How I Scrivener

I wrote a post about Scrivener a few years ago, but as I am working in Scrivener now, there are couple new tools I am using a LOT, so I want to share them with you!

First off, if you don’t kow what Scrivener is, it is a writing program that is perfect for all kinds of storytellers! I use it primarily for writing novels, but I also use it for formatting and editing the musicals I write with my husband (which we write together in GoogleDocs first and then I transfer to Scrivener).

It is basically a binder for everything and anything related to your novel! You can have links, pictures, folders and subfolders for worldbuilding and characters, and, of course, your manuscript! It has great options for editing, formatting, and exporting your manuscript, and it also allows you to import templates from writer resources (such as my favorite outline by K. M. Weiland).

In my previous post, I shared about the binder and notecards, meta-data, status labels, keywords, and full-screen mode.

Today I’m going to talk about my new favorite tools: split screen, project targets, and the dictionary shortcut.

Split Screen in action, featuring snippets from my current WIP.

Split Screen Mode is entered by clicking the little square on the upper right hand of the currently opened file. Then, you can select either the left or right screen and open a different scene or file from the binder to view it.

In my current WIP, my main character, Roxana, can read minds, and she will often recall things that other people have thought or said. Split screen mode is so helpful for accurately recalling words and moments with ease. It also helps a lot with continuity when I am checking how I described a setting or someone’s appearance without having to scroll all around in a document or even click between scenes. I can see them both at the same time.

My current project almost always has two scenes open at one time as I reference between them, and it has been invaluable for this story especially.

Project Targets is found under “Project” on the toolbar.

Another tool that I can discover and has been a great encouragement as been the Project Tracker, which I use to track my word count, both overall and each day. You can change your target number of words by clicking the second number and changing it. It will save your overall manuscript progress even if you close the window (which can be moved around) but your session target will automatically reset each day.

One thing you have to do to use this tool effectively is to make sure only your manuscript scenes are “included in the compile”, as this is what Scrivener uses to calcuate your total written words. You can change whether or not a scene (file) is included in your manuscript by going to the middle tab (General Meta-Data) in the Inspector window.

I didn’t want to use “fraternize” twice, so I looked up some synonyms!

The final tool I have been using a lot is the Dictionary/Thesaurus shortcut! When you write click on a word, go to “Writing Tools” and you can look up the word in the Dictionary and Thesaurus right from Scrivener! This has become such a great trick when I’m in the writing zone and need a different word, because I don’t have to pull up a internet browser and go to the thesaurus website or Google and now I’m distracted! This shortcut keeps me engaged with my story and finding that new word quickly by cutting out the middle man, so to speak.

You can also open the word in Google or Wikipedia too if you are looking for more information on something, which has also been a fun little way to research.

The Perfect 1st Draft

Already as I have begun writing the first draft, the doubts have begun to creep in. Is there too much exposition? Or maybe not enough? I’m not giving enough description…or is there an overwhelming amount already?

These doubts can lead to two great big distractions that will keep you from ever finishing that first draft:

  1. Stop. Go back. Edit. Keep editing. Just edit the crap out of that first scene and make sure it is perfect before you move forward. Will it ever be perfect? If this scene isn’t perfect, what’s the point in writing the rest?
  2. Stop. Give up. You aren’t good enough. Or this story just isn’t working. Find a new story. Stop. Is this one not good either? Or is it me? Will I never be able to find the perfect story?

I’ve given in to both of these distractions in the past, and they both tell the same HUGE lie about my stories and my abilities: your first draft must be perfect. Who ever did something perfectly their first try? I’ll give you a few seconds to think about it. Let me know when you realize it’s no one ever. I googled it for you.

If I’ve found one thing to be true about being a writer, it is that the need for perfection is an ugly, nasty thing. Especially during your very first draft. We as humans are quite literally incapable of being perfect. (I googled that one too but you get the point.) This need to be perfect, to write perfect, to create the perfect plot or whatever it may be for you, stems from the lie that you can be perfect. Because, as we have mentioned, you can’t be.

So, even in the midst of my current draft, and having faced down this lie in every previous draft I have written, I have to remind myself to let go of the need to be perfect. In letting go of this need, I find such freedom and joy in writing. It doesn’t have to be perfect. As Ted Dekker says, story is a sandcastle on the beach. It is a way that we get to imitate our Heavenly Father, the creator of everything ever. So build, play, have fun, enjoy the process. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

[Of course, once it’s built, you can start to make it better, you can invite others to help you, because you have a whoel sandcastle now, instead of just a pile of sand on a beach of sand, but that’s beside the point for today.]

Finish Your Novel this November

I know, it’s still 3 months away! But if you are a Super Outliner like me, you’ll need that time to prepare.

This November is the time to finish that novel you’ve been dreaming about, writing on and off, planning for but never getting past those first few pages. What is NaNoWriMo? National Novel Writing Month. It is a time when writers from all walks of life stop life and make art. The goal is to write a novel in a month, although for just writing 50,000 words you get lots of prizes and goodies, usually including discounts on Scrivener, freebies with Createspace, and access to lots of other great resources for writers.

Even though I don’t always make the goal of finishing a complete novel, I have been able to reach that 50,000 word goal for the past three years I have seriously participated. NaNoWriMo really works for me because I plan to make sacrifices for my novel during November: getting up early, staying up late, writing instead of watching tv, writing instead of playing video games. I still make time for some social things, mainly church stuff and time with my husband (who is very supportive during November; God bless his latte making skills!), but during this month, the people I see the most are other writers participating in the event.

The awesome thing about NaNoWriMo is the support you get from other writers continually. When I write with Valerie Cotnoir (author of Bridget’s Journey and Everylasting), we are always encouraging each other, pushing through writers block, and taking time to listen to what the other is working on. It gives me so much motivation during November to know that there are other writers pushing towards the same goal as I am. It’s not a competition, it’s a team event. For me, that makes a big difference in November, and is a huge part of my success.

November is a month to be physically and mentally tired, because you are pushing to pump out words faster than you can think them. During November, writers are encourage to never edit anything. Don’t hit that backspace button, just press on. Don’t lose time focusing on mistakes or something that ‘could be better’, just get the story down. The entire story. There is plenty of time to edit in December and January, but Novemeber is for writing. That is another big reason why I love NaNo. Rather than trying to nit-pick at falts and failures, it’s a huge boost to my writing confidence.

You can do this. You’re going to do this. Press on.

The world needs your story.

Registration will begin in the coming months. This is your three month notice to get ready! It’s time to finish your novel this November.