the scrivening, part 4: judgment day

Previously on “The Scrivening”…

As you know, Bob, I decided to experiment with using the writing tool Scrivener for my latest round of revisions on my novel Quantum Coin. It has been a long time since my last post on this topic, mainly because I was trying to finish revisions before my manuscript turned into a pumpkin. I didn’t quite make it, but it turns out, the draft looks pretty good in orange, so it’s all good. We’ll see if my editor agrees, or if he’s just going to give me a good recipe for pumpkin pie, which I don’t mind, because I like pie. (Mmm… pie.) Happily, while I wasn’t writing about Scrivener, I was using Scrivener. To cut to the chase, I can say I’m definitely a proponent of Scrivener. I’m not yet in the cult, but I’m looking over the literature. The Kool-Aid has been served, and I’m considering taking a sip. (more…)

how is a writing career like Smallville?

No doubt some of you shuddered in horror at the title of this post, but bear with me for a moment.

Last Friday, the series Smallville ended its record-breaking ten year run on the CW. As I prepared to watch the finale with friends this weekend, I reflected on that improbable incredible milestone and realized that it closely parallels a milestone of my own: I’ve been writing for publication for ten years, the entire time that show has been on the air. I wrote, revised, and submitted my first short story–which really wasn’t very short at all, nor publishable–only a few months before Smallville premiered in October of 2001.

And like young Clark Kent, I’ve come a long way since then. Here are some of the strange similarities I came up with:

  • Like Smallville, my stories usually start with unimaginative, single-word titles.
  • Like Clark’s love life, I had to deal with a lot of rejection before my first story was published.
  • I wrote some of my worst stories during the absolute worst year of the show, season 4. And that’s when I considered giving up on both the show and my writing career.
  • But then I graduated from Clarion West, and my writing improved greatly–just like the seasons after Clark graduated from Smallville High.
  • As Clark began to involve himself in a bourgeoning Justice League, I joined my own team of superheroes, the writers in Altered Fluid.
  • I set way too many of my stories in New York City, and far too much happens in Metropolis on the show.
  • In the last year, as Clark finally learned to be Superman, I sold my first novel! (There was even a subplot this season that has some resonance with Fair Coin, but I won’t get into that now.)
  • And… I’ve been planning my own wedding alongside Lois & Clark.

Eerie, isn’t it?

For all the show’s faults, and there were many of them, I’m glad I stuck with it for all these years, just as I stayed on the long road to publication. It’s even possible that the show somehow influenced my own work, since I was always critical of its meandering plot arcs, cliches, and poor dialogue–and hey, I am writing young adult fiction now, so all that high school drama counted for something. To take this post to an even more ludicrous level, the gradual way Clark added to his arsenal of superpowers over the years and learned to control each new ability is similar to the way writers must learn new skills and practice them, always pushing themselves to try new things in their fiction. The only thing keeping us from flying is our own fear of heights.

At the end of Smallville, another phase of Clark’s journey is just beginning, with its own challenges and rewards, and I’m eager to move on to the next stage of my career as I prepare for my first novel to come out. Up, up, and away!

the scrivening, part 3: a work in progress

My friend Kris, a happy user of Scrivener, once told me that the way I organized my novel was like “a low-tech version” of the software. Now that I’ve played with some of its features, I know she was absolutely right.

So this is how I normally write my novels, which may sound quite bizarre to some of you:

  • Every chapter gets its own folder, eg. Ch01_QuantumCoin_drafts
  • Every time I work on a file, I give it a different file name, such as chapter_one_050411.doc. I’ll usually only work on a document once a day, but if I revisit it multiple times, I start adding letters to the end, a la the naming conventions for Federation starships. (chapter_one_050411A = NCC-1701-A). I usually end up with one to four files per chapter, which might be excessive, but gives me peace of mind. In the event of a corrupt file, I can rollback to the previous document, and I can always revert to a previous draft if I need to.
  • While writing, I note details about each chapter in a table (in another Word doc) that looks basically like this:
Ch/Word Count Characters Events/Scenes Notes
1/1542 Ephraim
Crazy stuff happens Make this chapter better


the scrivening

Many of the writers I know are vocal supporters of the writing software Scrivener. Until fairly recently, it was only available for Macs, which was a big deterrent to me because I prefer PCs. (Many of the writers I know are also vocal Apple supporters, but that’s a whole separate matter; I know could adapt to the Mac operating system easily with practice, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to their keyboards.)

Over the years, I’ve briefly sampled some of the other writing software programs out there that were supposed to mimic Scrivener on PCs, but they were all lacking. So when the Windows beta version of Scrivener was finally released last November, there was much celebration. I was still curious about the program, but suddenly hesitant to try it out. Some fans of Scrivener border on a cultlike devotion, and I didn’t want to become dependent on one piece of software to write my novels. I also needed to make sure that my work is fully compatible between different computers, more or less. At the time, I was primarily drafting on my 7″ Asus Eee PC netbook in Open Office, and writing and editing on my larger laptop at home in Word, so if I were to use Scrivener, it had to run on both Windows and Linux platforms–or I would face the joys of manually syncing up my files with Scrivener every day, which seemed to defeat the point.

However, I was open to change, so I downloaded the beta and installed it on my then-new Windows 7 laptop, and soon discovered that my concerns were moot because… It didn’t work. I tried to create a new Scrivener project and was promptly informed that it was incompatible with the current version. Huh? I tried it with a new install with the same result, and kind of gave up on it after that.

But I kept hearing about other happy Windows users, not to mention Mac users, creating bestselling novels on an hourly basis thanks to Scrivener–and by the way, did you know that it does dishes too?–so I figured it warranted another shot. This is that shot: I plan to use the process of revising my YA novel Quantum Coin as an opportunity to see what Scrivener can do for me and my book, and I’ll blog the results for other people who are thinking of taking the plunge and investing time (and eventually money) in the software.

A teaser for my next post in this series: We’re off to a good start, because this time the program at least works on my computer!

where I went

*tap tap* Anyone still there?

Hey! Sorry for the recent silence, but I’ve been busy moving to a new city, unpacking a new apartment, and starting a new job. As you can imagine, life has kind of taken over my life. Did you miss me?

Art by James Silvani & Sabrina Alberghetti, Darkwing Duck Annual #1, Boom! Studios

My new day job, though wonderful so far, requires a lot of energy and brain power. I guess that’s what real jobs are like? Let’s face it, my last position gave me a lot more free time and wasn’t too demanding once they started laying people off, so this really takes some getting used to. I can’t complain because at least I’m writing full-time, sort of, but I’m paying much less attention to the internet (not necessarily a bad thing), and consequently blogging and tweeting less. Not that I was blogging all that often before. My daily commute is shorter too (I know, boo hoo!), so I don’t have as much time to read. And at home there are still boxes to unpack, furniture to build, a wedding to plan, and oh yes–books to write and revise.

I’m most concerned about figuring out a good writing schedule; I used to write in the mornings before going to the office, but I work earlier hours now, and time has been hard to carve out in the evenings, except for the weekly Star Trek Re-Watch reviews. I was really happy with my old routine, and it takes a while to settle into a new one that works for me.

I’ve made slow progress though. I reread QUANTUM COIN for the first time since I drafted it a couple of years ago. I was mildly anxious about that, but it turns out a lot of it is in good shape, though it’s pretty rough and naturally will need significant work. Once I finish up my revisions on FAIR COIN, pretty soon now, I’ll focus on rewriting and revising the sequel. I’m tempted to try the PC version of Scrivener for this project. Has anyone had a good experience with the Windows beta? My early experiments were not encouraging.

I’d like to say I have more free time on the horizon, but… I don’t. There’s another Clarion West newsletter to put out soon, and a few other commitments that aren’t going away, so I’m just going to have to buckle down and get it done. That’s never been a problem before, once I became serious about writing, but I’m trying to tackle things one at a time. Possibly it’s as simple as sleeping less–it’s a nasty habit anyway.

Oh yeah, and I joined SFWA! This was a big milestone for me, since it’s been my goal since I started writing short fiction ten years ago.

Since I’m so behind on everything, what’s been going on with you? I heard something about a YA Mafia?