Monday, January 2, 2012

The Right Tools

It confounds me that I can still forget the simplest things that make life easier. Like forgetting that what I think affects how I feel and that I have at least a certain amount of control over my thoughts. Like forgetting that worrying unnecessarily makes things harder. And like forgetting that using the right tool for the right job inevitably smoothes the work.

As the new year dawns there is naturally a re-upping of organizational goals at Hearth Cricket. It’s a band wagon a lot of folks are jumping on with lofty resolutions. In fact, January is Get Organized Month, with lots of sales on storage, calendar and organizing systems. The Unclutterer has more info about this on her blog post today, as well as some tips for purging clutter.

I’m not making any resolutions about organizing per se, since I’ve been working on both getting more organized and streamlining how I’m organized for the last three months. All this in the service of living a full life with more balance and less stress. After some research and taking a hard look at how I actually think and function, I’ve made pleasing inroads in that direction.

scriverner screen

One of the tools I’ve started using is Scrivener. As a former Microsoft employee, I’d stuck with using Word as my word processor, mostly because I knew the program very well. Plus, most manuscripts, revisions, copy edits, etc. are exchanged in Word documents. But I knew Mac users who swore by Scrivener. When the beta for Windows came out, I loaded it and started to learn how to use it.

Not wanting to use a beta version of anything for a real writing project, I instead used it for developing a couple of book proposals. Frankly, it was a bit of a pain to learn a whole new program, especially one with so many bells and whistles that I didn’t think I’d use. But when the official version came out, I bought it immediately ($40) and spent an afternoon going through the tutorial. Since I’d already done some work in the program, that came easily, and I realized I’d use more of the features than I’d previously imagined. I’m now using it to write the second Magical Bakery Mystery and loving every minute of it.

This one program can contain everything I used to have in bits and pieces, notebooks and files and accordion folders. I have my research in one online folder, including documents, pictures, web pages, scanned pieces, and links to websites. Since I’m working from an outline, that’s one view, and in another folder I’ve broken the book into scenes. I know whether a piece is a first draft, revision, or new scene still to write. I can flag those that I’ve run by my critique group. I can view the scenes all together or separately, track daily and overall word counts, and compile everything into any number of document formats – including a Word document.

Another folder contains character information at my fingertips. I can import that to future projects, too. So gone is the pain-in-the-patootie database In which I tried to keep my various characters straight. I imported the style sheet from my copy editor for easy reference, which will make both of our lives easier for this second book in the series. And surprising myself, I tossed the real index cards I used to spread out on the floor in favor of the electronic corkboard in Scrivener. Finally, the notes that I used to make in the manuscript text – things to follow up on, questions, bits of research to work in later – are now in the electronic notepad, which means they are easily accessible all the time and my word count is truly accurate.

I still use a notebook for clustering and free writing and character work, so there is a little bit of information transfer, but so much less than before. I back the whole project up onto a flash drive and online, so I’m covered in case of electronic tragedy.

For the record, no one asked me to review or comment on Scrivener and I’m not being compensated in any way. If this tool piques your interest, though, there are tons of other favorable reviews out there. And you can download a free trial to check it out.


A quick reminder that author Lois Winston will be guest posting tomorrow on her blog tour for Death by Killer Mop Doll. We’d love it if you’d stop by and say hey! (Plus there’s a chance to get free stuff.)

1 comment:

  1. Wow, you're referring to your CE's style sheet for your next book? You are an author after this copyeditor's heart! :)