Scrivener workshop – using a writing target word count

I am typically not a great planner when it comes to my writing work. I get the job done in a random fashion that bounces about from the start, to the end, to the middle, and all over the place. As a poor planner, scrivener has a number of features I have found invaluable to assist me in getting on with the task of writing a book. The project target feature is a great little prompt to help you keep on track with your writing targets, and to celebrate your progress along the way.

Accessed via the menu. Project | Show Project Targets

scrivener - show project targets menu

When I am writing, I have no pressing deadlines other than the ones I set myself. I usually pick a date and see how it comes out for the daily word count.

I write scifi, so I always pick a genre specific target for the whole book of 90K. Generally, I write 10k more than I intend, but hack about 10k out during editing.

This is the main Manuscript target box you see when you select the above menu option. It just floats like this over the top of you project, or as in my case, I drop it over the bottom corner of my second monitor.

scrivener - Show project targets dialog

It’s super easy to set up.

Select the options button at the bottom to show the next dialog. Here you can set your proposed date, writing days etc.

scrivener - show project targets - options

You can play around with the options to suit your preferences, but a few things worth noting.

  • I have some chapters which are potentially going to get chopped and / or are just bullet notes, so I tick the count documents in the compile only option to avoid muddying the count. You set the ‘include in compile’ against each folder (chapter). If you are not using this ‘include in compile’ feature then untick this.
  • Deadline – I like to play about with the target date and see what the word count per day pops out at. If you know roughly how many words you can achieve a day, you can work out a sensible target date.
  • I like to allow negatives. Sometimes when you are editing this can be a little disconcerting, but I still like to think about my overall target. If I chop out 500 words I just have to work extra hard to make my day’s count!
  • The writing days picker is good if you know you have definite days of the week you don’t write. I tend to just leave as is, and then write over-target on good days.
  • I use the default  reset the session count at midnight, but if you are a late night writer, you may prefer the reset on project close or one of the other session target options.
  • Tick the show target notifications if you want a happy little bong when you meet your target!

Once you are done in the options, click Ok, and head back to the main dialog.

Now Hit the Edit button. (It will then become Apply)

scrivener - edit target count

The manuscript word target can now be edited. After you have set the target words hit Apply. Your target session count will pop out.

Note: you can change words to pages or characters if you prefer. I like the default basic word count. (Click on words next to your manuscript target count)

I tend to jump in and out of the options to change the project deadline based on the total manuscript target until I get a realistic target per day.

I’m sure a target glaring at you from the corner of the screen will not work for everyone, but if you have not tried this feature yet, then you may want to give it a go. Writing a book is a long process and anything that helps you to celebrate the progress and the little wins along the way can only be a good thing.

I would love to hear from anyone already using this, and whether you find it useful or not. And anyone thinking of giving it a trial for the first time, let me know if it helps! 🙂

Divided Serenity Book Cover

Divided Serenity out now on all Amazon stores, and free with Kindle Unlimited.

The fear of losing your imagination

Everyone has something they consider to be their special gift. Maybe it is something you acknowledge privately, or something that everyone knows. Perhaps you are a great communicator, a loving mother, possess green-fingers, or something else.

I consider my imagination to be my special gift. Not that I think I am an amazing writer, or in someway uniquely gifted in this respect. It is more that I cannot imagine what life would be like without my imagination.

chaos-724096_1920

Our mind is a complex creation, filled with nuances and influences, hopes and aspirations. We feed it every second of our waking day, and give it freedom to flow unfretted every night.

But is this gift forever? Can we count on the way that it works now, to always be the same?

Sometimes I wonder if my imagination will abandon me. If I will sit down to write a chapter and get it a terrifying blank. I fear this; really fear this. What if I run out of ideas? What it my enthusiasm flat-lines?

So far this has never happened, and it is always waiting for me in whatever capacity I need.

I truly hope my imagination never leaves me, because it is something that I love, and I know that if it left me, I would miss it very much.

Mars—the only known planet inhabited solely by robots

I saw this picture today,  of the real life Wall-E out on Mars. Curiosity, has been busy doing his thing, in a surprisingly similar way to his fictitious counterpart, made famous by Disney Pixar. If a robot could look happy, I would say Curiosity was looking pretty damn happy right now. There is also a little bit of pride—look at me—the picture seems to say.

Wall-E

It struck me as a lonely life, if a robot could have such a feeling, but an industrious life all the same. Curiosity isn’t completely alone though, he has a few redundant friends such as Opportunity and Spirit, who also reside on Martian land, but there are no people, making Mars, as far as we know, the only planet to be inhabited solely by robots.

Below, Opportunity takes a shadow selfie. Those rovers know how to mix-it-up!

Sol180B_fhaz_rovershadow-PIA06739-full

There is something quintessentially human, about these robot selfies taken on Mars, and it is the nature of humans that we place our emotional nuances on unemotional objects, such as cute robot rovers.

Picture Source: Mars Exploration Rovers

Source Article: Curiosity takes a ‘belly selfie’ on Mars

Interesting fact about the picture: The Curiosity selfie is actually 92 pictures stitched together to remove the tell-tale, outstretched, selfie arm. Clever robot! aka NASA engineers 😉

Love Sci-fi and fantasy fiction? Love the Anti-hero?

Get Divided Serenity out now on all Amazon stores, and free with Kindle Unlimited.

Is your protagonist confused?

I may have mentioned this before, but I am a big fan of protagonists with dubious character traits. There is something about a blurry line that adds flavour to their character depth. In fact, if the protagonist was to stop and consider themselves, they would be firmly on the wrong side of that invisible virtuous line.

So in short—I like my protagonist confused.

So here is an interesting analogy to help in the confused protagonist debate: If you are the kind of person who goes to the gym 5 days a week, then going 5 days a week is no big thing. BUT, if you struggle to go once a week, then 5 days in a row is a pretty impressive feat. And so with our protagonist. The more reluctant they are, the more doing something good or heroic chafes, the more interesting it is when they are finally forced to comply.

As a reader, the more confused you are about the protagonist, the more the tension grows. Will they do the right thing? Are they capable of doing the right thing even?

And what about our antagonist? Are they wholly bad? Do they have redeeming qualities? Do you empathise with them at any point in the book? Perhaps their behaviour has been abhorrent, and then you discover a terrible secret about their past that casts new questions onto everything they have so far done.

There is a certain fascination with a good guy, who is far removed from being good. And likewise with a bad guy who is not completely bad.

Drive – the surprising truth about what motivates us

When we start out in life, we have amazing clarity on what we want to be. Perhaps we want to be a nurse, or a vet, or a firefighter. These simple needs or aspirations that we feel as a child can be forgotten as we grow up, and we loose sight of our deepest sense of purpose. Not everyone can, should, or will be as an adult, the thing we wanted to be as a child. But it is worth exploring this early career ideal though, because it is often surprisingly close to what we want and need as an adult.

This is an old video now, and I first watched it when it came out several years ago.

The concepts explained in this video remain true, and there is a surprising truth about what motivates us.

So, the surprising thing about motivation, is that it is only loosely related to money. We need ‘enough’ money, and once we have enough, our motivation shifts to a different level.

I spend anywhere from 10 hours upwards working on writing in my spare time, many weeks it can be as high as 20 hours. I am not alone in this, and my previous survey confirmed that many of my blog readers, just like me, can spend many hours a week working on their writing projects, with little or no monetary reward.

So why do we do this? Why use our precious time on something that pays so poorly, if it pays at all?

It all comes down to the three pillars of motivation.

Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose.

These are the things we want and crave. These are the things that get us out of bed in the morning, and keep us tapping away at our keyboards late into the night.

Autonomy – This is about the freedom to choose within the bounds of interdependence. In other words, given a set goal or objective, having the freedom to decide for ourselves how best to achieve this can prove to be powerful both to our performance and our overall wellness.

Mastery – We want to improve. This really is the bottom line. Find me a writer who has just written a great book, who doesn’t want to write an even better one next time – enough said.

Purpose – This is our energy, and is derived by connecting our conquest to our higher purpose. I have blogged before about living your life purpose. It sounds like a cliche, but if we know what our life purpose is, and we can find a way to make it a part of our working or home life, then we are well on the way to living a happy, fulfilled life.

For more on the subject see The Three Pillars of Motivation

For more on finding your life purpose see How to find your life purpose

I will leave you with a thought and a question. What did you want to be when you were a child, and does it relate at all to what you are doing now? Can you see any connection between what you love doing now, and what your childhood aspirations were?

15 questions to reveal your ultimate purpose in life

Writing Cliches! – How to avoid them

We all know that cliches should be avoided like the plague, but that can be easier said than done. They can be a thorn in the writers side, and hard to spot when you can’t see the wood for the trees.

Groan…

Yes writing in cliches and / or writing a story that plays out like a cliche will make your readers groan.

Where do cliches hide

  • in common phrases or words – there may have been a few above 😉 . . . How about twisting one up? Saying the same thing from a fresh perspective? Some great examples here Rewrite (and Rev up) Cliches
  • in the story plot – the computer geek who becomes a ass-kicking ninja . . . what about an ass-kicking ninja who becomes a computer geek?
  • in the stereotypes we apply to characters – drug lords wear designer suits and speak with an Italian accent . . . how about a school teacher who is dying of cancer? Hmm worked in ‘Breaking Bad’.

So, cliches are not all bad, and can actually be used to innovate and invigorate your plot, characters and even your prose.

Have you tried playing about with writing cliches? How did you break the cliche mould?

How to achieve your dreams by setting realistic goals

Everyone has dreams and aspirations, places that we want to be physically, mentally, or spiritually that wrap themselves up into this thing called a goal. We all have different degrees of commitment to these goals, and different levels of likelihood in achieving them. For example a 90 year old man may have a dream of becoming a NASA pilot, but this is probably not going to happen in reality. However, a 5 year old kid who is passionate about planes and dreams of being an airline pilot, has every chance of achieving this with the right level of determination, and the mental/ physical capability to back it up. In other words, your goal has to be realistic.

I asked myself what my goals were professionally and personally, and whether I had clearly defined them.

Ok, yes I had.

Then I asked myself how determined I was to achieve this goal, and how likely attainment was to happen.

Ok, yes very determined, and yes, I do believe it is very likely to happen. It was inevitable even.

I found that the more that I thought about it, the more impossible failure seemed.

I have always thought of myself as a person who drifted through life, but I realised that in fact I did not, I simply moved slowly, and with a ‘practical’ and ‘realistic’ lens towards what I wanted to achieve. I was surprised to find that I felt full commitment and determination to achieving my dreams.

So why was I feeling so confident?

If you have never heard of the business motivation model, then it’s something worth looking up. This paper is on the ‘heavy side’ but I will show you some of the high-level principles here which are pretty quick and easy to apply.

There are 4 Major steps to set yourself up for success in achieving your dreams, and I promise these are super easy to do 🙂

  1. Set your Vision and Mission
  2. Establish your high-level strategies
  3. Set high-level goals
  4. Set low-level focus goals

STEP 1: So what is the business motivation model and how does it help us to achieve our dreams?

Well it all centres around what you want to be i.e. your vision or end goal.

Feeding into this is your mission. The mission is the means to your end.

In other words the mission is the shift that needs to happen to take you from where you are now to where you want to be.

So a vision or end state might be

<Be a top 100 author in my sub-genre>

<Be the best pizza company in town>

A mission or means to achieve this might be

<Sell>< my books>< on Amazon>

<Sell><Pizza><City-wide>

<Action> <Product or Service><Market or customer>

mision to vision

See, I told you it was easy 🙂

Now, you are probably thinking, OK that doesn’t help me very much, it’s pretty obvious I am not going to be a top 100 author unless a sell some books.

So this is where we further break the vision and mission down into high level strategies, and goals.

STEP 2: The strategies sit under your vision. They feed up into it. For example to be a top 100 author I will need:

  • a social media strategy
  • a writing skill strategy
  • a reading list strategy
  • a writing strategy
  • a publishing strategy
  • a marketing strategy

If I am going to be a successful writer, I am going to need all of these things for certain. Your strategies stay non specific, or non measurable i.e. they are just a theme we use to base our goals around.

STEP 3: Your goals, sit under you mission, they are measurable, and they are aligned to our strategic themes. This is where we start to see something tangible. The moment you put some numbers against it, you have something to aim at. Some example goals could be:

  • increase your blog following from x to y by z date (for social media strategy)
  • complete a literary writing course by a set date (for writing skills strategy)
  • complete a new book every year (for writing and publishing strategy)

These are all measurable things, tangible things, and clearly defined things.

STEP 4: If you want to, you can break these high level goals down into shorter term or focus goals.

For example if you have a goal to complete a writing course, then you may break this down into the following focus goals:

  • researching courses and finding suitable course
  • booking course
  • attending course
  • completing course modules
  • passing course

There is something quite magical about ticking these short-term goals off. Especially when you are aiming to do something as slow moving and long term as becoming a published author. But with any goal you have in life, it is really important to break-up the bigger task into manageable chunks, so you have the opportunity to stop and appreciate how far you have come at each step along the way.

People who set short term focus goals are much more likely to achieve their high-level goals. Ultimately, they achieve their vision. They stay motivated!

Now, we are getting somewhere! And by now you are probably thinking, why don’t I just get right into setting my goals and focus goals? Why do I need all this vision, mission and strategy stuff.

Well the reason is:

  • Unless we know where we want to be, how will we ever know when we get there?
  • If we don’t have a clear vision of what our success is, there is a real risk we can get sidetracked and end up in a different destination, or worse, simply not get anywhere at all.
  • Life is full of roadblocks that halt progress, and it will be much easier to adapt if you have a clear idea of where you want to be.

As we move through our journey towards achieving our dreams it is important that we make constant checks along the way to ensure we are still on track, and that we are still heading where we intend to. Adjusting the course is easy if you spot when you are drifting off it early on.

SMART Goals – setting up for success

Each goals (whether the high level or shorter term focus goal) should be SMART. Which stand for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant/realistic and Time constrained.

By <DD/MM/YY> I will <do x>

My personal feeling is that if you know what you want to achieve, and you know how to break this down into steps along the way, and you are realistic, you will ALWAYS achieve you ultimate vision.

If you are not a great planner, then this is a really simple way to set yourself up for success.

You can take this further by looking at how you allocate time to each of the goals so you get the right mix of effort against them i.e. it is really easy to loose yourself in social media to the detriment of actual writing! I know busy authors who keep a tight schedule to make sure they give each of their strategies the right amount of time. I will look at this in the next post.