Sunday, August 2, 2015

So writing....

I thought it might be fun to do a little post on how I write, and the process, since I write so much fiction I can practically do it in my sleep.  At any given time I usually have at least two clients I'm working on stuff for, and if I had my way there would be three.  This means that, in any given week, my word count usually approaches, if not exceeds, 20,000 words.  And given how many plots I need to keep track of and how many words I need to write for each story, the process needs to be as streamlined as possible.

The process begins with old-fashioned pen and paper.  Once I get the go-ahead, I write down the points the client requires ("He has to fall in love with his sister before they realize that they're related", etc) and sketch out a rough outline of all the things I need to do to make them happen.  I also write out character names, although I don't always stick to them.  The main thing is to make sure I have enough plot points to meet the word count requirements.  There is some fudge-factor, but too much filler becomes too obvious and it's definitely not appreciated.

The outline gets refined in Scrivener's Corkboard, which is on the right side in this screenshot. Part of what makes Scrivener so wonderful is that you can have multiple windows open that show whatever you want in your Binder (on the left side), which is where I divide the story into different sub-documents.  Each sub-document can be viewed in different ways; the actual document (which is the middle) or the Corkboard view, which contains the summaries and maybe a key detail or two.  Especially handy sometimes in cases of writer's block is the word count target, which turns from red (empty) to green (full) if you need to get your words in.  There is also an extremely handy Research folder, which allows you to copy-paste links and documents that you might find handy if the story you're writing has to do with, say, a certain period in history, you can just copy-paste stuff into that folder.  Once the different parts of the story are written, Scrivener compiles everything into one document that's compatible with various word processors (It does not compile the Research folder).

And lastly, there is the word count log, which I'm actually pretty terrible about meeting.  I use my agenda to figure out how many words are due for which client and when.  Usually it averages out to about 2000 words a night, but sometimes it's 3000 and, if I've been terrible about making my previous word count targets, up to 5000, which is not fun and only possible because most of my clients are in the US and therefore there's at least a 6-hour time zone difference that I can use to my advantage.

I actually enjoy doing this and most months end up turning a good deal of profit.  It's not literary in any sense of the word, but it isn't difficult to do and for me, it's easy to turn out reasonably good stories without much fuss.  But a huge part of why it's so easy is having the right tools, and figuring out a way that works FOR YOU.


  1. This is really interesting. I'm always looking for ways to improve my writing. I'm going to have to check out Scrivener's Corkboard. What kind of stuff do you write?

  2. The stuff that I get paid to write are cheesy romances; guy falls in love with girl but something happens to keep them apart, etc etc.

    If you're interested I'd recommend checking out the tutorial video (linked below), and then you can download a free 30-day trial of Scrivener--it's 30 working days, so if you work with it for one day tomorrow and one day in a week, it's 2 days. It may or may not work for you; for me it's the best $40 I've ever spent.