Just Another Blog

my random ramblings about crafts, writing, books and kids

getting it done: tools

Every writer has their own way of getting things done. Different methods for coming up with ideas or expanding those ideas. Different styles, different techniques.

This post is about the different tools we use to write with.

I used to be a hybrid writer. Meaning that I would start out on paper then when I finished a chapter I would type it up, print it off then do editing on paper. On the back I would work on the next chapter. Or, as I did in 2010 for NaNoWriMo, I would write some in paper, count out each word (noting in the corner of each page in the notebook) and when I had the chance I’d use the PC in the living room that I shared with my husband and kids. When it came time to tally word count I added up what I had on the PC and what I had on paper, then copied that amount of words into the validater. Viola! A win.scrivener

So my tools range from good old pen and paper all the way up to specific noveling software.

I’m picky about my pens but I won’t go into that right now. This year for NaNo I’m using Scrivener from Literature and Latte. They offer a 30 day free trial for both Mac and Windows users and in the past they’ve extended the free trial through the end of NaNo for anyone that is using it. I’ve fiddled with this program for a few years while it was in beta but last year I finally got the hang of it and after I won NaNo I used my 50% of coupon to buy a copy.

What I like about Scrivener is how you can divide your project however you want or you can use one of their preformatted templates. I like to start with a blank template and then I divide my book into Acts (I, II.1, II.2 and III). I make them into folders. Above them I leave a page with notes on the plot breakdown. Then I start with scene 001 in Act I. This year I’m outlining in advance for the first time so I’m using Scrivener’s “outline” view. It lets me see the title, synopsis, and other meta about the page (or scene). I type in as much description of the scene as I want, mark it as “to do” and highlight it as a scene (in the past I’ve also changed the status colors to mean different POV characters.

Later on I will actually do my writing on each page. And eventually will link them together in chapter folders. The Act folders will be deleted because Scrivener can save your work in a standard manuscript format. Each folder marked as a chapter will appear in the manuscript as Chapter X. Every scene on a separate page is given space (or you can specify a mark like *** to go between them). It’s a really neat feature.

Scrivener also has a corkboard view where the synopses your wrote are on little index cards so you can see how they work together. My only problem with this is that you can only see one folder at a time. So you can’t visualize all the scenes like, say, you want to know if you need to move a scene from Act II to Act I. Or between chapters (if you are using chapter folders). Of course this can be solved by having no folders but I like the division.

There are also other features like being able to make notes in the “Inspector” for each page (scene), use keywords, and keep research handy. You can make new “binders” to organize different arcs or characters but you have to manually move each scene/chapter over to that binder and then organize them how you like. It can come in happy if you have multiple POVs and want to see each of their POV stories separately.

All in all, Scrivener is pretty flexible for most writers and I find it very helpful in organizing my ideas and outline. The novel templates even come with character background templates and setting templates (pages you copy paste and then fill in for each character/setting). Which can be helpful. Or you can make your own.

aeontimelineThe other program I’m using this year is Aeon Timeline from Scribblecode. It’s set up very similar to Scrivener with the Inspector box on the side to keep all your information about each event organized. You can create separate arcs for whatever you want–characters, chapters, story arcs, etc. I set mine up by Acts since that is how my outline was in Scrivener.

At the top there’s also a “global arc” where I keep track of plot points and other bookwise info. Once I got the arcs set up I started plotting events–one for each scene I’d come up with, color coded by POV (I have 2 in my book). In the Inspector I write a synopsis for the scene and can make tags.

There are other things you can do like create “entities” like people and keep track of where they appear in your novel by clicking any intersecting point. I played around with that feature by creating a timeline of births in mine and my husband’s families. Starting with the oldest (his father, who died in 2003 and ending with his great-niece who was just born at the end of August). A star marks each birth on the timeline at the time. A box marks their deaths. And you can add “participant” or “observer” status to other members. Such as connecting a new baby to its parents with the participant circle where they connect. It was kind of fun and I know it will be perfect for figuring out an old fanfic I was working on with like a dozen POVs and for keeping ages straight in another story that lasts over decades.

I highly recommend trying Aeon Timeline, too. Right now there is a 20 day free trial (that’s 20 actual use days, not consecutive days. But on my trial copy it says it won’t expire before December 15. I think that means I can continue to use it past the 20 day mark because of NaNo. I already have a 40% of code because I won NaNo so I completely intend to buy it when we have the money.

Well, those are two of the programs I use to do my noveling. What are yours? And why do you prefer them?


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One thought on “getting it done: tools

  1. James on said:

    There is a public community with over 1300 members for Scrivener Users. It is hosted on Google Plus, but you do not need a Google Plus account to read the postings which the members have posted.

    If you want to visit Scrivener Users, the URL is:


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