Week 10 My novel in Scrivener

Hello and welcome back to my blog about writing.

It’s been a super week for me as I have added a total of 6,635 words to my novel, in particular covering a major plot point which the story has been leading up to. It felt really great to be able to put into words this massive idea that’s been swirling around in my head since the early days of the draft. It was also rather emotional to write because I feel sorry for the two characters involved in that particular storyline.

I wrote every single day of the week and didn’t drop below my 500 words per session goal at all so I’m extremely pleased with myself. I had two really good days where I put in more than 1,000 words in each session. I finished the week by bringing back into the forefront one of my main characters who has been pushed aside in this part of the novel. This is all due to his own bad behaviour – a catalyst for a much-needed change of focus – so I think of him as being on the naughty step through the more recent chapters.

I thought it would be interesting today to talk a little about how I have my novel set up in Scrivener, my writing software of choice. The photo accompanying this post is of the screen as I sit down to it each evening, showing a character sheet open in the main window, although when I start to write I have the current chapter open here.

The menu area to the left of the main window allows me to navigate between the various chapters in the novel and also easily access my character sheets. My set-up really is the most basic it could be; my novel is entirely a work of imagination and there is very little in the way of solid factual information that I need to research or keep front and centre in my mind. A more reality-based work would require much more information to be stored ready to access at a moment’s notice.

The other thing to note is that I write – have always written – in a very linear fashion: start at the beginning and then when you finish that’s the end of the piece, regardless of whether it’s an essay, a story, a novel. When it comes time to edit I might have to structure things differently, but for this first draft the simple list of chapters works well. When I was at school we were always being told to write a plan of our essay before we started and I used to find that very frustrating. It felt to me that there would be no freedom for things to develop in unexpected ways if I decided the main points before I began. Of course, you don’t begin with no idea at all of where you’re headed, but for me having only a vague idea of how things should go seems to work the best.

As I said, my photo shows a Character Sheet which I use to track salient points about the most important characters. I mainly start noting things when I realise I keep forgetting and have to flip back to when I last wrote about that character in order to find out what colour their eyes are or which pen they just bought – this really proves to me that I lack discipline. My grandson is avidly interested in the character sheets and despairs of me because I am so vague about such an important element. To be fair, what I have in this area is mainly drawn from discussions with him where he grills me about every last detail of each character.

The right-hand side of the screen is given over to areas for notes and a synopsis. As with the characters, sometimes I need to fill this side in just to work out where I am as far as days go, but I generally go back and do that when I realise I’ve lost track of which part of the year I’m writing about, or whether or not one character has revealed something important. Once again, I think this area will come into play more when I start editing. I also wonder if I will be more disciplined when I start my next novel, or whether I am just an inveterate pantser.

It is possible to insert photos into the right-hand area, but I find keeping them in the Writing Resources folder on my computer’s hard drive is actually a better way to access photos when I need them. I’ve worked on a Mac for so long that swiping between screens with different content is second nature to me. For my novel, I’ve got photos of cakes and fountain pens, a vintage dressing table, the chair a solicitor has in his office, and photos of the man who has inspired one of my characters. I’ve got photos of him as a young man and also as the elderly man he is in the ‘current’ portion of the novel.

So, that’s my basic Scrivener setup. A lot of writers use a 3-act novel template and so the chapters sit within a folder for each ‘act’. It’s also quite common to break down the chapters into ‘scenes’ and have a number of scenes sitting within each chapter folder. No one method is entirely right or entirely wrong, depends on how you write or, more basically, how you think.

I hope it’s been interesting for you to see a little bit more about how I go about structuring my writing. When I catch up with you next week, I will have 90,000 words in my draft and that is a very exciting thought.

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