The last time I blogged about the subject of writing a book, I talked about one I’d just written where I hated the final product. For a while, I just sat on that emotion and didn’t do anything about it. I asked myself: did it make any sense to continue trying, or should I just give up and resign myself to the fact that I’m just a shitty fiction writer.
Alternatively, I thought, perhaps I should just forget about it and move on with a different writing project. As time went by, I carried on struggling with the issue, but recently as the holidays approached and I caught the season’s optimism bug, I decided that it was time to get back on the horse and try again. As a result, for Christmas I purchased a copy of the Scrivener program to see if it would help me regain my confidence.
While I don’t think Scrivener is much beyond a glorified word processing program, I hoped it would give me a boost and encourage me to try again. I’d also heard from other people who said that they found Scrivener particularly helpful. At $40.00 for the program, it seemed to me that a purchase was even better than therapy on why I couldn’t write well. At the same time, I did take myself to the side and gave myself a lecture on not taking this process of learning how to write books personally. It isn’t about my ego; it’s about acquiring certain skills and techniques, the same way that I have had to learn other such abilities.
For instance, when I learned touch typing as a teenager, I had to learn the techniques and study what was involved in order to obtain a mastery of the skill. I have undergone this process in regard to producing non-fiction, to the point where I now churn such writing out fairly regularly and with sufficient competency to state that I’m pretty decent at it. Likewise, I believe that if I apply myself to fiction writing, I should achieve the same successful outcome.
Of course, much of this is self talk rising above a sea of vulnerabilities and insecurities. I am sure you as a reader are very familiar with that state of mind.
Scrivener was fairly difficult to download and get into working order. There were little quirks in regard to filling in the order number etc. so I could download the program. Once it was ready to go, however, I did find it useful in kickstarting me back into gear when it comes to the book I’ve been writing and struggling not to hate. One particular item of the program I find helpful is the built in character sketch template. To be honest, I’d been writing about my characters very much off the cuff. This meant there was a lack of clarity and consistency when I spoke about them. Having the character sketches there and filling them out really focused me in and helped me to get a really strong sense of the personalities of the people who populate my book.
Another fun aspect of this feature is that I was able to take photographs from the internet that resembled my characters and add the images to my character sketches. Now when I scroll through my character sketches, I can see a picture of the character which is extremely helpful to me as I imagine them living and breathing and walking through my tale.
The character sketches were quite easy as were the instructions on how to adjust font and line spacing in my manuscript, but for the more complicated aspects of using the program like how to build the story, I ended up watching online tutorials on Youtube. From the authors using Scrivener who saw fit to provide free tutorials, I then learned more about the dynamics of plot and how to insert plot features into my book via Scrivener.
These talks then led me to read the book “Write Your Novel in a Month” by Jeff Gerke which provided me with even more information on how to structure a book so that it engages readers effectively.
Of course, I am an English teacher; I majored in English literature in undergraduate and graduate school. You’d think these basic aspects of writing a novel such as character and plot development would come naturally to me, but in fact it doesn’t. I have found that as I contemplate writing projects, I tend to come up with a great premise, but once I have that down, I then have no idea where to go from there. I’m totally stumped. I guess this means that I am more of a planner that a seat of the pants type person.
I find that while I can write the occasional interesting scene, unless I have a specific strategy for telling my story, it becomes impossible for me to proceed very far. That’s my fuss budgety librarian side—I don’t approve of unregulated inspiration flowing from my pen and I have a mind that will not tolerate it! My subconscious wants advanced notice of any ways in which I will be tapping into it! Perhaps that will change in the future, but for now that’s what I have to deal with.
At this point, I have mapped out a plan of action for my book and have used the tools Scrivener provides to insert it into the manuscript of my soon to be redone book. I now have a more insightful picture of the world I hope to describe and more understanding of the complexity of my characters. Who knows, this might even mean I will be able to make considerable improvements on this book so I don’t hate it so much.
On the other hand, some projects were created to be made and cast off merely as learning experiences. No matter how much you revise and expand upon them, they just never seem to come together as a coherent piece of art. I would like to think if that is the case, I’d be able to figure that out. If not, I’ll be imposing quite an impressive piece of trash on the world. Still, as you can see, it was worth continuing to struggle with the project because I have learned a considerable amount about writing fiction as a result of this experience.
I am actually beginning to hope that if I continue to write and take on new fiction projects, some editor somewhere will eventually find one of them worthy of publication. I suppose that’s the whole fun of doing it; the future is always fraught with rich new possibilities.