Novel stuff and Scrivener

Happy new year!

I have not been posting a lot, for a Really Good Reason: finishing work on the werewolf novel.

The current title is Waking up Naked in Strange Places, and I can’t decide if it’s different and groovy and catchy or just too weird and long, so I guess I’ll keep it for now. I finished a draft right at the end of Orycon, a few people read it and told me helpful things, then I started looking into how to sell it to someone.

Query! Synopsis! Blah! This is not my favorite part. I have found a few examples of successful queries and synopses online, which gives me some idea of the format and the rhythm. But so far, all the examples are for novels that sound boring to me and if I were an editor I would never buy them. So I’m worried I’m missing something.

A little research told me that 140,000 words was a bit much for a first-time novel, so I decided to chop it to under 110,000 before trying to sell. Surgery is hard. I hope it was more like liposuction and less like accidentally cutting off it’s head, but I have a couple of new readers who I hope will be able to tell me that.

(PS: if you read version 1 and would like to see version 2, just ask. I actually think it’s not only shorter but a bit of an improvement, especially the climax, but again, I could be wrong.)

I wrote the initial draft in Word, but at a certain point in the surgery process I realized that Scrivener for Windows existed (well, in Beta) and switched over to that.

It is, in a word, awesome. What I really wanted it for was to easily get word counts of individual scenes, or chapters, or sections, or whatever. But I got addicted to the ability to quickly jump between individual scenes, or between the manuscript and a list of character names.

Basically, it is the first word processing program I have encountered that is really any more useful for a novelist than a plain text editor.

So far, only one thing I tried hasn’t worked — when I compiled the manuscript in .rtf, I couldn’t open the file it produced in Word. So I compiled it in .txt instead. Since I didn’t have internal formatting like underlines, all I had to do was globally format the text. But if I’d had internal formatting, it would have been annoying. I will assume the .rtf issue is a Beta thing.

Another super cool aspect of Scrivener is the way outlining is integrated organically into the manuscript. A Scrivener project is made up of a bunch of different content files (as many as you like) and each content file also has a title, a synopsis, and notes, as well as other meta-data. The files are organized in a document tree on the left, with the content in the middle and the meta-data for whatever document you’re working on arranged on the right.

(This arrangement is particularly pleasant on my laptop, which was sized for wide screen movie viewing and has a lot of horizontal space .)

So, in my document tree, I have section folders, with each section title describing the major action that occurs there (things like “Denouement” or “So and so gets killed”), and within that are chapters, and some of the longer or more complicated chapters contain individual scene files. So it’s really easy to go from big picture to picky details and back again.

This was me outlining an existing novel, obviously, but I hope it will be just as useful to outline before writing. My current outlining process isn’t really outlining, or even synopsis-ing (see this Jay Lake post), it’s brainstorming. I focus in on the project and type a bunch of stuff as it occurs to me, so what I end up with is a stream of consciousness thing with back story and plot and snippets of dialogue and action and thematic ideas and notes to myself all mixed together, in the order in which I thought of them.

I think that Scrivener will make it easy for me to extract the stuff in the brainstorming document into a usable outline. I can even export just the titles, or just the synopses, or both, and get a nice outliney-looking outline to send to an editor or whatever.


  1. I love Scrivener, been using on the Mac for a couple of years. I think of it as being the writer’s equivalent of a programmer’s IDE (Integrated Development Environment). Right down to the point of ‘compiling’ the manuscript.

    1. Author

      That’s a fun way to look at it. I don’t normally think of programming and writing as being that related, but…

  2. yay, good luck! If you want to see the query letter I used, let me know and I’ll email you.

    1. Author

      Oh, thank you! That would be great. I suspect that one reason so many of the examples look boring to me is that a lot of them are for the romance market. So far I only found one query example that was for urban fantasy.

  3. Good luck with getting your novel published and please keep us informed (May be able to arrange some press coverage)

    1. Author

      Thanks! You guys will be the first to know!

    1. Author

      Thanks, I hope an editor feels the same way.

  4. Kudos for all the work you’ve been doing on the novel, and yeah, best wishes in finding a publisher for it!

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