Tag Archives: Scrivener

Back it Up

gibberishA few months ago, the fam had gone out of town, which meant I could get some serious writing done. I was zipping along when all of the sudden my words turned to what you see to the left.

I closed it down, opened it back up and nothing changed. Frantic, I called my IT guy and he walked me through a few things to try—still no good. I sent it to a couple other folks, tried a slew of suggested remedies, but nothing worked—It was gone.

Turns out the last time I had saved the file was about a month earlier. Also turns out I’d been really rocking on this project for the last month and so my previous version looked about 150 pages shy.

“Jesus Saves. You Should Too.”

I received this advice from a friend. He was right. It would have taken just a couple seconds to save the file—essentially sparing me a month’s worth of rework. I write on a laptop, so I never really shut down the computer. I did save it. I saved it often. But I never made a backup copy. I just saved on top of the old version making a new one.

I’m told that the file had grown so large (to about 4MB) that Word couldn’t handle it and wigged out and this had something to do with RAM.

Word sucks by the way, but it is part of my writing process. I haven’t been able to make Scrivener part of my process yet.

So now I save. I save everyday. Multiple times a day. In multiple versions. I saved a file today with 916 at the end, indicating to me that it is the version done in September 2016. I put a letter after 916 so I can go right on through the alphabet with different versions.

Now while this was extremely painful, and many of you probably winced at the thought, let me assure you that I got through it. After a night of depression, I awoke, determined to redo it. I spent the next two days writing. In the end, I caught up to where I was before my misfortune.

The new version was shorter by about 20 pages. And it was better. Only by the time I finished, I was spent on the project and my pantser mind went on to other things. I have yet to circle back to finish the dang thing.

Moral of the story:

  1. Safe often. Save in different names and locations. Email it. Flash drive it. Google Drive it.
  2. A rewrite can be a good thing.

Jace KillanI live in Arizona with my family, wife and five kids and a little dog. I write fiction, thrillers and soft sci-fi with a little short horror on the side. I hold an MBA and work in finance for a biotechnology firm.

I volunteer with the Boy Scouts, play and write music, and enjoy everything outdoors. I’m also a novice photographer.

You can read some of my works by visiting my Wattpad page and learn more at www.jacekillan.com.

The Magic of Jutoh

jutohAs I said about Scrivener in my previous post, Jutoh is also a software program that can make you cry with joy or frustration…probably both. In both cases, I had to spend a lot of time on Youtube, forums, and the help page in order to figure it out. Other than the fact that they’re both extremely useful, the similarities end there.

Jutoh is a program designed to take your already written book from word processor format to ebook format, and it does its job well, including links, artwork, font, drop-caps, etc. You can write within the program, but I wouldn’t generally suggest it. My only exception to that might be game design. When I put together my game module, The Hologames, for Sojourner Tales, I outlined the game elsewhere but because of the intra-document links required, it worked well to do the writing within Jutoh.

jutoh sampleThough I don’t generally use the program to write, I’ve never seen a program that can compile ebooks better, especially if you want some professional touches. To the right, you’ll see an example of a book manuscript in progress.  This is the way it will look in epub format. This is a rough version, and I’m not finished with it yet, but it should get the point across. I can use graphics in my title or with my title, drop caps are a cinch, I can customize page breaks, etc.

When I’m done assembling my chapters, copyright page, title, contents (all linked, of course), glossary, author page, etc. I hit the “Compile” button and it puts everything together in the format of my choice: epub, mobi, ODT for smashwords (yes, this is a little different), and a number of other formats. I find that running my book through Jutoh then sending it back to Word  in odt even makes for a cleaner document to prepare for pdfs and paper publishing markets.

Loading a document to createspace or kobi can be a fairly easy process, but often there are mistakes that you won’t see until your readers point them out to you. After compiling, Jutoh has another handy button, “Check.” Though problems that don’t really exist might come up, it tells you that it’s not likely a real problem. And real problems always come up. Wouldn’t you rather deal with them before you send your book out to the world instead of finding something you need to fix months after readers’ annoyance.

Last, but certainly not least, is the “Launch” button. With the download of a couple of other free software programs, Jutoh allows you to view your finished document in mobi, epub, and other formats. I can’t tell you how many mistakes I’ve caught just by looking at my book as it will appear to readers. It may be aggravating to fix, but it’s nice to get that aggravation over and have the confidence of a well-done product when you launch.

Last year, I won the first-ever IndieRecon Live Total Package Book Award. I credit much of that success to Jutoh. I put in a well-written novel, and Jutoh helped me knock out a great looking format. The combination allowed me my blissful moment of fame.

How about you? What’s your favorite way to get your book out into the world?

Bio: Colette BlackAuthor Pic
Colette Black lives in the far outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona with her family, 2 dogs, a mischievous cat and the occasional unwanted scorpion.  She loves learning new things, vacations, and the color purple. She writes New Adult and Young Adult sci-fi and fantasy novels with kick-butt characters, lots of action, and always a touch of romance.

Scrivener: Friend or Foe?

Scrivener IconThey chose their icon well. Punctuation marks to engender the triumphant swells of magnificent writing, a black and white background representing the light and the dark side, and a big S. The S might stand for suffering or stupendous. It really just stands for Scrivener, often called the ultimate writer’s tool or the biggest (insert swear words of choice here) software program to ever torture mankind. When I first started with the software, I wasn’t sure which was true. Now, I might threaten your life if you threatened my writing program. I’m still no expert with Scrivener, but I love using it. Here are a few reasons why:

Writing Templates: From Step 1, I can design my work space specifically for the project I’m starting. I can have a  blank template; fiction writing that comes in short story, novel with parts, or basic novel; non-fiction in essay, research paper, and other flavors; a plethora of scriptwriting options; and a miscellaneous option that contains persuasive lecture and even a cookbook template. How cool is that?  From my husband’s research proposals to my non-fiction writing to my novels, it’s all there.

Screenshot 2015-05-06 09.23.13Outlining features: When you outline, do you like the index card method, formal outlining method, color-coding…? Yep, Scrivener can do that. Unless you need to draw a graph, in which case you could draw it, scan it, and still upload it to Scrivener to have on hand. As you can see in the picture to the right, there is a place to organize my outline with notecards. I can move them around, just like cards, I can color-code the whole card or just the corner based on any criteria I like. I have different colors for each character’s point of view. By clicking on one of my notecards, I have an optional window to the right with more information. At the click of a button, I can change the type of information. I can also view my novel in a list outline form, with notes to the side of each entry. I honestly can’t think of any outlining feature I could want that Scrivener doesn’t have. *Correction, I just read Katie Cross’s post about Nova mind. I think it would be a perfect start to getting out your ideas and then I would want to organize them on Scrivener.  Not an outliner? That’s okay. You can skip this or get a broad look at your story progression as you go.

Workspace: I need a Chilean name–find a website. What color was that character’s eyes–find my character files.  What was that website with the research I needed–Find my list of websites and remember which one to open. Sound tedious? It is. Scrivener gets rid of that. The program has a name generator. You can run it as many times as you like until you find a name that works.  The left-side bar holds a list of files that you can diminish or expand including: your manuscript, separated by chapters or sections, as you choose; characters, each one with a character sheet that shows their name, role in the story, physical description, personality, habits, internal and external conflicts, and anything else you’d like to add, and you can even attach a picture to the file; places with similar descriptions and a picture; all of your research files with pictures and links if wanted; and it will even hold onto your trash for you. Deleted that chapter, but changed your mind? It’ll still be there for you, out of the way, but easily accessible.

Screenshot Scrivener workspaceNot only is the information accessible, but I can keep track of so many aspects of my writing as I work. If you look at the picture to the left, you’ll see how I often keep my information organized as I write. I have all of my files, characters, places at my fingertips in the bar to the far left. In the middle screen I have my chapter title, the synopsis, character pov, my progress on that chapter’s word count goal, the goal number, and the goal for the entire manuscript. In right screen I have my writing. If I don’t want the distraction of all the information staring at me, I click an icon and my writing screen goes front and center and I can set the background. Then, I write like I would on any other word processor. If I need the information hiding beneath, the ESC key brings me back again. With a simple click I can do just about anything I want without searching through files or checking word counts at the bottom of each chapter.

Cons: If I love it so much, why is my post entitled Friend or Foe?

Complexity: Anything with a million bells and whistles is going to have a learning curve. I took an online course on how to use Scrivener. It helped, but I knew enough to be bored and little enough to get lost, so it required time and patience. There’s also the learn as you go method, which is what I do with Photoshop. Need something? Look up the tutorial on youtube. If you decide to purchase Scrivener I would suggest that you go through the basic tutorials at least once then refer back to them as needed. The basic program isn’t all that complex, but it can do so much more if you take the time to figure out the special features.

Compiling: This is where you insert the curse word of your choice, in my opinion.  Compiling seems straightforward and simple, but I have had more problems in this area than any other. It’s always little things, so I suggest you don’t follow my example which was to think I could figure it out on my own. Definitely watch a few how-to videos on compiling before you jump in. It is simple, if you know what you’re doing. I’ve also heard that it doesn’t always compile according to manuscript guidelines. Be aware and do some off-site formatting before submitting. My novels receive their final compilation through my Jutoh program, which I’ll be talking about in a couple of weeks, but that doesn’t help with short stories.

Limited screens: You can divide your work into two screens, but I do wish I could have more. I work on a large computer screen next to my laptop. Sometimes I’d like to have three or four screens open at a time. With Scrivener, I can get to my information quicker and easier than having multiple files to wade through, but I’d still rather have them open next to each other sometimes.

Overall, however, I don’t think you can beat the program for the price.  Just be prepared for a bit of study on the front end and you need a willingness to review until you get a handle on the aspects that are important to you. In the end, the time is worth it.

I’d love to hear your questions or experiences:




That Moment it went from Hobby to Career

researchWhen I picked my topic for this month (titled above) I didn’t realize the title of my first Fictorian post this year, “Keeping the Day Job.” The two titles definitely describe where I was and am in my writing and I’m happy to see the progress made this past year due in part to my keeping goals.

I wrote everyday. There might have been a month or two that I didn’t hit 20,000 words, but there were others that I surpassed that. I did not submit something each month, but I submitted 12 pieces for publishing during the year. I finished a novel, my first, The Broken Amulet, and am in the stage of cleaning it up and editing. I went to Phoenix and Salt Lake City Comicons. And I attended David Farland’s writing workshop.

It was there that writing changed for me from a hobby to a career. In that workshop I was able to see how I could actually make money at doing what I enjoy. I’ve started working on a new book. David Farland helped me see how to craft, research, and frame the story and I’m confident that I will have it in the hands of an excited publisher by the end of 2015.

There was a moment in the workshop that I realized that I could be a successful author if I continued to learn and grow and develop as a writer. There wasn’t a month last year that I wasn’t a better writer than the month before.

So I’ve set some new goals and have developed a bit of work ethic. Here are some things that I am doing different now.

  • I set up an author email, jacebkillan@gmail.com that I use to keep all my writing stuff in one place. As I have ideas for short stories or plot twists in my novels I email those to myself with a descriptive subject line so that I can find them later, but I don’t spend too much time thinking on new things and forsaking my current work in progress.
  • I set up an author profile at Wattpad. At some point I will share a short story or two. It seems to be a great tool for aspiring and published writers.
  • I write at least a couple blog posts each month. This gives me a break from my work in progress and allows me to process things on my mind. It also helps in developing a readership.
  • I started outlining my novels. This was a hard thing for me as I’m a prancer or discovery writer, but Farland’s workshop helped me get some direction without losing interest in a story once it’s laid out. Another great tool is Farland’s Million Dollar Outlines.
  • With a good outline, I’m able to research with direction. I’ve spent the last month scouring old books, the internet, and museums for research on my work in progress. The picture above is of my readings this past weekend. In my hobby days of writing I would have taken the lazy, less expensive, less timely road of just making it up. Actually, I wrote a chapter of my current work in progress before Farland’s class.

The scene takes place in Milan, Italy in 1774, where the protagonist is enjoying chicken parmesan after having travelled a great distance from Nice, France. After Farland’s class I learned through research that Milan, Italy didn’t exist in 1774 but belonged to the House of Savoy in a country known as Sardinia. And tomato sauce wasn’t really used in Italian cuisine until later. And Nice wasn’t yet a part of France either, but also belonged to Sardinia and it wasn’t until a few years later during the Napoleonic era that Nice was annexed. So I rewrote the chapter and it no longer reeks of novice.

  • I started using Scrivener to keep track of my research and keep my thoughts and outline organized.
  • Every movie, television show, book that I experience is now analyzed for its story telling features.

To wrap up, my goals for this next year are as follows

  1. Finish my work in progress
  2. Find an agent
  3. Submit at least once to Writers of the Future
  4. Finish editing The Broken Amulet
  5. Outline another novel
  6. Attend two cons
  7. Attend two writing workshops
  8. Register for Superstars in 2016

I’m confident that I will become a published writer and professional author because I continue to improve, I continue to learn, and I continue to write.