2012 Goals Update & A Request for Recommendations
Yesterday was the self-imposed deadline I had set for myself to finish my outline and prep-work to start writing the actual first draft of “Book of M”. I thought I should report on my standing relative to that goal.
Unfortunately, I failed to reach my goal. Failed, yes, but I’m so close. As of last night, I believe I’ve reached somewhere between the three-fifths and three-quarter mark of the plot. There’s a lot going on and a lot of pieces coming together. I’m getting super-excited for writing this book, because I really like the direction the plot is going.
I think it might be amusing to also point out that as it stands the unfinished outline is nearly 9,000 words long, by itself, and is split between two separate word documents (it’s… complicated). The length, at least, I can explain: the outline includes a lot of asides, notes to myself about changes to make to the outline, and especially a few internal dialog question-and-answer sessions that I’ve used to help me figure out some difficult plotting. The upshot: this is definitely not a short story that I’ve blown up into a novel, here. There’s a lot of ground to cover.
I’m still optimistic that I can keep this a relatively short book (my target is 125,000 words, but I’m mainly hoping for anything under 185,ooo). Realistically speaking though… at an artistic level I’m fine with a book that stretches to 250,000 words. I enjoy works of that length. And I don’t discount the possibility that this book could go as much as that long. My shorter-length goal is based more on concerns for marketability – notwithstanding my prior analysis of wordcount lengths in my chosen genres, showing a distinct market preference (vis-a-vis the market of readers) for longer works, the advice of professionals in the business is still to write shorter, roughly 100K-length books. Still, I won’t sacrifice my artistic integrity to force my book into artificial constraints. I’m just trying to set a target, so I know what to work toward.
Considering how close I am to finishing my outline, I’m resetting my goal with a fairly short new deadline: to have all this prep-work done by January 31st, which will allow me to start the month of February diving straight into the actual First Draft. I’ll definitely be able to finish the outline by then, and more than likely I’ll be able to tie a bow on some more character work as well.
Anyway, something became clear to me last night (which I tweeted about) as I was adding scenes – both new scenes that occur earlier in the book to foreshadow and support the direction the plot is moving, and additional scenes that moved said plot closer toward the climax and the end of the book. At this point, I’ve got 4 POV characters. The majority of the scenes are from the primary protagonist, Isa’s point-of-view. A few scenes are from the co-protagonist, Davin’s POV, with a similar number of scenes from the anti-hero’s POV. After the protagonist, however, the next largest scene-hog is the primary antagonist. The timeline for everything is getting complicated, with the timing of different scenes and events affecting the course of other scenes and events. Besides the four POV characters, there are at least 23 other named characters (of varying levels of importance – most of the characters, except walk-on “servant/messenger” roles have names). Action takes place across four major locations (plus sublocations, such as a specific building within a larger city), and in at least three different time periods.
Those worries that I had about “is this epic enough” or “is this ambitious enough”, that I talked about last week – now that I’m nearly finished plotting this book out, those worries have been whacked upside the backs of their heads with a very heavy shovel and buried deep in the earth. This is epic. This is ambitious. And the realization that I had last night?
I need help.
Your Recommendations, Please
So, I’m hoping you, dear readers, might be able to help me out with something. There’s a lot to track in this book. I’ve been using a program I bought a few years ago called “ConnectedText” to help me in my note-taking and background writing. It’s like a desktop wiki, but with way more functionality than just a wiki. It’s been perfect for the use to which I’ve put it, which is more-or-less creating an encyclopedia of my worldbuilding.
But now I’m entering a different phase of my project, and I find that it’s not exactly designed to help with what I’m working on, now. I need to keep track of multiple scenes, multiple characters, and multiple timelines. I need to be able to quickly and easily tie a scene to the brief descriptions I’ve written up on my outline, and I anticipate the need to quickly reshuffle scenes or slot in new scenes.
Now, I’m aware of the existence of multiple software programs designed to help novelists with managing some or possibly all of the above. But I don’t have time to try out each and every one of them to see which one best suits my needs. (Nor am I inclined to purchase each one of them to try it out, nor again am I inclined to go through the work of setting up all the scenes, characters, and timelines multiple times in multiple programs to see which works best.)
So, I’m hoping dear readers, that those of you with experience with these programs can offer your thoughts, based on usage, as to how well each or any of these meets the needs as I’ve outlined them. Please, share your thoughts!
Scrivener ($40) appears to be the favorite among a lot of novelists. I know it has outlining tools and a storyboard. But how well does it handle juggling characters and timelines? Until recently this wouldn’t have been an option, anyway, because it was Mac-only but they’ve recently released a Windows version. Anyone tried that? There does appear to be a free-trial period, but of course there’s no way I can write a novel in that period. (And I don’t want to waste my time with multiple free trials.)
Liquid Story Binder ($45.95) is another that, until Scrivener for Windows was released, I understood to basically be Scrivener for Windows, by another name and software maker – in that it had many of the same features. A look at the screen-shots suggests a heavy emphasis on images in the program… not that I have any images to use. The feature list specifically mentions it has timelines… has anyone used that, and if so how does it work?
Storybook (Free Version $0, Pro Version $26.29) appears to allow you to tie a scene to a chronological date – but I suspect those dates are tied to a “real-world-Gregorian-Calendar”, which isn’t much use to me in a world that has it’s own, non-real calendar), which could help with managing timelines. It also seems to allow you to connect scenes to specific plot threads to see how they come together. There’s a free version and a paid-pro version, but it’s not wholly clear to me what the advantages of the pro version are.
yWriter (Free to use, $11.95 to “register”) has the advantage of being completely free (I’ve got a copy of both yWriter and the free version of Storybook on my computer already, though I haven’t really tinkered with either or dug into them, yet), and I know it breaks things down to the scene and character level, and has some sort of storyboard, though I haven’t figured out how to get to it. For certain the UI looks less slick and polished than in the above non-free options, which could possibly impact usability.
And there may be others I’m simply not aware of.
Does anyone have any experience with the above? Any thoughts on which is the best and easiest to use and set-up, and which has the features that appear to have the most overlap with what I’m trying to accomplish and might best meet my needs?
I haven’t pre-cleared the idea of paying for one of these with Dear Wife, yet, so I’m not guaranteed to get to use the solution that best meets my current authoring needs, and I may yet resort to just throwing some words into MS Word and slapping together a spreadsheet of some sort… but just in case, I’m interested in what the ideal solution would likely be, for me. If one of those might genuinely make my writing life easier… well… I guess if I’m willing to do the MS Word + Spreadsheet thing for a while, I will, eventually, have a birthday, or something…