My husband bought me Scrivener last week. I could kiss him all over! Writing and plotting tools are my new favorite thing. After battling for months to complete my previous manuscript in MS Word, I downloaded the free version of Scrivener to try with Book Two in my Soul Searchers series, and literally finished it in four weeks. It was a no-brainer to invest in my own copy – it’s $49, which didn’t seem unreasonable considering how much time it saves.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate Word. I’m using it to write this blog right now. But for documents over 10,000 words? Do yourself a favor and get yourself some sort of writing or plotting tool to assist you. Scrivener isn’t the only one – I just happen to like it. And I haven’t even scratched the surface of its capabilities yet. I also use Plot Factory for when I write short stories because its zippy and super-simple to use.
Writing and plotting tools make life easier
When I’m not penning novels, I spend my time ghostwriting, editing and being Mother Of The Year (ok, I’m not really Mother Of The Year – I think I may have admitted this in a previous blog). I learned early on that any job is easier when you have the right tools. And if your job is easier, your life is easier. Where would we be without our printers, our microwaves, our WiFi? There’s no shame in using technology to assist in the writing process too.
Back in my youth, I discovered an ancient typewriter in an antique store while on vacation. I took it home and vowed I would one day write a novel on those clackety old keys. That was madness! I could have begun it back then and would probably still be valiantly typing now. My fingers would have calluses and I’d have the most muscular wrists in the world. I still have that typewriter – it’s a lovely conversation piece. But not a lovely writing tool (though I imagine it was the ‘shizzle’ when it was invented).
Pen to paper
I realize that there are purists who believe in putting real pen to real paper to get their best work and I respect that. I can’t do it. Occasionally I’ll scribble something in a notepad if I’m sitting in a sunny spot under a tree – it makes me feel like Jane Austen. I also have the most insanely gorgeous Cross fountain pen that fits into my hand like an extension of myself. It guzzles ink faster than I can finish a paragraph and I can’t write as fast as my mind works. If I don’t put the words down as they come into my brain, they might fly out my head and be lost forever. I can’t take that chance.
If you’re a writer, you know what I mean, right?
However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that today my words might flow like a water, but tomorrow the well might be dry. Not to mention that some days, those flowing words have absolutely no direction. Here’s where the beauty of a writing tool shines. Scrivener lets me plot my book, break it down into chapters, create my characters and craft my scenes. It can do a lot more, but I haven’t reached that point yet.
Give me freedom!
Right now I’m just reveling in the freedom of not having to flip through endless notes to find out what one character said to another character 20,000 words ago. I can drop photos and research links in too, which makes it so much easier to describe something. Because I’m usually looking right at it, not dredging my original ideas from the dark recesses of my mind (which has often been muddled by daily life: “Babe, where are my keys?”; “Mom, I can’t find my socks!”; “Ma’am, your tax returns are due.”) And trust me, you might forget that you introduced Mr. Jones with blue eyes in Chapter One and then described him with green eyes in Chapter 14…but your readers won’t! I’m grateful for that…it means they’re actually taking my work seriously. So, I should too.
The plot thickens
Back to the topic of plotting. This is something that I’ve truly come to appreciate. When I started this ‘author’ journey I would often hear writers discussing the merits of plotting versus pantsing, i.e. ‘flying by the seat of your pants’ and letting the story unfold as you write. Not to say that it can’t work for others, but OMG, that wasted so much of my time!
Initially I thought I was being more true to ‘my process’ by taking the ‘pants’ approach. Plotting and writing tools seemed like a sell-out. Yeah, right. I was also opening myself up to so much frustration when I realized I’d written 10,000 words with no actual ‘end-goal’ in sight. I’d assumed it would come to me eventually but I just landed up meandering down endless roads that had no real purpose.
Writing a novel…or a journal?
Sometimes I’d write about my own experiences or feelings and realize that half my word-count for the day had been spent on venting or some other form of catharsis. Sure, that’s all well and good…but unless you can put those words to good use in your novel, it’s better to jot them in a journal. Anyhow, a good plot will allow you to use all that material – just with structure that makes sense to a reader.
A good plot will also help you on those days when the words don’t want to flow. If I’m sitting staring at an empty Chapter Header, it’s so much easier if I have a writing prompt that tells me what I should be saying. It doesn’t matter if it feels mechanical and contrived. I can always go back afterwards and make it sing. Or at least hum with some kind of tune.
I like to think I have a passion project in me – that great piece of work that wins awards and touches people in a way they never forget. I know I’m not ready to produce it – I’m still finding my wings. Until then, I’ll take all the help I can get! Right now, writing and plotting tools are ‘it’ and Scrivener is ‘in.’
Brigitte Billings writes under the penname BE Brouillard. If you enjoy steamy paranormal romance (and you’re not her mom), you can check out her first book here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B089H18568 If you like Saved By Her, please leave a review, and then look out for the next one, Saving Her, due out in August 2020…it’s going to be even better!
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Not convinced? MORE about Scrivener!
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I Use Scrivener Every Single Day — Here’s WHY and HOW