Writing Update

  • I’m still editing my novel after getting notes from my beta readers. Most of the notes are super helpful, and it’s good also to go over the book after a while.
  • I’ve tightened the prose in places, plugged a few plot holes, and clarified a few scenes — which is not something that I expected to do on the third or fourth draft.
  • Scrivener is life. Thankfully my novel was split to scenes, so it was easy to move things around to restructure the narrative after the feedback I got. It was also easy to split the scenes into new chapters, and take quick snapshot backups of each scene before I edited it.
  • As usual, the first third of the novel is the part that needed the most editing. I’ll give it another once over once I’ve finished editing the final chapters.
  • It took me a long time to get into the editing mood, but things are going pretty fast now. I’ve started using a task list in Drafts and it’s proven useful in keeping me organized and motivated, without allowing me to be sucked into productivity pr0n.
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Writing Update

My Analogue Writing Tools

I wrote the first few chapters of my first novel longhand, with fountain pen on loose sheets of A4 tomoe river paper. As I realized that I would have to type everything into Scrivener before I could even start editing, the lazy programmer within me balked. It was fine doing this with quick drafts, but writing an entire novel longhand was not for me.

I still use pen, pencil and paper a lot in my writing though. I use a fountain pen (anything that doesn’t have a flex or novelty nib will do — from extra-fine to 1.1mm stubs) and loose sheets of A4 and A5 tomoe river paper to work on my outlines, for quick drafts, to test plot options out, or when I’m really, really stuck in my writing. A Field Notes Byline is constantly under my keyboard, horizontally. Yes, I know that the lines don’t go that way, but I ignore them. The form factor is perfect for that, and the ruling is pale enough for me to easily ignore it. I use a Blackwing 16.2 or 24 with it, to quickly capture any ideas that may come up during my writing, to remind myself where I was going with an idea or what I need to fix a previous place, to brainstorm names, etc. It serves as a scratch pad that allows me to maintain my writing flow and still remember things along the way.

Messy, messy handwriting, because getting things down on paper is more important to me then keeping them pretty. 

So, even if you do all your writing using Ulysses or Scrivener (hopefully not Word), I recommend that you incorporate some analogue tools in your process. You’re bound to find them useful, particularly when you’re stuck or you’ve dug yourself into a hole.

My Analogue Writing Tools

Back to Writing and Using Scrivener Bookmarks

After a very long stint of editing and rewriting, I am back to writing daily again (no, not as part of NaNoWriMo).

I’ve learned a few things from my first time around, and now I’m just writing as much as I can as fast as I can. The goal at this point is to get things down, to have something to work with later as most of the work will happen in the first and second draft anyway. So long as the bones and most of the body are there, I’m fine. This means that I’m no longer sweating details like times, names of things and exact locations. I just highlight them and will work around them, leaving those decisions for a later draft, when I have a much better idea of what the story needs.

I’m also using Scrivener’s bookmarks from the start to document which characters, places and important objects appear in which chapter. I highly recommend that you do so, because it allows you to make significant changes in later drafts more easily. That’s how I changed the name of one of my main characters in my previous novel. Just add characters and places notes in different text notes under “Characters” and “Places”, and then using the Inspector, add an internal bookmark.

Back to Writing and Using Scrivener Bookmarks

Hey, Hey, What’s Going On?

  • I’m working on the second draft of my first novel (so far in Chapter 3 of 22), and outlining and discovery writing my second novel. Scrivener has been a blast for this too, allowing me to manage my characters and references to them without resorting to another tool (I’ll try to do a post about that later on).
  • I meant to give The Rook another try (I got annoyed with it after 30 pages during my first go), but due to a lot of upheaval at work, I started reading Linchpin instead.
  • Two of my co-workers (two of the best), are leaving: one to go abroad, and the other one to a different department. That’s made me rethink my future at work, whether I need to move as well and pick up a new area of expertise or not. After a lot of anxious soul searching I realized what I’d forgotten in all this mess — my dream isn’t to work in tech, it’s to be a writer. My day job is what allows me to write while keeping a roof over my head, nothing more, and every minute that I invest in it is a minute in which I’m not writing. This whole ordeal just made me want to double down on writing even more.
  • I’ve got a busy month and a half in July and August, and then things will settle down a bit more. My updates here may be sporadic as a consequence, as I prioritize my writing and running instead.

 

Hey, Hey, What’s Going On?

Biweekly Routine

Routines and rituals are important, and one of the signs of a craftsperson is their care for the tools they use. This is true for any kind of maker, whether your craft is storytelling or leatherwork. Every two weeks I try to go through this routine, to make sure that the things that I use when I write are there and in order when I sit down to do my writing.

Clean keyboard

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Some computer keyboards harbour more harmful bacteria than a toilet seat, research has suggested. 

A BBC News report published the findings of a consumer group Which? on keyboard hygiene, and not surprisingly they were shocking.

Since your keyboard is one of your main, if not your main writing tool, taking 10-15 minutes every two weeks to clean it doesn’t seem excessive, yet few writers do so.

Here are the keyboard cleaning guides that I use:

PC World: How to Clean Your Keyboard – simple, informative, easy to follow advice on how to clean your keyboard.

Rispter Guide: Cleaning Keyboards – funny, and with plenty of pictures. Also, much more thorough than the PC world guide, and geared towards mechanical keyboard maintenance.

Check backups

You can read up here on how to backup your work. Once every two weeks go over your backups and check to see that everything is where you expect it to be.

Organize notes

Take a few minutes once every two weeks to go over your notes, file or throw away those that aren’t relevant anymore and make sure that you don’t have any loose notes scribbled on envelopes or post-it notes around the house.

Organize file names

If you for some reason work with Word and not with Scrivener (why?), and keep several versions of your work in different files, take a moment to make sure that your file names haven’t gotten out of hand, and you still know where everything is and what everything is. File names “My novel – old new new version 2” — I’m looking at you.

Check notebooks, pencils, pens

Check your notebooks, pencils, pens (fountain pens or not), to see what needs to be refilled soon, reinforced or replaced.

Update Scrivener project metadata

Take some time to fill in character names and short descriptions, places information, references etc. in your Scrivener project’s Characters, Places or Research folders. This information is important to keep on hand for long projects, and is especially useful to keep bundled together with your writing — mainly for search purposes (“where did I reference X character?”).

Biweekly Routine

Backup, backup, backup

[Note: I use a Mac for all of my writing, so this post is geared towards Mac users. If you have a PC you need to find a replacement for Time Machine or SuperDuper  — Windows Backup does not work well and I haven’t found a good enough replacement — but otherwise the rest of my post is still relevant to you.]

It doesn’t matter what you are writing, whether it’s a paper, article, short story or novel, if you are typing into a computer, you need a backup system.

Start out by investing in an external hard drive, one that isn’t a portable 2.5’’ drive (those are less reliable over time), but a full sized drive from a reputable maker (Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba, Tanscend, Lacie, etc). Buy the largest HD that you can afford (4-5 TB should have you covered), and make sure that it connects to your computer via USB 3.0.

Then setup Time Machine and/or SuperDuper (if you are on a Mac) to backup your entire hard drive regularly. I scheduled Time Machine to backup my HD once an hour to my external Lacie drive. Over the years I have had a chance to restore my entire computer from it when my cat decided to take a walk all over my keyboard, causing a kernel panic and somehow corrupting my filesystem. This is the backup that you will use when you accidentally spill juice over your laptop, or have a HD crash, etc.

A local backup of your entire computer is great, but it isn’t very useful if your house burned down, if you had a power surge, an earthquake, tornado, etc. That’s what online backup is for, and for this I use Backblaze. For $5 a month you get unlimited, unthrottled online storage, and a nifty and very simple to use piece of software that flushes all of your files to the Backblaze severs. This is not a bootable backup, but a backup of all of your data. It’s for the I-lost-my-house-and-everything-in-it kind of scenario, where you have to buy a new replacement computer, but still want all the data that you had on your old computer. As an added bonus, you can access your Backblaze files from anywhere, so if you just want to checkout a file or two, or flush your photo library between computers, Backblaze can help you with that too.

Dropbox is not a replacement for Backblaze, because it’s not geared towards online backup (not in pricing nor in its interface and options), but it is a good file sharing and syncing service. Use Dropbox coupled with Scrivener’s “Backup” and “Backup to…” to create up to date backups of your current project that you can access and update from anywhere.

Finally, remember — if your backup system relies on you to remember to back something up, the it’s not a backup system. 

Backup, backup, backup