Every author has their own unique approach to the process of writing a novel. Some hand-write everything, while others use various software tools to help them stay organized. Over the past few weeks I’ve learned a few more nifty tricks in Scrivener as well as stumbled across a free program online that I used to make a timeline for my plot. Writing anything with 300 pages is a daunting task. Staying organized is essential. Here’s what I’ve learned, and I hope it helps others.
First of all, I use Scrivener. Scrivener is an awesome software that I blogged about here: Two screens, 2 drafts! Voila! And Scrivener!!!. Scrivener comes with a learning curve that can be frustrating, but if you have a few minutes to watch the numerous tutorials online, it’s so much easier than it looks. One of the awesome features in Scrivener is the ability to save snapshots of your work so that at any time you can reference a previous version. I knew this was possible, but when I see the word “snapshot”I think of an un-editable picture. Static. And what good does that do? Oh boy, was I wrong! Had I known how robust the snapshot tool is, then I wouldn’t have 4 separate Scrivener projects for each draft (sigh). Now, my goal is to do my next rewrite without creating a new project.
Also, in the other blog post I think I mentioned Scrivener’s research function where you can import web pages, PDF files, and more, right into your project, and use the split screen function to view both your document and the research. Well, did you realize that you can save PDF versions of Word docs with track changes? Then you can import them into Scrivener so that when you get feedback from a beta reader or an editor, you can save it there, and use Scrivener’s split screen function to view the PDF while making your edits in Scrivener! How cool is that?! Additionally, there is a label function for each “document” (read: chapter/scene) so you can track if you’ve finished your revisions, or what stage your revisions are in, and you can color code them!
The other free program I found is LucidChart.com. A co-worker and I used this to make process flowcharts, and while I was toying around with it, I found a timeline template. I basically made it my own by using the shapes provided in the program, and by color coding it. Now, I have my entire outline on a timeline. Here’s a very rough draft of what mine looked like, with all the book info removed:
This is really helpful for me, because my book happens over the course of a month. The dates are integral to the plot, so this way I can see where the holes are, make sure the dates are accurate, and keep track of my entire rewrite process since I had to change a ton of things after the beta readers were finished. My timeline is very full compared to the sample above. I blurred it out to protect my manuscript, but you can get an idea of how full it is below. Every small bubble is a date, and every big bubble is what happens that day.
These are just a few of the tools in my writing toolkit. What’s in yours?