Useful Tools for Writers
There was a twisty windy journey that I skipped along before I came to a fork in the road. Path A, don’t bother with this stuff and go watch Dragon Ball Z (so tempting) or path B, write the damn piece, because this is one question you’ve been asked many many times.
If you want to get right down to the nitty gritty, skip this next part.
As a member of a few prominent ‘writing groups’ — I use the term loosely — on Facebook, I’ve run into my fair share — nearly all of them — of posts that are, in a nutshell, completely and utterly useless. They’re just a waste of time and an act of procrastination on the poster’s part, in my opinion.
“How many words go in a chapter.”
“How many pages should a book be these days.”
“What can I name this character that I will tell you nothing about because you’ll steal my idea if I do.”
“How can I kill this character in three sentences.”
“What’s a good plot for my book.”
“Do you keep a backup of your writing just in case your computer dies?”
I am, sadly, addicted to scrolling through this nonsense, and I haven’t broken the habit of it quite yet. I don’t know what it is that draws me into this cascading whirlwind of nonsensical rhetoric, but once in a while a tiny glimmer of light shines out of the darkness.
This little light came in the aftermath of an infuriating thread, created by an infuriating user that is always there, on the edges, skulking around here and there and as soon as you’ve forgotten his existence, BAM he’s in your face again with brand-new steamy bullshit. Now, I’m aware that it’s immature to get into this stuff with these random people on the internet, but I’m flawed.
He made a was a thread asking about people’s processes in their creative writing.
What’s your process? Mine is categorising a list and using a word generator to create original word combinations because writers these days are too lazy to write original stories and I’m the only one who can.
Mind you, I’m paraphrasing 3–4 of his rants into one here, just to get the point across as to what we’re dealing with.
Fast-forward a little while and this guy is going on about how there are no writers that have a process (except for him) and his process will give him a leg up in the publishing world once the publishers learn about his amazing process.
Newsflash, your writing is irrelevant, it’s your process they want.
I’m not making this up. It’s just … it makes you want to pound your head on your desk, but I can’t do that because this desk is new and I can’t afford a new one if I break this one. I just finished paying it off to Afterpay, and I really want to go get the new God of War game. That’s irrelevant, so moving on.
Anyway, at the end of the day I got a few private messages from people asking me about my ‘process’ and how I go about my creative writing.
My tools and process to creating fantastical and confusing fictional worlds for a novel that is not yet finished, but I talk about all the time. I’m already working on №3 as well.
What you’ll need:
-A notebook (one that has paper in it, you know, that dead tree stuff.)
-A pen or pencil (this is for writing your notes, not stabbing people. I know it’s confusing)
-Lots of orange juice and snacks (preferably healthy ones, but whatever, I like Doritos)
I can’t begin to tell you how much this program helped me get organized. When I started my work on The Galean Chronicles, I was a mess. My apartment looked like every writer’s nightmare. Paper, notebooks, sticky notes, note cards.
E V E R Y W H E R E.
Pinned to the walls, stuck to the doors, taped to the desk, wadded up under the couch, under the pillow, some in the litter box, more lost and never to be found.
My computer wasn’t much better. It was a barrage of files stuck everywhere and anywhere. Untitled documents all over the desktop, important notes in the pictures folder, finished scenes somehow in the trash folder, character sheets lost in the movie drive.
The ability to keep all of my documents in one place within a single file changed my life. Look at this beautiful binder.
You have the power to organize this in whatever works best for your brain. It comes with already built character and place template sheets, but you can create and import your own. As you can see, I created my own species template and folder as well.
Being able to flip through all of your notes without have 78 different documents open on your computer makes you feel less flustered and crazy.
(Colors are customizable, you can create your own night-mode)
My next favorite feature is the side-by-side layout. Or top/bottom layout, whatever floats your boat. Its great when I’m doing edits. Old version on the left, new version on the right.
Every document you create within the program will have a synopsis box(top right) and a notes box (bottom right). The synonpsis box is great when you’re viewing all of your documents like notecards and can help in outlining your chapters. If left blank, it’ll use the first words of the document, so you can see what’s in there at a glance.
Now maybe you’re more chaotic and scattered in your planning. Never fear, scrivener has a corkboard for you to plaster all of your random thoughts onto. Create as many boards as you want, create as many notecards as you like, add photos, ideas, notes whatever. You do you boo.
This program has way to many features for me to really get into all of them, these are just the ones I use most. Its very customizable and flexible.
Save all of your scrivener files to dropbox. They’ll sync across all of your devices, from your desktop, to laptop, to your tablet to your phone.
Scrivener knows when you have it open on another device and will prompt you to open a copy to avoid conflicts. However, should conflicts arise your work will not be saved over. Scrivener will save all of your ‘conflicting’ documents into a conflicts folder in the binder on the left. You never have to worry about losing something.
Scapple. Your mind-map. I know lots of people use this for ideas, but I use it mostly for getting character relationships displayed visually.
Now I zoomed way out on this screenshot, because this is still a work-in-progress. Spoilers, duh!
But why do you use pictures?
Because something about that actor/character is similar to my character. Tone of voice, hair style, atmosphere, accent, nose, ears. Some are just place-holders because I like having a visual.
So you get the idea of the program. It’s like scrivener, utilize it however you like.
The app version has not been made yet, but I heard (a while back) that it wasn’t off the table. No promises.
Oh my god, this one is my favorite!
Scrivener may have gotten my organized, and scapple let me visualize my multitude of characters, but Aeon really got me on track for my book series and helped me find plot holes I didn’t even know existed.
Create a timeline, any timeline. If you’re writing a fantasy then you can create a timeline from scratch, with your own months, days, years etc. I haven’t personally experimented with this feature yet however.
Now you can create different entities. Characters, places, events and arcs. When you create a character, you can see the age of that character anywhere on the timeline. Create events, and dictate which characters participated and observed (they’re different). Add a place (if you’ve created place entities) and an arc.
Personally I use my intended books as the arcs.
Ooh and for all of you color coders out there…You can color code your events! You can also add a timeframe if the event lasts for a duration of time, add sub-events, add a tension level and you have a note-box for a summary.
You can also change the view of your timeline. I prefer seeing it in the character view below. There, you can see exactly how old each character is anywhere in the timeline. I can see other character’s story’s in correlation with whoever or whatever I’m working on at the time. The colored lines are events.
In this next screenshot, you can see my characters down the left. Their events only show when I expand that characters menu. To the right you can see what locations the event has been tagged in, and further right you can see what other characters participated (full circle) or observed (empty circle). You can also see the two arc’s i’ve created at the top, One for the novel and short story I’m currently working on.
Always carry a notebook, because what happens when your phone is dead and you think of something vital? You write it down, with a pencil. Don’t just smack the paper and grunt like a caveman.
Orange juice. Lots of people survive off of coffee. I love iced coffee, I love chai lattes even more, but the only thing that really gets me energized and keeps me awake is orange juice. I don’t know why, it just does.
Also, are you really a writer if you don’t have some kind of fluffy creature sprawled across your lap while you work? I feel like it’s a prerequisite, so here’s a photo of mine. Follow him on instagram: @the_moosifer
There you have it ladies and gentlemen. This is how I organize, plot and plan my work. It’s really fun, which is why I get more plotting than writing done, but I’m working on the third re-write of my novel, and boy is it different from the original, and still changing.