Nicholas Reicher

Writing Your Next Blockbuster Film or Novel

Category: Writer (Page 1 of 3)

The Next Steps in the Novel Challenge

Okay, in the last few days, we got the mechanical stuff set up for the novel. We’re about to really start our planning soon, but today should be the last of the mechanical stuff.

Open your project (you can actually save a link on your desktop, and open it that way too). We need to put a scene or two for every chapter. Click on the chapter in the binder (that’s the left column). It’ll show a corkboard. left click on it, then press CTRL+N. If you do it twice, you get two scenes. For now, let’s do one scene.

Did you do your 60 plot points? If you did your math, you’ll see it’s going to be roughly one plot point per scene. Now it’s just all the “He said” and “She shouted angrily”. BTW, of course, if she’s shouting, it’s… angrily. Edit the line to “She shouted.” We can infer the anger part.

If you were able to come up with 60 plot points, you’ll need two scenes per chapter. If you were only able to come up with 30, it’s going to be one scene per chapter. I’ve used up to 7 scenes per chapter. More than that, and the chapter starts to drag.

Scenes, by the way, do not have to be 1600 words long. I’ve written 300 word scenes. I tend to list them as 400 words (action snippet), 600 words (short scene), 900 words (medium scene), 1200 words+ (long scene).

This is part of “directing from the pen”. You’re going to control the pacing of your novel by choosing scene length. If your book is starting to drag as you write it, switch it up and resort to action snippets. If the pace is going too fast, you need to throw in a medium to long scene.

The same thing works with sentences. I’ve already got my writer’s voice, so my sentences tend to be uncontrolled – they are what they are. For now, start thinking in terms of writing shorter sentences to speed things up, longer sentences to slow them down. Compound sentences mean the same thing as compound fracture – something’s broken.

So, for now, make one scene per chapter, and be prepared to make three or four.

Take EACH plot point in your list, and put them in the synopsis in each scene (you have to have scenes – if you try writing your novel in the chapters, you’re in for a rude surprise when you print this thing out).

Last mechanical items you need to do:

Get Evernote if you didn’t do that yesterday. Just use the free plan for now – authors are notorious for being broke. Install the Evernote clipper plugin to your browser. Trust me on this. You’re going to do a TON of research, and you’re going to need something to hold all that research. Evernote is my default storage. it’s MUCH better than the old days when I’d save something to PDF.

Eventually, on a slow month I’m not researching something, or if they offer me the business trial again, I’m going to import every last PDF on my hard drive and get RID of them! Well, not the E-book ones I’ve paid for.

Get a pack of Tul pens. Up to you if you like blue ink or black, fine point or medium. But nothing writes like a Tul.

get a small notebook you can bring with you to jot things down with. Even if you bought the Full Focus Planner, be prepared to carry a notebook around. Get into the habit of jotting down EVERY thought you have about your novel. I’m going to talk about the writer’s notebook tomorrow, and show you how to set it up.

Getting your novel off to a right start

I’m of course always reading, studying, trying to improve. Experts tell us this is the character trait of a successful novelist and screenplay writer. It’s not something I’ve cultivated, it’s just how I am.

One of the things I’ve stressed is that if this isn’t an essential part of your personality, then you need to take steps to make that part of your personality!

Whenever I’ve taken up anything new, I try to immerse myself in it. I try to read everything on it I can get my hands on.

Writing a novel is daunting the first time you try it. It’s so daunting, such a huge job, that many people work at it for years upon years upon years and never see the end of the tunnel.

If that sounds like you, I’m telling you, it’s not as hard as your making it. You’re just floundering, and haven’t found your way. You can write a short novel in 30 days, edit it in another 30, and have it on your publisher’s desk by the end of 90 days.

What you really need is a blueprint, or a road map. Many books on writing novels will give you that blueprint, but no worries – I’m giving it to you now.

The beginning of a novel is called the set up. This is important. you must show your main character, called the protagonist, in their normal life. Why is this important? Because you want to show how their life has changed at the end of the story. This is important for the reader. You know you did your job well if they continue the novel in their imagination past the ending of the book.

The setup has to continue until you’ve firmly established this is their life – and no longer.  Usually this takes chapters 1-3, but depending on how free or sparing you are with your words, this could take less time.

Now you have to move onto the Inciting Incident. This is the one incident that motivates the protagonist to do something. Here’s a simple math formula – if your protagonist allows things to happen, book=boring. If your protagonist makes things happen, book=good.

If you complain, “but my novel needs him to sit back and wait for things to happen!”, then your book is going to be lame. Sorry, but this is the facts. Your protagonist must DO something.

What must they do? Hey, look, I’m not writing your novel for you! Well, I could, but it would be really expensive! You have to decide for yourself what they’re going to do, and how they’re going to do it.

Now you have to invent all kinds of obstacles to their getting it!

In Lord of The Rings, Frodo is basically told by Gandalf he needs to bring the Ring to Rivendell. Well, now you’ve got the 9 riders after him. Merry and Pippin are trying to get him there, but they’re prone to taking the wrong way and getting them embroiled in adventures. They end up at Bree and getting into trouble there, and the 9 riders find their rooms – but they’ve fled.

See the setup of goal, and blocks? Frodo has one simple thing to do. If he gets the Ring to Rivendell, and Elrond tosses it into a smelting forge and that’s the end of it, you’ve got a dull short story.

So add Merry and Pippin, who’re going to lead Frodo into trouble.

Add the 9 riders. There’s now peril beyond a simple journey and getting lost.

Tom Bombadil serves as the Guardian of knowledge, and helps them, but only to a point, where they can be handed off to Elrond, the next Guardian of knowledge.

They get into a scrape at Bree. Weathertop and the Wraiths.

Nothing is simple about a simple journey from Hobbiton to Rivendell.

Then, after numerous adventures, he finally gets there – and is told he’s still got to go to Mordor and toss the Ring into the volcano it was forged in.

These are the setup and blocks. Frodo has simple tasks, but the blocks preventing him are legendary. It’s why the LOTR series has sold millions. Every step of the way sounds do-able, until you get to the whole “take it to Mordor, right under Sauron’s nose and watching eye, slip past all the watchers and sentries, bypass a million orcs, and destroy the ring.” And even THEN, Tolkien gives you a giant spider, armies of Orcs, The watchers, a waterfall, battles, the lands of the dead, forests of living trees, Sauruman, the palantir, flying wraiths, etc. Every roadblock is literally increasing tension literally to the point the books fail. And you know what keeps you reading, the frank admission from one character, right at the point you’re about to toss the book, that if all this was a book, they were at the point you’d want to toss the book! clever. It’s never been done before, and because Tolkien did it cleverly, it can never be done again!

Act 1 is 25% of your book, act 2 is 50% of your book, and act 3 is 25% of your book, including the epilogue.

So here’s the important part. You need plot points, 50-60 of them. One writer likes to describe them as “Story sparks”, something that your mind seizes on and thinks, “That’s really neat, I’m putting that in my book.”  Weathertop is a story spark. Strider and the hobbits running into the stone trolls from the Hobbit is a story spark. The Barrow downs is a story spark. Technically, they’re called “plot points”. Dramatica calls them “signposts”, and the spaces between “journeys”. Whatever you call them, you need at least 40, and 60 is better. I can tell you that LOTR had more than 60 plot points in the first book alone.

“So, Do I just sit down and write out numbers 1-60, and just write down what my plot points are?”

Yup. The more you have, the better.

This is why I constantly say “plan your work, and work your plan.” Remember the 5P principle!

“How do I keep people reading?”

Promises and payoffs. If you promise something in the book, you’ve got to pay it off. My short story “The Island” had several promises – repeated references to the drowning of Mike (you knew before the end of the story that Ernie was going to drown Ruthie), the mention of the icepick in the store, the repeated information that only two could survive, and several mentions of 9 people on the island. Every murder was a payoff. The icepick was a payoff. Ernie drowning Ruthie was a payoff. The subtle antagonism between Cary and Ernie was a promise, and it had a payoff.

If you show a pistol as a decoration in act 1, it had better go off in act 2 or three. Someone’s got a bejeweled dagger? Someone better get stabbed with it. Cliff? Someone falls over it. Most of the time (here’s the joy of writing novels), you write something, and suddenly you realize you just wrote a promise of something. Now you know completely by accident that you’ve got to deliver the payoff!


This article alone isn’t enough to write a novel, but it’s enough to get you started! If you start going through my web site, you’ll run across a myriad of articles written to help you get your novel written.

The goal is – plan now. Because we’re writing a novel from January of 2018 through until March 30, 2018! I’ve got an entire series of writing tips on Twitter every day @NSReicher that will help poke and prod you into planning your novel, then writing it! I’ll host additional tips on my Facebook Author’s page, so check that out as well!

no more dreaming about writing a novel. You’re going to do it.

Starting your novel project in Scrivener

The first thing you’re going to do is get Scrivener, and then get the template. I’m probably going to try a mystery, because I’ve never written one. We’ll try something new together. Besides, I want to try a mystery because right now, Hallmark is accepting mystery novels. Because of Hallmark’s requested novel length, I’m going to set Feb. 15 as my deadline. It’s probably about 5 more than I need, but once you go past a 30 day goal, expect interruptions. That’s why I raise an eyebrow at the whole “Write a book in six months” concept. If it’s that long, it’s not happening.

So, file—new project—and choose a template. I usually use the 30 chapter template, because someone did a great job of assembling a workable outline. Do a search for “FREE SCRIVENER TEMPLATES”. A lot of people work against Scrivener (believe it or not) in the way they set up their templates. All of your novel MUST be enclosed in a folder called Manuscript. Some people like to rename this folder, and actually, they’re working against themselves. Any time someone follows convention and names it something else, that means they’ve got to rename that in every template they find. I literally won’t try a template if they rename manuscript. So for me, it’s either the 30 chapter template, or my own.

Choose your default location as “Dropbox”, assuming you have Dropbox. If not, don’t do anything yet – go to the Dropbox website, get the Dropbox program, sign in, and THEN choose your save location as Dropbox. There’s a reason for this. If your laptop crashes or gets stolen, or you spill water on it, your novel will be saved. All you have to do is get a new computer, install Scrivener and Dropbox, and you’ll find your novel right there! (BTW, I’m going to make the plea you get Evernote also, and that you store your passwords in it. This way, everything you save will be in Evernote as well).

Your project will now open in Scrivener.

The way Scrivener works, you  can’t write in chapters – you have to write in scenes. I had found a murder mystery template, but it was bare bones, no headlines to tell you what to write when. The 30 chapter template is set up for you. Be prepared to add notes to the synopsis – we’re going to do this soon.

Today, the important part is to get your word count in there. Because I’m planning on submitting to the Hallmark Channel, they have specific requirements of happy endings, no violence, if it’s a murder mystery it has to happen off the page, and they’ve got rules of no violence. So you can’t show the murder.

So. go to project—>project target. Hallmark’s got a target of 70,000 – 85,000 words. For now, I’ve got 80,000 entered under manuscript target. Then for word count, I’ve got 1,667. Plan on your novel being 50,000 for now.

This means you’re going to have a complete project done in 30 days. Again, this is not like NaNoWriMo, because they’re satisfied if you get the word count. We’re aiming for a complete novel, first draft. I’m going to give you a couple of Scrivener tricks that will increase your daily word count beyond the 1,667.

Today, open your front matter and give your book a title. Choose a pen name (or if you’ve got a name like Stephen King, use your own), and go ahead and fill out everything in your front matter section and back matter section. If you don’t know what to put there, that’s your dedication, your about the author, etc.

Some quick advice before we do this – if this is your first novel, if this is something you’ve never completed before, then be prepared for this – you may end up hiding this novel once you’re done. Most author’s first novels are garbage. It’s the second book that’s excellent. Stephen King and Tom Clancy are of course the exceptions. King’s first book was Carrie, and he threw it in the trash after he was done reading it. Tabitha King pulled it out of the trash, and talked him into trying to get it published. Clancy wrote Hunt for Red October, brought it to the Navy press, and behold – they and he had their first novels published. No kidding, I have a copy of the Navy Press Red October.

All right – last housekeeping chore. Go to your Dropbox, and create a folder called “Scrivener backups.” Now, go back to Scrivener. Go to File—>backup—>backup to. Open the Dropbox folder, then choose the Scrivener Backups. This is a step 99% of Scrivener users don’t do, and they think they’re backing up their project all the time. If you haven’t designated a specific folder for backups, then believe it or not, you’re not backing up at all. The Scrivener tutorial manuscript explains this.

Six Important Keys to Scene Introductions

Years ago, when I was a kid, I remember my dad going off on intro lines to books. He made a big deal about the fact the first line of your book had to be perfect, or nobody would read it.

Now, my dad read a lot, often more than I did – and I went from one book to another. So, I took his word for it.

And so I wasted countless hours in front of a Remington typewriter, trying to think of  the perfect first line to my novels. And then I’d waste countless hours trying to think of the perfect first line to every scene and chapter.

To the point that I never, ever finished a novel until the 2000’s. That’s 30 years of writing, and never being able to finish!

Things are different now. I’ve written and finished several novels, and several screenplays. Now I’ve got a foolproof way to write and get it done, and the first thing I did was ditch my father’s advice. Anything that stops you from writing is nonsense and dead weight.

When I’m writing, I’ve usually got a certain amount of pre-novel work done. I know the goal of the chapter and the scene. So very often, I’ll just write location and name in the beginning of the scene. “Carpenter and McKinney stood in the clearing, outside the shelter.”

Who: carpenter and McKinney.

What: They’re standing, obviously having a conversation or they’d be doing something. What it is they’re conversing about, we’re about to find out.

When: Obviously, immediately after the other scene. How do I say “Obviously?” because there’s no statement about when it’s taking place. The Next Day is missing. Later That evening is missing. So it must be immediately following the other scene. What you don’t say is often as valid as what you do say.

Where: outside the shelter.

Why: This is again an obvious one. They’re either going to talk about the shelter, plans for it – or they’re going to talk about something they don’t want anyone else to here. How can you derive that? It’s simple. They’re outside, and nobody else is. again, you don’t need to say everything.

how: There’s no how in this intro. They’re standing, which means they’re capable of it. But if your introduction was, “Carpenter was suspended twelve stories in the air, wondering how he was going to get himself out of this”… You’re going to need to explain how he got there, and what’s got him suspended!

The point here is, I try to write to-the-quick intro lines. I’m trying to write a scene! Get INTO the scene as quickly as possible. PLEASE don’t waste the intro to your scene with, “the glittering drops slowly rolled off the flower petals as Carpenter and McKinney stared off into the distance, each affected by the sound of the soothing rain as they struggled with their…”

Yeah, that’s good writing. Except for the fact that it’s such a compound sentence it looks more like plumbing than writing!

Setup. dialog. Response. gesture. objection. Confident answer. Lull.

NOW glittering raindrops!

Got it? Scenes breathe. They have life. If you load up the front end of the scene with baggage, the scene seems winded, like it’s got a weight on its chest.

If your intro is TOO terse – that’s why there’s re-writes. Get the scene written. There’s some essential part of that you’re itching to write, and you’re staring off into the distance, waiting for the starting gun to fire. BANG! Write that. Don’t worry about the perfect starting line. Just for now WWWWWH, in one sentence. If you don’t need to explain why, don’t!


It’s a sentence. Write it, and move on to the real focus of the scene!

Seven Essential steps you need to write your novel in one month

Sounds good, doesn’t it? What does it take to write a novel in a month? You and I just missed it, because Nanowrimo is essentially that – where people world wide try to write their novels in one month.

Nanowrimo is geared towards getting 50,000 words done in a month with 30 days. It’s very regimented, but we’re going to actually focus in January on writing a novel instead of getting a word count. That means you get a complete first draft, including your ending (I mean, what good is it if you spend a month writing 50,000 words in a novel that’s going to take you 120,000?).

If you want to join in and get that novel written next month…. then follow along both here and on my Twitter account, where I’ll have tips and prompts to keep you going!

Ready? Here we go.

  1. minimum 10 plot points. Gotta have this. Better to have 60 plot points. “She gets the car, then she gets the envelope, then she finds out…” Really simple. Number 1-60 on a piece of paper and see if you can write out things that have to happen to your character. If you can’t think of even 10, you don’t have a novel. Consider it a road map.
  2. conflict. Your novel has to have  conflict. Tons of it. Dripping with conflict. How do you get conflict? I’ve written a number of articles on it, but here’s the simplest way – essentially your novel is about something somebody needs or has to do or there’s dire consequences. Now throw as many obstacles in the way as possible. Keep them from getting what they need, increase the stakes, make the consequences as dire as possible, and then in the last 10% of the book you can start rewarding them.
  3. 1667 words a day. The word count’s the easy part. I can get those easily. If you’re writing a 70,000 word novel, it’s 2,333 words a day. A lot tougher, but if you know where you’re going, it’s easy to get there. I personally would plan on 50,000 words for this challenge.
  4. Scrivener or Ywriter. Unless you plan to work three times harder than usual using Microsoft Word, use Scrivener or Ywriter. The way they force you to focus on scenes and chapters is revolutionary, and exceptional. Scrivener is better than Ywriter, but the problem is, most people for some reason are adverse to spending $40 for software. Trust me, Microsoft Word costs much more and does much less. Spend the money.
  5. Hook. You need to have a hook, something that essentially tells why this novel is different. “It’s a story about”… go on… What’s the selling point? What’s your elevator pitch? You need to be able to explain your novel in just a few seconds, the length of an elevator ride. If you don’t have that, your novel lacks focus, and probably will be passed over by publishers.
  6. list of 30 chapters and their synopsis. This works a lot better in Scrivener than any other program. It forms your goals for the chapter.
  7. Beginning and ending. How does it begin? How does it end? In some novels, the ending HAS to be known (and sometimes written) before the rest of the novel, such as mysteries.
  8. Characters. Who’s in your novel? Write out BASIC character sheets – I did this recently for a book I’d already written, and I realized I’d actually skipped over showing the character growth in the novel!
  9. promises and rewards. This part starts as you write, but if you’re doing a one month challenge, a scene that promises something must have a reward. You’ve got to finish out the reward promised. Why was the triceratops sick in Jurassic park? I know the answer. But they cut the reward out of the movie, and it actually still bugs people who saw the movie years ago! A promise and reward system keeps people turning pages. If your literary agent or the reader for the publisher starts skipping paragraphs to see what the reward is… then you’ve got a book contract, guaranteed.
  10. something unique. It’s hard to think of something unique, by saying, “I need something unique about my character.” Guess what? you already probably thought about it, but didn’t realize it. Columbo was a detective who was scared of guns, and sloppy. Monk was a detective who was a germophobe and obsessive compulsive. Carpenter in my novels is obsessed about coffee, his collection of .45 pistols, and suffers from PTSD over the loss of his wife to a drunk driver. Develop the unique part of your character first. Then apply the same process to the plot. Kind of like the first time an art thief in a 60’s movie used floor wax on their back to slide under burglar alarm sensors.


I’ve heard many people say, “I’ve been writing a novel for the last six years”, and I’m over it. I wrote my first novel in just a few months, and I didn’t have all this information then! Let’s get your novel done. Put that other magnus opus aside. We’re writing a whole new novel, and we’re doing it in January – and you’re going to start planning it today!


My fourth book is nagging at me. I know where it went wrong. I’m not entirely sure how to bail that part out.

There’s certain subjects I don’t like. I don’t like to write about them. And I feel like by putting them in my novel, I’ve ended up with serious avoidance issues!

Easy solution – take those parts out. I know there was one subject I really didn’t want to write about in my third novel, but it was crucial to write about it. It would be like writing a novel about native tribes in Ecuador, but you don’t want to talk about cannibalism. Well, unfortunately, it was a common thing there.

So, I’ve got to back, remove that part, and plan out when in the series that section will come in.

The rest of the book really had me excited, so I want to get back to that excitement, that enjoyment of it, and finish that book.

I want to get back to the prequel, and Rolf Offenstath, and build up that three part intro as well!

As usual, I just need the time to write.

Character Creation Sheets

Character Creation sheets run the gamut from “Name Height Weight Hair Color” to “At what age did your character first drink a soda?”

I’m divided on this myself. Usually when I come up with an idea for a book, I usually can flesh the idea for the book out in 5 minutes, flowchart it, plan it, and have my synopsis created within a day. And start writing it the next. Hence my oft-repeated “It should only take you a month to write an average novel”.

I’ve just never done Character sheets ever. I got started a little on them, but not in depth.

But the other day  I wrote about the Dramatica theory of characters, so I made up character sheets to go in my notebook. Pretty much it’s the standard “Height weight M/F (circle one)”, BUT…

I added in the eight Dramatica characters.  All you have to do is put a checkmark in the space, or write a one word note about how they are that character type.

THEN I added Michael Hauge’s bit. In his book on “Writing Screenplays that sell”, he talked about inner motivation and outer motivation. So I added that, and may revise my sheets to have more stuff in them.

Here’s how the sheets look – you can copy this and paste it into the character profiles in Scrivener.

Name ______________________   M/F (Circle One)

Height______ Weight______ Age______

High School______  College______

Inner Motivation__________________________________________

Outer Motivation__________________________________________

Protagonist ______  Antagonist______ Reflection ______

Personality Type__________________________________________

Character Conflict__________________________________________

Start of Story Situation______________________________________

Changed by Outcome________________________________________

That’s about all I have in it! I don’t get into the “Favorite book in third grade” thing, because it’s like a movie writer once said, you’ve got them in a dilemma, they’ve got conflict and you can’t see the way out of it, and now you’re trying to figure out how you’re going to put in there that they like crunchy peanut butter.

But what I’ve got above really is enough for you to get a feel for your character.

The funny thing is, once I was done with the sheets, I filled out a few, and I saw  that I’d actually neglected to put some of this into my first novel! So I could see right away the value of at least minimal character sheets.

I may update this sheet in the future!

Cotagonist______  Sidekick______ Guardian ______ Skeptic______


The problem with Holiday Time

One of the biggest problems we’ve got as writers is that holiday time has so many obligations on us. We have to see family, or go to Bangor for shopping, or out to Bigfork to see the holiday lights.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

it keeps us from our schedules.

We’ve got writing to do. There are demands on our time.

There are times you have to be resolute. When you’re not making a living as a writer, you need to get downright possessive about your time. “I have to do my writing.” If you’re doing it as  a hobby, and it’s only going on the internet, then you can be more relaxed. But novels take time to write. Screenplays take time to write. If you aim to be a writer (and nothing else), then you need to do just that – write.

In my case, my family time is important to me. The person making demands on my time is – me! So, this is where I’ve got to be resolute, and say to myself, “Get it done.”

Schedule time to write. What gets scheduled gets done.

If you’re working on several projects at once, write in no more than two of them at a time.

Keep social media time down to a minimum. If you spent 5 hours on Facebook, you’ve spent waaay too much time! Get back on your novel or screenplay.

Set deadlines. My deadline with myself is to have my books edited and publish ready by April. Get it done! I’ve got screenplays that need to be written and re-written. Get it done!


Don’t make the mistake of pushing family away. Again, my time with my family is important. I need to spend time with them. I just need to prioritize!


Then writing.

But get the writing done. Quit procrastinating.

And oh, yes – go to the holiday lighting event in New Haven.

The process of creating

Before you can become a writer, you must begin to be creative. Of course, it helps if you’re a creative person already.

To some extent, everyone is creative. It’s that little flourish you add when decorating a cake, or when you’re working on even the most simple wooden thing you’re building – but you built it entirely from thinking about it and then grabbing your tools and going for it.

Everyone’s walked away from movies either saying, “what if?” or “What do you think happened to them?” or “Why didn’t they just?” I know a lot of my movie writing motivation ended up being, “They should have… instead!”

Even if you plan on writing a non-fiction book (which oddly enough seems to be more popular than writing a fiction book), to a certain extent you need creativity to be able to do it well. And trust me, I’ve read a lot of really badly written books by both.

So… how do you foster creativity?

It’s a frame of mind that one enters. You train it by habit. One of the things I’ve recommended is a dedicated writing space. If you’re downright stubborn about “Don’t put anything into this space” to everyone else in the house, then after a while just entering that space already has your mind ready to create.

It’s something you develop through exercises. People who don’t know how to write (but want to), I make several recommendations. Play the what if game. “What if a man comes home and…”

Finish that sentence.

Exercise 2 – Take an article, and a noun. Write them down. “The car….”

The car what? Speeds up, slows down, pulls into a parking spot? Or screeches in, stopping with a lurch?

If you’re already self trained in creative writing, those little examples are writing prompts that should foster up an entire little story. Is it a FBI raid on a serial killer? Is it an angry house buyer confronting a crooked Realtor? Is it a pizza delivery guy who’s late habitually because in reality he’s a multi-dimensional traveler, and some kind of monster had him trapped away from the gateway?

Exercise 3 – describe an object. Okay, it looks like a cell phone. But is it really? Could it be a homing beacon for a horde of extra-terrestrial aardvarks, come to destroy the earth? The irony of it if someone is carrying this thing around, then drops it into a toilet by accident! You’re complaining about ruining your cell phone, but you just saved the earth!

One of those things a producer or an editor almost never has to tell a writer is to “Think outside the box.”  If you’ve finished something, you’ve already shown you pretty much live outside the box.

Learn to live outside the box. All that “let’s pretend” you did as a child – that’s your only required training. Remember how you did that? Sure you did. Let’s get started.

9 Must-Do Steps to Writing your novel in Scrivener


If you’ve never used Scrivener, it has some little-known tools that are exceptionally powerful, and make planning and editing your novel much more effective. I’m going to go through the first ones I’ve done, and then explain the ones I still need to do. This way, this blog post acts as a public reminder to me to get theses done!

  1. Set project target. That’s done. I try to keep my novels at 150,000 words, since that’s standard for an action/apocalyptic novel. Which means my current first book is about 50,000 words over the target, and needs judicious editing.

  2. Set scene targets.
    I’ve described before how I set them all at long scenes (1,200 words) and then, as I write them, determine if it’s an action snippet (400 words), short scene (600 words), Medium scene (900 words) or long scene. These are all done.
  3. Act Synopsis. I use a three act template to plan my novels. Each act should have its own synopsis entered. I entered very terse descriptions in my synopsis, and those need to be updated a little (as the scenes tend to change slightly as I write them).
  4. Chapter synopsis. I need to enter these. This is one thing I never did. What is the entering situation in the chapter? What is the desired outcome? Where are my obstacles and setbacks?
  5. Scene Synopsis. I need to write these as well. Roughly the same, but now on minor levels. On the scene level, you need to be thinking about what is your promises and payoffs? If you have to, create custom meta data fields to track those. (Project>Custom Meta Data>+)
  6. Add each scene to it’s character collections. This is a huge tool, one that quite a few Scrivener users don’t seem to play with, like the custom meta data fields. I add collections for every characters, then add each scene the character appears in. This way I can see how they talk, are portrayed, etc. You CANNOT allow something in any part of your book for your character’s voicing and portrayal to change, unless it’s driven by the plot over a progression. Adding scenes to collections allows you to read just those scenes they’re in, sequenced according to the book. It can take a lot if you’ve got 30 chapters and 7 scenes per chapter, and 8 major/minor characters. My first novel has over 14 major & minor re-occurring characters. Each one requires its own collection. That means 14 separate reviews of my book. That’s a huge project, but trust me, it’s worth it. Things begin to jump out at you that you’d never notice using Microsoft Word.
  7. Footnotes and Comments: Use comments upon read-through to go through your book, and label thoughts on “Move to ch.4?” “Weak…” “Tighten here” “Excessively wordy” “On the nose dialog”. You can color code the comments, or you can just use a different color for each comment so they don’t blur one into another.
  8. Highlights. Make sure you use the highlighting function to show areas that need working on. The comments can highlight some areas, but other areas can just do a quick “Green highlight” or “Blue highlight” to show you need to fix those little areas. You can color code them, or just use the different colors to keep them from blending together.
  9. Snapshots. I make snapshots for every major change within Scrivener, in case the edits I’m making cause the scene to be less powerful than how I first had it!

Scrivener is a surprisingly powerful piece of writing software for only $40. I’ve never looked back once I committed to buying it. Make sure you are using these tools to help you in the re-write and editing process!

What other tools do you use within Scrivener?

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