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! 🙂

Building conflict – the dastardly life of a writer #amwriting #writerslife

I’m with Bugs Bunny every time. Well, maybe not necessarily the swift part, I’m okay with revenge of all kinds in a book.

And so should every writer be

Building conflict is a natural part of writing. Take every opportunity to drive a little more drama for our heroes and heroines. Explore every option to pile on the pressure, take away safety nets, and keep your readers guessing at motives and intent.

It isn’t always easy to provide surprises, but that doesn’t mean you have to make it easy for the reader. As the saying goes the first draft is you telling yourself the book. Once you know the way the story will play out, walk through again and generously sprinkle red-herrings, weave subterfuge, and turn up the heat.

Yes, we need the balance of the good, the empathetic, and the kind, but they will shine so much brighter if you dump a little darkness on the other end of the scale.

Surprise yourself with just how dastardly you can be.

Cultivate a ‘What if’ mentality.

  • What if I pull this leaver?
  • What if I break that?
  • What if he is lying?
  • What if she is telling the truth?
  • What if I take away this?
  • What if this happens?
  • What if this doesn’t happen?

You’re a writer,  you need to give your inner bastard some air time.

Be mean. Be cruel. Be utterly wicked.

Think of the worst possible thing that could happen. The thing you would dread. The thing that would make you yell ‘NO’ if it happened to you.

And then do it.

And then do it again.

Happy writing conflict 😈

Why feedback is so important… #writing #amwriting #writerslife

I was recently reading On Writing by Stephen King. It’s one of those books you dip in and out of and even re-read. While I love his candid style, it is something else within this book that I want to reflect on.

The importance of nurturing young minds

I have always been a reader; my earliest memories are of sitting with my head buried in a book. People would buy me books, my mum in particular bought me a huge number as gifts. I would read my favorites over and over again. I was never much of a writer when young though, and it wasn’t until I left university that I started to dabble in writing myself.

Whenever we come to the writing life, whether as a child, a young adult, or an older adult, we come to it with a measure of vulnerability.


“She (his mother) said it was good enough to be in a book. Nothing anyone has said to me since has made me feel any happier.”

~Stephen King, On Writing.

We all need someone to believe in us.

One someone is usually enough.

Just someone.

Someone whose opinion holds weight, whose opinion matters.

That doesn’t mean feedback should be sugar coated. It must be genuine, and better if it comes from someone who is circumspect with their praise. Most people, young or old, have an inbuilt detector for the disingenuous. False praise will fall flat, but the praise we have worked for will lift us up to a special place.

It’s also about timing. We are all vulnerable at times in our life, and that maybe when we are young like Stephen was when his mother read his first story, and it might equally be when we are older.

So, I am going to amend my above quote and say that there is an importance to nurturing all minds.

All writers are equal and different

I realize everyone is different, and that some writers might need greater nurturing than others. Some might even be comfortable with their own magnificence and need very little nurturing at all.

I think most writers are imperfect perfectionists who are never really satisfied with what they produce and are always seeking to do better.

And I think all writers need someone to believe in them. I know if someone offered me an option to have a hundred dollars or a hundred reviews from people who enjoyed my work,  I would pick the reviews every time.

It doesn’t matter how many books you have written or how successful you are as a writer. Success is subjective, after all. But I love that Stephen Kings greatest source of writerly pride was getting a quarter for his first book from his mother.

Guest Post: Today I’d like to talk about sports…& writing! @JasonJMcCuiston #SCIFI #amwriting

Today I’d like to talk about sports; specifically how they can make you a better writer of genre fiction. I think most of us (and I know this is a stereotype) who write sci-fi and fantasy are much more comfortable in a library than in a gym, or more at home at a tabletop playing an RPG than on a hardtop playing basketball. I speak from experience. No one will ever mistake me for an athlete, but that didn’t stop me from trying.

Let’s face it, in genre fiction, there are a lot of sports. As Grandpa says in The Princess Bride: “Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…” You get the picture. “So?” I hear you say, “How does that apply to me and my writing?” Well, I’m glad you asked. I’ll give you some examples from my life.

I played high school (American) football, so I know what it feels like to take a bone-jarring blow to the helmet. I know that smell of blood you get in the back of your sinuses when you get your bell rung. I know what it feels like to have the instep of your foot touch your inner shin (not good). I know what it’s like when opposing forces in pads (the modern equivalent of armor) crash together and try to break each other’s lines. I know how a field smells and feels different in the rain from one that is sun-scorched or nearly frozen with frost. And I know how it feels to see one of your closest friends carted off with a serious injury.

I played rugby in college, so I know what a femur sounds like when it snaps in half (a gunshot is a close approximation), and how the scream afterward is even worse. I know what it feels like to have your shoulder torn out of the socket. I know what my lungs and legs feel like when they’ve got nothing left to give, but somehow find a way to run one more sprint and pile into one more scrum. I know how thirty alpha-males act when they try to kill each other for an hour, and then party like brothers until the dawn (I will go to my grave believing that the spirit of the Viking raid lives on in modern times as a visiting rugby club).

I also took karate and kickboxing in college, and wrestled in high school, so I know what it’s like to grapple with another human being in close quarters, smelling their breath and their unfamiliar scent as they try to hurt or defeat you. I know what it feels like (because I didn’t make weight that week) to wrestle a giant. I know what it feels like to get hit so hard that you can’t breathe and your vision goes dark and hazy. I know how it feels to throw so many punches that you wonder who’s really taking the worst of the bout.

I am into target shooting, so I know that a real gunshot is RIDICULOUSLY louder than on TV and the movies. I know what burnt gunpowder smells like. I know that after a day at the range (or, one can imagine, a lengthy battle) your hands are black with burnt powder. I know that when an ejected brass casing hits your skin it feels like someone trying to put a cigarette out on you (or so I imagine – thankfully, that is one thing I have not experienced). I know how a gun can malfunction in different ways, and how to safely fix the problem. I know that real gun experts are never nonchalant with weapons, no matter how “cool” they might be.

So you see, sports can lend a level of verisimilitude to your writing that it might otherwise lack. Even if you just go for a walk or a hike until you can’t take one more step, that’s useful information you can draw on the next time you write about a long and arduous journey. Do as many pushups as you can until you want to puke, then you’ll get a sense of what your character is feeling when she is pushed to her physical limits. Run as fast as you can for as far as you can, and maybe you can use that when you write about your characters fleeing the alien invasion. And if you go out for a team, you might make it, and then you’ll learn about the camaraderie and fellowship of folks who push themselves and each other to be their best. That certainly can’t hurt, right?

So yeah, sports.

About our guest blogger…

Jason J. McCuiston was born in the wilds of southeast Tennessee, where he was raised on a healthy diet of old horror movies (both classic and of the B variety), westerns and war movies, comic books and old pulp magazines, sci-fi and fantasy novels, and, yes, Dungeons & Dragons. He attended the finest state school that would have him where he studied art before coming to grips with the hard truth that his heart just wasn’t in illustrating other folks’ stories. Following his matriculation, he embarked on a whirlwind tour of underpaid and uninspired career paths until finally realizing that all his forays into role-playing games, comic books, and creative design were merely the manifestation of his innate desire to be a storyteller.

So for the next twenty-odd years, he slogged his way through the jungles of terribly amateurish prose, waded the never-ending streams of form rejections, navigated through the cyclopean obelisks of scathing (yet often constructive) criticisms, and finally climbed the daunting peaks of Personal Growth, Craft, and Skill in search of his goal: the fabled Shangri La of becoming a published and prolific author of speculative adventures.

He can be found on the internet at:

His story, “The Wyvern” can be found in Pole to Pole Publishing’s new anthology, Dark Luminous Wings. It is a post-apocalyptic steampunk horror story set in the skies above a Mojave Desert filled with magic and dark memories.

His first published story, “The Last Red Lantern” can still be found in Parsec Ink’s Triangulation: Appetites anthology.

A world in a book #amwriting

“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”
― Anne LamottBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

8 Things that make a writer happy #amwriting #writer

Sharing our favourite book

Writers love to share their favourite books

Dreaming up a new plot twist

end of the world
Bookshops

writers love bookshops
Quiet time to write

A simple guide to planning a novel

Learning how to improve our writing

The art of writing
Completing a draft

snoobybanner
An idea for a new story…that we can’t wait to begin

light at the end of the tunnel
The perfect writer’s nook in which to craft our words and worlds

The perfect writer nook