The Writer’s Craft

I thought I would take a break from actual writing to show you some of the tools I use to put the story together. As an example I am using Intervention the second part of The Observer Series. Whether what I display makes it into the final cut we will have to see. I am over 50,000 words into the story.

The main tool I use is Scrivener, the chapter manuscript is in the centre of the screen with the list of proposed chapter headings, characters and places/scenes on the left. All my writing is done here and the formatting for eBooks and Paperbacks using Scrivener’s Compile feature.

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In the continuing absence of an iPad version for Scrivener, I use Index Card when I am away from my desktop Mac. It does link with Scrivener but it s not the same.

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The next tool I use is to keep my timeline straight. This is Aeon Timeline which integrates with Scrivener. This one shows a couple of Arcs (chapters or scenes) with events and then cross linked to characters, scenes etc. I do not need this for all my stories but when it gets complicated i.e. with travel, synchronous events, etc.  it keeps things organised

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Next comes the ever present Excel. Nothing very clever here, apart from all the ratios and calculations to convert Earth measurements and time into my alien settings. Of course I do not need this for every story but I find it essential in my SciFi. I like to think that my stories could work if you ignore the faster than light etc elements. Before I used Scrivener and Aeon, I also used it for character lists and timelines i.e. calculating how old people are and what day of the week it was/will be.

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Finally, there is, of course, research. In the screen shot below, from a Physics site, (http://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/circles/Lesson-3/The-Value-of-g), I was checking up on how G is calculated, then using the formula in Excel to calculate for my other planets. Research varies considerably from Google Maps for other stories to University research papers that I read when writing To The Survivors about how viruses spread.

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I know that many writers use other tools from simple text editors to complex design systems for covers. I use PaintShop Pro for that. One of my last Windows only tools. Keep trying to learn others but have not found a layered system one (that can import my old ones), as easy to use – I just wish there was a Mac version – come on Corel anyone would think Macs were new!

I have also used  a CAD program for laying out physical buildings. I have also used mind- mapping software – that was in An Agent’s Rise and I actually created the mind map I had the characters do.

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SQL for Sequels

Mixing my topics today and probably confusing everyone in the process including me.

SQL stands for Structured Query Language a method of querying databases to find results but often used to describe the database itself. It is normally pronounced sequel hence the connection.There are several databases that call themselves SQL including Microsoft’s larger server based system, right down to SQLite Personal Edition running on various operating systems. Why is a SQL database on my mind? Because my sequels are causing me problems.

Part Three of the Demise Conspiracy, An Agent’s Prize, Part Two of The Observer Series, Intervention and an as yet unnamed sequel to To The Survivors currently named TTS2 by file name. What has this to do with databases. Characters that is what. Characters and timelines and scenes. Of course it’s all my own fault for trying to write several books (not just these) at the same time, but now I have added to my problem. Which character appeared, when, in which book, and do I need to explain their role or half the story of the earlier parts.

As I have previously blogged, I use Scrivener to write and it is an excellent system to list characters and scenes within a manuscript. I have tried importing all the characters over from the earlier parts but that just makes the lists longer. What I need is a clever database that tells me when, where and in what context I wrote about the character or the scene. In other words i need to add all the meta-data and link all the appearances of the character in Scrivener. I also need to know how much I should cover of the earlier story in order to have the current actions make sense. Not sure any tool can help with that. Many might say it did not make sense in the first parts!

Currently, I end up re-reading long sections of the earlier books, using Scriveners’ tool set to find the relevant section, but then comes the real problem. I end up wanting to change the original for grammar, construction or even plot to fit in with the next part’s scene. Oh if only I had written it differently, called the character something else, not killed off xx. God knows how longer series writers manage. Did  J K Rowling have a database of Harry Potter characters? Now if I had a database of all my ideas, characters etc there would be one place to go. This would avoid one section I just had to change where I used the same character name in two different manuscripts.

So clever database designers get on it. Get me a SQL database with the right easy to use queries so that I can look it all up. My writing would increase in speed, I could effortlessly cross reference and the world would be a better place.

Of course I could just get better organised get the sequel written without SQL at all.

Creating Editions

Aside

I am trying to decide if I should create different versions of my latest books to attract more types of readers as not everyone has a Kindle or other e-Reader, nor wants one.

For my first book, An Agent’s Demise, I have Hardback, Paperback, Kindle, and Smashwords versions. The ePub is also on iBooks and B&N therefore on any e-reader like the Nook. I am in the process of creating an Audio version via ACX.

For my second, To The Survivors, I dispensed with the Hardback, iBook and B&N but there are Kindle and Smashwords versions. The book is on ACX but I have had no takers for auditions.

For book three, The Persuasive Man, there are Kindle and paperback versions although I changed paperback format size. There is no Smashwords version.

For the two latest books, An Agent’s Rise and The World of Fives, there are only kindle versions.

All books are in English, (UK not USA,Australian, Canadian or other versions) although there are some dialogue elements in other languages. I have looked at creating translated versions via Babelcube and Fiverr, with no success so far.

So instead of writing new books should I take some time to create the missing Smashwords and Paperback versions? I used Lulu for my initial outings. Then I look at the downloads numbers from Smashwords or the sales through Lulu and think it is not worth the effort. Will audio versions be any more successful? Would translated versions be welcomed in non-English speaking parts of the world?

So instead I have written a blog about the decision to be taken. In the end it will come down to mood and how the creative juices are flowing or not.  Now it’s time to fire up Scrivener and see where the mood takes me.