Tools in my box


 So the first session of this new WIP is done. I sat down, listened to the video above while hacking away at it in Google Docs. When I was finished for today, I copied it over to yWriter.

Let me talk about my tools today.

When I did NaNoWriMo 2020, I had it all on Google Docs. The outline was a document, I had several files for interviews with characters, and when I first planned it, I even had several plot files for different arcs, which never really worked out for me. I first outlined the story on a mind map website, which had the downside of me being unable to move around points freely, insert new points, and elaborate on things. The list I then wrote down was 40 bullet points, one for each scene I\’d write, with just one to two sentences about the scene, like the headline of an article.

As you can see from the headline of this blog post, I suck at this, so my bullet list wasn\’t so awesome either.

I ended NaNoWriMo with my word count goal reached on November 25th, so it wasn\’t all bad. The general process of outlining, then unpacking the idea inside a small notepad window, then writing it down, was something that worked fairly well. I knew though that I could do better, so I looked around for options.

The first change I made was, I now outline in Trello. This works beautifully, because everything is mobile – you can drag and drop anything under any category, so shuffling ideas around is easy and painless – a huge improvement over the mind mapping software I used to use.

I outlined this following the beats of Save The Cat, to give me a bit better structure, and to force myself to go deeper into the ideas, to expand on them and put them in an order that causes the effects I want. There\’s lots of different ways to do this, but STC works for me, and I plan to stick with it for now. I still use certain things I learned from Anatomy of Story, like separating the need of characters into psychological and moral needs, but if Nano is good for anything beyond forming good writing habits, it helps you find your working style, which in turn helps you pick and choose what works for your writing.

So everyone\’s crazy about Scrivener. I tested it, and yeah, it\’s not bad, but it\’s also not what I imagined when I heard about it from other writers. It looks like a loose pile of cards, has too many bells and whistles for my taste, and the fact that the PC version is still behind the Mac one is kind of sad. I\’m not a Mac user, having to put up with being a second class citizen is not something I want to do while trying to have fun writing a book. Instead, I\’m using yWriter. It\’s similar to Scrivener, but it has things put into the shape and form the creator, a fellow writer, decided on for himself. Turns out, what works for him, works for me, too, so I\’m using it. I now don\’t have a file for each chapter on Google Docs anymore. I have one main manuscript file where I paste each day\’s work just so it\’s safe, and I got one \”temp file\”, which is the actual file I\’m writing in. I then paste it into yWriter, too.

Why the double work though?

Having the temp file allows me to write anywhere anytime. On the train via phone, in the bathtub, in the park. I can then open up the same file on my PC at home and continue. That\’s the very reason I love Google Docs. Yeah, I could use whatever writing application with a file on, say, Dropbox, but why go to that length. GD has been my reliable buddy through Nano, and I\’m happy with it.

The main manuscript file is just there as additional safety measure. I don\’t write in it – opening up large files with 50.000 words plus can cause problems on the phone, both network-wise and from a performance standpoint, but it\’s good to have this backup. Putting it in yWriter helps me, because having it all in one place, I can jump around between scenes etc easily and generate a new manuscript file on the fly, if necessary. It\’s just nice to be able to mark a scene with the POV character, add a location, maybe items needed for the plot. That way, I can later look up where a gun pops up for the first time, which way it travels over the course of the story, so I know where to walk my char to pick it up, so she can shoot the baddies. Figuratively. She doesn\’t shoot guns.

And that\’s it. Trello for the outline, Google Docs as daily work file and backup, yWriter for composition and keeping it all in order.

I\’m done with my quota today (I\’ll talk about this another day), but I thought I\’d write this blog post, both for whoever may read this and might find it useful, and for myself, to track my progress as a writer, and to document how I went about things when I first wrote that terrible book that started the series.

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