Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Wishing Brick - Day 11 - Why I'm moving from Scrivener back to LibreOffice

Scrivener has a lot of bells and whistles, but in reality, I only use one of the features that I can't get elsewhere - the colour-coded labelling. I like it. It's looks great. At a glance, I can see the chapters that have been drafted and those that I'm about to work on. Does it make things easier? Not really. In fact, Scrivener makes a lot of things more difficult and has some really annoying bugs. For example, if have two chapters, identically formatted, where I've even gone to the trouble of setting up the default formatting for the editor (good luck finding that!) - if I copy text from one chapter and paste it in another, the formatting screws up. Why? It does it every single time.

For a more extreme example, the grammar and spellcheck in Scrivener isn't very good, so if I want to check something, I sometimes copy the section and paste it into Google Docs, do the corrections and paste it back. That's an even bigger screw up. Try it. It's fun working out how to fix the mess you get. Is this just a problem with the beta version? Nope - Scrivener 1 has the same issue.

Fed up, I went to the various writing forums as well as the official Scrivener forums to see if there is any light at the end of the tunnel. There are a lot of people venting spleen out there, a lot of frustrated and very worried people. And it's easy to see why. Scrivener 3 for Windows was first promised in 2018, followed with lots of hints that it was just around the corner and if you paid for version 1, you'd get version 3 the moment it was released. It all sounded good. During 2019, more promises and finally an actual release date of 30th August 2019. The date came and went. And here we are, almost a year later, and still no version 3. 

So I started looking at the Mac version. I actually, seriously began thinking about cutting my losses and buying a MacBook. What the hell is going on? Not only have I wasted a good hour on forums I don't need to read, but would I really consider blowing £1000 just to get the full version of a piece of £40 software that is, by current standards, already out of date? Is Scrivener that good? What's more, do I really want to trust a company that has missed two years of deadlines? That's where the worry comes in. You can't help feeling that L&L, the makers of Scrivener, are in a bit of trouble. 

In a classic bout of throwing toys from my pram, I went to the Compile function to get my script out. Don't get me started on the hell that is the Scrivener Compiler. But I got through and got my file into LibreOffice (a bit like Word, but open source). The result was such a mess of mangled formatting (mostly invisible, but believe me, it was there) that I had to strip out all formatting and start over with new styles and headings - it sounds like overkill, but having a clean, correctly formatted document is essential if you want to make a bug-free ebook. I also like to leave comments as I go for any loose threads or things I need to foreshadow (see the comment box on the bottom image)

So here I am, ready to get back to work after hours of frustration. But in practical terms, I'd have to take it into LibreOffice anyway, because Microsoft Word is the industry standard and edits come in the form of track changes. While Scrivener does have a revision mode, which is similar, I don't think the two are compatible. 

It's a shame because I genuinely like the idea of dedicated writing software, and Scrivener looks awesome and does some really cool stuff, but when that software puts barriers up to productivity, you have to really consider what you actually need to write a book.

Scrivener Screenshot

LibreOffice Screenshot

Monday, 3 August 2020

Wishing Brick - Day 10 - speed vs quality

I thought I'd do a quick post on speed vs quality as I must have spent about two hours writing just over 1000 words. It's also worth pointing out that this chapter isn't in my plan - so it didn't take long for me to veer off slightly. 

What happened was in writing the earlier Simon chapter, I realised that I needed to set up his personal struggle right at the beginning - to bring the family feud and the reason he can't go to see his mother to the foreground. To give this some weight, I wanted to show that he's struggling - despite cheating, he's still struggling and this is causing a rift between Simon and his working partner, Stella. This brings out the need for him to visit, while showing the barrier he's facing. Bearing in mind, I didn't know the details of the feud, I was flying blind, so this was a case of writing, getting a feel for the scene and rewriting. For some people that's a big no-no!

The first draft needs to be done quickly. Sit down and get the words out. Once you have a full draft, you've got something to work with. 

And while that makes sense, I simply can't move on until the scene makes sense, and the scene can't make sense until it flows right. Otherwise, it's just a plan of something I want to say later on, and not really a draft at all. So, yes, a first draft should be done quickly, ie sit down and do the work, but it should also be done to the best of your ability. If that means a scene needs attention, do it then and redo it until it works. And that's what took the time today - not the first Simon scene, but the one that followed, the one that isn't even in the plan. I needed to show him go to his mother's house and fail, and while that sounds okay, putting it into practice isn't quite so straight forward. 

The first idea was to have him drive up, park and prepare to go in, then have a dose of nerves and leave. The big chunk of time here was describing the street, getting the details just right to make it authentic and fire off a few memories. I wanted to make it clear how desperate he was to make that leap. And once I got there, to simply have him drive away wasn't enough. It was way too dull. No conflict. No danger. No drama.

So I went back and added a few family memories, details of his sister. In the outline, I've already mentioned his sister's kids are tearaway types, so why not bring the character of their mother out. Next thing I know, she's walking along playing the role of antagonist. Now there's a bit of drama, but if I had him drive away at that point, I'm missing the biggest trick of them all - put your hero into the dragon's lair. Make them face the danger, even it's all going to go wrong. The tricky bit came at the end of the scene and the following Simon chapter (a few chapters away). I don't want to give the game away too early on about the garden being a mess - the state of the garden has three functions: it sets up his solution to his business problem, thereby bringing Simon's story and Helen's story together, it sets up the characters of his sister and her kids, and it adds fuel to the family feud which results in him being more determined to stick to his own path, which leads to his current situation of being a shit psychic.

So, what will be a very simple scene in the final book has a lot going on, which is why I rewrote this over and over to get that balance right, because those finer details lay the foundations for other events later in the story. If I skip them, then I can't expand on them later on.

The alternative to this, of course, is the structural edit. That's when you look at the first draft and examine individual threads to see how you can expand them and make them more believable. Personally, I like to do this along the way. I suppose in that way, despite putting the work in to get a detailed overview, I'm still working as a discovery writer when I approach the first draft, 

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Wishing Brick - Day 5

Things are starting to come together nicely so far. It's very early days but it's nice to see the chapters begin to fill out. I'm trying to go through in order, which means I'm hitting empty space, then a block of pre-writing. The empty space is easy enough, just draft away. In most cases so far, the pre-writing has been completely re-written.

Here's a quick screen shot to show the current state. The orange labels are completed first draft. 

Even at this stage, I'm expanding on the outline. The highlighted chapter (Simon Chapter) and the one two above (also called Simon Chapter) have just been put there as placeholders. So although this is new and I'm doing a brief outline here of what I want in the chapter, I don't bother to go back to the actual outline. There's no point updating that just for the hell of it.  

The first draft chapters are far from polished, so the word count for each is quite low (average 1,000 words).

I've spent about three hours this morning. Might do a bit more this afternoon. But for now...

Current word count for draft: 8,000 words.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Wishing Brick - Day 2

Finished the outline this morning, which comes in at 3,500 words. There is still space to play and develop smaller points, including one blank chapter near the end, where the story needs a break for pacing - there is a high chance that when I get to that point, once of the minor threads will need dealing with, so it's a good idea to have a placeholder.

The next job was to turn that into chapters. Each bullet point of the outline becomes a chapter file in Scrivener. 

Of the 17,000 words of pre-writing, the chapter I reworked about 10k is relevant. The chapter I rewrote several times to get a feel for tone is good enough as a first draft but the rest requires so much work that it's probably better to have a quick read through and start over fresh. 

So that's it for today. The real work starts tomorrow.

Saturday, 25 July 2020

The Wishing Brick - idea development

I am just about to start writing a new novel so I thought I'd dust off the blog and document the journey from concept to final, edited manuscript.

This book is going to be a bit of a change from the last one, not for any strategic reason, more because the idea hit me and made me chuckle. I really enjoyed the comedy of the Buttercup Sunshine books, so when the idea for The Wishing Brick hit me, I thought what the hell - it might be fun to try something with an element of comedy for the adult market. It's always good to try something new, especially if your last efforts were so bad! 😜  (The sample chapters of my Victorian Horror novel have been out with agents for 12 weeks - the fact that I'm still waiting to hear isn't a good sign).

Monday, 22 June 2020

Virus Lockdown Birthday Blues.

It's t-shirt prison for you, young fella-me-lad
Birthday blues? Nah, not really. So okay, I might have missed out on sea and sun and sangria as my surprise holiday in Spain was cancelled, but on the bright side, I got this cool t-shirt. I liked it so much, I've put it in a frame. My actual party was a very small affair - about six of us, all spaced out in my sister-in-law's back garden. A couple of cans, few shots and an afternoon of baking sun. Didn't really need Spain at all. It was fun. Different, but still fun.

Sometimes it's important to focus on the good stuff and try not to get bogged down with the negatives. Now, more than ever, it's very easy to get wrapped up in the down side of things, and 24hr news coverage replaying the same stories, the same predictions and interviews doesn't help one bit. 

Saturday, 2 May 2020

A Horror Revival?

My adult novel is complete, edited and ready to go. I call it a Victorian Crime Thriller with a Gothic twist, which translates as classic horror. As to what to do with it, that's something else entirely. As far as traditional publishing goes, dark fantasy is a tough sell. There was a time in the 80s when every bookshop and newsagent had a horror section. Today, that is no longer the case. In most instances, the horror section has been absorbed into Fantasy and Sci-Fi, which means it's only the big names on show, while new talent is overlooked.

The Ritual - I'm never going out in the woods again!
Adam Nevill is a good example. He has won the August Derleth award three times and The Ritual had a major movie release, yet his books are nowhere to be seen - certainly not in any of my local bookstores. This all gives the impression that the audience for horror fiction is too small to bother with.

Friday, 3 January 2020

Yearly roundup and a look ahead to 2020

I took a long break from writing at the start of the year. The second Buttercup book had been put back to September, there were no plans for books 3 & 4 and my other attempts at breaking into the children's market had fallen short of the mark.

But one unexpected thing that came as a result of writing Buttercup was it rekindled my love of classic horror. Horror is the one genre that has always been with me. As a kid, I loved horror movies. I'll never forget the impact Salem's Lot had on me, or the first time I saw An American Werewolf in London. For books, it started when I spotted the Eleventh Pan Book of Horror Stories in a newsagent on my way to school. I managed to get the rest from jumble sales. In my teens, I moved onto James Herbert, Stephen King and HP Lovecraft. My very first attempt at a full length novel was a terrible attempt to do Cthulhu-inspired horror. And right now, my favourite author by far is Adam Nevill. He's just incredible.