I've spent the first part of this week "getting ready to write." Please note: I have not actually been writing the draft of my new book. I've just been writing about writing. Can I spell procrastinating?
I've mentioned before that I use Scrivener as my software for novel writing. Those of you who have participated in NaNoWriMo may already be familiar with it, because they help sponsor that annual orgy of writing bliss. Now that it is available for both MAC and Windows, I can't imagine anyone needing anything else. It's an endlessly versatile program that manages to keep almost every item of the book-writing process in one spot.
2. In fact, it has a whole section for character sketches. You can fill out their questions about each of your characters, defining their back story, their foibles, their nervous quirks, their speech impediments, their hair and eye color, their family relationships -- whatever is important to define the character. Then while you are writing it is easy to click on a character name in the left-hand column and jump to a description.
3. It provides a separate template for locations, too, where you can record thing like vegetation, wildlife, smells, sounds. Is your location overgrown with vegetation? You'll need to list what kinds of things grow there. Are bugs important to your story, as they may be for mine? Then you can add their descriptions here. My location files have picture, of course, but also descriptions of the smell of pluff mud and the clicking sound palmetto bugs make as they stomp across a wood floor.
4. Do you write in chapters or in scenes? Scrivener offers you both options, and once you have all the parts in place, it can put the entire manuscript together for you -- in the right order, with chapter numbers!
5. Are you used to working with index cards? Scrivener can show you your material in that format, with little cards tacked to a virtual corkboard. You can color-code them and you can move them about, just as you would if you were tacking them to a wall. I just used this feature to outline all my chapters. Here's how it looks:
6. Worried about formatting? Don't be. Is it a novel, a poem, a screenplay, a scientific treatise? Name it and Scrivener formats it. Write with whatever fonts and colors suit your fancy. Then when you're finished, just tell Scrivener what you want the manuscript to look like. Does your agent or publisher want to see it in double-spaced Courier? No problem. Are you going to self-publish? It can handle that, too.
6. Want access to an earlier manuscript? You can import the whole thing, and then easily move sections from the old to the new version. Want specialized sections to store your materials? I've set up a section for ideological clashes that plague my characters, and another for specific quotes from my characters journals and letters.
7. Want all your materials in front of you, spread across the screen? Scrivener has a three column lay-out, with your writing space in the middle, a listing of all your files on the left, and an editing column on the right, which you can fill with whatever you need.
Need more or less writing space? Stretch it out or shrink it. Want a blank screen with nothing but your words filling the screen in front of you? You can do that, too.
So this is the program I've set up -- my planning stage is more than complete. I know who's NOT going to be in the book. I've killed off all the unimportant folks and dumped their first draft chapters and character sketches into a holding tank labeled "Out-takes". They're easily retrievable if I change my mind. Once I'm really sure they are dead, I'll move then to the Trash. They're still not gone, however, because the trash doesn't empty until I tell it to.
I've identified my main character and some secondary ones who will play important roles. I've outlined all the ideological clashes and the main themes. I have a complete plot outline, with the important points highlighted.
Now all I have left to do is write. That means a bit less time spent here on the blog, and more time with Scrivener. Forgive me if I neglect you now and then. I'll keep you informed of my progress, however. Blog readers make good taskmasters.