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! 🙂

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.

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.

Even monsters read

I cannot imagine a life without books, or the modern take on books…my trusty kindle. When we sit down with our books the world around us fades away. We are pulled into another time and place, where our imagination turns the ordinary into the extraordinary.

As a child we are taught that trolls live under bridges waiting to gobble up unwary travellers, we are taught that a frog can be turned into a prince with a kiss, and we are taught that the ugly monster under our bed may want nothing more than to borrow our book.

As an adult our taste can shift away from the fantastical, and we seek something much more diverse from the books we read. We can enjoy anything from a biography that lets us see through the lens of a real persons life, to a fantasy novel not so different from some of the stories we enjoyed as a child.

The books we read can make us laugh or cry. They can shock us, or surprise us. They can take us for a wild ride.

In the world without imagination, there are no monsters under our bed. I guess some people prefer that simple, unfettered life.

But I’m planning to spend a lot more time, in a place where even monsters read.

What goes on inside a writer’s mind? #writers #writingcommunity #writerslife #amwriting

Writers are simple creatures, we really are. Give us a small, space, make it quiet or noisy depending on our preference, throw in food and beverages every now and then, and we are happy.

A computer and a note pad are always useful as we need something to jot ideas down on…and to write on.

When I’m writing, I forget about everything. In fact, I really hate it when something ‘real life’ important rears its ugly head and demands my attention.

I sometimes worry about myself!

But mostly I worry about writing.

I have two lives. The real one and the imaginary one, and sometimes that line can get real blurry. You find yourself saying things your character might say, and then you wonder whether you are losing yourself inside your character, or if your self is being lost inside the character.

I find it particularly disturbing when I start to sound like the male characters from my book. Does this mean I write feminine male characters?

Do I need to seek counseling?

And what the heck does it matter?

Is there even anything even separating the old stereotypes of men and woman anymore?

Maybe it’s good to mix it up!

Sometimes my mind goes off on a wild ramble…

I forget about real people when I write, but every now and then they pop up and remind me, and it takes me a few minutes to center myself.

I don’t forget about my cats…well one of them anyway because he is extremely noisy and lets me know if there are insufficient quantities of bickies in his bowl.

And writing is such a long process, and terribly frustrating. It feels like every little stage takes forever and it makes you so impatient, and being impatient is not conducive to quality writing…and then you end up editing it to death and feeling even more impatient and frustrated!

But every now and then you write a sentence or a paragraph, and it is so damn beautiful that you wonder how the heck you dragged that out of the sorry ramble that your tapping fingers produced during the other 99% of the time.

You can get lost in that sentence, find yourself re-reading it and admiring it like you’ve just discovered you really do have a soul.

The rest of your draft is still a shocking mess, but you’re a writer, so you focus on the positives.

And then there are other writers. Those appalling folks who keep writing good books that you can’t help but dip into the moment they come out. You’ve written 200 words today, you should reward that effort by reading a couple of chapters from your favorite author’s new book!

There’s a flaw in this plan because no one ever just reads a chapter. Nope, that’s not going to happen.

So in answer to the question, what do writers think about…everything and anything…we walk among you and yet we are not really present.

Don’t hate us, we can’t help it. If you want to know what really goes on inside our head, you’ll have to buy our books 😉

Happy reading and writing 🙂

Do writers know what they are doing? #writingcommunity #amwriting #plotting #plottwists

Yes, I admit this is a bit of a provocative statement, and sweeping, but I wanted to address an argument I was having with my Husband.

And why not use the internet? Nothing like airing your domestic disharmony in public!

This isn’t a new argument, we have been over it a few times and he’s just not seeing my point of view, even though it’s about writing and I’m a writer and he’s not! So I thought I would get the writing community to wade in on my end. Just in case there is any confusion here, I am a woman and it’s a given that I am always right 😉 Right?

To give some context for this, my husband is an extremely logical person…and I’m, ah, not. I mean I can be logical sometimes, but mostly I take leaps and jump from events to conclusions. I don’t want to get into the nuances of logic v emotion. But in short, I’m comfortable that there isn’t a ‘plan’ or even a ‘logical’ progression to the way a story plays out.

So what was this burning issue provoking domestic disharmony?

Well, it’s George R.R. Martin’s fault.

Specifically Hodor.

I’m really hoping most of you are at least familiar with GoT, but in case you are not…there is a character called ‘Hodor’ and all Hodor says for many seasons is ‘Hodor’, doesn’t matter what folks say to him, situation, stress levels or emotional state, all he says is ‘Hodor’. I think it is season five or six where we discover why this is.

My Husband: That is so amazing, George R.R Martin must have planned this from the start.

Me: I seriously doubt it.

Now, it’s quite possible he did plan it…I’m open to this option. Writers do plan stuff. I plan stuff, but it’s more of a fuzzy framework in which to play, and I change my mind as I go, and add bits, and I blatantly ignore said framework when a new, more interesting, idea pops up.

And I make connections to old seemingly insignificant details all the time.

It’s one of the reasons I think colorful, if somewhat inane details, are so important to a book, because they facilitate connections later down the track. I am always doing this, some minor detail I wrote right at the start will suddenly present itself as a plot twist. It’s part of the process and it’s the way writer’s brains work.

I’m sure someone has asked George R.R. Martin if Hodor was planned right from the start, and perhaps he was. My argument isn’t about whether or not Hodor would always ‘hold a door’ from the moment he arrived on the pages of that draft all those moons ago. But it is possible that he wasn’t, and it is my firm opinion that writers do take strange quirks and details and repurpose them later.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Have you ever planned a major twist right from the very start?

Have you ever stumbled across a plot twist as you were writing, pulling in an early event or detail and repurposing it towards the end?

Happy reading and writing 🙂

…and for those who want the answer to the burning did he / didn’t he question.

How Does Game of Thrones Author George R.R. Martin Really Feel About That Hodor Reveal?

Writing – where do you start #amwriting #stories #creativewritng

I have been writing for so long now that it is hard to remember where I started, but writing does start somewhere—it starts with a daydream.

Daydreaming is awesome.

There is something wonderfully fresh about a new daydream. When the blank space opens up to allow the industry of imagination to begin. The ideas that take hold can go in many directions.

That’s OK.

When it starts you have no preconceived  ideas or constraints.

dog dreams

You know it’s the one

Life is full of daydreams.

Some are better than others. Some are worthy of a second look.

You know it’s the one when your conscious and subconscious keep coming back for another visit.

You explore it, you examine it. After a while you just know it’s right.

It's the one

You have to start somewhere

When you find a new story, it is so hard to know where to begin.

Do you plan? Plough right in? Decide the end? Character profiles?

Aaaarrrhhhh!

chasing dreams

Finding your flow.

After a while you stop worrying about the plan, the beginning, the ending, your characters, because they all just sort themselves out.

You strap in, get ready, and prepare to enjoy the ride.

wild ride

Why readers love the underdog #writing #amwriting

In all aspects of life, people are drawn to the underdog.

  • the geek who saves the planet and gets the girl/boy, while the jock is passed by.
  • the outsider team with part-time players who topple the mighty favorite with the money and star players.
  • the ‘David’ meets ‘Goliath’.
  • the poor farm boy / girl who becomes the great warrior / saves the universe / becomes the hero of the quest.

There is a reason why we love the underdog, and it all comes down to psychology.

As a writer, understanding the reasons and psychology behind our love of underdog characters can greatly help us when we are crafting our work.

Why do we love the underdog?

1. Challenge

As the saying goes, no pain, no gain.

The greater the effort required, and the closer, more nail-biting the ending is, the greater our sense of fulfillment and achievement. While there’s nothing wrong with natural talent (who doesn’t want it), stories are not made out of millponds, we need challenges that require a gargantuan effort to overcome.

And our trusty underdog delivers.

2. Reverse psychology

When we back a ‘winner’ that gives us the same euphoric winning feeling. So, while the underdog by definition is the least likely to win, we have been conditioned by the stories we have read, watched and heard to expect the underdog to win.

3. Pleasure at others misfortune.

Yes, humans are sick bunnies. This is the whole reason why shows like ‘the office’ are so popular. We love watching other people fail from the comfort of our safe lounge chair. Evil hands are rubbed together as our hapless hero faces an uphill battle just to stay afloat.

4. Equality

You are all sighing in relief now! No, humans are not completely evil. While we love to wallow in the misfortune of others, there is a huge thrill when the underdog perseveres, overcomes their many misfortunes, and endures challenges along the way….as long as they succeed.

And in those few stories where they don’t succeed, we often feel cheated.

Life and society is full of ebbs and flows.

Great civilizations rise and fall, and the only thing that is certain in the uncertain nature of the world, is that nothing stays the same.

The top team will not remain the top team for ever.

Good and evil.

Power and poverty.

Every dog will have its day.

How we love to love the underdog.