Keeping Track of Goals

Since my last spate of regular updates, I have been looking for something to really help with keeping track of my writing goals.  At the moment, I have a day job (which I love, don’t get me wrong) and sometimes it can make writing difficult.  I’m really struggling some days to help get myself on some kind of writing routine.  For me, setting myself a goal (and a deadline) helps.  For something like writing, there are a myriad of ways to set yourself a goal.  It can be in how much time you want to spend.  It can be in word count (my preferred method), or characters, or– the list goes on.

Finding a reliable way to keep track of your goal can be a bit troublesome.  I did some Google searching one day.  I was looking for a way to keep track of word count.  I love the graphs and the progress bar that you get with NaNoWriMo; I wanted something like that, but not just for November.  I stumbled upon Pacemaker.

It has become invaluable in keeping track of my goals.  I’m the type that getting to see Pacemaker8how far I am can help me keep going.  It gives me motivation and satisfaction.  What I like about Pacemaker is that it is supremely flexible.  You can use a lot of different metrics like word count, time, sections, chapters, pages.  They have even added things for those needing to keep track of other goals like money, fitness, steps, etc.  I used it for outlining and since I tend to do outlining in my WriteMind before I start writing, I used pages for my metric.  It also has a wide variety of ways in which to proceed.  For example, using a steady goal means that it will automatically calculate how many words (or whatever) you need a day during the Pacemaker5time limit you set.  You can do other settings aside from a steady pace as well.  There’s Rising to the Challenge, Biting the Bullet, Mountain Hike, Valley, Oscillating, and Randomly.  The great thing is, you can change it as much as you want and it calculates automatically based on your settings.

One of the other things I love about it is that if you know specific days or specific dates are going to be better or worse for your goals, then you can either skip them, have the daily goal change to be less than other days, or more depending.

They also have four different ways to view it.  There’s the table, the graph, the calendar,

and the bar graph.  Personally, I keep it in calendar as I’m working on things, but I love looking at the bar graph every so often and when I complete it all, I plan on saving the graph and printing it out.  There is also a progress bar up at the top of the screen at all times, which is lovely.Pacemaker7

Now, I have the Premium account because I wanted to be able to use everything they have as well as everything they plan on coming out with.  Their free account gives you the ability to make two plans at a time.  The premium account (at $8 a month or $72 for the year) gives you no limitations plus more features.  I have found it more than worth the price, but even the free account might work well for some.  One of the features you can get with the premium account is another calendar view that shows all of the current projects/goals you may be working on at one time.  So if you are working on a novel, maybe another outline, or a short story plus if you want to keep track of how often you go to the gym, it would all be there at a glance.  There is also the ability to put a small description for each project and I do believe that is only for premium as well.

There are a few things I would love them to do, mostly have a mobile app and not just browser based, as well as maybe a built in timer.  But then I’m greedy and I love one-stop shopping as it were.  The less windows/apps/things I need, the better!  As it is, I use Pacemaker and an Android app called Writeometer.  But overall, I do love Pacemaker and I love the fact that they are so responsive to their community!  They quite lovely and I can’t wait to see everything they come out with in the days, weeks, months, and years to come!

Outlining in Scrivener

Ok, so today I’m going to show you a bit how I do some of my outlining in Scrivener. I’ve fallen in love with this program. I won’t extol the virtues of it because I can go on about it for a while. I also won’t go through how to use step by step because there are already quite a few great resources out there that explain things a lot better than I can, so when I talk of things, I will be assuming you know the basics of Scrivener, so apologies if you don’t! But I know it can be helpful to see the process for other writers.
I will say that my process is ever evolving and it can be different for each project I work on. But I’ve found a layout for myself that works quite well. Now, the amount of time I spent looking at examples of how other writers set things up is pretty ridiculous actually, but I find I am a person that does best when I have something to go off of. I tried using some of Scrivener’s templates and while they are helpful, they didn’t quite fulfill all of my needs. So I have begun to create my own templates. I actually have templates for novels, one for blog posts, and one where I keep a collection of story ideas that don’t have their own Scrivener project yet.
draft-binder The layout for novels is ever changing, as I said, but I’ll show you the layout I am using for my current work-in-progress. Because I can’t seem to do just one off novels, I originally set up a blank document and set it up where I have the first level as Book 1. Each Book is divided up into chapters, then of course scenes/sequels.  That’s the “manuscript” part of Scrivener in the binder. Then, it gets a little—complicated, I guess you could say XD I do like to outline, though I don’t do as much as others I have found. I tend to go right in the middle. I like a solid idea of where I’m going, but I don’t want to plan so much that all of the fun is gone for me. This is an entirely personal preference, of course.
plot-binderAfter the Manuscript or Draft section, I set up one called Plot. There, I keep a number of things. The story idea (if I did one) which is a template I set up so I can just fill it out for each project goes there, as does the Premise that contains several things including: premise, theme, dramatic question, as well as subplots. I also put my “What ifs” here as well, which is something that I learned from KM Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel. Highly recommended to check out! I also keep what I call a Plot Plan here, which is marking down a few things like: the inciting and key events, theme, the hook, the first plot point, the first pinch point, the midpoint, the second pinch point, the third plot point, the Climax, and the resolution. It lets me see a sort of road map, just something to keep me on track as I go. Again, this is from Structuring your Novel, another read I highly recommend!
Last but not least, I keep a separate folder in the Plot part for Scenes. This is where I use another template to record the ideas for scenes I already have. Now, for those that really love to outline everything, you can sit down and just record all the planned scenes you have, detail their goal, their conflict, all of that. I don’t detail out every scene because things often change a bit as I go, so I mostly just detail out scenes that I know I want to hit. So starting out, I’d do those my plot plan and any others I have off the top of my head. I may or may not detail more as I think of them during the project or I may just write them out and see how it goes.
character-binderThe next bit is Characters. I really enjoy getting to know my characters both during the Outlining phase and of course, writing phase. I have several things that go here. Each character gets their own folder. In that folder are a few things: they get a checklist which is a list of about 60 questions that I try to answer for as many characters as possible. Many characters also get a Character Questionnaire that involves their arc, and then lastly, I do a bit of a questionnaire that outlines their character arc based on structure. It seems like a lot, but I do enjoy this process because it helps me to see where certain parts of the character arc fits within the novel.
world-notes-binderAfter that, there’s the Settings folder, which is where I keep track of well, the setting. I put any world notes here, keep track of locations, cities, etc. I even might keep house layouts here (yes, yes I actually do this XD). In the Research folder below that, I often will keep what I call inspiration pictures of my characters, maps, research notes and the like.
This is a quick explanation of the beginning of my outlining process and how I set up my Scrivener projects. I am going to pause on this and do a review of K.M. Weiland’s Creating Character Arcs for next week! But I will pick up on this the following week, so if there’s anything you want to see, let me know in the comments below or contact me via the form.

A Few Writing Tools

Each writer has their own little routine that best suits them. That routine is going to be comprised of several components. One of the more important components is the actual tools used. I thought I’d share about what tools that I use for writing.
Scrivener
OneNote
Laptop
Microsoft Word
WriteMind journal

scrivenerI’ll go one by one. For those that don’t know what Scrivener is, it is a program by Literature and Latte that is made especially for writers. It is a very comprehensive program where you can keep all of your notes and research all in one space while you are writing. It has many many features and there is a slight learning curve, but it is definitely worth it. Using the basics is fairly simple and once those are mastered, finding uses for the other features makes things so much easier. It has taken me a bit of time to get used to it, to figure out how to use it to suit my own needs. But now that I am, I am loving it. I will most likely do another post with how I actually set it up and use it (not a how-to, since there are quite a few better examples of that). I know I find it helpful to see how others use it for their own writing, so I will do that later on.
onenoteThough most of my writing and notes and research are in Scrivener, I do still use OneNote for a few little things. I like to print out inspiration pictures so inserting the pictures in there is a bit easier since I do use an odd size sheet because of the WriteMind and while you can insert pictures into Scrivener, I like the bit more freedom I have in OneNote, for pictures at least.
asusOf course, both OneNote and Scrivener are on my little laptop. It’s a 2-in-1 Asus Tranformer Book. I love this little thing. It is a 7 inch screen which works well. One of the requirements for a writing laptop for me at the time was portability. I was using a 17 inch Dell and it was just too big to take with me. This is a great size and very portable. It runs Windows 10 rather well (after dealing with 10 being annoying) and allows me to use all the other programs I need like Scrivener, OneNote, Word, and anything else.
wordI use Microsoft Word to print out my notes. Scrivener has a wonderful compile function that converts your Scrivenings into a Word document. I find it much easier to get the formating I need by compiling notes into Word and then printing them from there.

writemindI need the notes because I put them into my WriteMind Journal. I will most likely be doing another post on the WriteMinds to show them off, so for right now, I have to say that they are wonderful. I like to write long-hand when I’m having issues, or sometimes when I’m out and about and can’t take my laptop with me. It’s small and compact and I keep all my notes in there.

Aside from the actual tools, I often need some form of noise. This takes the form of music or sometimes a show or movie I’ve seen quite a lot that becomes background noise. A cup of tea or a drink is also a requirement. While all that is wonderful, there are times I don’t have that. Like when I’m at work. I always carry my WriteMind with me though so I can jot down any ideas that may strike me… which they often do because my characters like to give me ideas at the most inopportune moments! But this way, ideas are not completely lost.
This is just a quick run down on what I use for writing.  As I said, I will be doing some more detailed posts on a few of the items and programs I use as well as what my actual routine may look like.  So stay tuned for those!