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It’s Not About the Office Supplies

Am I the only writer with an unhealthy lust for office supplies? Somehow I doubt it.

If you’re like me, stepping into Staples probably feels not unlike an addict stepping into a crack den. I feel my whole body tense up in anticipation of the hit that’s coming from the multitude of pens and pencils, the binders big and small, the dividers and clips and labels and the rainbow of  sticky notes (Oh! The sticky notes!) .

Tell me I’m not alone in this. Please.

Only the size of my house and pocketbook keep me from indulging indiscriminately.  In fact, I try to stay out of Staples (as well as Office Max, Office Depot, and the office supply section of the grocery story).  Like an alcoholic has to change their routine and, often, their friendships, in order to remain sober, I have to cut myself off from temptation by just staying away.

What is with this NEED for lovely, lovely office supplies? I think I think it will make me a happier writer.

The tri-fold posterboard and plethora of colored sticky notes will somehow magically turn me into Plotter Extraordinaire.  The binders will force me to keep detailed book bibles as I write, allowing me to conjure up the hair color of my heroine (toasted honey!) at whim.  A fancy pen and a colorful notebook will entice me to carry them with me for an impromptu 500 words while waiting in line at the DMV.

Only…not so much.  None of those things — despite my repeated tries to prove the theory — have done anything to make me write more, better, faster, consistently, or anything else.  My works in progress at any given time have been still disorganized, my writing sporadic at best, my plotting ish-y.

Until now.

Call Me a Liar

So, back in January I told the story of my discovery that, even though I have been on the eternal search for just the right “process” for writing a book, because everyone else’s process looks so much better than mine, I actually DO have a process.  I’ve been very accepting of that process  (which involved Microsoft Word and lots of cutting and pasting of scenes as I shifted them around) since then.

Until lately.

Lately, I’ve been dissatisfied again.  Why? Because I’ve read Larry Brooks’s Story Engineering (I can’t believe I haven’t reviewed that here yet…will have to remedy that soon, because it’s amazing!) and my books are becoming (hopefully) bigger and more complex.  This requires more work plotting and keeping track of threads and striving to hit the proper plot points, etc.

MS Word ain’t cutting it.

The inability to handle large manuscripts easily is what’s been tripping me up with Word, I think.  I want to see the global picture as I’m plotting, but also be able to work with the little pieces, moving around scenes at will, placing them and replacing them.  I want to see my manuscript divided into scenes, chapters…ACTS even, when I want to see  them that way and to see the whole thing at the same time, if I want.  I want to be able to JUST view my heroes scenes to visualize where he’s lacking.  Can’t do all that in Word.

What makes me a liar?  I hadn’t actually discovered my process.  Until now.  Now, I’ve discovered Scrivener.

Scrivener (up until lately only available for MAC, but now in Windows beta, which is what I’m using) doesn’t teach me to plot, but does allow me to plot my way and more easily, with simultaneous scene outline and notecards that I can view in any way I choose.  It doesn’t write for me, but it does make it easier to concentrate on writing and to set small goals for writing sessions with its full-screen, block-out-the-distractions view.

It has allowed me to utilize not only my Story Engineering notes to build a better plot, but to keep Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet and character templates at hand without having to go searching for them all over my computer.  I can store my research right in Scrivener, split screens to gaze upon my hot hero’s face as I write a particularly, ahem, warm scene.

And when I’m done writing, Scrivener will compile whatever pieces of my document I wish into the document format of my choice for submission.

I don’t have to carry around a tri-fold plotting board covered with unreadable sticky notes (sigh…sticky notes).  I don’t have to haul a book bible binder with me to Starbucks so I don’t forget whether my character’s eyes are blue or green.  I don’t have to bang my head against the keyboard in frustration because I can’t find that picture of the Snoqualmie River that I saved to show me what the swimming hole my characters are skinny dipping in looks like.

Scrivener is like all the things I want in a process, but easier.

I’ve found my new crack.

What’s So Special About Scrivener?

The difference between Scrivener and all those other “methods” I’ve tried is that it feels like I’m keeping my same process only better. I still get to throw out scene ideas in the same way I did in Word, but can move them more easily. I get to see notecards on a corkboard from the back seat of my car on a trip rather than only while in my home office.

I’m writing more and, I hope, better because of more flexible organization and plotting.  Scrivener has made this possible.

I know I’ll be talking about this in the future.  Maybe a lot.  Maybe in the form of posts to my personal blog, maybe as an online class. I’m toying with ideas about it.

But for now, you can go ahead and call me a liar.  I didn’t have a process before, but I sure do now.

So what have I learned about my process that can make you a Happy Writer?

It’s not about the office supplies.

But it might be about the software.

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