Tag Archive: organization

My Writing Toolbox

My writing toolbox holds a variety of things, all for different reasons. Some I use more often than others, some I use quite rarely, but I use them all and I find them all useful. (All prices are marked, and all logos belong to their respective companies.)

Scrivener*

Scrivener is $50, but it’s an extremely useful tool and you only have to pay once. And you’re allowed to use the same license on multiple computers which you own and are the primary user of, as well as the computers of family members who live with you.

I’ve found this very useful in that it keeps all of your documents (story, character profiles, setting descriptions, research, etc.) in one file so that you can easily access them all from the same interface.

Another aspect I’ve found super useful is that it allows you to see two documents side-by-side. This has been helpful for me in rewriting, because I can see the original as I’m writing the new one so I know what I want to keep and what I want to change as I’m writing.

There are also features like the distraction-free mode, you can easily export your book to a word document no matter how small the sections are that you wrote it in, and you can design templates so that – for instance – all of your character profiles look the same.

Fighter’s Block

This is a free online word sprinting app set up like an RPG game battle. You set a word goal, and that’s the monster’s HP (health points, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term). As you write, the monster’s HP decreases and yours replenishes. The monster attacks you whenever you’re not writing, and you can customize how quickly and how much he hurts you. It’s great for getting your writing speed up.

Microsoft Word

This is included in most Windows computers, I believe, and it’s just a really simple word processor. I like it for writing when I’m not using one of my other tools (Scrivener, Google Docs, 4thewords, etc.). I have copies of most of my stories in Word documents so that I can store them in my usual writing folders on my computer. I also use Word to format my stories for conversion to PDF when I’m preparing to publish them through CreateSpace.

4thewords*

This is another online program. This one is a paid thing, but it’s only $4/month, and you can buy up to 20 months at a time. (It gets cheaper the more you buy at a time. 20 months, for instance, is only $60 instead of $80 if you buy the largest pack.)

This is another RPG-based tool. It’s set up like a full RPG, with zones, quests, wardrobe items, weapons, etc., but most of them are earned by writing. You battle monsters with time limits and specified word counts that are their HP, and they give drops that count toward quests or serve as crafting materials, depending on the monster and quests. It’s a really cool tool, and I’ve been using it for about a year now.

It also records your daily streak, which keeps me, at least, motivated to write every day. The minimum to reach a streak for the day is 444 words.

Story Binder

How this will work exactly depends on the person making it, but my story binder has character profiles, world information, and the first 49-ish pages of The Last Assassin. I like it because it’s something I can reference while I’m writing without switching programs or minimizing my story or anything (something you can also do with Scrivener using their two-pane view option). Plus it also makes me feel like I have some artistic talent to decorate it with fancy fonts and washi tape and stuff like that.

Cost: Depends on the cost of the binder, paper, and whatever you use to decorate it.

See more of my story binder at the above link.

Bullet Journal

Which should maybe be called my goal journal, because that’s the thing I use it for most. I use it to set and keep track of monthly and daily goals, as well as whatever writing-related things I happen to need written down while it’s around. I.e. Several characters’ MBTI types, a list of authors I’d like to interview here on the blog, future blog post ideas, etc.

Cost: Depends on the cost of the journal and whatever you use to decorate it.

See more of my bullet journal at the above link.

Storyworld First by Jill Williamson

This is an amazing book and an amazing worldbuilding reference. It’s a fairly small book, but there are so many worldbuilding ideas in here! You could spend weeks working straight through this thing. It’s incredible.

Cost: $13

 

 

 

 

What’s in your writing toolbox? Do you use some of these, too?

5 Tips to Help You Stick with a Writing Project

Sticking with one novel to completion is something I’m only just now learning this year. I know the struggle of losing steam and deciding to chase down a shiny new idea instead, thinking it’ll be easier. In the words of Rick Riordan, “DON’T! That new book won’t be any easier.” And it never is. As someone who has 70+ unfinished stories laying around, I can attest to that. If you keep chasing new ideas you’ll always chase after the new shiny and never finish anything. So, to help you combat that, here are five tips to overcoming “Ooh Shiny Syndrome.”

1 – Figure out what excites you about this project

It could be the characters, the setting, the plot, something more specific within these. Figure out why you want to write this story as soon as you start prewriting (or writing, if you’re a pantser). Write these things down if you need to. Keep them on a sticky note by your desk. Do something so that you can remind yourself of these things when – not if – the going gets tough.

If you’re already part of the way through the process and you don’t know what excites you about your project, you should probably give some deep thought to whether you really want to write this story or if maybe it’s actually a good idea to move on to that new shiny.

2 – Make a plan

Give yourself a schedule and a deadline. One of the things I love about NaNoWriMo is the deadline. It gives a sense of accountability if you tell yourself, “YES. I am going to finish this by this date.” And the nice thing is that you can set your own word count goal and time limit. It doesn’t have to be 50k in 30 days. You don’t necessarily have to be nuts.

You might not need a more specific schedule than a deadline, but it may help to have one, particularly considering my next point, which is…

3 – Make a habit

Figure out when you write best and, if possible, set your writing time accordingly. Whether that’s doable for you or not, try to write at the same time consistently. Eventually your brain will realize, “Oh. It’s writing time now.” As Ralph Keyes said, “Routine is a better friend than inspiration.”

4 – Don’t get too focused on the end goal

If you focus too much on publishing your book and seeing it on shelves and reading it in tangible book form, you’ll start to wish it was already finished and you’ll lose the joy of writing it. I learned this the hard way during NaNo. That said, don’t lose sight of your goal, and a little fantasizing could even be the push you need to keep going. Just don’t take it too far.

5 – Find an accountability partner

Find someone either in the same boat as you or more mature in their writing to keep you on track. Maybe check in each evening with your word count, maybe tell them where you’re at with your book at the end of each week, whatever works. Find someone to keep you writing. And if you share your book with them, they can even get you excited to keep updating by being a little tiny fandom. If you do that, though, make sure you get someone who will give you honest, constructive feedback and point out both the good and the bad. As much as compliments feel good, you don’t really want someone to tell you you’re great in an area if you’re not. If you get someone constructive in their feedback, you’ll learn your strengths and weaknesses and you’ll have an easier time growing in your skill as a writer.

 

Hopefully these tips will help you to stick with a project. Don’t forget those new shinies, though. Always make note of them for later. If one keeps nagging you, make a special note and prioritize it. Chances are it’s a good one. ;) Happy writing.

My Story Binder

Something that’s mentioned fairly often but doesn’t get talked about clearly is a story bible/story binder. I’ve loved the idea of having a story binder for a while, and I started making one for House of Mages, but it didn’t really go anywhere. There’s not a lot of guidance for writers who want to make one. Well I went looking back in April and decided to start a story binder for my Camp story, The Heart of the Baenor. It now also holds the notes for The Dark War Trilogy, since they take place on the same planet, and I thought I’d share with you what I included in my binder in case you’re in the same boat I was in and are wondering what to include in your own.

This is the front of my binder, the cover of which I got from a blog I follow (I’ll link to all of the print-outs I used at the end of the post.) I believe it’s a 1 1/2 inch binder. It was originally the story binder for House of Mages, but I ended up not doing much with that, as mentioned above. Now what was in it from House of Mages is in a much smaller (but, coincidentally, still purple) binder, while this one is actually getting used.

Opening up the binder, you see some random notes and stuff sitting in the front pockets, like a choir announcement that I wrote the ages of my characters on, pictures for character profiles I haven’t put together yet, spare graph paper, a list of characters to make profiles for, etc. The first page is a short synopsis of the story that I wrote while at camp in case anyone asked what my story was about, because I stink at explaining things verbally. It’s kind of a lame synopsis, but it’s only temporary, so oh well.

After that we have the first forty-nine pages of my book, which I printed out so that I could reference back to things if I needed to while writing at camp. It’s about the first seven and a half chapters.

Next I have a prompt envelope. In there I have little tiny, flimsy strips of notebook paper with prompts copied onto them. I recommend that if you use a prompt envelope you put your prompts on something more durable than I did. ;P (Also, I stink at doing fonts freehand, so the font on both sides of the envelope looks really bad.) I got this idea from Alyssa at The Honeydrop Post, and I’ll link to the original post at the end.

Then we have a “novel overview.” It has the title (of the trilogy), the genre, estimated word count, date started (July 1st, if anyone was wondering), and a few other things.

Ah, my favorite part of the whole binder. Characters. I love characters. But I like even more that I feel like this part is pretty, and since I’m not generally very creative or good at visual art, I’m rather happy with that. ^-^

Unfortunately, we can’t jump right into the beautiful section. We have to start with my list of character profile questions. I adapted the list from Life of a Storyteller’s character questionnaire, which I’ll link to at the end.

And we’re still not quite to the pretty part yet. Now we have my character list, which I’ve color-coded according to book. Or rather, what book they’re most prominent in, since a lot of them are seen in at least two if not all three books.

Nissa Quail, the main character of The Shadow Raven (book two in the trilogy). I adopted the basic idea of this page from Alyssa Hollingsworth at her blog of the same name (I’ll link to the post at the end), and changed it to suit my needs. I added in the character’s aesthetic, their Divergent faction, and their top five favorite things to do. I also added, just for The Dark War Trilogy, which book they appear most in. The font on this one looks a lot better than those on my prompts envelope because I traced an actual font. #lifehack. I used graph paper for this, and I really like it because it helps me keep things even, which is nice to look at.

Beyond the character’s cover, which has just a few basic facts, we have the in-depth character profile. Each of mine is an average of ten pages, and it answers the questions on the list above. I do the headings in a certain color depending on the character, which helps it to stand out. Nissa’s favorite color is black, so hers are boring, but Coraline’s, for instance, are metallic blue. Most of them are colored pencil, because that’s what I have, but a few of them (like Nissa’s) are in pen, which I prefer for headings partially because it’s bolder and partially because the point doesn’t get run down and have to be sharpened.

My pretty tabs. ^-^ The main tabs came from the same package that a lot of my print-outs came from, but the patterned ones I made with scrapbook paper I never use and a square hole punch. I folded them over and glued them to the covers of each character and I’m really happy with how they came out.

I would say that the plot section is the one I use the least often, but that’s actually not true for this story. At least not at this point. In most cases, plot would be what I use least, but with overlapping storylines it’s kind of important to know what’s going on. ;)

I looooooove this template for this story. I ended up putting it into a spreadsheet instead so that it’s easier to insert times and extra POV characters, but I wouldn’t have thought to do that if I didn’t have this template. (I’ve blurred out some things to avoid spoiling anything. I’m too excited to share this when it’s ready to give away spoilers now. ;) )

And this section is the reason that the plot section isn’t the least used. I really need to flesh out this section. I have some worldbuilding for this world, but most of it is here on the blog. I keep meaning to print out my worldbuilding project posts and put them in here, but I always forget, so this section is pretty scarce.

This sheet is adapted from a deity worksheet printout from Jessica Cauthon’s blog. In physical form, I colored the headings as with my character worksheets and added in an aesthetic for each. Each of these is only a page long, and I should probably expand them a bit so that I know some more about the gods, like what their symbols are and what their preferred offerings are and stuff. *makes mental note*

These tabs aren’t very pretty. I made them out of file folders and used stencils on the font, so the titles aren’t even and they don’t look pretty. But hey, they do what they’re supposed to.

This is Kaloris’ flag. A lot of people have asked me how I made them, so I’ll answer that here, as well; I traced the emblem and then colored it all in with markers. I’m really happy with how it turned out. I have them for Mandoria and Roenor, too, but I’m keeping those secret for now.

This is the beginning of an info sheet for Kaloris. I haven’t done much with it, as you can see. I actually didn’t copy this one from a printout, I picked the questions after reading Storyworld First by Jill Williams (which I highly recommend. It’s great). The fields on here, since you can’t read them, are “origin of name,” “blessed by” (as in which gods they believe they’re blessed by), “values,” and “education.” I’m haven’t decided yet what else is going to go on there, but eventually it’ll be a lot longer.

Shae-Nir is one of four regions of Kaloris, and I have tabs for two of those four. The third is barely ever talked about (I regularly forget about it, actually, because it’s so unimportant) and the fourth is the bulk of the country, so its info goes under the main Kaloris tab.

Yes, I traced this. No, I don’t have the artistic ability to have drawn that on my own. I said in my notes that one of my characters has a “traitor’s brand,” so I figured I should probably know what that actually looks like. Thus the above drawing.

This is Roenor’s country overview so far, and it’s actually more fleshed out than Kaloris’ at the moment. It has the same four mentioned above, as well as its antagonistic qualities, beautiful qualities, three things I love about it and three things I hate, and its relationship with each of its neighboring countries. The ribbon is on there because I saw it laying around and immediately thought of Roenor, for whatever reason.

It was a massive pain in the neck to staple this thing in. The top staple took me one or two tries, and the bottom took me at least four. But it was worth it for it to look cool. This story binder is basically my creative outlet in visual stuff.

Resources

Cover and the majority of the printouts – Ink and Quills. It has a lot more sheets than the ones I used in this binder, too. It has worldbuilding sheets, character sheets, goal trackers, a lot more plot trackers than I used, etc.

Deity sheet – Jessica Cauthon.

Character sheet basis – Alyssa Hollingsworth. Hers has more information on it than mine, so you should check it out and see if it suits your needs better than my adaptation or not.

Prompt envelope origin post – Honeydrop Post. This post actually has more in it than just the prompt envelope, that was just what I latched onto and borrowed.

Character profile questionnaire – Life of a Storyteller. I’m pretty sure I omitted some of these questions when I put together my own list, so I think hers has some “extra” to check out.

Other story binder posts to check out

Creating a Story Workbook Series: Part 1 – Which Notebook? This is the first of a seven-post story workbook series on Jessica Cauthon’s blog.

Creating a Story Bible: The Basics. This one is another beginning of a series, this one on RJ Blain’s blog.

Creating Your Very Own Story Bible. This one is written by J.M. Butler on Farah Oomerbhoy’s blog.

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Idea Organization

I have lots and lots and lots of ideas for stories. My brain is teeming with them. I have way more than I know what to do with. (Enough so that I might start a blog series giving them away so that they’ll get used.) So how do I organize them all?

New ideas always go into whatever writing notebook I’m currently using, or possibly my little blue ideas notebook that has been left alone for far too long in favor of my main notebooks. Poor thing. An example of a section of one of those pages looks like this:

It has any story ideas on it that come to mind, be they short snippets of scenes, dialogue, description, or names. Then at some point later I transfer them to a document I’ve titled “Writing Adoptables,” which is split into sections.

The first section is characters, and it has whatever facts about a character I have swirling in my brain and don’t plan on using in a current project. That section looks like this:

Any ideas I use in any of these sections will be formatted with strike-through.

The next section is settings, and as you can see in the picture below I do quite a bit with it:

Not. For some reason settings don’t pop into my head as readily as other things.

After that is titles, which I have a lot of, most of which came from title generators that I was using to come up with a title for a specific book and these didn’t fit but I liked them at the time and saved them. And then there are others that I came up with myself, one of which is blacked out because I like it enough to protect it (not that I expect any of you to take any of these):

I actually started Skandain’s Pride and then decided I didn’t like it much, so it’s still on here.

The fourth section is random lines. These can be lines of dialogue, lines of description, lines of narration, anything so long as it’s only a line or two long.

Section five is plot ideas, followed by various ideas that don’t fit in any specific category:

As you can see, plots aren’t something that tend to pop into my head unbidden, either.

The next section is names, and these are rather plentiful. The majority of them are fantasy names, since I find those the coolest, and this list (though not the visible section) includes a place name or two, as well:

After that comes a list of stories that I started or that I had cool ideas for and were too long for me to copy:

Some of them got so far as to even earn Pinterest boards before I lost interest or set them aside in favor of something else.

the last section is scenes and paragraphs, and it’s the longest section, partially because there are a lot of them and mostly because they’re just longer:

This is just the very small sliver that fit before the bottom of the page, and even the second one is a lot longer than it shows here. It’s 10 paragraphs long, actually, mostly dialogue. (I write a lot of dialogue. It’s something I’m working on balancing out.)

So that’s how I organize my ideas. Do you organize your ideas similarly or is your process entirely different?

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My Bullet Journal

A bullet journal is something that I’ve seen lots of authors, and non-authors, using. I tried it out a while ago and it didn’t really work well for me. But I’m also pretty sure I was using it wrong, which probably affected the use I got out of it. At the beginning of the month I found a video that better explained how to use it (I’m not comfortable linking to said video because it had enough language in it I almost didn’t finish it) and decided to give it another try. I used the same notebook that my failed attempts are in, and now I consider my bullet journal starting at about page 23, because the rest of it isn’t really a bullet journal because I had no idea what I was doing. So here’s the process I’m using now, and hopefully it helps out someone else who is maybe in the same boat that I was in and doesn’t really understand the bullet journal system.

To begin with there’s a legend, which I originally used to mark pages, but now I use to mark goals. All but two of the above are stories I’m working on/I have waiting in the wings, and the colors aren’t nearly as dull as they look here, I’m just a really bad photographer. The ones written in lighter are ones that I expect to change the titles of.

This is a piece of my monthly “spread,” as it’s called in official videos. The dates are down the side, and I have written in the blog posts I’m putting up those days. (Hooray! You get a sneak peek of what’s coming up!) I also have icons next to those that I have events to go to.

This is below the end of my monthly list, though you can’t see that in this picture. It has my main goals for the month, and this month I have more than usual because before this system I didn’t really make myself goals.

This is my first daily spread. Beside the date I have my word count for that day, and then below that is my list of goals for the day. The arrows indicate I postponed that goal, and Xs indicate cancelled goals.

I also kind of use my bullet journal as a space to talk about my writing progress, and so for each day I have a journal section where I talk about my writing that day and how it went and if anything special happened. On the 4th I troubleshooted a part of House of Mages and mentioned a piece to cut, on the 7th I mentioned some cool things I’d learned while researching for Dark Queen Rising and that I finally picked a satisfactory name for one of the characters in that, etc. And there have also been days that I’ve used this space to make writing-related lists or notes, as well. I have a full two pages dedicated to blog post topics between the 9th and 10th (which really annoys me, but I needed the space).

Overall, this has really helped me because it gives me some accountability with myself. I like seeing the pretty colored boxes checked off. I’ve written a lot more this month than most non-NaNoWriMo months, I think. I’ve written 35,193 words this month already, and I had a 7k+ day, which I’m fairly certain has only happened once outside of NaNoWriMo. And it was also very instrumental in reviving my blog. I wouldn’t have started posting so regularly if not for the organization that my bullet journal has provided.

Overall, I’m very glad I found that video and learned how to use a bullet journal, because it has helped me a lot. Hopefully this post was helpful to you like that video was to me. :)

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