses online—see Gwen Hernandez—as well as Gwen’s book, Scrivener for Dummies). Scrivener is a reasonably simple and effective way of keeping all elements of a project in one virtual unit that includes scenes, summaries, organizational tools, research files, picture/internet files, conversion tools, etc.
  • Online photo sites like iStockphoto and Shutterstock where I can look for character images.
  • I came upon a site that includes a lot more software for writing and publishing at http://cooltoolsforschools.wikispaces.com/Writing+Tools
  • Index cards – Once my first (or second) draft is completed, I like to write a very brief summary of the scenes, one scene per card, arrange them on my dining room table (with the extra leaves in) and work with them. Again, it’s a visual thing. Can’t trust my brain anymore so I have to resort to more physical methods.

Extras:  (or maybe these are convenient…or even essential?)

  • Tea – I’d love to drink coffee but it plays havoc with my body, so I opt for tea. I have a handy cup-warmer at the far side of my desk (never keep beverages close to your computer, she said from experience).
  • A comfortable, ergonomic chair and footrest –  it’s hard to stay in the chair if it’s uncomfortable and bad for your back.
  • A moderately sized blanket for times when you get chilly. Mine’s one of those velvety soft things that never moves from my writing chair.
  • Charts and tables – As a visual person, I need to organize my writing so I can see the whole project. Scrivener is good for this, and the index cards are another step, but I still branch out to charts, especially when I’m stymied and need a diversion.

I’m sure these lists will adapt to changes in my world, but these are currently my most cherished writing tools.

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When I speak to a group of readers, or to writers in a workshop, I often use a quilt analogy to describe the challenge of writing a novel:  “Writing a novel is like creating a king-sized quilt in a four-by-four room.” Even if you’re not a quilter (as I am not), it still offers a glimpse into the difficulties a writer might encounter in the process.

It’s as difficult for a writer to see his or her entire novel project at once as it is to lay out a large quilt in a small room. There just isn’t space. One must look at it in sections, and plan each piece with the whole project in mind. The seams must all meet in the right places so the overall pattern is intact.

I started my first book not knowing anything about writing a novel, but soon realized I had to develop some kind of system to keep things in order. I had to know the time of year of each scene (so I’d know if the characters would go on a sleigh ride or a buggy ride). I wanted to correlate certain plot points with historic events to maintain accuracy and credibility. I needed to aim for consistency, continuity, flow, integrity and chronology, to name a few, but how could I accomplish these things, especially in such a large work?

Short answer:  lists. Lots of lists, or excel sheets, or binders or Scrivener.

For example, since my books are historical fiction, I created a timeline with a sheet for each year and a narrow column with the month of the year down the middle of the page, lengthwise. On the left I listed political/world events that happened in that month, while on the right I listed the events of my story.

I have since discovered that novel writers have a plethora of methods foe keeping track of details. It’s helpful to see how others do it, and then adapt these methods to your own writing. What works for me does not necessarily work for you, but we need some kind of plan.

This morning on Facebook someone posted a quote by author Patti Hill:  “Writing a novel…is like wrestling an octopus into a mayonnaise jar.” After writing a few more novels, I must concur. It’s never easy. No matter how you describe it, writing a novel is messy and frustrating, and there will be times you just want to ask Grandma to finish the quilt for you, or find a fisherman to incapacitate the octopus or grab a bigger jar, but you won’t. I won’t. We’ll just keep trying, discovering, inventing, creating and praying until at long last, we see the finished product.

And it will be worth it…

Later addition:

I needed a break from my novel, so I wrote a poem, just a snatch of creativity that I can see the entirety of in half a page:

YOU sing to me and I catch the phrase

Although the melody is muted…

This morning’s sky’s been rinsed


Clean as a kindergartner’s face

And just as beaming.

On the side of the road

Naughty dandelions peep

From between blades of glistening grass

At a red-winged blackbird

Sunning herself on a fencepost

And my dog dashes through puddles.

The rain is done.

©Janice L. Dick

May 29, 2012

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