It’s intermission for Revision is My Favorite–I’m still doing my passes from a few days ago and that’ll probably continue through the next two weeks–so I wanted to talk about the tools I use for revision.
Analog methods: I’ve already shown you my notecards and post-it notes. And I track my word count, draft progress, notes, changes, etc in my bullet journal and WIP bible. That’s all I do by hand. I don’t typically print copies and go through by hand at this stage–I’ll probably do that closer to line edits with my editor.
So I’ve been using Scrivener for this book.
I want to love Scrivener. I really do. And I know there are writers who are fanatical about Scrivener. I’m not. Please don’t tweet me or leave me comments about how I should be. 🙂 I see the benefits! I totally get that it works for some writers. It doesn’t work for me most of the time.
But the drafting process for The Girl with the Red Balloon was tedious because I wrote Kai and Ellie in separate documents, copy-pasted into a master document, and wrote Benno’s chapters as an entirely separate document that I chopped up and dropped into the master document at the very end. It’s been three years and I can still remember that it wasn’t the smoothest process.
I tried that this time, but found it really difficult to draft this book that way, especially since 70% of this book is two timelines in two places. So instead, I moved the draft into Scrivener and made folders by topic/time period in the book and dumped all my chapters in there by topic/time/location first.
To avoid spoilers, I’m going to give you examples using Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. If I did this with HP1, I would do a folder for Harry Before The Letter; Harry After the Letter; Harry at Hogwarts Before the Troll; Harry at Hogwarts After the Troll; Harry at Hogwarts Going after Snape/Quirrell; Harry at Hogwarts after the Philosopher’s Stone.
From there, I made three folders: Act I, II and III. I started to move those chapters from their topical folders into a rough timeline of what I thought should happen. Then I reverse outlined, and moved chapters around again to make sense.
I don’t draft in Scrivener. I write in Word and copy-paste into Scrivener. I only do my initial plot/structural revisions in Scrivener, and then I export back to Word and do all of my revision passes in Word.
Word isn’t perfect. Trust me. I know. But it works better for the way I think in terms of revisions and draft, and I use Scrivener largely for the click and drag options.
I don’t think I’d use Scrivener at all for a linear or single POV book (like the middle grade I’m drafting right now). But for dual POVs or non-linear books, I can really see the benefits of working in Scrivener for all or part of the process.
I just discovered this tool via Francesca Zappia [link to Chessie’s site] and holy moly am I in love. This might be why I keep using Scrivener, even with my linear manuscripts. Especially since it syncs with Scrivener and I was able to click and drag things from the imported Scrivener binder onto the timeline.
Aeon lets you set dates, times, relationships and durations for events in your book. This might not sound like a big deal and for some writers, it probably isn’t. That’s fine! For me, this was crucial. It means if this one event has to occur 2 days after this other event, I can link them. When I move event A, event B automatically moves with it. And everything linked to those events fluctuates accordingly. It means I can ensure that I’m having my characters do or not do things on Shabbat (my characters in this book are Jewish) because Aeon knows what day of the week August 23rd, 1943 was or whatever date it is.
For each event, I can attach characters (and because I’ve added characters to the database for the book, it’ll tell me their exact age each step of the way–I won’t forget a birthday!), location, tension (!!! I haven’t played with this yet but I’m SO excited to do so). There’s a whole view mode where I can sort and filter by characters, or by tags–meaning, I can tag scenes by character relationship and track those to make sure that’s even and progressing the way I want it in the book. Or I can tag scenes with [SPOILER] to make sure I set up the hints and information or red herring properly along the way. Or find all the balloons in the book if I tag scenes with balloons.
There’s also a way to look at arcs in the book, but I haven’t played with that much yet.
It only took me about 20 minutes to learn (I googled a few things to get it to play nicely with Scrivener but other than that, it was deeply intuitive) compared to the hours it took to learn Scrivener’s basics (and I’m positive I don’t use all of Scrivener’s bells and whistles).
And right away, as soon as I clicked and dragged events, I found a massive time-jump in my book’s first act that I hadn’t “felt” just reading through and was able to reorganize to eliminate it, as not to lose the tension or create a “wait, what” moment in my reader.
It’s true love, me and Aeon Timeline, and I am 100% definitely using this for all future books.
The one downfall is the $50 price point might be beyond some people’s reach (it definitely would have been for me a year ago.) However, if you have $50 to spend or are willing to spend it now and write it off on taxes later (business expense! Keep your receipts!), I think this piece of software is well worth the money. It gives you a lot of bang for your buck.
Also, fantasy writers, you can set up your own calendar for your world in Aeon.
Now go pre-order Chessie’s fantastic upcoming contemporary ELIZA AND HER MONSTERS which has a bazillion stars, all very well earned, as a thank you for leading the rest of us into the light.
I know writers who think of playlists for their books like a religion. I made playlists for Second Position and Finding Center and The Girl with the Red Balloon, but I didn’t listen to them while I worked. They just were a fun side project/procrastination method.
I frequently work to just one song on loop to put me in a zone, preferably in a language I don’t understand so I can’t sing along or think about the lyrics. I’m particularly partial to Russian pop music from Dima Bilan and French-Senegalese rap artist MC Solaar.
But I’ve been using 8Tracks for years, and it’s one of my favorite places on the internet. I can find playlists made by other people (less time!) and go by mood for that day, all without buying more music. And I’ve discovered a TON of new, great music through this service too.
So if I want something moody for writing my two angsty boys in The Balloonmakers #2, for instance, I might type in “The Maine” (band) as one of the artists, and then do “writing” and “sad” and click on one of those playlists. You can only listen to a playlist once in 8 hours, but honestly, there are so many playlists that that’s fine.
I love 8Tracks and if you like listening to music while you work, you should definitely check it out. You can also find PLENTY of writing tagged playlists, fantasy tagged playlists, fandom tagged playlists, and music w/o lyrics for those who can’t hear lyrics while you’re writing.
I’ve talked about this app before, but I’m going to talk about it again. I would get nothing done if I couldn’t block Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram from my computer for large blocks of time. This free app for Mac (alternatives: Freedom, which works on both Mac and PC) saves my butt and helps me be productive. I need Self Control because I have no self control.
I hope one of these tools works for you! What do you use for revision?