Scrivener and Joseph Michael – 9 tips from the Scrivener Expert!

Reading Time: 2 minutes
The Conwy Mussel Sculpture, created by Greame Mitcheson, stands on the quayside in Conwy, North Wales.
Nothing says success with writing software like giant mussels. These are in Conwy, Wales.

I recently attended several sessions of Chandler Bolt’s online writing conference, the Self Publishing Success Summit.  All the sessions I watched were excellent, offering high quality advice from experienced authors. One session though, offered even more – the tutorial given by Joseph Michael, AKA Scrivener Guy.

Joseph gave us an hour of highly-condensed video tutorial on Scrivener for books or blogs. I wrote a million notes, some of which I’m sharing here, but I encourage anyone struggling with Scrivener to visit Joseph’s website Learn Scrivener Fast and get some help from him.

Some info I gleaned from this brief but packed online session.

  1. Scrivener for Mac seems to have a LOT more in it. I love my PC but Joseph’s screen was all shiny with extra features – like being able to sort your content in the Outliner by their status. Envy!
  2. Generate automatic summaries for your scenes using the Inspector area.
  3. Why not use card labels in the Corkboard view to indicate the point of view character for that scene? And then add colour. You can see how thrilling this might become.
  4. Add the URL from web pages you’re using for research, straight into the Research folder, then use that area just like a browser.
  5. Work with split screens to show research and writing side by side.
  6. You can set scene and project targets and track your progress. In Mac you can see your writing days too.) Motivational!
  7. Drag an image directly into your scrivener text, too, for example for an ebook cover.
  8. Prep your book instantly for Kindle with Scrivener’s Compile feature, and choose what to include/leave out of each compile.
  9. Import directly from a Word document – and use hashtags in your Word doc to indicate where you would like Scrivener to make a split between this scene and the next. Genius.

There was a ton of stuff to learn from the session, and I can recommend Joseph’s style and expertise without hesitation. I now feel so much more confident with Scrivener, and use it to track and store my blog posts as well as book plans.

The SPS Summit was awesome all round, so I’ll be posting more about what I took away from the sessions I attended. The Scrivener freebie though was my top session, in a tie with the one from Joanna Penn, of whom more later.


My Biggest Pants Yet – outlining a novel, Part 2

Reading Time: 2 minutes

sefton-vertical-encrustedI read these books last week when I got in trouble with outlining my first novel. Below are my impressions of these books, and what I’ve learned by reading them.

Take off your pants! by Libbie Hawker. This was my first admission that, for a story longer than anything I’d ever written*, I needed help.

Libbie Hawker’s book started out annoying – I dislike the cosy, sparkly tone she adopts – but soon it gets down to solid advice, and her own suggested formula for a satisfying story structure. She uses one of her own books as an example, but also some well known stories. I liked the shape of her outline, but had trouble with her definitions of the Antagonist and Ally, since they seemed to be the opposite of standard explanations of these.

I could see what she was getting at, but I couldn’t pin these definitions on any of my characters. Did that mean I was trying to write a novel without either of these? I didn’t think so, but I couldn’t make it stick.

I liked her iteration of the ‘Drive for Goal>Antagonist Attacks!>Thwart>Revisiting Main Character’s Flaw>New Drive For Goal’ flow. I can totally see how that could lead the reader through a series of increasingly Bad Things until the main character is forced to address their Flaw, challenge the Antagonist, and be changed by the outcome. I tend to do this anyway, but I don’t think I use the Antagonist/Ally double-whammy she describes. So this book was interesting but I’ve yet to get a handle on applying its ideas.

Super Structure, by James Scott Bell. James Scott Bell proposes a different structure, based around the main character experiencing a disturbance in their status quo, and then being propelled through two ‘doorways of no return.’ I like this simpler idea, but then got stuck again trying to identify my doorways. Is it when my character runs away recklessly seeking glory? Is it when his home is destroyed by the bad guys? Is it much, much sooner, when he first arrives at the strange village? Aarrgghh. (But see my later post on this – Sef)

Twenty Master Plots and How to Build Them. Ronald B Tobias’ book is a little different. It suggests you identify your story as one of his 20 basic types of plot, and then use the corresponding deep structure. My plot is easily identified as a quest (hurrah – I can ignore the following 19 chapters) but then again I got tied up in trying to match anything in my book to any of the stages Tobias insists are fundamental.

Lessons learned about structure: think about structure when you first brainstorm your ideas. That way, instead of shoehorning your existing plot into a structure-shape and assessing if it works, you can be starting from an empty system which you can fill with your inspiration. I never thought I’d say this, but maybe I need some slightly smaller pants after all.

To be continued…

Jump back to Part 1