Late December is here—almost Christmas—and the snow falls outside. Much yet remains to be completed on the revising and editing of The Bet, my current novel I’m hoping to publish soon, but I’m making progress on that all the same. Just need to get through the busy days ahead and get back on track once again. No excuses…just fact!
2013 has certainly been a year filled with many highlights for me. Meeting several new friends in the blogging world and in various other online communities has been fun and rewarding. I have truly enjoyed sharing common interests—particularly the love of words and writing—with a wide array of folks “out there” in the blogosphere. Reading their many thoughts and ideas, I usually learn something and actually feel that I’m a better writer after doing so. At least I hope that I am better when I post my own thoughts and ideas, striving to be as interesting and “readable” as those I read and follow.
The best thing that happened to my writing this year, though, was my discovery of, and immersion into, the world of Scrivener, a fantastic tool for writers! At first, I had very little idea what it was all about or how it really worked. Fortunately, however, I found Gwen Hernandez’s Scrivener for Dummies and spent February and March taking her online course Scrivener for Mac, and the rest is history, if I may throw out a hackneyed cliché.
Cliché aside, Scrivener has made my writing—novels and blogs—more organized, and the whole process much easier. Using Scrivener to write my novel for NaNoWriMo in November was a fun and well-organized, challenging experience. Of course, when creating my stories, I still have to come up with the right words that will successfully tell the tale, but Scrivener, from Literature & Latte, helps me do so. Without a doubt, it has become my best friend when I’m wearing my writer’s hat! Anyone reading this, who has not tried Scrivener, should do so and take advantage of the 30-day free trial. It would make for a wonderful last-minute Christmas gift as well.
So on this snowy morning here in northern Illinois, I send good wishes to all readers and fellow writers who, like me, need to get back to work on writing, revising, and editing. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! May 2013 close out warm and happy for you all, and 2014 hold many wonderful and exciting adventures every day.…CortlandWriter
It’s cold, and it’s good to be inside! Sage words, I know, but winter has definitely crept in and it’s the perfect time to get that revising/editing completed on the novel before too many more days fly off the calendar.
NaNoWriMo has come and gone, and I’ve read a lot of summaries and testimonials by fellow writers this past week regarding the levels of success attained during that most hectic November. And, for the most part, no one seems to feel as though they failed, even though they may not have reached the 50,000 word target. Most felt that the process of building a draft, albeit short of the “winning” word count, was what really mattered.
I stopped at just over 52,000 words, yet the novel is not complete. As those other writers did, I found the experience of getting a novel that far along to be worth every minute and hour I invested during November. Like them, I now have a solid first draft that needs a conclusion. But that’s for later this winter and spring. Again, that is the true beauty that is NaNoWriMo.
Right now, though, it’s time to get serious once again and put this year’s NaNo creation away–let it sleep and mellow–and knock the cobwebs off The Bet, my next novel to be published. This novel is the one I knocked out in NaNoWriMo 2012 and worked on finishing up over the summer and early fall. Now, I’m in the revising/editing/polishing phase and eager to be finished with it and have it ready for publication before the end of the year. And, as I’ve written about previously, I really have no other excuses now since November with all of its “interruptions” has fled the scene.
December, with the advent of cold and inclement weather, is certainly one of my favorite times to get work done. My ideal time to write/revise/edit/polish is when it’s mean outside and quiet and comfy inside, with calm and pleasant beautiful music in my ear buds. Even though the sun is shining brightly on this Saturday morning, the temperature is not going to climb out of the ‘teens, so it’s one of those “ideal” times to be inspired to work on the novel that patiently awaits in my Scrivener projects folder.
One of the many positives that came from the month-long grind of NaNoWriMo is that there was no time to think about The Bet. It was forced into that “sleeping and mellowing” stage, away from my eyes, where I might have been tempted to jump back in to tinker with the plot, characters, or setting and distract me from work on this year’s NaNoWriMo novel.
But now that NaNoWriMo is finished, I have re-awakened the story after a month’s hiatus, and much of what I was growing weary with has taken on a fresh, new look, and I have already seen ways to make the whole novel better. Thus, I’m finding the rewriting/revising to actually be kind of fun for a change!
Now, all we need are some gray skies, some swirling snow, and a wonderful sense of shelter inside where it’s warm and comfy. That would be truly ideal writing weather! Without a doubt, I don’t think I’ll have to wait too long for that weather to arrive if current forecasts are correct. Can’t wait!
Anyone else feel the same way? Happy revising, all…CortlandWriter
For the past week, I have been firmly ensconced in this year’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and in my last post I wrote about all of the trials and tribulations that the month of November offers, causing me to claw and scrape to reach my target of 50,000 words by month’s end.
I am happy to report that as of now, I have nearly 21,000 words in the hopper, and I’m having fun firing up the MacBook very early each morning and wondering exactly in which direction my story is going to go.
I love the freedom that NaNoWriMo provides in not having to be concerned with editing and revising. Since I’m a stickler for correcting and editing and revising whenever I see a need in my writing, ignoring the inclination to do so is probably the toughest aspect of the month’s writing challenge for me. But this year, I’m finding it much easier to do so.
I think, too, that this year’s effort is enhanced by that wonderful program known as Scrivener. Not only does it allow me to write in large chunks, and then break them up into smaller chunks as needed, but it is ideal for keeping track of the Word Count for each writing session and the overall count for the entire project. I love writing in Composition Mode, without any other distractions, and having the Project Target indicator showing at the lower left-hand corner of the screen. As I crank out those words, the progress bar grows slowly and steadily, and the word totals click off, higher and higher. It was never this easy or relaxing using Word.
So, unless I hit that proverbial “wall” and simply fail to pound out the rest of the story by the deadline, I am pretty sure that I’m on course to exceed the 50,000 words by the end of the month, even though I will be cramped for regular writing time the last couple of weeks. That’s why I’m making a concerted effort in these first weeks of November to harvest as many words as I can. And, of course, it helps when I have a pretty good idea where I want my story to end up–even though just how it will do so is every day’s adventure!…CortlandWriter
It’s nearing the end of September and summer is “officially” over with, and I have finally reached the revision stage of my novel, The Bet. Since my last post, which was written soon after we closed up the cottage, put the intrepid pontoon in mothballs for the winter, and moved back into our humble little dwelling here in beautiful northern Illinois, I have managed to bring the first draft of my novel to an end. For better or worse, the thing is “done,” and now rests and awaits some major revising and editing—two things that I’m very much looking forward to.
I’ve been reading quite a bit lately about techniques and various tips for editing and revising that seem to work for those who have shared them on various blog sites. The one thing that each seems to have in common with all others is that the task of editing and revising is arduous, to say the least, and calls for close and careful reading and examination of each and every word and sentence in order to make the prose read so well that the reader will have no doubt about what is intended.
Without a doubt, it is paramount to make our characters come to life and behave in ways that are believable, realistic, and memorable. The same is true of settings, plot, and conflicts. Glancing back through my first draft, I’m not too disappointed with my characters and settings, but I do know that plot and conflict elements will need some heavy-duty revision to get my story standing up before it ever sees the light of publication. Even so, I’m confident that I’ve told an interesting story (one that is based on an actual experience I shared way back in the early 70s), and that with some concentrated efforts these next couple of weeks, I will have an even better tale to share with all those eager readers out there!
The journey of this story to where it sits at this writing began last November with the challenge of NaNoWriMo. During the busy month, I was able to reach my word goal, but the novel itself was far short of being complete. To bring it to completion by summer’s end was my goal, and I have done so. Typing THE END at the bottom of the final page of the final chapter was a refreshing thing—symbolic of so many good feelings of having reached the finish line at the end of the marathon, even though I know darned well that there remain oh, so many holes in the novel that will need that careful and critical revising and editing. But that’s the stage I’m about to step into and move it from dull and blah to something memorable and good (my personal goal).
At the conclusion of NaNoWriMo, because I reached the magic word count in time, I qualified for a discount on the writing software known as Scrivener. It has made all the difference in my whole approach to writing now, and all of my writing (this blog included!) is done within Scrivener. It will be another busy journey these next few weeks as revising and editing take center stage, and I am eager to get started now and comforted to know that Scrivener will be right along with me, helping to get the job done.
Well, here I am, in an old cottage in a thick woods, along the shore of a beautiful lake, in southwest Michigan. And I can honestly say that being back is all good! Last weekend was a marathon of getting here, hauling stuff from two vehicles, opening the cottage up, and getting everything “under roof.”
The muscle aches and weariness that resulted after each day’s efforts were evidence of the work involved in making the place livable once again. But now that everything has been completed, those aches and pains were good ones. Of course, these first few days have been filled with plenty of wind and rain and cooler temperatures than preferred, and it seems as though it’s taking much longer for those aches and pains to go away. (It couldn’t be age-related, could it?)
Now the stage is set for my writing routine to help me accomplish goals I have set for the summer: 1.) finish The Bet, my current novel WIP which was my NaNoWriMo project; 2.) keep my blogs up to date; 3.) work on the various short stories that have been lurking about for quite some time; 4.) get my writing ready for publication by summer’s end. Whew! Have I set myself up for disappointment? Time will tell.
However, each of these goals seems very reachable as I open another summer at the lake. Anyone who writes seriously has his or her own writing routines, and I’m certainly no different, especially when I’m on the verge of getting some piece finished. Although it was a very eventful winter, I didn’t quite do the amount of writing I probably should have or would have liked to do. No excuses, other than several weeks were spent learning and applying the wonderful writing program called Scrivener. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s a terrific tool that has me becoming more and more organized, structured, and competent in achieving writing satisfaction as never before.
Now that the winter blues have taken flight, it’s time for some really good quality atmosphere in which to write and read. I am a lucky guy in that we move for the summer to southwest Michigan at the end of May, and there is no better setting during the week to work on my writing. To say the least, the surroundings are quaint—rustic?—and far from the hustle and bustle of city life and the roar or Interstates.
My perfect writing routine? It all begins with the coffee. I’m usually out of bed by 7 a.m. and have the coffee going soon thereafter. If it’s a nice morning (no howling winds, cold temperatures, or pouring rain), I’ll open all of the curtains and windows to let in the good, fresh Michigan air. The wife usually sleeps in until later in the morning in the upstairs bedroom, so there is no way I can disturb her slumber.
Next, I’ll go out onto the screened-in porch overlooking the lake, take in the morning that is coming to life, and get the MacBook fired up on the round table facing the lake and check any e-mail that may have arrived over night. After that, I’ll read over what I wrote during my previous writing session and use that as my starting point.
And, of course, at this point I enjoy that first wonderful sip of strong, hot coffee. It seems to be the fuel that gets me started, and nothing seems insurmountable when there’s good coffee to have along for the journey! If it’s a morning of rain or less-than-pleasant temperatures, I’ll simply set up my writing “workshop” inside on the old dining room table. I get lots of good writing done on mornings such as this, but I do prefer to be out in the air on the porch watching the lake go by while I write.
There are usually plenty of hummingbirds who come calling and pause for a sip at the feeders on the corner of the porch roof or over in the low dogwood tree next to the steps leading down to the landing by the lake. I have a terrific view of a large portion of this end of the lake, and there are usually fishermen or other early morning boaters out and about on summer mornings.
I don’t really set a time limit for my writing, other than I do much better early in the morning. I do set a word count of 2,000. This is very easy to keep track of in Scrivener. When finished, I read over what I have produced that morning and then shut the writing down until the next writing day.
While writing, I enjoy the various genres of music available on iTunes radio. Some mornings, I’ll have easy listening music; other times it will be jazz, particularly Bossa Nova or smooth jazz. Or I’ll simply select some mood music from my own iTunes library. With the right music, I’m alone in my tiny niche in the world, creating my characters and places and plots and conflicts and the rest of what makes a story. It definitely enhances my wonderful setting and atmosphere in the cottage.
Although I tell myself that I’m going to write every day, reality gets in the way, and I more often than not end up writing only three weekdays out of five —very seldom on weekends. Since I usually have chores (weekly trip to laundromat in Dowagiac, grocery store, general maintenance of cottage, etc.), I’ll do them on those non-writing mornings. Since we usually have company on weekends, writing time is really not planned then. The days when I’m not writing, however, I’m finding time to read and think about the next writing session waiting for me.
On mornings such as today (June 1)—gray, windy, sweatshirt temperatures—I am definitely in the mood to get to work on my current writing project(s). Of course, there are many mornings when it’s just too nice to pass up that early cruise around the lake on our intrepid pontoon! Times such as these, writing takes a backseat!
I find that writing atmosphere and setting is vital to being a productive writer. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bright, sunny day or a rainy, dreary day—lots can be accomplished if we feel motivated and free of distractions. My summer cottage is just this sort of place. Now, another cup of coffee, an hour of unplanned weekend writing, and I’ll be that much closer to being finished with my novel, The Bet. And the gray morning has suddenly become sunny and bright! All is well…CortlandWriter
It’s that time once again—it happens every year—when my focus shifts from daily routines of tasks around the house and writing regularly each morning to getting ready for another summer at the cottage up in Michigan. And now that we’ve had an uninterrupted string of beautiful warm spring weather, I’m finding it very difficult to stay focused on my writing duties, as much as I need and want to. I have no doubt that I will be able to pick back up once things are settled at the cottage, the pier is in place, the pontoon securely moored, and that first gray and rainy day comes along.
The winter just passed (finally!) was very productive in the writing skills development department, I must say. For example, February and March were devoted to learning Scrivener, that powerful Swiss Army Knife of writing tools created by the good folks at Literature & Latte! And it all came about rather unexpectedly.
I had completed a 50,000+ novel in Word during November’s NaNoWriMo event, something I jumped into for the fun of it and to actually be “forced” to have some kind of rough draft of a novel on hand at the end of the month. That was a challenge, though, as the month unwound, with all of the many November “interruptions” (Thanksgiving, guests, travel, etc.). Through it all, though, I exceeded the required word count of 50,000 and was more than pleased with what I’d created. For better or worse, I had something to work with in the months ahead.
It was during the conclusion and word count verification process in NaNoWriMo when I first heard of Scrivener. I learned that, because I was a NaNoWriMo “winner,” I could get the program for half price, about $22, following a 30-day Free Trial period. Being an old guy who has always loved learning how to use technology (I even taught those various things for many years), and since it’s been a while since I’ve really gone beyond the “basics” of Word, I jumped at the opportunity to give Scrivener a try.
It wasn’t long before I had the Free Trial up and running, and I figured the Tutorial that comes with the program would clarify everything I needed to know about using Scrivener. And, I must say, it’s a very good Tutorial, but I wanted more, and that’s where Gwen Hernandez rode in on her white steed and really opened the floodgates to understanding the program.
It wasn’t hard to come upon ads for a book Gwen had written, titled Scrivener for Dummies. Having loved all previous “Dummies” books, I once again jumped—leaped, actually—at the chance to purchase the book that I knew would be a wonderful guide through Scrivener and all its various parts. After all, my just-completed NaNoWriMo novel was resting and waiting for me to take it to the next steps, and my plan was to do so in Scrivener. So there it was, my winter project, something I could look forward to and feel that my growth as a writer would be something to make it all worthwhile.
Right about this time, I also discovered that Gwen offered online classes in Scrivener for Mac, the next one to begin in late February. Perfect! I not only leaped but did a double-back flip at the opportunity to enroll and be part of a “live” class. I don’t have time or space at this writing to list all of the wonderful positives that came from my six weeks spent in working through Gwen’s class. I’m sure there’s a post or two down the road where I will really be able to devote the time and space to extolling the positives that came from the class, her book, and an immersion in Scrivener.
So by the time April rolled around, work continued (it still does) on my novel The Bet. Meanwhile, I jaunted off into the world of publishing to Amazon. A couple of short stories (“Pinewood Farm” and “Hobo Willie”) which have been stowing away with me for a long time, were thrown into Scrivener and made ready for formatting as .mobi eBooks for Kindle. It’s a process that is pretty straightforward and simple—thanks to Scrivener! Long story short, in less than an hour, I had them on Amazon, ready for public consumption. I’ve actually sold a number of copies of those two short stories, something I smile at—appreciatively,
So now, back to my need to step back for a short time. Those cold and gray winter mornings allowed me time and space to get lots accomplished—writing and learning—but now it will be time spent packing, doing outdoor stuff here as needed, and checking into the cottage Memorial Day Weekend. But that’s not cause for concern, since my first book—Black Wolf Lodge—was written over the course of several summers on the wonderful screened front porch of that cottage, an ancient lady who turns 100 this summer. And the beauty of it is, Scrivener will be right there along with me as we watch the lake go by and the summer days grab my focus….CortlandWriter
The month of April has all but disappeared, and I thought it had only just begun. Where has the time gone? It really hasn’t been because I have been spending an inordinate amount of time keeping up to date with my blog posting. On the contrary, I have probably spent way too much time reading all of the useful information about the many ways to use Scrivener, posted on Everything Scrivener, by a vast array of writers and other contributors.
And having taken Gwen Hernandez’s Scrivener for Mac online class in February thru March, I was hooked, and I have grown as a writer thanks to all of that. Without a doubt, during this period, I have been having massive amounts of fun, while at the same time learning new things about Scrivener and the process of formatting stories and books every day!
Though I feel that I’ve pretty much neglected my regular and consistent posting during this time, and that I should, perhaps, be doing more actual writing instead of reading about writing, what I’ve gleaned from the articles and other tutorials found on YouTube have proven quite worthwhile. What I have enjoyed this past month in reading through the very helpful articles posted at Everything Scrivener, is that one tip seems to lead to another that is equally as informative and useful.
During this time, perhaps the most beneficial tutorial I found was a wonderful video posted by writer Julie Kenner titled How to format .mobi and ePub in Scrivener. After I watched this several times, I actually applied her step-by-step, clear-cut instructions to a couple of my short stories (“Hobo Willie” & “Pinewood Farm”) and compiled them perfectly to publish as Kindle Edition books. That was the first step toward actually realizing that I could do this after all!
Of course, after I’d successfully compiled my stories into the correct .mobi format required by Amazon, I needed to know how to get them into the Amazon store. As it turned out, that was one of the easiest steps—thanks to having done all of the formatting in Scrivener—and the very helpful YouTube tutorial Publishing your eBook on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Platform from Paul Salvette of BB eBooks.
As with the Julie Kenner tutorial, I watched Mr. Salvette’s presentation a few times and proceeded to go through the steps to upload “Hobo Willie” and “Pinewood Farm.” In less than an hour’s time, I had two short stories on Amazon! And in checking not so very long ago, I’ve actually sold a few and had a nice review for each.
So what’s next as I work up this learning curve? I’m putting the finishing touches on my novel titled The Bet, and I
cannot wait to compile it into a format for Smashwords and/or CreateSpace as well as eBooks. There’s still a way to go, however, but at least I now have a grasp on how it’s done. And regardless of the format, it still all comes down to having a story that is well written, full of characters who have something to share, and a problem or two that needs to be resolved satisfactorily….CortlandWriter
In my mind this morning I had a wonderful blog post all configured and worded regarding yesterday’s horrific incident in Boston. But as this day has worn on, I have begun to realize that what I might say about that incident—yet one more example of how this country’s morals and standards have eroded exponentially—would be lost in a sea of words and platitudes offered up by others far more eloquent than I.
So I’ll leave all of that to the more erudite and prolific shapers of words and only say that what took place yesterday in Boston is not a surprise. In fact, I’m stunned that something like this hasn’t happened sooner—much closer to the date of the tragedy of the World Trade Center.
Not knowing who is responsible for the deaths and injuries causes the most anguish at the moment. I think of a little boy—eight years old, about the same age as my first grandson—who was taking part in a wonderful event and, but for any other explanation, was in the wrong place at that right time—the moment the explosions happened. I think of his sister and all of the others who, if for no other reason than their positions along that major avenue in Boston, would be well today, celebrating the terrific event in all of its festive glory!
I had planned to write about my own accomplishments since my last post, finishing and compiling via Scrivener, two short stories and publishing them on Amazon KDP for Kindle. (Two or three copies of
them have even sold already!) And although I’m thrilled that I’ve come this far in learning the wonderful tool that is Scrivener, and that I now understand the process of how to get my finished writing projects on to Amazon.com, I’ll save my ramblings and espousals of glee for another post. There will be a time for that, but right now it’s difficult to get too enthused about my offerings.
Those two short stories, “Hobo Willie” and “Pinewood Farm”, were especially fun to write. Of course, I’d love to sell millions of them, but I’m happy at this moment just knowing that they’re “out there” and available to anyone in the world.
For now, I’ll leave all of the wit and wisdom and other mundane thoughts posted here for another time. Right now, though, I’m in that “hug-your-kids-and-grandkids” state of mind, so I hope anyone reading this will think about doing just that.
And when doing so, please offer a prayer or two for the families who were caught up in something they didn’t deserve and for the loved ones taken from them. God bless those little ones who didn’t deserve it!…CortlandWriter
It’s finally here, and yet we’re still forced to put on warm hoodies and jackets and keep the furnace running just a bit more than we’d prefer. I keep telling myself that it’s only a matter of time before I can ditch the long pants and long-sleeve shirts and don the “summer togs”—shorts and tee shirt! Oh, for those wonderful mornings when I can sit on our deck, warmed by the rising sun, and enjoy that first cup of hot coffee and listen to the calm and peace of a new day beginning!
Reaching April also marks the end of my recent experience in taking an online course titled Scrivener for Mac. As I’ve written about in other posts, Scrivener is a wonderful program that provides writers of all walks of life various tools and means to generate their work. When the course began on Tuesday, February 19, I was quite unsure as to exactly where this would take me. I had made up my mind that I wanted to do everything I could to “master” Scrivener so I could put it to work for my many WIPs (works in progress) and to be comfortable in most of its powerful components.
And now that all of the lessons, tutorials, Live Class presentations by instructor Gwen Hernandez, and questions and comments from students have come to an end, I must say that there is a distinct feeling of emptiness hanging around. The emptiness is not about the material covered in the class, but rather in the void that now exists because the class has ended! Call me sentimental, or whatever, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these days and weeks since February 19!
My morning routine of downloading the day’s lesson and working through it, hot coffee steaming at the ready nearby, was something of which I’d grown very fond these past several weeks. Not only was it an ongoing process of putting the individual pieces of Scrivener together to see how the whole of the program functions, but it was also a fun challenge to finally grasp a concept or how to do something I’d not known how to do previously.
We were led by Gwen Hernandez, author of Scrivener for Dummies (Wiley, 2012). Before I’d taken the class, I had purchased the book and found it very good in helping with many of the trickier and more complex features of Scrivener. The book became even more valuable as a reference during the progression of the class. I return to it often for various answers to questions that crop up as I work on my current novel.
During the run of the class, Gwen provided clear explanations and answers to our many questions and comments, always with a wonderful sense of humor and lightness that made things very comfortable from the onset. The same tone pervades the book as well. Anyone who is serious about learning and using Scrivener needs to own the book. Also,taking the class—for Mac or Windows—is a terrific idea.
Along the way, too, were many fellow “travelers” very much with the same questions and goals as I had. And though we really have never met, my fellow Scrivener friends and I seemed to develop a sort of camaraderie that seems to occur in groups which are focused on the same goals and outcomes, regardless of each others’ experience or published status. I believe that is a direct result of a caring and competent instructor. Even with some of the technological glitches that cropped up from time to time, I still had a worthwhile time of it all. For a month or so, we were all on equal footing, wending our way through the world that is Scrivener.
Whenever I fire up Scrivener to get to work on my writing project, I will often wonder what my fellow travelers are up to and how their own various writing projects are proceeding. I will look for their names along the way in blog posts or book lists of recently published items and wonder if they will ever do the same themselves.
Now that the protective shell of our Scrivener class is closing, it’s time for us to stretch and flap our wings and fly. I know I can do so now, confident that Gwen and my fellow travelers have helped me to do so. And all these weeks later, since the course commenced, I know that my writing will be much better and headed in the right direction, with Scrivener helping me get there! I shall miss all my fellow “travelers” just the same...CortlandWriter