Monday, 2 May 2011


Ok, yes, I've done it again. I got distracted.

I've been finding it really hard restructuring Felicity, largely due to the fact it jumps so much from present to past. Now, I had started to write the story pieces on scraps of paper and arrange them on my wall. Then I ran out of blu-tac. I would have used electrical tape instead, Lord knows I have enough of the stuff, but it rips the paint off the wall.
So I started writing them on Stickies, post-it notes on the Mac, but it wasn't long before I became discouraged by the idea that I'd have to go back and type all this into OpenOfficeWriter or TextEdit afterwards. I know, I'm lazy, but there is nothing more annoying than flashing back and forth between programs or trying to arrange your computer screen to try and use the programs simultaneously. I know these are all ridiculously poor excuses for not getting anything done but there you have it.

That's when I started looking at computer programs for writers. Obviously, the free one's held more appeal, like everyone else at the moment I am totally skint, so paying for a program was not really an option.

I already own a copy of Storyweaver, which is an interesting product, aimed more at the character and plot development side of writing. It has a sister product called Dramatica which seems to focus more on the story structure. I would like to own this product, and might download the free trial just to have a proper look at it, but the price of it put me straight off.

Celtx was recommended to me by a friend. It's dubbed as the "No.1 Choice for Media Pre-Production". Judging from the video tutorials linked to the website and from what I've seen my friend produce with it, it's an awesome piece of software...if you're writing a script. A lot of the features the program provides are geared towards, as it says, media pre-production, so it's great for writing films, radio plays, animations and possibly stage plays as well. It does have a novel setting, but it is limited and I found it very difficult to get my head around. They do offer extra features that you can buy, but I'm not sure they would have made my attempts to write a novel with the program any easier. If I ever decide to continue writing my two plays or one of the numerous films I started when I was in my teens, I'll probably take another look at it.

yWriter5 looked to be exactly the program I was after. It had sections where you could develop characters, track character and goal arcs through your process, storyboarding features, and the bit I liked the most, it allowed you to work in just scenes that you could then rearrange into the order you wanted them. I know this is all stuff you can essentially do with basic word processors, but this type of program keeps everything in one project so you don't have to go off searching for that character profile or inspirational photo that you accidentally filed in the wrong place.
The software has been written for PC and Linux formats, but the creator Simon Haynes, provides instructions as to how you can make the Linux edition work on a Mac, with the help of a platform called Mono. Sadly, Mono is updated quite frequently by it's creators, and with all due respect to Haynes, yWriter doesn't keep up with the updates. As such, I couldn't get the software to work and abandoned my efforts after reading several similar Mac related stories in the community section of his website.
But if you are writing on a PC or Linux system, I do urge you to at least take a look at this program.

During my hunt for a good, free piece of writers software, I found many positive mentions of Scrivener, so thought I might as well check it out. I fell in love immediately. This software really was everything I'd been looking for. It contained everything yWriter has, but better laid out, the features were more advanced but also more freeflow, so though they might recommend that you use certain features one way, there is nothing stopping you from using it in a manner that suits you and your process better.

My favourite features in Scrivener include the split-screen settings, so you can view the cork board with all your story elements on it in one section, and then have the editor open next to it so you can keep an eye on what's happening in the scenes around the one you're writing. Then there's the snapshot function which allows you to catalogue drafts of a scene and compare and contrast them, or revert to an earlier edition. You can also choose whether to write so you only see the scene you're working on (far less daunting!) or if you see the rest of the chapter, or the entire manuscript itself. But I love the full-screen function. I know other programs provide this as well, but it allows you to write without anything else on your computer distracting you, no clock or toolbars, just you, what you've written and the cursor. I've got mine set to the old black screen with green type, very cool.
There are plenty of statistic tracking tools, including being able to check the frequency with which you use certain words, great if you know you have a crutch word to watch out for.
It even has target tools. You can set target word counts for a document or for a session, and deadline counters.

The creators of the program also provide an excellent in-depth, interactive tutorial.
Unfortunately, this software is not free, but compared to most similar software, and for what it contains, it is well worth the price of $45 (USD). So I can't go out drinking for a couple of weeks, it'll force me to write!
At the moment, this software is available for Mac, but the Windows edition is in the public beta stage and they are seeking writers to test the program.
Alternatively if you are a PC user, Storybook appears to offer a lot of the Scrivener features in a free program and could well be worth a look.

So the excuse of not having an efficient way of playing with the plot has now been blown out the window.
But yup, as you've guessed, I'm still not writing much. Admittedly the weekend was very busy, taking advantage of opportunities to network contacts for my proper job.

I read this blog post this morning that struck a chord with me, The Procrastination Equation by Jennifer of the Procrastinating Writers blog group.

I'm sure we all know that as writers, as with many other jobs, there are times when we are willing to do almost anything but write. Housework that you've neglected, shopping you suddenly remembered or even tidying your finances suddenly seem far more appealing.

So what am I going to do to make myself write? Well, I'm trying personal bribery! And I'm using a double pronged attack.

My first self bribe is Dexter. Yes, the tv series. As twisted as it may seem, this guy is my dinner companion. I'm now not allowed to watch a new episode unless I have written for a minimum of 20 minutes each day.
I know 20 minutes doesn't seem like much, but when you consider I write nothing most days, this will be a massive leap. I've read about a number of writers who use a small minimum time target and they usually go over the time anyway. So it's just a starting point and considering that my life is very up and down busy-wise right now, it'll mean I can still reach the target even when I've got a day from hell, even if it's scribbling something down while on the tube.

My second self bribe is to buy a Kindle. I've got a ton of PDF documents, mostly sound engineering and writing related, and a couple of eBooks on my laptop that I would like to read, but I hate reading long pieces of literature off a computer screen, sat at my desk. So a Kindle would allow me to curl up on the sofa to read or take my reading on the tube, rather than spending money on ink to print it all off. As I mentioned before though, I'm skint, so this is a little savings program for me.

In the mug is 7 pound coins. Every day, once I've written for at least 20 minutes, a coin can be put in the pig. Pretty straight forward right? But I've upped the stakes a little. Using this system it will take me 111 days, or 15 weeks to save the money to buy a Kindle. But, if I write every day for a week, then I can take the 7 pound coins out of the pig and put in a £10 note instead, which means it would only take me 11 weeks and 1 day, or an entire month less to save enough money. Pretty cool huh? And seeing as this blog entry has taken me well over 20 minutes to write, the first coin is going into the pig.

I just want to assure you that I am still working on The Future Holds... series, but I'm going to stop saying "I'll try and get it done by..." because it just frustrates you and it frustrates me. We've already discussed my aversion to deadlines but if this bribery thing works out then maybe I'll be able to post work up more promptly.

Hope you all enjoyed the ridiculous number of recent bank holidays!