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.

Beginning Writing and some Outlining

I was going to break down my process by what I use, but I realized that I use most of my tools at all stages of the writing process, so for now, I am going to go in a more chronological order for how I write.

The beginning of any writing process starts with the obvious: an idea. For me, an idea can be a character th20161222_191719_censoredat pops into my head (this is a frequent occurrence), a setting, or even sometimes a scene that comes fully formed. If I’m smart (sadly, I am not always smart when it comes to story ideas), I write whatever it is down. OR, I have recently begun using a simple recording app on my phone if I am absolutely in a place or situation where I can’t write something down. With the WriteMinds, there’s a handy little Story sheet that I’ve begun to use.

Now, ideas can be a very odd thing. As I said above, ideas come in all varieties. Sometimes they are crystal clear and other times it’s like trying to peer into a murky lake to see what might be lurking on the bottom.

This is where I like to free write. Once I write down what my initial thoughts are, I give myself a bit of time to think and then just start writing. K.M. Weiland calls it ‘What ifs’ and that is definitely part of it, but I write down everything and anything I think of, even if I have no intention of using it. Sometimes, that kind of thing makes it’s way into another idea, or becomes a new idea all its own! Hm… that might explain why I am having the problem of not finishing anything! Too many ideas! Anyway, trying to record as much as you can is a good habit to get into.

Once I have a solid handle of the kind of story I want to tell, I start working on a premise statement. I don’t follow any kind of format for this part. I just do a sentence or two of the kind of story I want to write. Once I have that in mind, I tend to go in a couple of different directions, all depending upon what sparked the idea to begin with. If it was a character that popped into my head, I try to get to the know the character first. I do that by filling out a character checklist that I have from a book called “Fantasy Fiction Formula” by Deborah Chester (this is another great resource and highly recommended, though details will be a future post). I tend to tweak it as needed, either deleting or adding questions when I need them.

If it was a scene that popped into my head, I write it out, often taking notes as things about the world or characters occur to me in the margins (or as footnotes). If it was a vague idea, or a general premise, then I tend to have a bit more fun and just start free-writing. I may even jump around from character interviews/sheets to worldbuilding to planning out a few scenes.

I tend to go back and forth between my WriteMind Journal and Scrivener here. Sometimes, I just like to write long-hand and then transcribe it into Scrivener. This is especially true if I start this at work or when I’m out and about scrivener-premise_censoredwithout my computer. Once it gets into Scrivener, I compile it and then print it out so I can put it into my WriteMind. Once I have the initial ideas down, I begin to flesh things out. Lately, after doing some important reading (especially ‘Structuring your Novel’ by KM Weiland), I try to look at some of the themes and the Dramatic Question (Deborah Chester calls it SPOOC) of the story in question. Once those are figured out, I again jump around to characters and more worldbuilding.

It’s often at that stage that subplots start to form and so they get noted down as well. One of the things I struggled with previously is how to outline without feeling as if I had trapped myself. The secret is in jumping around. Don’t feel you have to follow a linear plan or do it in just such a way; it took me a while not only to realize this, 20161222_191750_censoredbut to feel comfortable with it. I like my plans and knowing what to do when XD But this way seems to help spark a lot more creativity and it is all very much connected. While it makes sense to start with your initial idea and the premise, trying to complete just one thing before moving on is actually more limiting.

Once I have enough of an outline (and this tends to vary for each piece or project I’ve found), I sit down and start writing. I tend to prefer to do this part almost exclusively in Scrivener. I also use Scrivener to help plan scenes out. I don’t plan each scene out beforehand all the time. Some scenes don’t come to me until I’ve begun writing. One thing to keep in mind; just because you have a plan doesn’t mean you have to stick to it. If you find a side-road to take, take it, see where it leads!

Welp, that’s the beginning part of my process. Next week, I’ll show you some of the things I do in Scrivener, both while Outlining and what I do during the actual writing process. See you then!

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!

Some Planning/Prep Thoughts

So it is week two of Wrimoverse (well since we officially launched it anyway).  For those of you that don’t know what that is, myself and several of my ML friends have embarked on even MORE insanity for NaNoWrimo than we ever have before.  It’s a multi-region event, encompassing multiple countries and timezones as well.  There is a weekly story (in October, will be bi-weekly come November) piece that goes out with all of our regional mails, a Ship Cup (our four ships all compete by having their officers and cadets record points based on earning badges, completing tasks, and attending/participating in the online events that are planned), as well as just lots of general writing insanity.

It’s gotten a lot bigger than I think we were thinking it would.  HQ has even asked if we mind if they send out an announcement about it 0.o  So it’s probably going to get bigger which is pretty awesome for our first time with this!

Aside from what goes into that, been trying to do some planning/prep for my NaNo novel.  I’ve switched to Scrivener in order to write this year.  I’ve always used OneNote and Word in order to keep my notes and write my novels, but I love that Scrivener keeps all that in one place.  The first time I used Scrivener was when it was still in Beta form for Windows and sadly, it just didn’t have what I needed at the time.  But now that the Windows version has a lot of what the Mac version does (and is continually getting new things as well), I can safely say that it will now be my new writing software of choice.  The one drawback I’m finding is that is a bit overwhelming.  The basics aren’t too hard to get down and the flexibility is amazing, but I’m actually finding that it’s a bit TOO flexible XD  I’m trying to find the organization that I like best and that works for me.  I think I’m keying in on it, but we’ll see how that goes as October progresses.  I will say, my favorite features at the moment are: The Snapshot, Corkboard mode, and Outliner mode.

Perhaps, when I’m feeling more adventurous, I’ll post up some of the organizational ideas I’ve decided to go with.  I won’t do tutorials for it because there are so many great ones out there, far better than I can explain, but I do know seeing how others organize their projects has been helpful, so I might do that once I’ve settled on it.  Also, the NaNoWriMo trial version and template are out as well, which can help those doing NaNo ^^

To help me keep track of word counts and progress, aside from Scrivener, I use an Android app called Writeometer.  At the moment, it is only for Android, but I love it.  You can have as many projects as you want, list word count goals, daily goals, etc.  It has timers built in and even allows you to make little notes to yourself when you fill in your word count entries.  I often will make notes about what I plan on doing next, or maybe if there was a name or something I need to look up in case I forget (which I do XD).  Again, Scrivener also has a great way to track progress, but I like using both.  Plus, Writeometer has a couple fun tools as well, and it has “guavas” which are rewards you earn for doing word sprints with the timer.  You can spend those guavas on treats that you can program in.  For instance, my big reward this year will be getting to play Sims 4 (the new EP comes out the 1st XD), but ONLY after I get my daily goals XD.  You can assign a worth to treats (I made Sims cost 5 or 6 guavas I think XD).

I think that’s about all for today.  Going to attempt to keep a regular schedule.  Every week or every other week at least.  Would be happy to answer any questions for anyone as well ^^