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A day in Berkeley

Oxford St

Oxford Street across from the Berkeley campus

As a writer who works from home full time, it’s easy to let inertia set in and never leave my house except to fill my cupboards. But I’m an explorer at heart—as is my husband—so we made a commitment to spend at least one day a month sightseeing or hiking somewhere within a few hours’ drive of our house.

Last weekend, we chose Berkeley. A few years ago, when I was visiting to give a workshop to the San Francisco Romance Writers, I ran along the water to the Berkeley Marina—and had lunch and dinner…somewhere—but I hadn’t been downtown since I was seventeen.

It was definitely time to go back. The decision was helped by the relatively short drive—about 75 minutes when the traffic is good, which it happily was earlyish on a Saturday.

I’m certain there’s lots more to do in this fun, pretty college town, but we started and ended with food—there are plenty of options for plant-based eaters like us (we chose Saturn Cafe and Flaco’s)—and spent the time in between visiting UC (Cal) Berkeley’s pretty campus, and exploring Tilden Regional Park, which borders the campus up the hill along the east side.

The park’s botanical gardens have native plants representing California’s wide variety of climates, and lots of quiet, green spaces to wander.

These are a few of my favorite shots from that day.

eucalyptus trees

I love the colors on the peeling trunks of the eucalyptus trees! Blue and gold are especially fitting since they’re the University of California colors.

Sather tower

Sather Tower is hard to miss

view of SF

View of the East Bay and San Francisco (across the bay on the right) from Grizzly Peak in Tilden Regional Park

view of san pablo bay

View of San Pablo Bay from Grizzly Peak (facing NNW)

Gwen at botanical gardens

At the Regional Parks Botanic Garden

redwoods

Redwoods in the botanic garden

Found this guy hiding in the ferns at the botanic garden

Found this guy hiding in the ferns at the botanic garden

What are some of your favorite places to visit near you? (Or me, for that matter. I’m always looking for gems. 😉 )

Check out this page for more travel/road trip posts. Also, many of my small trips end up on social media instead, especially Instagram.

Get unleashed for NaNoWriMo with Scrivener for iOS

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Whether you’re stuck with a desktop computer, or don’t want to lug your laptop around, Scrivener for iOS can set you free. Since I expect many of you will be using it to lay down words for NaNoWriMo this year, here’s how to use my favorite features for NaNo (as covered in last week’s post for Mac and Windows) in Scrivener for iOS.

Before you start using the iOS version, I highly recommend you read—or at least skim—through the Tutorial. It will help you immensely, especially the parts about Working with Projects, Syncing, and The Main Interface. Okay, all of it, really. 😉

A few things to keep in mind about the iOS version.

  • If you return to the Projects list, you are closing the project you were working in.
  • Unlike the Mac and Windows versions, you can only have one project open at a time.
  • If you plan to work on both iOS and a Mac or PC, you need a Dropbox account (if you use this referral link, we both get an extra 500MB of storage) and must install Dropbox on all the computers/devices you plan to use with Scrivener. Then, move any laptop/desktop projects you want to work on into the correct Dropbox folder before you begin.
  • If necessary, sync your projects before you start writing.
  • Remember that when you finish working on a project on your iOS device, you must tap the sync button on the Projects page (see below) before trying to open the project on another computer. Likewise, ensure that a project on your desktop/laptop has synced to Dropbox before trying to open it on your iPad or iPhone.
  • If you don’t have Internet access, syncing won’t happen!

Sync button

Put New Ideas in Their Place

I recommend creating an Ideas document to store thoughts you have about future scenes, and a Change Log to keep track of changes you want to make to existing scenes. Both of these can ensure you don’t lose any fabulous ideas, while staying on track with your writing.

To create a new document outside of the Draft folder, do the following:

  1. Navigate to the high-level view of your project’s Binder (the header at the top of the Binder should display your project name, not the name of a folder).
  2. Tap the + button at the bottom of the Binder, give the file a name, and tap Add. The new document appears at the bottom of the Binder (see image below).create new document
  3. Tap the Edit button at the top of the Binder (see above).
  4. Drag (tap and hold, then drag) the file to the desired location within the Binder, as shown below. moving documents
  5. When done moving files, tap Done. new docs in binder

Make a Note and Move On

Don’t let yourself get stuck or distracted when you can’t think of the perfect analogy, or know you need to do more research. The iOS version allows you to use annotations or comments to make notes for yourself so you can get back to writing. Here’s how.

  1. Tap the comment bubble button in the predictive text row (shown below) to get a submenu of options and choose Add Comment or Inline Annotation.getting annotations and comments NOTE: For comments, your cursor must be next to text for the option to be available. Also, you can tap the comment bubble button in the extended keyboard (the row of buttons above the predictive text row) for quicker access to comments, but you may have to swipe left or right to see it.
  2. Type your annotation or comment.annotation ioscomment
  3. For annotations, repeat step 1 to turn off and return to standard text.
  4. To view a comment, double tap the highlighted word. view comment

Block Out Distractions

The iOS version doesn’t have the same full screen/composition mode that the Mac and Windows versions have, but you can hide the Binder and work only with your text.

  1. Tap the Full Screen button at the top of the Editor. full screen button
  2. To view the Binder again, tap the name of your project in the upper left corner. return to binder view

Headphones are optional.

Pre-Plot, or Don’t

Plotters: Create your scene documents beforehand either in the Binder or the Corkboard. If you like to plot using index cards, then do the following.

  1. Select the Draft (aka Manuscript) folder.
  2. Tap the + in the upper right corner to create a new card. Title it, add a brief synopsis of the scene, if desired. creating new cards/documents
  3. Tap Add.
  4. Repeat as needed.

Once you have all of your scene documents created it’s merely a matter of filling them with words starting November 1.

Pantsers: Show up on day one, select the Draft folder, create a blank document and start writing. Repeat.

Grouping Documents into Chapter Folders

Here’s how to group documents into chapter folders.

  1. In the Binder, tap the Edit button at the top. The button changes to Done.
  2. Tap the circles to the left of the desired documents to select them. grouping documents
  3. Tap the Move button at the bottom of the Binder (see above) and choose Move into New Folder.
  4. Tap Done at the top of the Binder to exit Edit mode.
  5. Tap and hold the New Folder to get the Inspector so you can rename it, then tap Done.

Keep Research Handy

Though importing is generally best done while on your Mac or PC, you can import files in the iOS version. This works for both research and text with the same rules as Scrivener for Mac and Windows (no images, PDFs, or other non text-type files in the Draft folder).

  1. Select the desired folder (outside of the Draft/Manuscript folder) and tap the Import button at the bottom of the Binder. importing files
  2. Choose the source for your imported file—yes, you can even choose Camera and take a picture of something!—and select the desired file. imported file

Track Your Progress

Your goal is 50,000 words. Scrivener makes it easy to track your progress, even in iOS. Maybe even easier. As with the original, you can set a target for the entire manuscript, as well as one for each writing session.

  1. Choose a text document.
  2. Tap the word count at the bottom of the screen. NOTE: If you’ve tapped inside the document and entered edit mode, the word count will be at the top of the screen. project targets window
  3. Tap the word Draft to set a manuscript target and use the spinner to select your goal.
  4. Tap Targets to return to the main Project Targets window.
  5. Tap Session to set a session target.
  6. Tap Start New Session to reset the Session word count (your progress) to zero. project targets with goals

Have Fun!

Whether you’re using Scrivener for iOS for NaNoWriMo, or just to be untethered from your computer, have fun with it and enjoy your newfound freedom!

For more help with Scrivener, sign up for an online class, check out Scrivener For Dummies, read more Scrivener articles, or schedule a private training session.


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Scrivener and NaNoWriMo for the win

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Are you ready to NaNo? If you’re not familiar with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), it’s a writing challenge where people from all over the world try to write at least 50,000 words toward a novel in one month. Specifically, the 30-day, family-commitment-laden (in the U.S. anyway) month of November.

NaNoWriMo is about quantity over quality. If you’ve ever wanted to kick the internal editor off your shoulder and try your hand at one of those “shitty first drafts” Anne Lamott is so fond of, now’s your chance.

If you’re up for the challenge, you only have a couple of weeks to prepare. So if you’re planning to write in Scrivener, now’s the time to make sure you have the tools and strategies that will help you make the most of your writing time.

Getting down 1667 words a day requires some serious focus. You won’t have time to stop writing for anything, especially not to edit or do research.

Here’s how to stay on track.

Download the NaNoWriMo Template or Trial Version

Current Scrivener users can download a special NaNoWriMo template that comes loaded with predefined project statistics and compile settings, including an obfuscated format that turns your words to gibberish without changing the final word count.

For those who are new to Scrivener, the awesome folks at Literature & Latte have put out their annual NaNoWriMo version of the Scrivener free trial that gives you extra time to play with the program and includes the template I mentioned above. Take the next two weeks to go through the tutorial and get comfortable. At the very least, you need to know how to create a document and start typing.

If you decide you love Scrivener, wait for the NaNoWriMo discount (for participants) at the end of November before you buy.

Put New Ideas in Their Place

Ideas are wonderful and necessary, but they can also be a distraction. What you need is a place to put them so you can get back to the scene you’re currently working on.

Consider creating two documents outside of the Draft/Manuscript folder (so they won’t count toward your 50K) before you start:

  1. A place to jot down concepts that come to you for future scenes. When an idea hits, you can make a note of it and get back to work. Mine is cleverly named Ideas.
  2. A log to keep track of changes you want to make to scenes you’ve already written. Don’t stop forward progress to make the revisions—that’s what December is for—just make a note of your proposed changes in the log and keep writing as if you already did. In another dazzling display of brilliance, mine is named Change Log.

Make a Note and Move On

Next time you get stuck trying to figure out your heroine’s witty comeback, the ideal name for the landlord’s vicious dog, or the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow, create an annotation (Format—>Inline Annotation) or a comment (Format—> Comment) to make a note of it and keep writing.

Later you can use Edit—>Find—>Find By Formatting to search for annotations and comments when you’re ready to work on them. You know, in December.

annotations

Block Out Distractions

Free yourself from distractions with Full Screen/Composition mode. Called Full Screen in Windows and Composition mode on the Mac (to avoid confusion with Mac’s full screen option), this feature blocks out everything but your blank page so you can just write.

Consider adding a custom background color or image to keep you in the right frame of mind.

Add a pair of headphones or earbuds—with or without music—and you’re ready to rock.

full screen/composition mode

Pre-Plot, or Don’t

If you’re a plotter, consider creating your scene documents beforehand either in the Binder or the Corkboard. If you like to plot using index cards, then select the Draft (aka Manuscript) folder, make sure you’re in Corkboard view (View—>Corkboard if you’re not), then click the green Add button on the toolbar to create a new card. Title it, add a brief synopsis of the scene and repeat.

Once you have all of your scene documents created it’s merely a matter of filling them with words starting November 1.

corkboard view

Pantsers can just show up on day one, create a blank document and write a scene. Repeat.

If you want to group documents into folders, select the desired documents and choose Documents—>Group.

Keep Research Handy

Don’t spend your precious writing time searching for a key piece of information. Before November rolls around, import any research documents, images, or references that you must have in order to write. Select the desired folder (outside of the Draft/Manuscript folder) and go to File—>Import. For web pages, you might want to use References instead.

Track Your Progress

Your goal is 50,000 words, and Scrivener makes it easy to track your progress with project targets. Go to Project—>Show Project Targets (Mac) or Project–>Project Targets (Windows).

You can set a target for the entire manuscript, as well as one for each writing session. The session target is nice because it lets you track your word count either over the course of a whole day, or in smaller writing “sprints”.

project targets window

NOTE: The NaNoWriMo site calculates word count slightly differently than Scrivener. For example, Scrivener counts a hyphenated word as two, while the NaNo counter looks for spaces to identify each new word and only counts hyphenated words as one. So, you might want to shoot a little beyond the 50K finish line just to be on the safe side.

Or don’t hyphenate. Hyperventilating is optional.

What Were You Thinking??

Don’t forget that NaNoWriMo is intended to be fun. It’s supposed to be a challenge that forces you to re-evaluate what you’re capable of. 4000-word writing days? You betcha. Writing for three, four, or eight hours in one day? I know you can do it.

Five minutes of daily meditation might help.

And in the end, even if you don’t reach 50K, you’re still a lot further ahead than you were on November 1st. That makes you a winner in my book.

Are you signing up for the challenge? If so, good luck!

Check back next week—or sign up to receive my blog posts in your Inbox at the bottom right—for tips on using Scrivener for iOS for NaNo.

For more information on the features mentioned in this post, sign up for an online class, check out Scrivener For Dummies, read more Scrivener articles, or schedule a private training session.


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Cool features in Scrivener for Windows’ recent updates

mouse cord spelling out "update"Scrivener for Windows has had several updates in the last few months. Even if you bothered to skim through the list, here are a couple of cool changes that might have skipped your notice.

Highlighting Affected Documents in Compile (version 1.9.7, October 2016)

I’ve been waiting for this one to come to Windows for a long time because it makes understanding the Formatting tab in Compile so much easier (great for teaching too).

What happens is that when you select a row in the Formatting tab, the documents or folders affected by settings for that row are highlighted in the Binder. No more guessing if you made changes to the correct row.

NOTE: If you choose “As Is” for a document in the Contents tab, it is not affected by the settings in the Formatting tab even though it’s highlighted. Same for documents not selected for inclusion in the Contents tab. I’ll be surprised if they don’t fix this eventually, so keep an eye out.

docs highlighted in Compile

folders highlighted in compile

Support for Non-printing Characters in Project Replace (version 1.9.6, August 2016)

Need to get rid of extra paragraph returns or tabs in your project? Doing so in the Windows version used to not be so easy. Now, with support for non-printing characters, it’s a cinch. You can use keyboard shortcuts to enter the desired non-printing character when using Project Replace.

Check out this post for the full procedure.

project replace

There’s more! Reading the change logs can make your eyes cross, but there are often gems in there. You might also find that a bug plaguing you was fixed. It’s worth a look.

The update to 1.9.7 is highly recommended as it purportedly fixes an issue “that could lead to the loss of text annotations during sync with iOS.” If you’re a couple of updates behind, no problem. You can skip straight to the latest version. Not sure if you’re up to date? Go to Help—>Check For Updates.

Anything other recent changes you’re excited about?

Want more help with Scrivener? Sign up for an online class, check out Scrivener For Dummies, read more Scrivener articles, or schedule a private training session.


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Oh, Montana (and Wyoming)

mountain pond

Pond above the resort as the sun crests the mountain

Oh, Montana. On Sunday, my husband and I—empty nesters that we now are—traveled to southwestern Montana to meet up with old friends, some of whom we haven’t seen since before the turn of the century. (I’ve been waiting for an excuse to use that phrase…)

Catching up was great, and doing it in a wild and beautiful place like Montana and northern Wyoming made it fabulous.

Here are a few of my favorite memories from our trip.

Stars

I don’t think I’ve seen so many stars since my parents drove us into the mountains in Utah at night and we lay in the back of our little pickup truck on the side of the road.

Out in isolated Chico Hot Springs (about an hour’s drive southeast of Bozeman, and maybe thirty minutes from the northern entrance to Yellowstone at Gardiner), there is little light to interfere with the view.

The stars. Were. Incredible.

Billions and billions of them filled the sky and the Milky Way looked like a band of gauzy clouds. We sat outside in the growing chill for hours, following the path of anonymous satellites and catching sight of shooting stars.

Absolutely breathtaking.

Mountains

I adore the mountains and ocean in almost equal measure, and one of my regrets is that Sacramento doesn’t have either the low mountains that cling to California’s coastline or the tall peaks that hug its eastern border.

In Southwestern Montana, on the other hand, the mountains roll in seemingly endless waves across the land. Some soft and green with pine trees, some brown with long grass, others barren or snow-covered with gray rock jutting toward the clouds like blades of a knife.

Chico Hot Springs Resort, Montana

Chico Hot Springs Resort, Montana

Yellowstone

I haven’t been to Yellowstone since I was eight. Pretty much the only thing I remember is Old Faithful and bears. On this trip, we hiked into northern Yellowstone—crossing into Wyoming after entering the park—to visit Hellroaring Creek, a clear, rock-strewn flow that feeds into the Yellowstone River.

The Yellowstone River from a suspension bridge on the Hellroaring Creek trail

The Yellowstone River from a suspension bridge on the Hellroaring Creek trail

Hellroaring Creek

Hellroaring Creek

Here there be bears. Luckily—though some in my party might have disagreed—we only saw paw prints. And a bison!

wybearprint

wybisontrail

Afterwards, we returned to Mammoth Hot Springs near the park entrance and walked around the mounds built up over the years by the (literally) steaming springs. The landscape is like something you’d find deep in a cave or on some imagined, hostile planet.

A mound at Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming

A mound at Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming

Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming

Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming

We ended our day trip watching elk eat, bugle, and even lock antlers, both at Mammoth Hot Springs and in the town of Gardiner, just outside the park’s Roosevelt gate.

Elk hanging out in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming

Elk hanging out in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming

Writing

I try not to worry too much about work when I’m on vacation, but my goal is to look at my story for at least a few minutes every day so I don’t lose my momentum. With Scrivener for iOS and a new hard-case bluetooth keyboard for my iPad, I managed to stay immersed in my manuscript while sitting on the lodge porch in the cool morning air, sipping hot tea, and soaking up the view of the turning trees.

View from the lodge porch at Chico Hot Springs Resort, Montana

View from the lodge porch at Chico Hot Springs Resort, Montana

Honestly, that’s not even work. That’s the dream.

Oh, Montana.


What are some cool things you’ve seen on vacation? Where would you like to visit next?

Letting go, again (or, fluffing my empty nest)

boys hanging from swing set

It’s their time to fly

Last weekend, I helped my youngest son move into the dorms.

Our nest is empty.

My husband and I have been looking forward to this new freedom, anticipating it as our kids grew, making goals for Life After Children. Not because we don’t enjoy having them around, but because we wanted to have a solid relationship that could stand on its own when they were both out of the house.

I believe we accomplished that, but there’s definitely an adjustment period where I have to learn to let go of my baby, let go of knowing what’s happening in his life day to day, let go of missing the random conversations at odd moments that I treasure most.

Two years ago, I wrote the post below when my oldest son moved out. Now that my youngest is away at school too, I can’t explain my feelings any better than I did last time.

Letting go, 8/27/14

My oldest son left home for college last week. It was both easier and harder than I expected.

He’s been working toward this moment for years, and it feels like we’ve been planning, visiting schools, and talking about test scores, grades, and financial aid forever. I was ready. He’s a solid, responsible, mature kid. This has always been our dream/plan for him, and he got into his first-choice university. I was ready.

But then as we said goodbye and walked away from his dorm on Saturday I realized that he was truly out of the house. Out. Gone. An adult who would come visit on breaks and during the summer, but with whom we’d no longer share the daily routine of home, the spontaneous conversations, dinners out on the weekend.

Yes, we are connected via text messages, email, phone calls, FaceTime, and airplanes. Yes, he’ll be back when school’s out next summer. But it’s not the same.

Maybe I wasn’t ready. Maybe I’ll never be.

That old cliché that “they grow up so fast” is a cliché for a reason. I can’t believe my eight-pound baby boy is now a freshman in college, making his own way in the world, (mostly) without us.

I’m happy for him, proud of him, and happy for us. I’m excited for him because he’s exactly where he wants to be, doing what he wants to do.

I’m also sad.

Letting go was easy because I trust him and believe in him. It’s also the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Using Scrivener collections and Project Search to populate your series bible

four books in seriesI’m trying to finish up book three in my Men of Steele series, and I can see why so many authors swear by a series bible. In case you haven’t heard the term before, a series bible is a collection of key details about everything and everyone in the world of your series, from the characters’ eye colors, birthdates, and the cars they drive, to their family history, the name of pertinent streets, and the timeline for major and minor events (current and backstory).

While I keep track of a lot of information for main, secondary, and even minor characters in the Project Notes section of each book, lately I’ve been having to refer back to previous books to look for all kinds of things: thoughts about one character by another, characters’ personality/reaction to events, details about their car/plane/home, what time of year something happened, what I said about a secondary character’s background, and on and on.

character list in project notes

Sample of character info list from Blind Ambition

If I’d been more savvy, I would have started tracking this information from the moment I began writing Blind Fury, and probably kept all the books in the series in one Scrivener project (more on the pros/cons of that here). That, or created a separate project solely to serve as the series bible.

Since I don’t have a series bible yet, Project Search and Saved Search collections in Scrivener have been extremely helpful for tracking down details about secondary characters (who might now be primary) in past books. I used the search to find documents in which Scott—the hero of my current book, who was introduced in Blind Ambition—appears. Since he wasn’t a main character, these will be instances where he’s either talking, or being talked/thought about. Here’s the process I used (Mac and Windows).

  1. Open project for Blind Ambition.
  2. In the Project Search text box, type Scott.
  3. Click the magnifying glass to change the search criteria to search Text only, only documents located in the Blind Ambition folder (I renamed my Draft/Manuscript folder). I also limited the search to be case sensitive, so I’d only get references to his name, not parts of another word (e.g. Prescott). I chose Exact Phrase rather than Whole Word, because Whole Word would miss things like “Scott’s” (but will catch words like “Scottish”).project search menuA list of documents that match my criteria appears in the left sidebar.
  4. Click the magnifying glass in the Project Search text box and choose Save Search as Collection. Name it Scott Mentions. saving a search as a collectionThis saves the group of files as a collection that I can view any time without having to recreate the search. (A collection is a subset of your documents, either based on search criteria or manually created by you. The documents are not copied or moved from the Binder when put into a collection.)
  5. Clear the Project Search text box to see the Binder again.
  6. Click the Collections button or go to View—>Collections—>Show Collections (Mac) or View—>Collections—>Collections (Windows). The Collections pane appears in the upper portion of the left sidebar.collections pane
  7. Click the Scott Mentions tab to view the list of files with “Scott” in them. Each instance of “Scott” is highlighted (red on Mac, yellow on Windows).viewing a collection's contents

From here, I can go through each document, noting down any important info about Scott for continuity, e.g. how he reacts to Tara and Dan, what kind of coffee he drinks when they see him in the break room, how he dresses, any offhand mentions about his past or where he lives, and the color of his eyes. This process can be used to search for anything from characters to locations to types of events, as long as you can narrow it down with a word or two.

Once you have a collection, it’s also a cinch to select and drag the files from the collection in one project to the Binder of another. Now you have them in the new project and don’t have to keep opening the old one for a quick search. Or, you could create a project to serve as a series bible (info only, no story text) and make that the repository for all new data about the series.

NOTE: Click the X at the bottom of the Binder to close the Collection. Click the Collections button or go to View—>Collections—>Hide Collections (Mac) or View—>Collections—>Collections (Windows) to hide the Collections pane.

To create a thorough series bible, I’ll need to reread my previous books. For now, the process outlined above is working well.

What do you include in a series bible? Got any other helpful tricks for creating one (with Scrivener or not)?

Need more help? Sign up for an online class, check out Scrivener For Dummies, read more Scrivener articles, or schedule a private training session.


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tea mug and chocolate barIt takes a lot of mint green tea and dark chocolate to fuel these posts. If you found something helpful, please consider a small donation to my pantry. Thank you!

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