Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Scrivener Screen Shots

Scooter asked for a graphic of my Scrivener screen. Here it is.

On the left you can see I've organized each chapter into scenes. You can also see a folder for characters, places, and research. Everything can be linked into the Scrivener document, even web sites, PDFs, and documents or pictures on your computer.

Upper right is the scene synopsis. This shows up as a card when you click on the Card View organizer in the middle top of the screen. Document notes are on the right. This is where I write notes about what might be needed in a rewrite like more description and the day and time, if it's important.

You'll notice in the upper left corner I have a document titled "Opening Scene" and under it "Alt-Bull Jumped". This is text deleted from the scene but saved because I thought there might be a chance I would want to put it back in. It won't be complied in the document or included in word counts because I've unchecked the "Include In Compile" box on the right, in the General Meta-Data area. The graphic you see is an actual scene so it's labeled "Scene", "First Draft", and the "Include in Compile" box is checked.

Hope this helps.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Scrivener for Windows Update

I wrote about some tools I've found for writing, for both the PC and the iPad, in a previous post. This post is a brief update on the writing program Scrivener.

I'd like to get a MacBook Pro, but it's not in the budget. Scrivener is in version 2.0 (I believe) for the Mac but is still in beta for Windows. The current beta version is .26. The finished product is set to be released in August, if they stay on schedule. I believe it's only $35. I've had no problems with the beta but many features are still missing.

Scrivener is a feature-laden program; there's a steep learning curve if you want to use it all. I was drawn to it because it lets you organize your work into chapters and/or scenes.

I wrote both my novels in Word 97, with each chapter as a separate document. That worked well for about the first half of the book, but when I wrote the last half I had a hard time remembering some character names and who did what to whom. To dig the info out I had to first remember which chapter it was in so I could open the correct document and run searches until I found what I was looking for. Sometimes I found it quickly, sometimes it took a while.

After the first draft was written I combined all the chapter documents into one big file. That worked better for searches but was a large cumbersome file to handle.

I've been writing my next Grant Starr novel scene-by-scene, with each scene in a separate tab in Scrivener. It's been so much easier to go back and find something or someone. In addition, Scrivener has easy-to-use summary features. There's a box on the right side of the screen—when you're not in full-screen writing mode, which I usually am—where you can jot down notes about what happens in the scene. You can also organize chapters and scenes with file cards and a character-based flow chart.

Another thing I've done differently is write scenes out of chronological order. I'd stick with one character and write what they do, say, throughout the week. Then I'd go back and break that document up so it fits chronologically. It's helped with character consistency because I could focus on what one person was doing. I didn't do this with my first two books; they were written straight through from scene one to the final scene.

The problem with jumping around in time is it's easy to lose the continuity of the work. Because you're jumping around in time, it's difficult at times to picture the plot chronologically. The fix is to edit the scenes and chapters as one continuous document, which Scrivener lets you do. It's not as smooth as editing one document in Word, but it still allows you to keep your story organized into scenes and chapters, if you choose to do so.

I place my Scrivener file in my DropBox directory so it's automatically backed up on the "cloud" and it's backed up via my portable hard drive. Scrivener also lets you make a zipped back up file at any time.

I do a lot of writing on my iPad, with either OmnWriter or iA Writer. Both programs save files in simple .txt file formats so they're easy to import into Scrivener. If you want to edit part of a Scrivener file, you have to export it to a .txt file, then place it in the DropBox directory. Once done, you can access the file from your iPad. iWriter links directly with DropBox through their menu.

I plan on buying Scrivener when it becomes available. If and when I get a Mac, I'll have to buy the Mac version. I won't mind because I'll finally have a Mac and it's only $35 (maybe $45, I forget).

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Monster With Personality

Creature from "Aliens"

This was good: the prey’s psychic output had increased ten-fold, exciting the creature. It fed on the rich emotions.

Were it not for the new program, its new adaptation, the creature’s instincts would demand that it now devour its prey and flee. Instead, the program instructed it to do something it never would have otherwise thought to do: reveal itself to the prey. It was not by accident that its species had survived for a million years; they were masters in the art of stealth. Their enemies could not destroy what they did not know existed or could not see. Revealing itself went against this most basic of instincts.
But it promised great potential psychic rewards.
It rose out of the water, revealing its ancient face to the prey. The reward the new programming had promised was realized, in greater abundance than imagined; it gorged itself on the prey’s fear.
It opened its mouth and bared its teeth, to see how the prey would respond. It was again rewarded.
Burke almost died of fear when a large black, thing, rose up from the canal. It floated with him for a few seconds, then opened its eyes; three yellow slashes in its forehead blinked, and he screamed louder than he ever thought he could scream.
He slapped and kicked at the water, trying to distance himself from the thing. Fear galvanized him, flooding his body with adrenaline. His mind momentarily shut down the pain pathway in his spinal cord so he wouldn’t feel the throbbing leg; he couldn’t afford the distraction.

He bumped up against the canal wall and flung his arms behind him, trying to crabwalk up the wall. His hands slipped. Panic threatened to consume him and he searched frantically for a possible solution, some way to survive, to get away from this impossible thing.
The creature opened its mouth, revealing eight-inch-long silvery teeth that flashed and sparkled in the moonlight; jagged and wicked: he understood how he had lost his leg, and he knew he would not be leaving the canal alive.

His mind slipped toward insanity.

If you read or write horror fiction, do you think the monsters (aliens, creatures, gnomes, etc.) should have a personality? Or should they just be a big mean monster?

In my horror novel, CANALS, the canal monster makes its appearance early in the book. Its physical characteristics are revealed bit-by-bit, as is its personality. It thinks, calculates, and makes adjustments in its feeding pattern as it adapts to its prey. It even has a gender (which I won't reveal). The reader learns later in the book the monster is one of a species that was once abundant on the...

In some books and films, monsters are just monsters. They show up out of nowhere to kill or eat people. Their "motivation" is usually filling their stomachs or plain savagery. Most don't have offspring they're trying to protect or feed and aren't part of any community. They're just monsters.

In the movie ALIEN, and subsequent follow-ups, the monster had a personality and a goal: the perpetuation of its species. It corralled the humans into its nest to use as incubators for its young. One wonders how it survived before the planet was colonized.

What kind of monsters do you prefer, if you like stories with monsters? Do you like the simple, straightforward monster with no personality? Or do you prefer a monster that's a little more complex?