Normally, I have a very straightforward approach to novels. Planning varies, but once it gets to the drafting stage, I open a document in Word, start from the beginning and keep going until I get to the end. Occasionally I miss out scenes or leave pointers for parts that need to be filled in at the end, but for the most part I take a very linear approach.
As a result, I’ve used Word as my primary writing tool for years, with no need for the likes of Scrivener and all their fancy tools. Okay, so sometimes when I’m editing I wish I had an easy way to move scenes around, but on the whole they seem to have too many functions for me to deal with.
Recently, however, I haven’t had the attention span or the time to commit to writing something in a linear way, nor do I know enough about either of my upcoming projects even to try and do that. One of them is the third book in the Moth Trilogy, where I have the majority of a plot although I’m lacking a lot of the details, but I’m lacking the world-building that would allow me to start writing. The other is the ever-ongoing Death and Fairies series, my background project between other novels, and needs more research and planning than I’m going to have time to do any time soon.
As a result, I’ve been tending not to write at all, which is a terrible idea. My mood tends to plummet when I’m not working on something, and when it’s starting from a fairly low place, it’s not long before I hit rock bottom.
So what I’ve been doing over the last few days is writing a series of scenes. They allow me to flex my writing muscles without taking up too much time or energy, and I don’t have to commit to them for any length of time. But, more importantly, they can later be put into novels, making the process of writing those easier too. Win-win scenario, really.
The first one I wrote will probably form part of Death and Fairies Book 4, given the characters involved and the approximate timescale, although changing some dialogue could move it to Book 3 too, if I wanted to. It started as a oneshot designed to explore the relationship between the characters, but developed more than I expected to and before I knew it I had a chapter.
The other scenes include two from Moth 3, which is a slightly more immediate project. Writing these disconnected scenes allows me to shape the plot in a more organic way: instead of sitting down to try and figure out what’s going to happen, I can combine my usual method of writing and finding out what happens as I go along with the opportunity to plan it before I started, primarily by writing chapters that will happen in the middle of the book rather than always starting at the beginning.
Partly this has come about because I’ve been writing by hand a little, making notes of scenes as and when I think of them. But I realised I’m going to have to figure out some way of keeping these organised, especially if I want to one day reconcile my various random scenes with a continuous narrative.
You can guess where this is going, can’t you? I downloaded the trial version of Scrivener, and I’m trying to figure out how to use it.
I don’t know if I’ll get on well enough with it in the next 30 days to decide to buy it, although it’s not as expensive as I thought it was. Already I’m looking at it wondering why there are so many buttons, even after going through the tutorial. But I’m trying it out, because just because I always wrote in a linear fashion before, doesn’t mean this book will happen the same way.
My writing method changes with everything I write, so I guess it’s sensible to adapt to however I’m writing at the time. If it’s in a disjointed, circular way, I may as well use the software that makes that easiest to turn into a story with something approaching a recognisable structure. (I’m quite excited by the index cards.)
And it’s reminding me not to get too caught up in the mindset of, “This is how I do it. This is how I’ve always done it and how I always will do it.” Because that’s how we get stuck in ruts that don’t actually work. Things need to be shaken up occasionally.
A short post today, because I’m meant to be reading for an essay on the Irish Otherworld, so I’ll end on a question: have any of you used a program like Scrivener, and how have you found it? Bonus points for those of you who are normally linear writers like me; I’d like to hear your perspectives.