Everything I Use To Write, Produce, and Launch In A Nutshell
This is going to be a big blog (took me two weeks to write it, lol), but not near big enough to say what I want to about each resource here. I will put a list at the end of all the software and websites I use to make it easier for those who don't give a flying fart in space what I have to say about them and just want my treasure.
First of all, let me say two things: One, I don't like people who find GREAT assets and don't share them. Two, I get why they don't. It took me YEARS to get where I am now (which is still nowhere, I might add) and just HANDING over the good stuff I got from time, effort, and pain to someone feels really bad. I tend to be a launching pad for people who shoot way past me, so I decided to put together a list of everything I do/use to produce my books from the blank page to reading the finished hardback in my hands while listening to the audiobook (yes, I listen to my own books. I think my books are great >.< I wasn't always this way...)
There is no writing software like Scrivener for me. There are bunches out there and some might be "better." If you have a better one, good for you. However, I am an old dog. It took me years to unlock half of Scrivener's power and I am in no place to learn a new writing software when I am this engrained in Scrivener.
Why do I like it?
Because I am visual and organized to the point of insanity (I literally have a doctor's note now) when it comes to my writing. Scrivener allows me to keep EVERYTHING I use to write (mega plotter here) in ONE place. On multiple screens within the interface. I often write with my chapter in one pane and something like a list of gods (SO hard to remember every god, heaven, and hell in the Runer series) in the one right below. I often write with the chapter in one pane and the outline in the bottom one.
I also have tons of research, images, scene ideas, things to remember, and character sketches (with goals listed in them) all right there.
Scrivener also divides up your novel into bite-size workable chapters or scenes (I do chapters as I need all the scenes to flow together and I feel I'd make chapters too long if each scene had its own doc). I divide my novels into acts, parts, then chapters. You can then export it into Word, Vellum (yeey!), or almost any other format. It puts in the scene breaks (if you used them) and chapters, already numbered.
Scrivener is now also useable with ProWritingAid! I used to copy and paste chapters into Word and then into PWA. Not anymore!
Scrivener also supports websites being dropped in, images, links, and so much more.
I love it because I put everything I need to write in one place, in the same interface. That really works for me.
2. Save the Cat Beat Sheet
I don't use this so much anymore, but a few years ago, I couldn't plot without it. I never stuck strickly to it as each book has its own ebb and flow, but it does help keep you moving and stop you from lingering too long on getting to the meat of the story. I made my own modified version that has things in it like "foreshadow here" and "Put in hint here that will become exposed in part 3." I also used it to plot out series, since each book kind of needs to move the overall plot forward.
Why Do I like it?
Because it helped me understand pace and flow. So many books are slow these days. Or have too much unnecessary info. Some authors that are big can get away with it because they make thousands and have millions in their fan base. Indie authors don't have that luxury. So I used the Beat Sheet to keep me (around...eeshk) 100K words and to keep goals, obstacles, and character growth in focus rather than letting the worldbuilding and characters run away from me. I wanted to say a lot and say it well. For shorter books (like my upcoming YA paranormal horror DarkFront Witness) I don't use it at all because they are too short and I won't get lost. If you are a writer who still gets lost (which is fine, no shame) then I suggest using the 50K beat sheet to keep focused.
I often use the Beat Sheet when I mentor writers through my freelance. It works well for them because those writers are generally new and don't know what a plot point is, how pacing works, or when you need to slow or when you need to speed up. As with all things, with writing more, you'll get stronger. After writing 20 novels, I feel like I am just now getting my footing.
3. ProWriting Aid
If you have written anything ever in your life that you have turned over to other people and you DON'T have PWA, what are you even doing?
Yes, yes, it's an AI, a software, it's not perfect. If you think running your manuscript through ANY editor that is not human and expect it to be good, you have a lot to learn. It will mess up your paragraphs if you don't know grammar or sentence structure and you just accept every suggestion it throws at you. However, it is galaxies ahead of other editing software.
Why Do I Like it?
It tells you CREATIVE writing edit suggestions. First off, I have a bachelor's degree in creative writing and a master's in rhetoric and writing. I have tutored and taught English for over a decade so I know what I'm doing. But PWA gets creative writing.
It has special settings for Sci-Fi, Fantasy, literature in general, academic writing, business, and technical writing (which I never touch). It also spots spaces where you are missing a word, which is The Big One for me as someone who CONSTANTLY leaves words out when I type (my brain is faster than my fingers and I write about 90 words a minute). It catches my 'teh' and the new 'dindt' that my fingers are fond of.
It also tells you where you can tighten up your writing and stop using passive writing. I was recently complimented on using only five unnecessary passive instances in The Trial of Two and I was pleased someone noticed. I try to get other writers to take it out of their writing, but they don't see what's wrong with it. Use PWA and a human editor to take it out and learn how to change it, and I promise you, you will never not notice it in other people's writing again and it will annoy you.
PWA also does track changes in MSW docs and is now integratible with Scrivener! You can open a MSW doc in PWA, make changes, and it will save them IN YOUR ORIGINAL DOC. That's amazing. It does so much more, but those are the big ones.
4. MS Word
This one is pretty obvious. Recently, Scrivener has been missing my spelling mistakes (but it's still the best thing ever!). I often do once overs for spelling when I export my Scriv files.
Why Do I Like it?
Because I hate Google docs. I love Google docs for convenience and I use the crap out of my Google Drive (it's my hard drive away from home). When I taught uni, SO MANY students tried to turn in their G-doc to TurnItIn and it got all messed as a PDF for some reason and jacked up their formatting (which I am a huge stickler about when it comes to academic writing). So they lost lots of points because I got this weird Frankenstein essay turned in to me.
I like MSW because it's basically still universal. It does a lot of things as well like formatting and some neat tricks. But I like that everyone uses it still (and I will die on the No Google Docs Hill). I export my Scriv files to MSW to send it to my editor so she can track changes and handle it in her comfort. I will say, I do NOT copy and paste each chapter back into my Scriv file so the Scriv file goes out of date the moment I export that doc. That's important to remember.
I work in that MS doc up until I dump that finished manuscript into Vellum.
Oh, Vellum how I love you and do not miss the abusive relationship I had with InDesign. Or the price I had to pay for InDesign.
Vellum is a Mac-only formatting software that is worth every penny. It has come a long way since I bought it a few years ago and is mega versatile now. It formats everything: ebooks, pdfs, and print. Yes, it does have its limitations outside novels, but that doesn't apply to me. You do have to finagle it to make sure your interior looks unique, but that's easy with GIMP and a bit of creative thinking.
Why Do I Like It?
If you asked me to give up Scrivener or Vellum, I wouldn't be able to choose. I love them both so much.
First off, let me say I use Vellum in tandem with GIMP. I make my own headers, images, interior artwork, and other page decorations (showing here is Prince of MidWest! I'm so proud). I use the measurements Vellum gives me to make appropriate graphics at the right size. However, it's gotten easier to put in headers now that Vellum has been updated.
I would cry if I had to pay for one more service for my books. I pay an editor, I pay beta readers, I pay my cover artist, I pay my narrators, I pay for marketing...If I had to pay for a formator, I'd quit. I would literally not be able to afford it. So this is why I love Vellum.
And it's a ONE TIME payment. No FREAKIN' subscription. I swear...
I can do everything I need for my novels and it looks good doing it. The first book I formatted in Vellum was "Why They Killed" and I was SO proud of the title page and all that jazz inside. Vellum even makes box sets for ebooks!
You can do everything you need to make a professional-looking book in Vellum. I choose to go an extra step with creating my own inner graphics to give them a unique look. I do this because I CAN spot a Vellum interior these days. I know the fonts, the layouts, the dingbats--all that. But that doesn't mean it's not worth it.
For novels, it's the best freakin thing.
Oh! And it has a spell check too!
I debated putting this on here but figured I would since IT'S FREE and very powerful. I use it to make all my graphics. I draw in it, edit, make covers (which I am still learning and after the backlash over how trash people thought the Ziyad cover was, I am trying harder with my very limited knowledge) and make dingbats and other interior decors. I did make the Prince of MidWest cover myself and I think it's a bit better. It's just another thing I need to learn how to do to cut costs. I am proud of the DarkFront Witness covers which will be seen later next year (part of one showing here. Wave to Huck, everyone!).
Why Do I Like It?
If it's free, it's for me!