Scrivener Features: Project Targets

Earlier this year, I was asked to give a talk on Scrivener to the May meeting of the Houston Bay Area RWA chapter.  When I finally got around to putting it together last weekend, I had done so little writing in the last couple of months that I found myself practically rediscovering the software.  The program more than proved its worth, if I had any doubts, when I used it to organize and write up my talk.

In the process I also discovered that it is very difficult to compress a piece of software as large and complex as Scrivener into a relatively brief presentation.  I probably confused my audience (which fortunately wasn’t large), but I got some laughs, and some questions, and two people in the group have told me they are trying Scrivener out, so I must have done something right.

If a tour of Scrivener is a stretch for an hour’s workshop, it’s certainly far too much for a blog post.  But one feature at a time, now that’s doable.  So let’s start with one of my favorites, Project Targets.  This little widget floats anywhere on your screen.  Project TargetsDepending on your point of view, and/or your progress on your manuscript, it will either inspire you or kick your butt (hopefully into gear).  Here’s an example lifted from my current work-in-progress; as you see, I haven’t been making much.

To use the Manuscript Target section, you simply fill in the number of words you’re shooting for in your manuscript, and the widget shows you how many words you have, and where you are on a scale of zero to completion.  The bar starts out red and gradually changes color as it fills in; it turns to yellow and then green as you approach your target.

The Session Target is for more immediate word counts.  If you have a personal target of x many words per day, or you need 5,000 words to meet your editor’s deadline, just fill in the number and Scrivener will tell you exactly where you are.

In the same section of Scrivener (the Project Menu), you will also find the usual word processing info.  Project Statistics gives you Words, Characters, Pages (Printed) and Pages (Paperback) for the complete project and for the document you’re working on.  The Options tab lets you adjust which documents are included in the project count, the word count per page, etc.  Text Statistics gives you Words, Characters, Paragraphs, and Word Frequency for the document you are working on.

Eyes lit up in the audience when I talked about Project Targets at our meeting the other night.  Clearly I’m not the only writer who needs a measure of her progress, and Scrivener makes it easy to see.

Now I just need to make some progress worth measuring!

Novelists5

Another Ride on the Golden Roller Coaster

Last fall as the deadline for the 2013 Golden Heart® contest drew near, I found myself wanting to throw my manuscript into the ring again.  I had been successfully resisting RWA chapter contests for the better part of a year, but I really wanted to enter the Golden Heart.  I had become a GH junkie.

But I didn’t have a new manuscript to enter.  I had a couple of old ones, good books, I believe, but probably needing some work, and I hadn’t looked at them in years.  I didn’t see anything to gain in entering either of my previous finalists, although that is permitted and some writers do it.  The book I had started was far too short to finish by the deadline (it still is).

That left Jinn & Tonic, a book I love, which had done well, but not quite well enough to make the final round, in (mumble mumble) previous Golden Heart contests.  Maybe, I thought, those first chapters could use a tweak here and there.  Well, of course they could.  I’m a writer.  And a rewriter.  I read these blog posts now and then and often find something to tweak.  Legend has it that Ernest Hemmingway used to track down his own published books in other people’s libraries and make corrections in the margins.

Giving Jinn & Tonic one more shot at the Golden Heart would also give me an excuse to bring it into sync with some of the world building I had done for Bathtub Jinn.  When I wrote Jinn & Tonic, I didn’t realize I might be starting a series, but the world of the jinn and their relatives expanded in the second book.

As I was considering my Golden Heart options (option, really), I was also dipping into Scrivener.  Why not jump in all the way, and use Jinn & Tonic as a practice piece, to see if the new software might make revising and editing easier?  So I imported the manuscript into Scrivener, set about tweaking, and in due time sent Jinn & Tonic off for one more shot at the Golden Heart.

Then I did my best to pretend it didn’t matter, even as I continued to polish the manuscript.  Why be greedy?  Why expect a manuscript that had not made the final round in (mumble mumble) attempts to grab the gold ring this time?  Who needed all that fuss, anyway?  I had a lot of work at the Scorekeeper, and for West Houston RWA.  I had manuscripts to judge for the Golden Heart in a category I don’t write.  I signed up for a Scrivener class with Gwen Hernandez.

And when announcement day came, last Tuesday, I stayed late at home, at my computer, just in case the phone rang.  I began to see emails announcing newly-notified finalists.  Early announcements.  Sisters from the Starcatchers and the Firebirds were finalists, and a friend, Lark Howard, from West Houston RWA.  By 8:30 I was thinking I should probably get out the door and off to work.

At 8:33 the phone rang.  As I picked it up I recognized the name of an RWA board member on the Caller ID.  I knew what it was, I had waited for the call, and I was just as thrilled as I was in 2011 and 2012.  Just as happy, just as dazed.  But this time, the third time, I was pretty sure it wasn’t a mistake.  After I saw the list on line, anyway.  (And HERE it is.)  A few minutes after the phone call, a friend on the RWA board sent me a one-line email: “So, how’s your day going?”

A week before the announcements I had dinner with friends before the monthly Houston Bay Area RWA meeting.  Cheryl Bolen said, perhaps a bit rashly, “If you get a call next Tuesday, I’ll go to Atlanta with you.”  Turns out she was serious.  Now we’re both registered for the RWA National Conference in Atlanta in July, and we have a hotel room reserved.  I’ve had a new picture taken.  I’m finishing my edits so I can pull Jinn & Tonic out of Scrivener (and yes, it is easier to edit with Scrivener than Word, but compiling the manuscript may be an adventure).

I have forty new sisters, my fellow 2013 Golden Heart finalists.

RWA 2013, here we come!

 

Party Season, and, of course, Books

I’ve been to three parties in the last week or so, more than I’ve been to in months; it’s the Christmas Party season.  One of the parties was actually a surprise birthday party, but part of the reason it was a surprise is that the victim–ahem, I mean guest of honor–was born on Christmas, not a good day for birthday parties.  So that lovely gathering was sort of a not-Christmas Party.

The other two were the annual Christmas parties for my two local RWA chapters.  For years we have played the White Elephant game at these parties, the game in which players steal increasingly strange presents from one another.  Frankly, it’s not a game I enjoy, and I’ve brought home enough ugly, tacky, and/or totally useless “gifts” over the years to last me a lifetime.  So when one of our group suggested we swap books instead of elephants this year, I was delighted when both chapters voted to try the change.

The plan was simple:  bring a book you’d like to share (or possibly get rid of), a novel you love, a writing book you’ve found useful, a strange book you don’t know what else to do with, etc.  The only rule was: not a book you wrote yourself.

Between the two parties (the membership of the chapters overlaps, so several of us attended both) we saw quite a range of books.  The big hit at West Houston RWA was Fifty Shades of Chicken, a rather unusual cookbook  (you can watch the hilarious book trailer here at Amazon).  Three copies turned up (the only duplicates at the party) and they were much in demand.  If we didn’t limit steals to two per book, the game might have gone on for hours.  One copy of Fifty Shades of Grey turned up at the Houston Bay Area RWA party; it wasn’t stolen at all.  The game produced a lot of fun and laughter at both parties, and I hope it will continue.

I decided to take novels I have loved, and I bought copies at Half Price Books for the parties because I would never give away my own copies.  In fact I took two to the West Houston party: one was an old favorite, one relatively new.

The older novel, written in 1949, was George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides, a post-apocalyptic novel set after a mysterious disease has wiped out most of the human race.  Stewart was a scholar (I have two of his books on American place names and given names on my research shelf) and he wrote other novels, but Earth Abides is the one still being reprinted.  I haven’t read it in thirty years or so–finding a recent reprint only made me want to read it again.

The recent favorite was Farthing, the first in a trilogy by Jo Walton, published in 2006.  Farthing is one of those rare books that simply blew me away when I read it, and it’s always hard to explain that phenomenon.  Set in the 1940s in a Nazi-flavored Britain, it combines a house party murder mystery with solid alternate history.  The three books in the trilogy (I have also read Ha’Penny, but I’ve been saving Half A Crown until I have time to reread the first two) are tied together by the Scotland Yard inspector who solves cases while keeping a very dangerous secret of his own.

To the Houston Bay Area party, I took a copy of Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, a collection of beautifully written short stories that any writer should enjoy, and a book I have always loved.

You may have noticed that I took three speculative fiction novels to share with my fellow romance writers, but then I’ve always read widely myself, and I think that’s a good plan for any writer.  Right now, though, it’s getting late, and I think I’ll go to bed with a good romance novel.

 

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries