There is a great post over at Write to Done entitled A Bucket List for Writers. In it you’ll find the six core competencies for writing. These, give or take a little tweaking are essential for creative writing. Great post.
Life used to be so simple for authors. A quill, some ink and parchment and you had everything to be the Shakespeare of your day. Only a matter of years ago a sturdy Remmington Typewriter and a ream of 80gsm would be sufficient to create a best selling paperback. But now, in the world of computers and apps there is simply too much choice.
If you want to write the next ‘Girl who did something a little bit strange’ series, you could use software specifically created for you. And, quite helpfully, the software divides itself neatly into Mac and Windows flavours. Almost.
Prior to this year if you had a Mac then de facto software was Scrivener. This wonderful piece of software allowed you to plan your novel with a virtual reconstruction of a corkboard. It’s basically an index card system that allows you to research, collate and then add to text to your notes.
If you were of the Windows or Linux persuasion, then you could get a similar, if less pretty (but hey, isn’t that all that Mac software is?) piece of software called yWriter. I have used yWriter for years. The software was created by an author, so if you like the way he creates his novels, then you’ll like the yWriter.
Normally that would be a done deal, however, Scrivener is about to launch for Windows. I used the demo version to win NaNoWriMo 2010, so I have experience of both pieces of software. There isn’t much to choose between them. Scrivener does allow you to export to ePub format, but then MobiPocket creator is probably the better option to create eBooks.
Personally, I prefer yWriter, but that was the first piece of software I used. I’ll let you decide, because they are both great. And if you want to try Scrivener for Windows then follow this link.
Focus on writing
Another issue for writers is the need to shut out distraction and get on with the actual writing. One of the problems of computers is that they multitask. Unfortunately, whatever you have heard, we don’t!
Well help is at hand for you too. FocusWriter (available Win/Mac/Lin) is a sufficiently powerful word processor that’s main aim is to shut out distractions. I love the way this is light, portable and very simple to use. My only issues are that it doesn’t offer background music (or I haven’t found it yet) and that functionality is pretty much available elsewhere.
Any word processor worth its salt has a full screen option. If it has this then you have a distraction free environment. If it has an outline option then you also have a story planning piece of software.
What I am saying is that if you have a decent word processor do you really need any of the above? If you don’t then take your pick from those listed. They all work and are great at what they do. But, don’t overlook what you already have! Both Google and Microsoft offer very good online, cloud storage option for writing and saving your novel. My NaNoWriMo effort for 2010 was a collaboration between Scrivener and Google Docs.
The way forward
Start. It is easy to put off writing by taking too much time wondering what piece of software you should use. The software is out there. You novel is in there. It is time to mash up the two of them. I’ve given you a list above, it’s up to you to create. And if I’ve missed anything, please let me know in the comments. Over to you.
‘. a long time ago in a galaxy not far away.’
Twitter is a distraction for writers. We use any excuse to keep away from that blank screen or piece of paper and Twitter is one such excuse. It is far too easy to spend time talking to others or following the latest from the greatest.
But twitter can also be a great help. Writing is a lonely process but this is where twitter is a great help. You can post about what you’re writing, see what others are writing. Discuss plots and plot holes. Ask for advice and even promote the words you’ve written.
And because twitter is a microblog format it can take less time away from the ‘real’ work than other social networks.
So where should you start? Fortunately for you, and me, there is a great introduction by Inkygirl, just follow the link below and you’ll discover all there is about how writers can use twitter.
Waiting for inspiration is another way of saying that you’re stalling. You don’t wait for inspiration, you command it to appear.
Those words from Seth Godin were quite apt for me this past month or so. I am writing a book. Not just any book, a commissioned 40,000 word novel, with a deadline, the real deal.
The problem was I had come to a full stop. The words weren’t coming and the prose that had seemed so easy for the first 10,000 words had dried up. I was at an impasse and the deadline was fast approaching.
The first hurdle was to renegotiate the deadline. I thought, that if I could reduce the pressure on myself, then the words would return. They didn’t.
I found myself continually staring at the word processor day after day and not getting anywhere. This was not going well, I really had a case of writer’s block. I was becoming overwhelmed and sinking fast.
When things get on top of me, I normally sit down with pen and paper and plan my way out. I list what needs to be done, and that process often shows me the way to go. So I did the same with the writing. I already had the outline of the novel and also the chapter and scene breakdown. But could I break things down even further?
I began to write a sentence or phrase for each paragraph. Slowly the scenes and chapters began to fill up. As they did I found it easier to return to these sentences and elaborate on them, the block had been broken and the flood of words began to flow.
It worked for me and perhaps it will work for you. Keep reducing the task until you have the final version filling the space. As Seth says, you command inspiration to appear!
Writing can be seen as mix between a dark art and the pursuit of the unhinged. Sitting down for ages crafting words isn’t always as enjoyable as it could be. But if you approach your writing as a chef creates his signature dish, then this just might help.
I thought it only fair to return to the creative cookbook and find a few more ingredients you could add to your literary larder. If you haven’t seen the previous post of ‘Compelling writing ingredients’ then follow the link.
Remember, a good recipe doesn’t use all the ingredients you have all of the time, and sometimes the subtle flavour is more effective than the one that hits on the first mouthful. But enough of this extended metaphor, let’s get on with the post.
- Conflict – two or more characters, in disagreement, in any shape or form will draw the reader in! ‘No, it won’t.’ ‘yes, it will, your reader wants some kind of resolution… or the sequel.’
- Emotion – love, hate, joy and fear, if you can get the reader to engage with these emotions you’ll have them hanging on every word you write. Why do you think love and horror stories are so well read!
- Progress – a story, should move from A to B, it shouldn’t be static. Even waiting, as in for Godot, is progress; implied progress counts in writing if not in business.
- Variety of language – the use of passive vocabulary, which consists of words people know the meaning of, or understand in context, but don’t use everyday, is something to keep well stocked. Try eating the dictionary.
- Use your voice – all great cooks have a signature dish, or a specialty, as a writer you need to find an ingredient that is your own, unique to you. Sounds daunting but it is an ingredient you already have stocked, you simply need to use it.
So out with the utensils and start cooking. You have a story to write.
It takes a little more than pure inspiration to write that killer content. Although the idea is the kernel to any great literary dish, you should always have on hand the following ingredients to lift your words to the writer’s equivalent of haute cuisine.
You may find that taking these ideas with more than a pinch of salt is just what you need. But you shouldn’t assume that you need all these ingredients all the time, mix and match; experiment.
There are many more ingredients you could use, but these are my top 5:
- Nearness – The reader can be drawn in with any geographical or experiential situation that they can identify with, try and create the ‘I’ve been there’ factor.
- Consequence – Try to make the content deal with matters that have an effect; create consequence in what you write.
- Human interest – Go on you know you want to, go all out for the cute vote, the shaggy dog story at the end of the news keeps you hanging on for the weather report. Alternatively the opposite is also true, a report on the cost to life of any disaster can be a compelling read.
- Drama – Action and intensity… if you’re writing a story, this can be quite a good hook.
- Oddity – Pique that mind, interest that soul. Let eyes pour over your words, washing them into the bowl that awaits like open mouth – sometimes being weird works, trust me, I’m an editor.
Remember these are ingredients, it is up to you how you use and mix them, or even add a few more of your own.
And if you want more:
So here I am typing away on Focused. Focused is a compact adobe air app that blanks your screen and provides you an area to type on. Enabling you to stay ‘focussed’ on what you are writing, with no distractions. It has basic settings which allow you to choose the area on which to type and the font used.
The idea is similar to other desktop apps that are available. The same can be obtained in most word processor apps by clicking on the full screen option, and you’d still retain all the bells and whistles associated with your particular flavour of bloatware.
Are there advantages to focused?
- Well it is a tiny app.
- It is quick and easy to launch
- It does what it sets out to do
- It will help you learn to spell correctly
- The opposite of the above
I’m going to keep it installed and see how it goes for the next few weeks. The big question for me is whether or not I’ll actually bother to open the app. Having said that, white, or just off white, text on a black screen is very, very cool.
You can try it out here