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Write at Night – Resources for Writing on the Night Shift

Writing, Publishing, Working on Your Craft – One Night At a Time

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On Writing

Scene Mapping With Scrivener

So in my last post, I talked about how Rachel Aaron recommends making a scene map.

Since I own Scrivener, I imported my MS Word file from NaNoWriMo (100+ pages!) into Scrivener and now I have a great visual way to see my story with the Corkboard view.

Here’s the corkboard view:

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And for those of you who haven’t used Scrivener before, the main advantage (for me anyway) that it has over MS Word is that if you drag a card (scene) to move it, the text for the scene moves too.  It is a much more elegant way to reorder the scenes of your book.  No more cutting and pasting and freaking out!

Also, for those of you who are not linear writers, it lets you write a scene from the end of the book and not have to go crazy scrolling around to find stuff you wrote before. Just hop around from scene to scene using the toolbar on the left.

What if you are in drafting mode?  Then you click directly on the scene from the toolbar on the left and the main screen populates with the text of your draft like this:

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So if you are at that stage where you are tired of navigating on a single MS Word doc, or tired of having eleventy billion separate Word docs, using Scrivener is the best way to deal with that.

If I had been a genius, I would have done it the fast way as shown in the tutorial below, where when he wrote, he used a hashtag to separate his scenes.  (I used *** but didn’t know I could import and split in one command!)  So I did it the painful way and just went scene by scene, manually using the split command in the Document menu.  It still didn’t take that long.

Here is the tutorial from Scrivener on importing your file and splitting the scenes:

You Finished Writing Your 1st Draft, Now What?

Ok Wrimos, you’ve made it to the magical milestone of finishing your first draft. It was awesome, you celebrated, you took a snapshot of your winner certificate.  But now what?

If you’re like me, you’re probably slightly nauseated at the editing and re-writes that await you.

So in the spirit of eating an elephant one bite at a time, I made a list based of off what the very sensible Rachel Aaron suggested.

2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love

By Rachel Aaron

So even though I wrote about this book before, I had saved my notes from the editing section to write about when I was ready to do my own edits.

She walks you through 3 main steps to begin your editing process.  Thankfully, these are very straightforward steps:

  1. Make a Scene Map
  2. Make a Timeline
  3. Make a To-do list of all fixes

The Scene Map

This is not meant to be fiddly or overly detailed, it is meant to help you later navigate your story when you begin to fix certain elements.

Chapter 1 (8000 words)

  • Scene 1 – S drives to the woods and meets friend.
  • Scene 2 – S and friend find dead body.
  • Scene 3 – S and friend run away but leave behind all their camping gear.

After doing this for the whole draft, she then suggests that you find a way to visually assess your various plotlines and subplots.  Then print it out.  For example, for every scene where S and love interest develop their relationship, maybe highlight that in pink.  If you see that there is hardly any pink anywhere and you meant to have a romantic suspense, then you know you’ve got a problem and where to start evening it out when you begin the edits.

The Timeline

With a scene map completed, you can then create a timeline.  You can think of this as your setting and the duration of the scenes.  For example if you realize that your villain has been sitting around for 3 weeks doing nothing, that’s probably not very realistic.  Now you have an item to fix.

The To Do List

As you go through the draft on your first pass, and after reviewing your scene map and timeline, you will be taking notes and compiling a long list of items to fix–the punchlist items of your story.

Also, rank these problems in difficulty from hardest to easiest to resolve.  Tackle the hard ones first.

And here’s where you see the genius of Rachel’s scene map.  She does not recommend you do front to back editing (ie, beginning to end) because it’s hard to keep all those things in your head as you start a fix.  Because if you think about it, let’s say in that example I gave above, when you realize that your protagonist and her romantic interest have hardly any spark, instead of re-reading your whole draft to find every scene where you could insert a steamy kiss or shared revelation to deepen intimacy, but also run into other chronological fixes from your punchlist and then get distracted and start changing the physical characteristics of another character, Rachel recommends you fix that entire romance problem all at once by hopping around using the scene map.

That way, you tackle your fix it list in a systematic fashion and can actually cross things off as done.

Logically, what she suggests is extremely sound advice.  I’m looking forward to implementing these and I’m grateful to her for sharing her wisdom in this book.

 

 

 

What Every Writer Needs to Finish NaNoWriMo

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I finished 50k words tonight.  There were a lot of reasons why I didn’t think I was going to make it.  I had been traveling (3 trips in November!), I had family obligations, I had a day job that I needed in order to pay the bills.

But overall, I made a big push for it and these are the things that let me get past the 50k mark in time:

  1. Family support
  2. Writing Advocates/Participants
  3. Personal Stake

When I said I needed to do my writing, my spouse and my children understood.  I got up extra early some days, or stayed up late other days.  But they all knew what I meant when I told them they needed to carry on without me because I had X number of words to write.

I talked two of my dear friends into doing NaNoWriMo.  There is nothing quite like a shared hallucination to keep one going.

Actually, so many of us have a story within us, or many.  We can say no to it for only so long, but we aren’t getting any younger.

At a certain point, we reach agreement with ourselves and our dear friends that we are ready to give fiction writing a chance and to do it in a brutally efficient fashion.

And lastly, when we share this goal with others, and take other steps to make it real, we create a personal stake in the outcome.  Call it ego, if you like, but whatever it takes, sometimes we need extra incentive to push on.  I bought a cover from an artist to make it more real.  I told those close to me about my commitment to NaNoWriMo for one month.  Those things made it more real for me, and I believe increased my chances for success.

Other things that helped.  Many walks and a Bintiva balance disc.  What’s that? A wiggle pad, because true devotion to the craft usually means butt in chair.

A wiggle pad really helps.

Start From the End

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NaNoWriMo was set to start on Nov. 1 whether I had a plan or not.  So I went over to my co-blogger’s house and sat at her cozy kitchen nook and jotted down some character notes.

A few minutes later, I had a vague plan.  Meet Anna, an aspiring Valkyrie.

Then, before I even had written a word of her story, I went to an artist and commissioned a cover.  Here it is, thanks to the talented artist Christa H. at Paper and Sage.

Despite totally pantsing it when I am by nature a plotter, this cover made it very real for me and when I complete my 50k words, I intend to buy a print to frame for my wall.

I started with a pre-made and it took 4 revisions to get it exactly right.  (The package came with 3 revisions.)  I love it.  The NaNoWriMo folks have all kinds of stats on who makes it to the 50k and one of the added factors to success is having a cover.  I think I can understand why.

“When you believe it, you can see it.” ~Wayne Dyer (sorta)

Day 2 of NaNoWriMo

I wrote over 3k words on Day 1, and it was easier than I thought with the help of dictation.  It took probably about just over two hours to do that.  I resisted the urge to edit, but of course cleaned up all the dictation randomness.

For the month of October, I had a thrice weekly fiction writing effort.  And my goals were modest.  I gave myself an hour and I tried to write at least 250 words.  The results were amazing.  By the third night of trying that, I was up to 1k words in an hour.

So as others have commented, “When you do the work, the muse rewards you.”

I knew Day 2 would be rough, as I had a lot of work at the office and a social commitment.  So I hammered out 500 words at lunch.  Came home at 11pm and hammered out 1k words until midnight.

With NaNoWriMo in effect, forcing the commitment of a daily writing practice,  I can only imagine the ways that it will improve all the participants’ writing speed and storytelling.

End of Day 2 – 4500+ words on less than 5 hours of writing.  Not bad.

Walking and Dictating Your Novel on Your iPhone

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Stinson Beach, After Sunset

This morning I woke up earlier as part of my NaNoWriMo kickoff.  But not too much earlier.  Just 30 minutes.  Then I had a cup of tea to fortify myself, laced up my Kangaroo sneakers and off I went to start my great American novel.

I mean, I was armed with my iPhone 6 and the standard earbuds Apple ships with the phone.  I turned on Siri and started dictating the opening scene into the Bywords app.  I would hit “done” periodically and then start dictating again.  It was brilliant and it was FREE.  Most importantly, I had emailed everything to myself  (Bywords has an export feature) so I had a backup too.

You do have to look at your phone on occasion to make sure the dictation is actually on, as it will shut off after long pauses, or after you hit done.

20 minutes later, I had to return to make breakfast and wake the children.  But I had 600 words done on my word count and was back on my normal workday schedule.

Happy Writing!

PS – if you find that the phone method is too harrowing, the other method is to actually use a dictaphone which will save everthing to a .wav file or similar and then you can feed back to a transcription service.

Using Dictation on the iMac to Write Your Book

As the old adage goes, “How do you eat an elephant?”

One bite at a time.

NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words in 30 days. How does one crank out roughly ~1700 words a night?

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I had listened to a couple of podcast interviews where the guests had discussed writing fiction through the use of dictation, and even while they were out walking (!). This got me thinking.

I am used to using dictation at work. At the office, I work on a PC Windows machine, and have Dragon NaturallySpeaking speaking. In addition, I frequently use a Dictaphone and send .wav files off to a transcriptionist for my work product. However, reading reviews on Amazon reveals that dragon NaturallySpeaking for the Mac is far less accurate. So I never dictated at home on my iMac.

In recent years I’ve become more impressed with Siri. At first, I simply tested out short text messages on my iPhone. But this latest upgrade of the Mac OS with enhanced dictation has really been interesting for me. Tonight I decided to try out the enhanced dictation feature in order to write this blog post.

The greatest benefit of dictation is that you can simply get your thoughts out quickly. Then you can take a short break, and come back and revise. Dictation would not only save my wrists from carpal tunnel, but I would begin to chip away at my daily work count goal. Also, it’s FREE! Winning!

How to begin:

Here’s a link to the tutorial I used to install enhanced dictation on my iMac tonight.

It took less than 10 minutes to install Enhanced Dictation.

When dictating, there’re some protocols that have been used by lawyers in their transcription work for years, such as:

  • To obtain quotation marks, you must speak “quote happy day closed quote” and the marks will appear as “Happy day”
  • Say “next paragraph” to move the cursor to the next paragraph
  • Say “question mark” to have a ? show up at the end of your sentence

I tried the dictation without the benefit of a fancy microphone (though some recommend using a nice mike) and it worked just fine.

To turn on the dictation, you can program the keys of your preference. Afterwards once it’s on, you’ll get an icon to show you that it’s listening. Once complete, click “Done” and the dictation turns off.

Happy NaNoWriMo2016 Prep!

 

 

 

 

 

Can Just Anyone Be A Writer?

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Of course.  It is what Nike’s ad genius once said.  “Just Do It.”  I was recently in France and I was able to walk miles – in museums, along the Seine, into churches and past street booksellers. Yes, the book is still art in France and these booksellers each keep a box that they lock up every night on top of the wall overlooking the Seine.  Magically, they open during the day and you can find everything from a French magazine from the 30’s to a poster of the Beatles in 1966, to a Balzac tome that looks sufficiently worn to perhaps be authentic.  And then, for those non book-believing tourists, there are still sparkly tiny Eiffel towers turned into key chains or locks with little keys to add your love story to the bridge of locks.

For me, walking through Paris was like walking into a candy store of creativity.

And you might think that after spending hours gazing upon the greatest works of the greatest artists and walking into the Deux Maggots and sitting where Ernest Hemmingway sat, or touching Simone Bouvier’s picture or staring back at Picasso from his favorite spot, that one might be intimidated into believing that not everyone is worthy to call themselves an artist.  But you would be missing the point.  Writers, artists and engineers worked here – still work here, often against the grain of public opinion, some have money to support themselves independently, but many decided to put it all on the line.  At the turn of the century, dancers and opera singers had to find wealthy patrons, they had to give of themselves to another who would help them do what they needed to do with all their heart.  I may not like what Hemmingway puts on the page, I may prefer Fitzgerald, but I like them both because I know they collaborated with the rich, the poor, the good and the bad, they swam together, even as they created differently.  And then there was Sylvia Beach, the daughter of a pastor,  who so loved books and writers that she asked her father for the funds to start Shakespeare & Co., her book store that she developed to display her favorite authors and ultimately to use her influence to publish James Joyce when his books were banned in England and the United States.  She got to be one of the boys, when it was a boys only club and they adored her.

So let’s say that once in a lifetime trip is still miles away from coming and you can’t walk through the streets of Paris to be filled with inspiration.  What do you do then?  You bring Montparnasse, Paris to your neighborhood, you bring the Algonquin Roundtable to your dining room table and you invite your friends over and drink tea or port or tea and port and talk about writing – how to do it and why you love it and you inspire each other to keep writing.

After, you have gone out into your city and found one thing you have never done before.  Have you seen the Winchester Mystery House? No?  Then go.

Look at the world as if it is the most interesting idea you have ever had.

Be filled with gratitude that you are right where you are.  Then just start. No plan, no grand idea.   Just start typing.   Just practice, just play, “Just Do It.”

Sunrise

Though I have been writing at night, after the routine of dinner, homework, bathtime, storytime and my evening stroll with the dog, I occasionally write early in the morning.  But I prefer to go hiking instead.  Sometimes you catch a deer crossing too.

The conflict remains one of time allocation.  I can write or I can exercise and if I’m really, really disciplined, I do both in one day.

The goal remains to:

  1. write every day, whether for the work blog or for my personal creativity; and
  2. walk or go for a run every day for my personal sanity

(Photo: Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve, California)

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