Integrating Writing Tools For Story Creation—Sometimes The Stars Align

My apologies for the boring title. For those of you who don’t write fiction, my even greater apologies for the upcoming post.

Image credit: Wikipedia.org

Image credit: Wikipedia.org

Although multi-tasking is not my preference, I found the perfect ménage à trois for outlining my new work-in-progress.

By coincidence, I started reading Story Physics: Harnessing the Underlying Forces of Storytelling by Larry Brooks at the same time I started Gwen Hernandez’s Scrivener course at the same time I started my new novel’s outline.

Like literary Legos, these three elements locked nicely into place.

Image credit: Wikipedia

Image credit: Wikipedia

1. Story Physics: Harnessing the Underlying Forces of Storytelling

This book is the follow-up to Larry Brook’s Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing. Both books click beautifully with my left-brain tendencies.

In Story Engineering, Brook focused on structure while in Story Physics he focuses on ways to enhance this fictional architecture.

The timing is perfect because I’m presently expanding my manuscript’s main plot points into a bulleted beat sheet (essentially a blueprint for the outline). Brooks’s story “physics” will help give my structural elements some extra pizzazz which will hopefully keep readers flipping the pages.

2. Scrivener Training by Gwen Hernandez

For those who don’t know, Scrivener is a low-priced software program that enhances the organization of written projects, both fiction and non-fiction. It’s a great way to localize all your manuscript needs, including research, images, outlines, character descriptions, scenes, etc.

Scrivener comes with an instructional tutorial, but even though I reviewed it and wrote my most recent novel using the program, I knew I was missing out on features. There was so much more I could be doing with the software. Thanks to fellow blogger and writer S.K. Nicholls, I learned about Gwen Hernandez’s Scrivener course. At $45 for a four-week course, the price was right, and the daily lesson is easily doable in thirty minutes or less.

I’m ten sessions into the course, and although I’ve created a new project to follow along with Ms. Hernandez’s instruction, I’m also trying things out in my work-in-progress’s file.

A screenshot of my characters’ images (or what I’m imagining they look like…) in Scrivener

A screenshot of my characters’ images (or what I’m imagining they look like…) in Scrivener

3. My Outline

The third piece of this literary trifecta is my outline itself. Yes, I’m a plotter, no mystery there. I like to know exactly how my story will unfold, what needs to go where, and when it needs to happen (though that doesn’t mean I can’t make changes).

For me that takes research and planning. In fact, it’s my longest writing phase—about six months. After that, I need three months to complete the first draft and another three to complete the edits. At least that was the schedule for my second novel, and I hope to keep the same pace.

Plotting doesn’t float every writer’s boat, and that’s okay. But stringing my outline together while simultaneously reading Brook’s book and taking Ms. Hernandez’s class makes me hyper-aware of the elements that will improve my story. In other words, since the advice is fresh in my mind, it gets actively incorporated into my work.

For once, the stars are aligned…

Any software or books that make your life easier, writing-related or otherwise? Do you use Scrivener?

*     *     *

Rubin4Carrie Rubin is the author of The Seneca Scourgea medical thriller. For full bio, click here.

189 Responses to “Integrating Writing Tools For Story Creation—Sometimes The Stars Align”

  1. Kourtney Heintz

    I’m slowly moving my drafted manuscripts into scrivener to create series bibles. I haven’t started drafting a new novel yet, but I think I might try drafting Six Train’s sequel in Scrivener this summer. For me it’s Margie Lawson’s packets on revision and editing that revolutionized my writing.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I think I remember you posting about Lawson’s editing tips. I’ll have to relook her up. I am loving Scrivener this time around now that I know better how to use it. The class is over now, but I took a zip drive of all 20 of Gwen’s class handouts to Kinkos and had them printed out. I keep them in a binder for easy reference. Using the program is as much fun as the writing!

      Like

  2. Aussa Lorens

    I need to check Scrivener out. A lot of people were talking about it at the start of NaNo last year… and I’ll be (hopefully) working on something this coming Autumn. While I tend to just write and see where it take me, my heart secretly longs for structure. *sigh* Don’t tell anyone.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Structure is good, but even for those who like to wing it, Scrivener is wonderful. I’d marry it if I could. ;)

      Like

  3. talesfromthemotherland

    Damn! I think you’ve just nudged me to step outside my comfort zone. I may have to check out this Scrivner, of which you speak… ;-) I am so fly by the seat of my pants. No surprise; we seem to do many things differently. But I so enjoy that your brain works this way, and you can make it so approachable! Interesting post, Carrie.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Well, Scrivener is just software so it can be used by plotters and pantsers alike. Some even use it for blogging or for other writing projects. I think I’m in love with it. ;)

      Like

      • talesfromthemotherland

        Sounds like it (love)… now, if I could just organize myself enough to look at it. I fall into addiction pretty easily (that’s my other word for love ;-) )

        Like

        • Carrie Rubin

          Well, if you do, I certainly recommend Gwen’s course. It’s just a few minutes a day (or one could do all the prior week’s sessions on the weekend if preferred), which I like because small bits stay with me better than a long tutorial. It’s in one ear and out the other! (Or is that in one eye and out the other?…)

          Like

  4. Anne Chia

    Looking up scrivener, now I am curious. I do not know that the “structuredness” of it all is my cup of tea, but let’s see

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Well, Scrivener is great whether you’re an outliner or a pantser. Some people use it for blogging, too. I’m having fun playing around with all these new features I’ve learned. Just have to make sure I actually get some work done, too. ;)

      Like

  5. PinotNinja

    I am so impressed you have the patience to outline. I need to learn that skill — I get so excited by an idea or character that I just take off writing until I inevitably bring myself to a giant roadblock that I can’t back out of without deleting weeks of work.

    Looks like patience really is a virtue with respect to everything, even fun creative journeys.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      After winging it with my first one and then having to do major rewrites, I decided to become a fan of outlining. My last novel went so much more smoothly, I easily converted!

      Like

  6. Arlene

    I started reading Brooks’ Story Engineering but found it so structured that I couldn’t get through it. Yep, I’m more of a pantser, though I’m doing a little more planning … if you can call a circle with an idea in it pointing to another circle with another idea or scene pointing to another on a piece of paper ‘planning.’ Trust me that’s an improvement from just opening a Word doc and starting to type whatever I felt at the moment.

    I do follow Brooks’ blog where I get tips on story structure in smaller chunks and I know I’ll go back to his book at some point and think, ‘why didn’t I finish it the first time?’ :)

    Glad you’re using Scrivener and enjoying the course. It’s a great piece of software though I still struggle with the compiling feature. I’m looking forward to hearing more as your story unfolds and of course, seeing the end product!!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I can’t believe all the features I was missing out on in Scrivener. So glad I’m taking the class.

      I love Brooks’s books, but I can see how some writers might find them too structured. We all work differently. Whatever gets us writing is the way to go. :)

      Like

  7. CortlandWriter

    Nice post! Gwen’s class, which I took last winter, has made all the diference in my writing and allowing me to publish my new book The Good Luck Highway. Long live Scrivener! :-)

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Glad to hear you took it, too! It really makes the writing process smoother. There was so much I wasn’t taking advantage of. Congrats on the book!

      Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I bet you’d love it. You seem very organized, and Scrivener is such a wonderful way to organize and manage a manuscript.

      Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Glad to hear it. Thank you! My guess is I’ll finish my current WIP before the last one even sees the light of day, such is the slow pace of traditional publishing. Might just have to consider going the Indie route if my hair starts turning gray in the process. :)

      Like

  8. Kathleen McNiff (@KMcNiff)

    Hi Carrie – thanks for this great post. I think NVivo is a really useful tool for authors (I’m a techwriter at QSR so I may be a little biased ;) By night I’m a fledgling fiction writer (find me a techwriter who isn’t) and at the moment I’m attempting some historical fiction. So I bring all my research material into NVivo – web clippings, videos, photos. I write-up my ideas in memos and use the modeller to make mind maps – great for outlining. I can keep everything organized and easily find what I need. I’m also a big fan of Evernote. Anyway – love your novel and your blog – keep aligning those stars :)

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you so much! You’re the second person who’s mentioned NVivo. I looked at it, and it looks like a great program. I’ll have to study it in more detail. That would’ve come in very handy with my past research.

      Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate it. Good luck with your writing–of all kinds!

      Like

  9. Carol Wuenschell

    Hey, whatever works for you! I’m glad you’re finding these useful tools and letting the world know about them so others can potentially benefit – if your description speaks to them.

    I’m a great believer in knowing where you’re going with a story. It avoids aimlessness. I just work best doing most of my planning in my head. I find there are things I can only discover by actually trying to write the scenes. My outline might call for going directly from point A to point B, but I’ll find when I get there that the only plausible way to do it is by going through point C. Or characters just don’t “want” to develop the way I intend. That sort of thing.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I agree–even with an outline, story paths deviate. But now with Scrivener, it’ll be easier for me to track what I’ve changed instead of scrolling through a long Word Document.

      It’s amazing how much story creation we do in our heads, isn’t it? Before I even started working on my story’s milestones and prelim outline, I pretty much had the story mapped out. Just because we’re not at the keyboard doesn’t mean we’re not writing. Thanks!

      Like

  10. Vanessa-Jane Chapman

    I’m terrible with new things, well, not ALL new things of course, but I hate learning new software or how to use new technology, once I’ve grasped them, then I’m pretty good and can’t imagine being without them, but for some reason I have no patience with the learning process for those things. I recently went to an introductory session for NVivo, which was being touted as really good for those of us doing dissertations, and whilst I can see how fantastic it is, and how it might save me a lot of time once I’ve mastered it, I just have this block about following through and learning it. Do you know NVivo? I think you’d really like it – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NVivo

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      NVivo looks wonderful! I’ve never used it. I’ve used SPSS and SAS for quantitative analysis but nothing for qualitative like NVivo. Thanks for the info.

      I’m like you–I’m not thrilled to learn new software, but once I do, I can’t imagine getting by without it. Thanks to this class, I’m now at that point. :)

      Like

Comments are closed.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,708 other followers

%d bloggers like this: