Scrivener – my best writing buddy

scrivenerPlotter or Pantser, sooner or later I reckon you could do with Scrivener.

Plotters plot, and Scrivener lets you plot with a Corkboard feature, which has little index cards that you drag around. Each card represents a scene or chapter or chunk of your writing, and if you move it around, that chunk of writing moves around seamlessly in your manuscript. Magical.

Pantsers ….pant(?) well, no, they don’t. Pantsers do things by the seat of their pants, like me, but that way chaos lies. Chaos is messy, much like my housekeeping skills (so I guess there’s a bit of a clue there), but you can’t live in chaos forever. Well – I can’t. And that’s where Scrivener comes in.

My messy manuscript got loaded into Scrivener a while ago, split into scenes, colour coded (yes there are many opportunities to play and procrastinate with this software), and is now more manageable and even has a structure.

I’d been using the Index card method  suggested by Alexandra Sokoloff, and it made a lot of sense – but so unwieldy!

I even took a photo of my index cards. Who’s got space for all that on their wall?

plotting using index cards

The only drawback to Scrivener so far? My computer is terminally slow, and Scrivener is quite a hungry beast, so things don’t happen nearly as quickly as I’d like them to. Plumber Husband is working on moving all our data up into the ether, so the speed problems might be sorted out. Or is that the wrong sort of memory? Tut, tut, completely clueless.

And talking of procrastination, Scrivener  can randomly generate some pretty cool names too, which is always worth a play. These are Scandinavian/Swedish.

scrivener name generator, random name generator

It’s available for Mac or PC, and like any new software, there’s a steep learning curve, but you can skip through the tutorial to find the bits you need, I don’t use all the features anyway.  The Corkboard is so easy to use,  you can just jump right in after the tutorial and start moving those scenes wherever you want.

And the best bit – there’s a free 30 day trial, which is any 30 days, so why not give it a go?  Let me know what you think of it.



A Technical post – CloudBerry Explorer PRO

TPlumber Husband likes to sort out all our data storage, well, maybe he doesn’t like it, but he has to, as I’m completely inept in that area.

Anyway, he’s very pleased with this new CloudBerry software, which helps us manage our photos, videos, and various manuscript versions (!) up in the Amazon S3 cloud.

Over to him, since plumbers can write as well as plumb –

“Having joined Amazon S3 cloud storage for our data, we needed a program to manage and upload the data, the Amazon desktop was not user friendly and after checking the forums discovered CloudBerry Explorer PRO. There are others out there too, I tried a couple of programs including this one and it just felt right.

There were a few teething problems and I emailed the team and started a dialogue listing my problems and general questions. I suggested some improvements that hopefully will be implemented in the future. I have to say the experience was good, a quick response and they never tired of my replies to their comments.

I can strongly recommend this and I have been using it now constantly for some weeks. I have been uploading data constantly and by shortening the number of files that are uploaded at once, they call it streaming, it seems to work better, perhaps a faster BB would prevent this.

Moving data to Glacier was a cinch with this program, the S3 program was not that simple but here no problem.”


World Book Day – dressing up

World Book Day

There’s a rather curmudgeonly story by Dominic Casciani,  on the BBC’s website, where he  takes a dim view of the costume wearing side of World Book Day. He’s of the opinion that WBD has ceased to be about reading, and is now all about the dressing up.

I couldn’t disagree with him more.

Although the local schools have non-school uniform today, they also have authors visiting, and illustrators, and the day is all about BOOKS. Granted, children love dressing up, but I don’t think that’s all they take from the experience. Across the country, schools are holding special events and activities – book based activities. If dressing up adds to the excitement, then so much the better. Costumes can be home-made, or shop bought, and since lots of characters in contemporary books wear ‘normal’ clothes, they can come straight out of your child’s wardrobe.

But looking back, and ignoring the years when they were Rainbow Fairies or Disney Princesses, my girls made some really interesting costume choices. They have been:

  • Araminta Spook, a spooky little girl who lives with weird relatives, bats and ghosts, by wonderful children’s author Angie Sage.
  • Harry Potter. Yes, that’s right. Not Hermione. Harry.
  • Stephanie from Skulduggery Pleasant, a real kickass heroine, with a nice line in sarcasm.
  • And my favourite of all, complete with big red beard and an angry fairy with a frying pan – Mr Gum. I really, really loved that costume.

This year, being a lot older, the girls opted for Bella from Twilight, and Grace from the Shiver trilogy – both contemporary outfits. Not a lot of planning was involved, and this seemed to be the trend for the older children. Walking the dog, I saw several Katnisses, dressed in jeans and hoodies, indistinguishable from normal weekend clothes, not a bow and arrow in sight.

But I had to smile when I passed a Wally, of Where’s Wally fame.  Such a simple outfit. Sheer genius. And it featured hilariously in episodes of Miranda.

I’m all for dressing up for WBD. It’s fun. It’s book related. And it’s memorable, for the parents and the children.

Who knows…..maybe one day, kids might dress up as a character from one of my books…..


Homemade Christmas Decorations

All our best Christmas decorations are home made. They’re special because we put our time and creative energy into making them, often with scraps left over from other projects.

Here are a few of my favourites –

Christmas decoration, 8 maids milking

Eight maids-a-milking from The Twelve Days of Christmas carol.

The maids are peg dollies, their skirts made from paper and doilies. The cow has his own little bell, rescued from a Lindt reindeer that was consumed a previous year 🙂


He has a nodding head, and his body is made of a plastic milk bottle. Poor thing, his legs are a bit wobbly with old age, but Rudolph’s been coming out to play every Christmas for the last 7 years, which is pretty good for something we cobbled together with papier mache and a milk bottle!

The Gingerbread House.

Shiny cardboard overload on this one! We’ve got glitter, jewels, metallic card, cotton wool, and cardboard tubes all dressed up like candy canes. So over the top – I love it!

We don’t make all our decorations, but those are the ones we ooh and aahh over every year, the ones that come with memories

We also let the girls choose a new tree decoration each year, one for each of them, and I put a little label on each one saying which year we bought it. It’s part of our lead up to Christmas ritual.

I think a lot of people do this now, and there was a lot of thought and deliberation going into the choices being made at the Garden Centre last night. The girls took nearly an hour making their decision!

What about you? Do you have any special decorations, or rituals for this time of year?



Nano towel throw

It’s official. I’m throwing in the towel.

pink towel on black floor
It’s November 30th tomorrow, the final day of Nanowrimo, and my word count stands at a little over 30,000 words.
That’s a Nano fail.
I feel kind of bad about it.
I was so sure I could make it happen – I even wrote a rather boastful (in retrospect ) post about how I could handle everything family life threw at me and still make that word count.
How little did I know.
My Nano novel started out like this….

See that lovely clear path.
Straight as an arrow.
But, oh yes – up on the horizon there – see that? That’s right. A great big, tangled, old wood – all dark and forbidding.
And that’s what my nice, clear cut little Nano novel did to me – turned all dark and nasty and tangled.
I couldn’t make sense of it. Characters were rushing here and there with no clue what was going on, and speaking atrocious dialogue while they were doing it. My healthy 1,700 words a day habit was under attack. The manuscript was all CAPS LOCK, which is my way of adding a note mid- write.
Yikes. There was no write. It was all NOTE MID-WRITE.
But I ploughed on. Just slower.
I guess that’s ok.
It feels like a fail, but there are 30,000 words of a new novel sitting on my hard drive that didn’t exist a month ago.
I’m not giving up on it. I’ll probably finish by Christmas. And then I’ll hide it in a drawer until I can bear to look at it again.
Kristen Lamb has a great and inspiring post called Nanowhat now where she talks about exercising self discipline. Basically – small steps and build on it. Nanowrimo by its very nature flies in the face of that good advice. You need big steps, and lots of them, to make 50,000 words in a month.
If I learnt anything in November, it’s that I’m not ready for big steps yet. But little steps, five days a week?
That I can manage.
How about you?
Are you a Nano winner? What does that feel like? And are you happy with what you’ve written?