The Everyday Author

For authors who can't quit their day jobs...yet

Month: January 2016

Guest Post: How Scrivener Changed My Writing Process

Note from D_Sidd: First of all, apologies for the awful (but still awesome) Scrivener meme above. When Matt told me he was writing a book about how to use Scrivener, the first thing I asked him was what I could to do help promote it. Scrivener has been an instrumental part of my growth and early success and as an author, much like it has with Matt. If Scrivener (and Matt’s book, Scrivener Superpowers) weren’t amazing tools to help you achieve your author goals, we wouldn’t waste your time talking about them. Now, here’s Matt!

We each experience a few moments in our lives where the precise details—the place and time, the physical sensations—are indelibly imprinted on our memories.

I’ve only had a a couple of those in my life as a writer. One was the moment I decided that I was going to become a writer (college, early morning, alone and cold in the big house on Broadway).

The other was when I discovered Scrivener.

The Moment Everything Changed

I was sitting on a leather couch in my studio apartment on the east side of Austin, TX. It was an unusually warm winter night in January, so I had the door propped open. With my Macbook Air in my lap, I agreed to a thirty-day free trial and launched Scrivener for the first time.

I remember that I was irritated because the material covering the couch cushions had begun to peel off. Little pieces of black pleather stuck to my skin. I also recall that my irritation vanished when the I opened the novel template that comes with Scrivener and saw how they broke a story out in the Binder so that each scene had its own document.

My heart began to race. I copy pasted in the short story I had been tinkering with, and separated each scene into its own document in the Manuscript folder. Then I did a simple task that changed how I approached writing forever: I added the missing scenes to the Binder.

From that moment forward, nothing was the same.

The Benefits of Scrivener

I finished that story then several more. The I wrote a novel.

I know there’s a lot more to good writing than using a piece of software. There’s also an understanding of craft, hard work, and relentless focus. But Scrivener changed my process so radically in such a short period of time that I still count is as a determining factor in my journey from wannabe writer to published author.

There’s a lot that’s great about the program. Here are the key advantages:

 

  • It’s versatile. Scrivener’s interface is so customizable that it works for writers all over the world with wildly different processes. No matter how you write — fast or slow, from start to finish or out of order, plotter or pantser—Scrivener has a set of features that will help you get your work done.
  • It helps you stay organized. Keep all your files, research, drafts, and notes in one place. I love the corkboard, which provides a digital storyboarding space. And the hierarchical Binder allows you to organize your documents into subfolders within a single Project.
  • It helps you structure. This is the part that made such a huge difference for me. Scrivener taught me how to structure a story by scene. And when I need to restructure a story, it’s as easy as drag and drop.
  • It compiles to digital formats. When you’re done writing, you can compile your manuscript to Microsoft Word, PDF (for print versions), or publishable ebooks with just a few clicks. For self-publishers, this alone is a game changer.

 

Scrivener Superpowers

Not everyone experiences a light bulb moment like I did. Some people come to Scrivener slowly, or with much resistance. Learning a new piece of software and changing your process can be hard.

That’s why I wrote Scrivener Superpowers, a guide to using Scrivener to take a manuscript from concept to completion. Not only do I show you the important features of the software using screenshots and simple instructions, but I’ll show you how to integrate those features into your creative writing process—whatever yours looks like.

The book also includes exclusive interviews with successful authors like Joanna Penn, Garrett Robinson, and Rachel Aaron, my own novel template, and a slew of other resources.

Head over to ScrivenerSuperpowers.com to learn more.

matt-baba-square-round-transparentMatthew Gilbert (MG) Herron writes nonfiction about the intersection of technology and creativity. He also writes science fiction thrillers. His first novel, The Auriga Project, was published in 2015. Matt has earned his bread as a river guide, pita roller, and digital project manager. These days, he makes a living as a content strategist consulting with tech startups and creative agencies across the United States. When he’s not bending words to his will, Matt organizes Indie Publishing Austin, a local Meetup for writers and authors. He also likes to climb mountains, throw a frisbee for his Boxer mutt, Elsa, and travel to expand his mind. He graduated from McMaster University in 2009 with a Bachelor of the Arts in English Literature. Now he lives in Austin, TX.

Website: mgherron.com
Twitter: @mgherron
Facebook: facebook.com/mgherronauthor
Email: matt@mgherron.com

Authors: it’s okay that no one gives a $@#!

Sometimes the hardest thing about being an everyday author is putting in the work when you realize hardly anyone is going to read or appreciate your finished book. While this can make it hard to keep on keeping on, writing book after book for what seems like nothing, it’s probably for your own good. There’s a reason you need to do your practice reps in relative confinement. Here’s why:

1. Because you suck.

Most writers spend their budding years lauded with praise from teachers, professors, classmates, friends and family. Getting out into the big wide world, however, we soon learn we’re not so special after all. Just like with any other talent, out in the real world there are plenty of people just as good (and better) than us. What we once thought was great writing might be mediocre at best. There’s a good chance your skill isn’t ready for the big leagues for a few years.

2. Because you’re not ready to succeed.

Although everyone has their own unique writing process, most writers take years to hone in on what works best for them. Starting out, you’ve probably got some bad habits to work through. It takes experimentation to figure out how you write best — lots of trial and error. There’s always the slim chance you write a hit straight out of the gates, but if you don’t understand how story works — how you did it — how are you going to replicate or sustain that success?

3. Because you can do whatever you want.

I’m going to hand the mic over to Austin Kleon in Steal Like an Artist to answer this one:

“… you want attention only after you’re doing really good work. There’s no pressure when you’re unknown. You can do whatever you want. Experiment. Do things just for the fun of it. When you’re unknown, there’s nothing to distract you from getting better. No public image to manage. No huge paycheck on the line. No stockholders. No e-mails from your agent. No hangers-on. You’ll never get that freedom back again once people start paying you attention, and especially not once they start paying you money. Enjoy your obscurity while it lasts. Use it.

So what do we do in the meantime?

Think back to high school, college and other times in your life that seemed to drag on. You probably thought they’d never end either. But lo and behold, they came and went, probably faster than you thought. And no matter how the experience was, you probably miss some aspects of those times. I’m willing to bet one day you’ll miss this period in your career as well.

“Be where you are when you are.” I cant remember where I came across this advice, but it’s stuck with me ever since. The future is coming fast enough on its own. For now, work to enjoy the writing for the writing’s sake, and the rest will come.  Write your heart out. Write anything and everything. Write like no one’s reading. They’re probably not and what an opportunity that is.

Author Insights: T.L. Parker

TL_ParkerMichael We’re happy to bring award winning author, T.L. Parker to the Everyday Author! We think that she will bring a unique success story to our pages. She has two novels out and a third in the works.  So without any more blather from me, here we go…

Ms. Parker please tell us who you are, how and why you decided to be an author and where you’re at right now in your career.

I am T.L. Parker, author of The Devil’s Graveyards and Superstitions. I have four wonderful children and an awesome husband who is my constant source of inspiration and support.

My writing career began a few years ago when I began losing sleep due to initial ideas for my first novel, The Devil’s Graveyards. After learning of the Earth’s Grid and the sixty-two equally spaced areas around the globe that hold extraordinary mysteries, I was passionate about turning my thoughts into words. My travels to Europe, Montreal, and Grenada gave me inspiration for some unique settings. Soon, fiction and truth combined to create this adventure thriller. In 2014, I released The Devil’s Graveyards as an eBook on Amazon.  My research for Superstitions was extremely interesting and shocking.  This thriller was released soon after my first.

Currently, I am working on my third novel! I am not divulging any information on this new book quite yet, but I am very excited to release it next November.

What was/is the hardest thing about balancing writing with everyday life and/or a day job?

Sometimes life happens! About a year ago, the world put some unexpected road blocks in my path.  Times have been extremely tough, and I had to put my writing career on hold for most of 2015 due to these unforeseen circumstances. Now I’m standing back up, prepared to fight back. I’m ready to show the world that when authors have ideas and a passion for writing, there’s nothing that can hold us back!

What is the one thing about your author career that not many people know about? 

Some people might not realize the amount of research I put into my books.  I feel this is the key to an interesting book! While researching my latest book, Superstitions, I was instantly intrigued by the numerous disappearances in the Superstition Mountains. Hikers are killed or simply vanish without a trace when they venture in these Arizona mountains, searching for the legendary Lost Dutchman Gold Mine. I traveled to the Superstitions and visited with the locals who personally knew “Dutch Hunters” that had mysteriously vanished.  I parked my car at the trailhead where many of these victims parked without ever returning.  I followed their footsteps down the trail toward Weaver’s Needle. I wanted to experience what they experienced, but I knew better than to venture too far.  In fact, it spooked me to be there. My research into the secrets hidden in the mountains led me to a surprising location…the Smithsonian. I called the Smithsonian to discuss these findings, and you would be shocked by what they wouldn’t tell me!

superstition_sign

Sign at the First Water Trailhead in the Superstition Mountains.

In the author bios that accompany your books and on your Amazon author page, there is mention that you are an award-winning author. Can you share what awards you have won? And did it make a difference in how you felt about writing?

Years before I started writing novels, I won an award for a short story competition hosted by the local university. Although it was not a prestigious award, it inspired me! It was the first ember on the fire.

Why did you choose to self-publish and will you continue to do so?

Publishing independently is working for me and I am enjoying it.  I don’t know what I will ultimately decide to do in the future.  The most important thing for me is being able to share my stories with others who will enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Why did you choose to write in the genre that your stories are in?

I…[sic] continue to research earth’s greatest mysteries, bringing reality to these unbelievable facts, and making readers question everything they think they know.

Is the novel that you are currently working on in this same genre or are you planning on another direction?

I will continue to write thrillers even though they may all have different sub-genres (conspiracy theories or a touch of science fiction for instance).

What’s the single best piece of advice do you have for authors who can’t support themselves with their writing yet? What should they be focusing on?

Keep writing! Never give up.  Sometimes, the road to writing success can be long and rough, but it will be the authors who keep trying in the face of opposition who will succeed.

Thanks Tara for agreeing to this interview. You can find more information about T. L. Parker and her novels at the following links:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/BooksByTLParker

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/booksbytlparker

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00NKWCIQO

State of the Author: My 2015 review

Time flies when you’re bleeding out through your fingertips with every stroke of the keyboard —
*Pauses to Google “Time flies expression”*
Eh-hem. Time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it?

Welcome to the second annual Everyday Author State of the Author review. Just like last year, I’m kicking it back and taking the first virgin days of 2016 to reflect on how a year’s worth of everyday authoring went. Although this post will be specific to my goals and work, I’d encouraging everyone to do a yearly review for themselves. You just might be surprised at how much you accomplished. It also has a way of showing where you need to step it up. If you want to see what plans I’ve got in store for this year, head on over to my author blog.

To be honest, I felt like I spent 2015 spinning my tires in the mud. But looking back, I accomplished quite a bit — even if the end results weren’t as flashy as I might have liked.  Here’s a few numbers I’ve calculated. (Note: these are fiction words only, and don’t include any blog posts I wrote here or on derekalansiddoway.com)

  • Rough draft words written: 65,000+
  • Words revised: 185,000+
  • Words published: 145,000+

Before we get into the meat of things, one other sidenote: I’ve included links to a number of products, books and services that I found especially helpful last year and plan to continue using/implementing in 2016. Please not that none of these are affiliate links and I am not receiving any form compensation from these companies. They were a huge help and I hope some of them will work out for you as well.

A recap of my 2015 author plans and resolutions:

Write faster: I tell you what, I blew this one out of the water! When I wrote Out of Exile and Return to Shadow, I had to give myself word count goals for each day to stay on pace and make sure I didn’t procrastinate. The second half of this year, I started using Chris Fox’s 5000 Word per Hour app and fell absolutely in love with it. I went from someone who wrote about 1000 wph (words per hour) to busting out 3000+ on some of my better days. As a competitive person and former track athlete, the allure of racing the clock to try and write faster kept me coming back to my rough drafts almost as much as the desire to finish the stories did. I haven’t read Chris’ accompanying book and have no plans to incorporate voice dictation (call me a purist I guess), but I would definitely recommend checking the app out. Right now, it’s only for iPhone, but the basic version is free.

Edit slower: This one was excruciating for me, because editing either makes me feel like I’m a storytelling genius or (most often) like I’m pulling my own teeth with rusty pliers. On top of that, nobody wants to pull teeth slow, you want to yank those bad boys out and get it over with. I’m still struggling with treating editing as something more than a deplorable task to be complete before a book can be published and I’m not sure what the solution is. Whenever I try to slow the process down, it just leads to me procrastinating. On the plus side, now I’m writing rough drafts faster, I have extra time to waste! I’ve also developed a pretty good production formula: after the second draft, I send the manuscript to beta readers and a continuity/developmental editor then incorporate their input into a third/fourth draft. I then send that to my copy editor. It worked really well with Return to Shadow and I anticipate using this model with all of my future work.

Have fun writing: Let me preface this by saying I spent the first five months of 2015 revising almost 150k words…and you know now how much I hate revising. That being said, the second half of the year, I got back to the glee of outlining and writing rough drafts. This year, I’ve got a variety of fresh projects and, as funny as it sounds, I’m looking forward to falling even more in love with writing in 2016.

What went well

I read a lot more than in 2014: Although I know now I’ll never get back to my pre-author book consumption levels, I balanced things out much better than I have in the past, keeping my creative tank fueled in the process. Some of my favorite non-fiction books included Creativity for Sale, The Rise of Superman, Gotta Read It, Finding Success in Failure, The Art of Work and Zombie Loyalists. I also placed my copy of The War of Art next to my desk and read a passage every morning before I started writing to give me a little extra motivation.

My websites: Last year, I lamented the amount of money spent on web design and ended up getting new themes for both Undaunted and derekalansiddoway.com. I’m happy to say I learned my mistake and have much cleaner, cheaper and engaging site designs now. I also found a fantastic newsletter signup plugin called Thrive Leads that looks really great on my fiction site, if I do say so myself.

I expanded my learning outside of the writing and self-publishing spheres: Not only what I read, but what podcasts I listen to as well. In addition to the staples I’ve discussed before here and here, I’ve also found a ton of great listens on the rainmaker.fm. In the publishing world today, being an indie author also means being an online marketer, entrepreneur, copywriter and more. I’ve found tons of gems from shows like Rough Draft, Unemployable with Brian Clark, Hack the Entrepreneur and more.

Facebook ads: Although I only began dabbling with them the last few months of 2015, using Facebook ads (with the help of Mark Dawson’s training course) helped me grow my author email list faster than breeding harem of rabbits.

Outlining: I’ve dabbled in this off and on after reading Anatomy of Story a few years ago, but I took it to a whole new level after ready The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne. This is a book I use as a reference every time I’m starting a new outline. Regardless of whether your write fiction or non-fiction, check out the website. There’s a HUGE amount of free resources that I guarantee will up your writing game.

I got back to a regular workout regimen: Although sometimes it felt like the last thing I wanted to do, I know that staying in shape helped me keep my sanity by giving me an outlet to blow off steam. Not to mention that your brain works better when the rest of you isn’t coated in a layer of fat. P90x3 was fantastic, but if you’re just getting starting, you’ll probably want to work up to it. Those workouts are killer. I also love the 7 Minute Workout app, which is great in a pinch and requires no equipment for its workouts. There are lots of different ones out there, but this is the one I use.

What didn’t go well

My plate was still WAY to full: In addition to Everyday Author and my indie fiction writing, I also started another new company (more on that later this month) in addition to holding down a full time job during the day, plus hundreds of volunteer hours with my county’s Search and Rescue. The result was a series of waves: I’d hit rock bottom, do nothing for a few days and be completely tuned out, then ramp back up and fire on all cylinders for a few weeks before crashing again. I got through it, but I really, really need to hone things down a bit more.

Keeping a schedule: As you can guess from above, I really struggled setting and sticking to a routine. This is going to be a big focus for me in 2016. A consistent bedtime will help me wake up early enough in the morning to get some personal work done before I have to switch focus to the day job. Hopping back and forth between the two over the course of a day has proved to be a recipe for getting nothing done at all.

wpid-imag0065_1-e1410915663557-960x913Derek Alan Siddoway ( D_Sidd) always thought he wanted to be a paperback writer. Instead, he broke into the self-publishing world in 2013 when he realized there had to be a better use of his time than writing queries to agents. Converted by the fellowship of indie authors, he never looked back. Now, he’s the Founding Father of Undaunted Publishing, a hybrid publishing house combining the best of traditional and self publishing, and the author of Teutevar Saga, an epic/historical fantasy series with a “medieval western” twist. Learn more at derekalansiddoway.com.

Now it’s your turn, everyday authors! Leave a comment below and tell me what went well for you last year (or what didn’t).  Feel free to brag about your word counts, sales or any other 2015 resolutions you achieved.

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