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Back stretch

It's only day six of 2010, and I'm already having to learn flexibility when it comes to my new goals. It seems that when I'm a bit stumped in my writing, and feel unable to add another word to the scene I'm working on, I play instead.

How will Steve and Libby get out of this one? I don't know. I'll check email. Maybe I'll get a good idea. Yeah, right. Usually the only good idea I get is to respond to comments on my web post, or update Facebook. Speaking of which, hang on, I'll be right back…

I've had to find a way to avoid temptation when I'm less than motivated to move forward in my book. So, yesterday, I moved backward instead. I made a list of fill-in scenes for earlier parts of the book that need to be written. Then I picked one and wrote it.

[NOTE: Here's where the beauty of Scrivener comes in. I can easily move scenes, add in placeholder scenes with synopses, etc. See this link for my post on Scrivener. If you're writing on a Mac, click the link at the right and get it NOW. No, I don't get paid to say that, I just LOVE the program.]

I was still adding to the story, just out of order. My mind re-engaged. Beautiful prose abounded. Well, prose of some sort anyway.

Another trick I used was to start revising already written scenes from earlier in the MS. Now that I know my characters better, and understand how their story will unfold, I could fill in missing pieces of characterization, deepen the emotion of certain events, and just notice areas where there needed to be more…something.

This works for me because I tend to write concise scenes with the minimum to get the job done (and sometimes not even enough for that). My scenes feel very bare bones at times. For those who tend to puke all over the page for 200,000 words and then cut like crazy, I guess it might not be as helpful, unless they're trying to work their way down to a certain word count.

The last thing I've decided to do is give myself small rewards. Realistically, if I can't do any fun stuff until I've finished my 1000 words, I'll probably cheat. Especially on those days when putting in 1000 words is like shoveling snow. It looks easy but takes four times longer than you expect. I will not be able to wait ten hours to check my email or read a few blogs.

My new plan is to allow 30 minutes of “play” for every 3-400 words I write. I'm starting tomorrow. We'll see how it goes. This too may need to be flexed.

Do you flex your goals at all?

The Daily Squirrel: Robert's view

If he married the widow, he'd never have to rob another bank. No more unreliable getaway drivers, run-ins with the cops, or weeping tellers. No more running. He could live the good life and it would be legal. It almost seemed unfair.

Mary Weatherly was in decent shape for a forty-something. And with her cash, he could overlook a few wrinkles and gray hairs. He could get it up for her, no problem. If she kept him happy, he might not even have to keep a girl on the side.

“What about Rita?” John raised an eyebrow at him.

“What about Rita?” Robert asked, picturing the hot woman he'd shared a bed with for over a year. “She doesn't have any money.”

The written word…without Word

You're probably intimately familiar with some sort of word processing software, especially if you're a writer. But, while Microsoft Word and similar programs are great for formatting a finished manuscript, business letters, and other documents, they may not be the best software for writing a story.

There are several programs out there for writers, and there's a good reason for it. Traditional word processors force you to write linearly, or cobble together multiple documents if you don't.  Good writing software can free you to write in the way that works best for you.

At a friend's suggestion, I tried Scrivener (UPDATE 1/13/11: Which now has a Windows version in the works) and ended up buying it well before the free trial ended. Each writing project is organized as a collection of files, all accessible from the same screen, much like being in Finder (or Windows Explorer).

I can write a scene–or an outline of a scene–when inspiration strikes, and save it for later (see Unused Scenes below). I can easily move scenes around, create scene cards for them, search for terms across all scenes, search by keywords, keep project and scene notes, import research documents and web sites, and so much more. I don't know how I ever lived without it!

I use the Resources section to hold links to research web sites, a file where I keep track of my daily productivity, a character list, photos of places or character inspirations, character questionnaires, and most important of all, a folder called Unused Scenes, where I store cut scenes to scavenge for useful bits, and potential future scenes.

For those who are easily distracted, Scrivener even offers a full screen mode. And, in the end, you can export the whole project to Word, or another program, either fully formatted, or ready to format.

If you're serious about writing, consider switching to software that works with your writing style, not against it.

The main writing screen…

Resources Section…

Happy Writing! (No Daily Squirrel today, this post is already long enough…)

Need more help? Sign up for an online class, read more Scrivener articles, or schedule a private training session. If you don't already have it, you can download Scrivener here.