Back to Square One: My New Work in Progress and Scrivener

NIF front cover 9-2-16After I published Now I’m Found in late September 2016, I found myself at loose ends with my writing. I still had to draft regular posts for this blog and for another blog I author, but for the first time in ten years, I didn’t have a novel that I was in the process of writing.

On each of the three novels I’ve published (the two historical fiction I’ve written under my own name and the contemporary thriller I wrote under a pseudonym), I wrote a draft, put it aside, started another book, put it aside, went back to an earlier book for another edit . . . and the cycle continued until each book felt ready to publish. And finally, all three novels were published.

I learned as I went—how to craft a story arc, how to deepen emotions through dialogue, internal monologues, and even descriptions of the setting, how to foreshadow later developments in the plot. I also learned about self-publishing—how to format both print-on-demand paperbacks and e-books.

But as of October 2016, I was back to square one. A blank page.

I decided to write another book about the Oregon Trail. In fact, I am using some of the minor characters from Lead Me Home as the protagonists in this novel. Mac and Jenny, the protagonists in the earlier two historical novels, are the minor characters in this new story.

This work-in-progress is both easy and difficult. It’s easy, because I know the timeline—the overall plot was set in Lead Me Home, though the focus in this story is much different. And I’ve done most of the historical research that I need for this novel. For the most part, I’m having fun confronting the blank page—I know where I’m going, even if my characters don’t.

But I am seeing the trek to Oregon through an entirely different lens. Actually, I’m seeing it through six lenses. I have (at the moment—this might change) six point-of-view characters. In Lead Me Home, Mac and Jenny were the only POV characters, so this new story is more complicated. Who should have the POV in each scene? Do I have to rotate consistently? Have I forgotten to let one of them have a voice? I’m still working on the answers to these questions, but I had many POV characters in my thriller, so I have some experience with the technique.

scrivener-logoI am also trying to work almost entirely in Scrivener. I’ve drafted my blogs in Scrivener for over two years now, and I used Scrivener to convert Lead Me Home and Now I’m Found into MOBI and EPUB formats for e-books. I know the basics of the program. But I am determined to learn more about Scrivener’s capabilities as I write this new work-in-progress—that’s part of my motivation in taking on a project that doesn’t require a lot of new research.

I want to do a better job of outlining my story arc in this book, rather than having to sculpt the story into an arc after I’ve written a draft or two, as I’ve had to do with my prior novels. Scrivener’s outlining and corkboard features are a big help. I already have the major turning points in the novel set, and I’m filling in each section ahead of my drafting.

Scrivener is also helping with the POV tracking. I can use different colors and labels for scenes in each POV.

I’m also learning a lot about Scrivener’s compile feature, because each week I have to export a chapter from Scrivener into Word to send to my critique partners. I don’t have it down pat yet, mostly because of my carelessness. But my group isn’t complaining too much, and I am at the point where I can compile a decent product to Word with a few clicks. Then I just need a little clean-up before emailing it to my colleagues.

When I get to the point of formatting for print-on-demand, I will probably switch to Word for the detailed work. I know many authors export from Scrivener directly to a PDF for CreateSpace, but I am not confident enough of my formatting knowledge in Scrivener, and I know Word very well.

But then, formatting to publish is a long way down the road—I’ve only drafted the story from Independence, Missouri, to around Grand Island, Nebraska, on the Platte River at this point. That’s about 25% of the book. And I know how far along I am, because so far I’ve stuck to my outline pretty well. I’ve just passed the first turning point in the story.

I guess I have learned something about story arc in the last ten years, if I can recognize a turning point on the first draft.

Writers, do you use Scrivener, and what do you think of it?

Posted in Writing and tagged , , , , , , , .


  1. Every time I decide to attack the big S monster, I end up scurrying back to the safety of Word. I can’t believe I said that. Word used to be the monster when I made the leap from Word Perfect. Don’t know if I’ll live long enough to conquer the S monster.

Leave a Reply