Being an independent author is a lot like running a small business. You’re in charge of every aspect of the process, such as writing, research, marketing, graphic design, editing, formatting, publishing, distribution, touring (virtual or otherwise), and public relations. Even if you don’t personally do all of those things, you usually find someone who can assist you.
The other day I was looking at Scrivener and thought it seemed like a helpful tool, but didn’t want to pay $55 for it. I generally write in a Google Docs because it’s simple, free, and in the cloud. The reason I was looking for something new was because I needed a better way to take notes, one that was visually appealing and would help me stay on track.
What software or techniques do you use to remain engaged with your stories? Are there any best practices that have helped you with worldbuilding or note taking? Separately, do you stick to deadlines, or do you find them restrictive/stressful? Can’t wait to hear your thoughts! ~ WM
I think about buying Scrivener at least once a week. But it feels like there'd be such a steep learning curve.
I, too, use Google Docs. Also Substack and World Anvil.
I personally use Scrivener and I don’t know how I would manage without it. ￼I find Google docs gets really glitchy if you have a lot of text in it. I even use Scrivener for things like editing interviews and my novels ￼definitely have all been written in scrivener.
Scrivener is not for everyone, but it was a game-changer for me! I love it and can't imagine writing my books without it. If you write long-form works, it's worth looking into. As I've mentioned before, I wrote (and am now revising) the three books of my trilogy simultaneously, and Scrivener allows me to keep all three manuscripts open and neatly categorized in one seamless file, with each volume, chapter, and scene in its own subfolder or doc where I can easily find it. This also serves as an outline, and it lets me keep my character and setting notes, research, etc. on hand. I can export these files into any format I want. There are tons of great features. I sound like a rep for the company, but I cannot say enough about it! I'm happy to answer questions (though I'm far from an expert!)
As far as deadlines, if they're work-related, they're no problem and I'm happy to stick to them. I don't like letting people down. Creatively, when it's MY work, I let myself off the hook a lot and wait for inspiration or the mood to write to strike. I can leave a project sitting for months this way, so I imposed some deadlines on myself with my newsletter to try to keep myself motivated. I've been much more productive with a schedule to keep. I might change it a little next year to give myself some breathing room, because there has been a time-crunch with all of my other responsibilities. But just holding myself accountable to some kind of deadline has kept me on target for finishing my projects.
I'm not a very fast writer, so TBH I struggle with the idea of writing deadlines. If I rush too much, the finished product isn't very good. The fact that I (thankfully) have a day job also complicates things.
I've actually been meaning to get some input on this, since I've started up my own Substack recently. Do I need to constantly be churning out content in order to get a readership, or do you think people would be willing to wait for higher quality work?
I’ve discovered this radical new technology recently. Ok, it involves two pieces of plastic, but hear me out - they’re only small.
The smaller piece fits inside the bigger one. Inside the smaller piece is this gooey stuff used for mark making. Then you need this flattened pulped tree stuff, but the trees are replaced so no harm no foul. This is when the real magic begins.
I then place collections of systematised marks on the things I’m gonna call pages. Weirdly, those symbols are associated with certain sounds with ascribed meaning. Those meanings are more like associations than definitions but offer incredible opportunities for cognitive and affective correspondence and resonance.
Then - are you ready for this bit? - when arranged in the right way, they carry fragments of my consciousness outwards so that you may learn of how wonderful you all are and how much I appreciate this space.
And it’s all right there on the page. But also not.
Scrivener is the best investment an author can make (or anyone working on long-form text). The cost is pretty decent for such a powerful professional tool.
I like deadlines, they're useful. I tend to flail about without them. I think this is why I like writing serial fiction so much: it gives me a mini-deadline every week. That's kept me reliably productive for about 7 years now.
Back to Scrivener, I'd also say that I'd have really struggled without it. Its flexible working style and ability to keep everything under one roof has been essential to being able to write, plan and iterate quickly. And while it appears to be a technical and complicated tool at first glance, what I've actually found is that it's got all of the technical aspects of writing - the nuts and bolts and faffy stuff - out of the way, so that I can focus on the creative bits.
ALL THAT SAID: The last few weeks have been a challenge. A mixture of darker, shorter days, busyness with Christmas and my son's birthday and other (nice) things have made it difficult to focus on the writing. I've still got a chapter out every week, but it's been a bit skin-of-my-teeth. I should probably go and write a chapter instead of writing this comment, in fact. ;)
I use google docs for my writing, not only is it free and on the cloud, but I can curl up in bed and plug away on my iPad. For notes, I use Google sheets and sometimes Procreate if I need a digital sketchbook. They just happen to be what I already have on hand on my iPad. It’s a step up from napkins, post it notes, and a dozen notebooks at least. I have 3 file folders full of my scrap notes for my Tuomi world building. I’m impressed I still somehow understand the random scribbles I made over 20 years ago.
Only deadline I give myself is to try posting on Fridays. I give myself flexibility because my health and job as mom needs to come first. The moment writing stops being a relaxing ‘hobby’ and becomes a required ’job’ is when I’ll probably stop. I have enough ‘jobs’... too many to be honest.
I find that deadlines ensure stuff actually gets written, otherwise it tends to be kicked down the road, giving way to jobs that do have a deadline attached.
The story a week deadline (1000-2000 words) I set for myself ended up being critical for my personal growth. Between that and sending out for publication, it also helped me to build up enough stories to put together a collection.
For writing I use Google docs, but for the collection I'm putting it together and formatting inside LibreOffice, which is free and open source. I save it to a network drive and backup inside Dropbox. I don't really take notes, but I have an idea journal now that I write in... that's my crazy process 😂
Great question. I’m old-school. Jonathan Franzen-style. I use good ole Word. As a few have said on here, and as I’ve heard repeatedly on Substack Reads: it’s all about consistency and quality when it comes to posts. I post every 3-4 days; usually twice a week. I’ve found personally that posting early (I schedule ahead) around 4am gets more reads. I think it’s cause early risers see it up front in their inbox. As a book editor had freelance writer I’m used to deadlines.
And I write on deadline for the most part, but will move them if it's helpful.
I bought scrivener and instantly loved it for all the nerdy fun writerly features and doodads it provided. Then 90% through writing my novel it crashed, locked me out forever and destroyed all my work!
After a brief anxiety attack, I thankfully remembered I had emailed some earlier draft chapters to myself and was able to recover it in pieces. Whew! (On the bright side, the crash forced me to rewrite some of the later sections in a more efficient manner 🤪)
Though I loved using the system, I definitely learned a lesson in storing all my story information (all notes, backstories, ideas, etc.) in one place. Now I use good ol’ Word and Dropbox! But I do miss the visual aspect of having all my notes in one place with Scrivener, which felt extremely immersive. (Like I was steeping in my own story 😊)
I’m glad to have discovered this newsletter and all you fellow writers!
I wrote my first book using Google Docs. Shared a copy with my editor and beta readers, made all my revisions. Designed the cover using Google Slides. Made enough money to buy Scrivener. Used it for a little bit, but couldn’t do everything I wanted through it (sharing, cover design). Then my child killed my Mac and I switched to a Chromebook because I don’t want to spend hundreds or thousands every time a kid breaks something (so far: MacBook, iPad, iPad Pro, iPhone). So now I’m back to doing everything on Google products (except formatting, for which I use Atticus).
I tried notion for a while but found it took way more time to file everything in there. (I still used Google docs.) I sometimes get confused, but I’ll link a research/notes doc on the page I’m writing so I can keep them separate but reference them easily. I’ve shed so many tears over new technology over the past year I’ll stick to a sharpie and large notepad, or computer... my website has been down for almost 2 weeks because I decided I needed to redesign it and thought I needed to change domain servers. After 9 days the new company said I have to manually bring the files over. F that. I went back to my old company but that will be another 5-7 days w no work email or website. So I’m happy printing out pages and working old school. I feel more a part of it anyway. I don’t think all these fancy programs save everyone time....
Is the “app” version of Scrivener intuitive and reliable? I’ve been using an iPad with a blutooth keyboard as a glorified wordprocessor. The app sounds interesting, but I’m wondering if it’s only worth it if used with a laptop or desktop computer. I have two laptops (a Dell and Mac Book Pro), but the iPad is more compact and easy to use during long flights when I get the urge to write and have to use one of those woefully inadequate fold-down trays as a “desk” since I ALWAYS travel economy (or if you prefer “steerage”), since I refuse to pay for upgrades and my friends complain that I’m about one frugality away from being an out-and-out cheapskate.
Do you have to pay annually for Scrivener? I considered it when I was first trying to get serious about writing ages ago but never did a deep dive. Is it mostly beloved because it helps keep you organized? What do people who swear by it like the most about it? Sorry this was probably answered elsewhere in the conversation but don’t have time to hunt around right now so thought I would just ask the question.