Scrivener vs. The Inner Critic

And you thought you were rid of me for the whole month!
No such luck. Besides, I have something kinda cool to share.
I’ve been struggling with keeping track of multiple projects. It seems I like to jump around from project to project, a characteristic of the Muse I’ve come to love and accept. This does however lead to a very convoluted to-do list, especially because every time I change course I have to rearrange the list. Not only is it hard to measure progress spread across so many places, but it is also difficult to keep track of where I left off with each project. Worst of all, every time I take the top item off the list to replace it with something else my self-esteem takes a hit.
And my Inner Critic screams, “Failure!”
Just for fun, I opened a Scrivener document on my To-Do file and tried to list every single thing I want to work on in the next year or so: All the stories I want to write, the stories I want to revise, the works in progress, the chapters I want to post for critique, the books I want to read (and I like switch off between several at once; doesn’t everyone do that?) and even little projects like fixing up Ye Olde Blogge. Everything.Sigurd Decroos @ Stock.xchng
The list was twenty-one items long.
As I stared at it, I was struck by an idea.
How about treating each project as its own Scrivener document, turning it into an index card and keeping track of progress inside the document? And then how about color coding each one according to project?
The Muse loves colors!
CategoriesI decided blue would be good for The Tempest’s Serenade (my revised novel), yellow for The Dragon’s Milk Chronicles, red for my other first draft stories, purple for writing craft stuff, orange for reading.
It didn’t take long before I had a pretty cork board with everything I want to do spread out in neat color-coded rows. I’ve sorted them into the order I want to work on things, starting at the top left corner. First: Finish posting chapters of The Tempest’s Serenade at Critique Circle. After that: Finish the first draft of The Way of Wolves.
I can keep track of where I’m at on the document part of the card and I can add images or links there as well. Making a new project is easy too. When I decided that I really don’t want to work on something as epic as the third book of my trilogy for NaNoWriMo, and work on a lighthearted romantic comedy called Karma’s Dragon set in the real world instead, I just make a new card and slide it into the queue in the order I want to do it.
No failure here. Just a rearrangement of priorities.Scrivener Index Cards
How about you? How do you appease the Inner Critic? And do you read one book at a time, or switch off between several?

Colored hearts image courtesy of Sigurd Decroos @ Stock.xchng

IWSG: A Bridge Between Clouds

InsecureWritersSupportGroupWelcome to this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post! On the first Wednesday of every month hundreds of writers all over the world-wide web gather to share our insecurities and support and encourage each others’ writing endeavors. For more info, check out Alex J. Cavanaugh’s website, where you’ll find the linky for our little blog hop.

This month I discovered an interesting facet of being an insecure writer as I learned the real reason behind my reluctance to make scene cards to guide me through my novel drafts.

I’ve come to think of writing a story as crossing a very large and often treacherous body of water. Here I sit on the shore of my beginning, and, if I squint real hard, I can see the end on the other side. There are rocks and rapids and sharks in the water, but my scene cards are like a bridge to keep me above all that–because I really don’t want to swim. It’s too easy to get off course when you’re fighting just to stay above water!

My scene cards look sort of like this:Screen shot The Whole of the Moon

Looks nice and organized doesn’t it? But in reality, all the words on my virtual corkboard look a lot more like this:Image courtesy of Enrico Nunziat@ stock.xchngi

Trusting my Muse to fill in the missing pieces, I start across despite the rickety construction. I’m more of a discovery writer and so I’m not afraid of building scenes as I find out more about my story. Often, my bridge even starts heading to a different part of shore. I’ve heard that’s normal and okay for a first draft. But what to do with those obsolete scene cards? And what does this have to do with being insecure?

For an insecure writer like me, discarding scene cards might be the psychological equivalent of building the Image courtesy of Marco Michelini @ stock.xchngwrong bridge. When I show up with my new improved story blueprint, my Inner Editor turned engineer-math-whiz project manager glares at me from under her hard hat and barks, “Don’t you know you’re wasting precious time and resources with this change in plans? Who told you that you should attempt to write a story? Give up and let a real writer do the storytelling around here!”

I know. The resources in my case are pixels and paper, but my Inner Editor eagerly pounces on anything that could possibly represent failure.

Maybe the analogy between building stories and building bridges can only take me so far. Maybe stories aren’t really rivers and bays, but are more like clouds and planets. They shift in position; they can even change shape for no apparent reason. I can try to build bridges and plan roads between their beginnings and endings, but imaginary roads can easily change direction. All I need to do is note things down. I can even chart a new course again in revision. It’s all part of the journey.Image courtesy of Piotr Koczab @ stock.xchng

Is your Inner Editor a math whiz? Does your insecurity micromanage your writing schematics?

Jetty image courtesy of Enrico Nunziat, hard hat image courtesy of Marco Michelini, bridge into fog courtesy of Piotr Koczab, all @ stock.xchng

Written? Kitten!

I know, you are muttering to yourself, “Whatever is she talking about? Cats and writing have very little in common. I wish she’d get on with it and give some real writing advice.”

Ah, but there is where you are mistaken. I always knew that cats, or more accurately in this case, kittens have much in common with writing and finally there is an on-line site that agrees.

The site is called ‘Written? Kitten!’ and I haven’t had this much fun writing my
NaNoWriMo novel in a long time. The way it works is that every time you write a hundred words into the box, a picture of a kitten is revealed in the box next to it. Another hundred words? Another irresistibly adorable kitten appears in the box.

What a great way to sidestep the question of whether the words are of any quality or not. Does it really matter how much you have to fight for words, when you have a kitten to look forward to when you complete a hundred of them?

The amount of words necessary to get your kitten is adjustable in increments from one hundred, to two hundred and fifty all the way to a thousand. Also, the box has a buffer, but, as always, it is advisable to save your words on your computer occasionally as you type. The words were still in the box the next day I visited the site though, so you’ll have to erase
them between writing sessions.

This might be the alternative to Write or Die that some of us, who respond better to positive reinforcement rather than negative, were looking for.

(Images courtesy of Bill Davenport, Dominic Morel, and Joel Dietle @ stock.xchng)

'Bait and Switch'-My First Ebook Experience

Let’s face it. I love my MacBook, but after the substantial outlay of cash it takes to bring one of these puppies home there simply isn’t enough money left to buy an eReader or an iPad. And books are free at the library…

Today, however, I stumbled upon the free download version of the Kindle Reading App. It runs great on my Mac and, better yet, I was able to download my first ebook for the astonishingly low price of 99 cents. The book I selected for the maiden voyage of my  e-reading adventure was a fine work written by ‘Storyfix’ blogger Larry Brooks, titled ‘Bait and Switch.’

I haven’t finished it yet, so there will be no spoilers in my review. However, even at this point, I know I will not be disappointed. The writing is magnificent; agile prose and nimble storytelling supplemented by sharp insights into the main character’s psyche via short excerpts from narrator’s own novel, a flourish that elevates the piece from entertainment into art as it pokes fun at the twisted idiosyncrasies of our own society.

Needless to say, I am thrilled with my purchase.

As if that weren’t enough, Larry Brooks has offered to deconstruct the novel in upcoming blog posts, breaking it down into its components to demonstrate his story engineering method for novelists who aspire to emulate his process. All of this absolutely free.

He says it’s an experiment for getting into e-publishing. For a skeptic like me, it’s a huge step as I begin to accept e-publishing as a viable alternative to print.

I have been careful about whom I choose as my guides on my writing journey, but I am always happy when I find one worthy of my trust. One simply cannot have too many good teachers.