You Won’t Believe What I Did!

As those of you who follow here know, I have a terrible time with sex scenes. You’ve seen me post before how I need to have a couple of beers, be alone in the house, have it dark and quiet, etc., before I can even pretend to get started and that doesn’t go into the many methods of procrastination I’ve developed for after all my conditions are met.

So, even though I know you are readers, not writers (mostly), and don’t want to hear about the nuts and bolts of writing, I can’t help but share my latest triumph. Starting with Beautiful Bad Man, I switched from writing in an ordinary word processing program to Scrivener, which is a program designed specifically for writers.

I kept reading about Scrivener on Kboards and was curious already, and then I realized the revisions I had to make in Dancing on Coals after hearing back from beta readers would have been much, much easier in Scrivener. So I put Rachel’s Eyes in the program, played around with it a little, and switched.

I only use probably 5% of the program’s features, but I learn another one every time I need it, and I’m quite happy. Now remember about my plodding linear mind. I write by outlining a story I’ve developed in my mind. Not a formal or very detailed outline, but enough to make a skeleton that among other things proves I do have a story—beginning, middle, end—that will make a novel. In cases like the short story, Rachel’s Eyes, or the novella, Luke’s Eyes, just the outline shows that they aren’t novels. I always have some idea what I’m getting into—or not.

I have from time to time seen other writers say they “write out of order.” Some scene or another appeals to them right at that moment, so they write it, even though it comes much later, and they then have to fit it in. When I first heard of this, naturally I was appalled. How could anyone do such a thing? Well, I found out.

Below is a screenshot of what Scrivener looks like taken from what I did with Beautiful Bad Man. The colors are customizable and are mine. I had to take this from my desktop because that’s where I had the graphics program to turn it into a jpg, and it looks a little different on the laptop I use for writing, but it’s essentially the same.

ScrivenerOn the left is what’s called the Binder. You can build the skeleton of your work any way you please there. For me that’s chapters that serve as folders that only have subfolders in them that are scenes. The scenes have the text, and I have them color coded so the hero’s POV scenes are blue and the heroines’s pink (unimaginatively traditional, I know).

The Binder allows showing just the chapters or expanding the chapters to show the scenes. So I expanded a couple chapters in the screenshot to give you an idea. The truly lovely thing is I can move things around, add, and delete chapters and scenes, change them. Anything I want, and doing that easily in the Binder does it in the manuscript.

What you can’t see because the shot cuts them off are more folders for characters’ names and profiles, research, timeline, etc. So everything necessary for the book is in one place (I used to have printed out lists of characters, my outline, timeline and sometimes bits of research, scribbled all over).

So here I am, plodding along in my usual linear fashion in Without Words. Several chapters ahead of where I was I had a chapter labeled “Consummation,” and two scenes in that folder, one labeled, “Hassie Says Yes,” and one labeled, “Sex.” So I had an idea for the sex scene, and instead of making a note about it (you can see the area for notes on the lower right) and continuing along, I stopped and wrote the sex scene! Without beer! With the lights on!

I’m not sure what it means, and it’s true that when I got to that point in my linear fashion, I did have to revise to make things fit in with what went on before more smoothly, but getting to that point and having that scene done was such a good feeling! Wish I could say the same for the one I’m coming up on now.

The screenshot may look terribly busy, but for some reason that doesn’t bother me. There is a distraction-free mode one can get to with a keystroke that eliminates everything on the screen but the draft in the center section, but I never seem to use it. I like seeing the Binder on the left and knowing where I am. I like seeing the note card in the upper right that shows what I put in my outline and having the place for notes on the lower right.

So there you are, I had a non-linear moment.

~ Ellen


15 Responses to You Won’t Believe What I Did!

  1. Pugm0ther says:

    Ellen, thank you for sharing this with us. When I find an author I particularly enjoy (like you!), I love learning the process of HOW the books get written. As readers, we get to enjoy the finished product, but I’m always amazed at how a writer keeps the chronology of the story straight, the minor characters consistent, the setting/context of the story accurate, etc. I can see how this software would be a huge help in all of that. It sounds wonderful!

    And congratulations on the sex scene. :o)

  2. Regan Walker says:

    OK, Ellen, you’ve convinced me. I will have to try this program. I can see it will be a new adventure in writing. Thanks so much for this!

  3. Gypsy says:

    I love the screen shot. I had not heard of this resource.

    However you choose to organize it…..just keep writing please.

  4. Regan Walker says:

    Ellen, I went on Amazon to check out the reviews and, while there were loads of 5-star reviews for the product, there were many that said they couldn’t pull their finished product out without a lot of extraneous stuff. Have you tried that yet?

  5. Thanks, Pugm0ther and Gypsy. I’m glad that didn’t bore everyone into going pft.

    Regan – Because I heard about Scrivener on KBoards, I never looked on Amazon. I’d say when the subject of what software do you use comes up, as many people there say Scrivener as say Word, and there have been long threads describing how people use it, which is what piqued my interest. There was even one thread where people posted screen shots of how they organize in it, and some of course have huge monitors or even dual monitor setups.

    I’ve have so much arthritis in my neck and shoulders from years at a computer, I have to sit in a chair with arms and look down if I type for any length of time, so I use a 15″ laptop on a laptop desk in a recliner and only have that much screen space.

    Anyway, because of where I heard of it, I went directly to the website of the makers – You can download the full program there and have a 30-day trial, except it’s 30 non-consecutive days, so you could have a lot more time than 30 days.

    Yes, of course, there are people who say I tried it and didn’t like it. As to getting your work out – you do what they call Compile. It’s a major feature and the entire reason some people use the program. If you set up your Compile right, you can go straight to a perfectly formatted mobi for Kindle or epub for Nook/Kobo, and there are some who claim they’ve set it up to export a perfect pdf for Create Space.

    I do Compile to make quick Kindle files for beta readers, and it works, although I’ve never tried to refine it to get exactly what I’d want to publish, but I can see how it would be super. Create Space is my sticking point. Right now I have to Compile to an rtf file and call that up in WordPerfect, where I format for Create Space. Since I can’t resist tweaking a little as I go, that means the WP file no longer matches what’s in Scrivener, and I’m used to producing ebooks by stripping the formatting from the Create Space version to plain html and going from there.

    I simply don’t see how anyone can export straight from Scrivener to pdf and have something they’d want published as-is for a Create Space paperback. The formatting for that is the most time-consuming thing I do as it takes all sorts of typesetting adjustments to get the page bottoms all to end at the same place, eliminate as much as possible the large gaps between words right justification causes, etc. I suppose I ought to buy a paperback by someone who claims they do this and see what they actually produce, but so far I haven’t done that.

    The biggest problem I see people mention is that their editors want a Word document. For some that means like me they Compile and export their manuscript from Scrivener to rtf (maybe you can go straight to Word, I haven’t paid attention) and never go back. Others actually put the book in Word for the editor, do the editing, and put the whole thing back in Scrivener just so they can use the Compile feature. Others say they write in Word and cut and paste their finished file into Scrivener to Compile.

    There are books and Youtube videos on the program, but I just read some of their tutorial and started in. My suggestion is if you’re curious about Scrivener, download the trial version and try it. Either it will capture you or it won’t. It’s not expensive to buy ($40? $45?), but you can usually also search and find coupons for a discount.

    You can use it on several machines, and the upgrades are free until they get to a major one. So I’ve gone from 1.4 or so to 1.7 in the Windows version. I think I get to pay something again when it gets to 2.0


  6. Regan Walker says:

    I will try it but the whole idea of having issues with moving my manuscript to a Word doc scares me a bit. One of my critique partners uses it, I think, and she is constantly complaining about the difficulty of getting her 20-page submission to us in Word. Still, with your endorsement, it is now an option I will have to try.

  7. Regan – As I said, I’ve never tried that kind of thing. I have to be gone now until early evening, but I think I’ll try pulling 20 pages of WW out before I do anything else tonight, just to see. My understanding of the Compile feature is I can tell the program to compile 1 particular chapter or scene or 2 or whatever to rtf and maybe straight to Word. I suppose if someone is submitting 20 pages that aren’t just one chapter or particular scene(s), she’d have to delete some extra stuff at the beginning and/or end, but that doesn’t seem a big deal.

    Oh, I bet I know part of the problem – Scrivener doesn’t work with pages, but even so, if you know the starting point, and put from there on into Word…. It seems to me you could cut and paste into Word from your starting point until you reached 20 pages.


  8. P.S. Are you Windows or Mac? The Mac version is ahead of the Windows version and has some features that almost make me want to buy a Mac. L&L claim the Windows version will catch up soon, but since they keep putting out new updates to both, I don’t see how.


  9. Regan Walker says:

    I’m Mac, Ellen. Still, it seems a lot of trouble. The test might be the ticket.

  10. Just to let everyone know, I’m going to discuss Scrivener with Regan privately from here on. ~Ellen

  11. McD says:

    I love that story, Ellen! Especially knowing your usual method of writing the love scenes – beer and darkness. lol! And that you wrote out of sequence! 🙂

  12. Thanks, McD. However, I guess it was a one off. I’m right now facing (or not facing, finding other things to do to avoid doing it), the second scene in Without Words, and right back to my old ways. ~Ellen

  13. June says:

    Don’t care what program you use, just keep turning out the books!!!! I did find it really interesting because I have never given a thought to the nuts and bolts of writing a book. I suppose I just thought you used Word. Thank you for taking the time to explain

  14. Thanks Ellen! Love the insight on how a book comes together. Congrats on stepping out of your comfort zone. I can’t wait for the new book coming out!
    On another subject just want to thank you again for Eyes! It is such a fabulous story. I’ve read it so many times I nearly have the parts mimerized. My food allergy son, Cord (named of course after Cord) recently had a sever athsma reaction. After a day of jugging five kids (15-2 yrs) in and out of three ER’s and finally an overnight stay in the Children’s Hospital I was exhausted and a nervous wreck. Two-thirty in the morning and my little man was still awake after all the asthma meds, steroids, EPI pen shot, and all the other stuff they had pumped into his system. Anyway I had him settled next to me on a hard sofa bed working puzzles on his Kindle and I had my Kindle. I wasn’t in the mood to read the book I was more than half way into, so I pulled up Eyes and began reading from the start. Soon he was asleep and I of course kept reading, I needed to relax a bit. I LOVE all your books but Eyes is special to me. Thanks for such an amazing story.

  15. Oh, Five Shadows, I’m so sorry to hear your Cord is having such a hard time. I hope as he grows either the attacks become less severe and/or he learns what’s necessary to avoid and manage them. I have a friend whose daughter has similar problems, although they aren’t food related but from air borne allergens, and it’s my impression her daughter has become better at avoiding this and that, washing immediately after contact with some things, etc., even without Mom’s supervision. She’s 7 now.

    Other readers have said they use Eyes (and Bad Man) as comfort reads. I’m glad something I wrote could help you in such a situation.


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