Tag Archives: writing process

Plot Your Novel: My Favorite Novel Writing Tools

Plot Your Novel: My Favorite Novel Writing Tools

If you’re an indie author, you’re always looking for writing tools which will help you to plan, plot, write, edit, and publish your books fast.

Every novelist is endlessly busy because today, productivity is vital. As the saying goes, you snooze, you lose.

Authors often tell me that their biggest challenge is getting organized. You can’t keep all the details of a novel in your head, and when you sit down to write, you want to get creative, and write.

So, let’s look at my favorite novel writing tools which help me to stay organized. You can use these tools for your other writing as well, of course.

Disclosure: you’ll find no affiliate links in this article, nor do I have any connection with the developers of any of the tools mentioned.

Writing tools for your novel

My favorite, indispensable writing tools include:

  • Scrivener (of course, always)
  • Trello (wonderful for plotting and blogging)
  • Evernote (my traveling filing cabinet)
  • iMindMap (currently my favorite mind mapping tool)

All four tools are available on your desktop machines (Windows and Mac), as well as on your devices.

Scrivener: bright and shiny and new — version 3 available for Mac, coming soon to Windows

Scrivener writing tool

I’ve been using Scrivener since 2005, when I made the switch from Windows to Macs. It’s helped me to become much more productive that I would have been without it.

Does it have a learning curve? Yes, and no. I’ve found that the learning curve arises when:

  • Writers try to get Scrivener to behave like MS Word;
  • Authors imagine that they need to “learn” the app before they can write with it.

Yes, Scrivener is powerful. And yes, you can make it behave like Word (sorta, kinda) but you don’t need to know everything there is to know about it, before you use it to write. Some features you may use occasionally, others you’ll never use.

For example, a few weeks ago, I started using Scrivener’s Scratch Pad — I thought it would help me to do something I wanted to do, and it did. Many Scrivener users never use Collections, but I rely on them totally.

Use Scrivener your way. Play with the app’s Tutorial (accessed via the Help menu) and write.

If you’ve never tried Scrivener to write a novel, and you know you need to get organized, give the app a try.

Hello Trello: lay your cards on the table

Trello writing tool

If you’re a visual person, you’ll love Trello. It’s like having endless boxes of digital index cards — which are much more powerful than paper cards.

I love Trello for plotting novels, and for writing blog posts. When I’m working with students, I create a new board for each course.

Evernote: take everything you need to write your novel with you

Evernote writing tool

I think of Evernote as my traveling office. I stuff anything I think I may need when I’m out and about into Evernote, and I can write — or give presentations — anywhere.

I’ve been using Evernote since 2009; it’s an essential tool to store and organize my research. It works brilliantly with iMindMap. I create lots of mind maps, and at the end of a writing session, I save each map as an image, then I drag the images into one Evernote note.

By flicking through the maps in the note, I can plot and write novels anywhere.

iMindMap: out in a new version, better than ever

mind mapping

While there are dozens of mind mapping programs, iMindmap has become my favorite over the past couple of years; it just keeps getting better.

Mind maps help me to think, plan, and plot. By the time I’ve completed a novel, I have one master mind map for the novel, and anywhere from ten to 20 “child” maps, to handle the various stages of plotting:

  • Set up — first 25%;
  • Preparing for the midpoint;
  • The midpoint;
  • The big twist at 80%;
  • The climax.

By looking at my mind map for any stage of the plotting process, I can see where I am at a glance: which scene, where the scene takes place, the time, the characters involved, and their conflict.

I also create mind maps for the main characters, and another mind map for secondary characters.

Good writing tools are essential: they make you a better writer

Think of writing a novel as if you’re building a house.

Not only do you have to create a blueprint for the structure, you also need to create the bricks, lay on the utilities, and decorate the house.

Whenever authors have problems with their novels, it’s usually because they’re trying to do several things at the same time. That doesn’t work. Use your writing tools. Do one thing at a time. Your creativity will thank you, and you’ll write more and better novels.

Have fun. 🙂

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Heart To Heart: Romance Writing For Beginners

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New Author: 4 Tips To Help You To Write Your Novel

New Author: 4 Tips To Help You To Write Your Novel

You’re a new author, and you want to write a novel — a good novel. Perhaps you’ve already started writing.

You’re excited, and nervous. So far you’ve managed to shout down all those voices in your head which tell you that writing a novel is hard, that you don’t know enough, that you don’t have time… and on, and on.

Take this to heart: baby steps.

New author: want to finish your novel? Take daily baby steps

Nothing blocks a new author as quickly as the knowledge that he’s “writing a book.” Avoid thinking that.

Here’s why. Even a short novel contains at least 40,000 words. At 250 words a page, that’s 160 pages, give or take. A year from now, after you’ve written a book (or two books, if you catch fire) 40,000 words may seem easy-peasy. A stroll in the park.

However, for a new author, when the realization hits that you’ve written five pages and have 155 more to write, the thought of writing all those pages makes you cringe.

Instead:

  • Tell yourself you’re creating a title for a book you may want to write one day, or not…
  • Describe a character, who might appear in your hypothetical book, one day;
  • Imagine your new character in his daily life. Close your eyes. Can you see him? What’s he doing? Write it down.

Think “baby steps” — and write every day. It took me many years to stop thinking about “writing a novel”, and chunk a novel down into simple and easy daily tasks. Baby steps help you avoid drama and procrastination, and make writing easier.

Here are some tips to help you to write those words with brio.

1. Have fun: if you don’t have fun, readers won’t either

Many years ago, when I was writing my first novel, I though that writing was hard. Nevertheless, I love to read, so I was convinced that I could write a novel.

It took a multi-book contract from a major publisher before I realized that:

  • If I wasn’t having fun, or was bored, it came out in the words, which meant red slashes from my editor’s pencil, and rewrites; so…
  • I decided to have fun — to entertain myself.

Not only did the writing flow more smoothly when I was writing to entertain myself, I got far fewer slashes from the editorial pencil.

Moreover, I was eager to get to my desk to write each day.

Have fun.

2. Experience your novel, so that readers will too

In a similar vein, think of your novel as a series of experiences. Readers read to experience your novel.

In my career as a ghostwriter, occasionally someone asks me to write a horror novel, or a serial killer thriller. I refuse, because I can’t read those genres with pleasure. Why would I want to put myself through those kinds of experiences?

You’re a new author, so you’re very focused on the words of your novel. Make it your goal to get beyond the words as soon as you can. Aim to put your readers right into your novel, seeing through your main character’s eyes, to experience what he experiences.

3. It’s all about the characters: what’s your main character’s flaw?

From Characters in Fiction: Love Me, Love My Flaw:

How many people do you know who are perfect? No one’s perfect. We all have flaws – many of them. So characters in fiction need flaws too. Creating a flaw which works can be a real challenge, especially if you’re new to writing fiction.

While all characters are based on aspects of their creator, if you’re a new writer you’ll create characters who are Mary Sues or Marty Stus: idealized people, representations of yourself, and your counterpart of the opposite sex.

To avoid this, focus on a character’s flaw.

Here’s my favorite list of character traits. Pick a flaw (one or two for each character in your novel) which you can SHOW readers.

4. Ramp up the tension (you may not be able to do this in your first draft)

As a new author, your primary goal is to keep readers reading.

Here’s how. Use open loops.

From Write Fiction For Readers: 3 Tips For Narrative Drive:

Open loops are psychological strategies used most often as copywriting tricks. They’re hooks and unanswered questions. You can and should use open loops right throughout your novel.

Many novels use a rapid cutting technique of a series of cliffhangers — open loops. The author places a character in a tough spot, and leaves him there for a few scenes. When the author returns and rescues the character, he’s closing that loop, so he immediately opens another one.

As we’ve said, until you’re an experienced author, you’re unfamiliar with this strategy of writing to keep readers reading, so be happy to make this a goal when you write your second draft.

Also, in your reading, watch for open loops, and how authors use them.

And of course — have fun. 🙂

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Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99

I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.

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Writing Success Secrets: How To Conquer Self Doubt, And Achieve Your Writing Goals, Starting Today

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Resources to build your writing career

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Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.

How To Begin Your Novel Without Going Crazy: 3 Tips

How To Begin Your Novel Without Going Crazy: 3 Tips
Not sure how to start your novel? Perhaps you’re like my students, who procrastinate on their novels’ beginnings. I wrote this article for my students. If you feel that your novel’s beginning isn’t what it should be, I hope that these tips will help you too.

Your novel: who wants what, and why?

I’m a confirmed pantser; that is, someone who starts a novel as the mood takes them. I just start writing. However, I keep three things in mind:

  • Who is this person I’m writing about?
  • What does he or she WANT, and …
  • WHY does he or she want it?

Once you’ve settled on those three things you’re well underway, but you’ve still got a major nuisance… how will you begin your novel?

These tips will help.

1. Start after the beginning: start anywhere you like

Writing the first few pages of your novel is intimidating. I know that if I read page one of a novel while I’m browsing in a bookshop or on Amazon, and hate the first page, that’s all I’ll read.

You need to hook your reader on page one.

How do you do that?

Trust me, you’ll figure it out, but usually not until you’re well under way with your novel.

For years, I hated starting a new novel because of what I called the Page One Dilemma. Should I start right in the middle of the action (always a good thing) leaving explanations of who the characters were, and what they wanted until later, or should I:

  • Create atmosphere first;
  • Start with dialogue;
  • Make a foreshadowing statement…

I’d play around with beginnings day after day, until I got sick of myself and kept writing, figuring that I’d fix the beginning once I knew more about the novel I was writing.

Finally, I decided that any novel’s beginning was immaterial — all I had to do was BEGIN writing, and keep going. Sooner or later I’d figure out the best beginning.

And I always do. You will, too. 🙂

2. Frame your novel with a prologue

Prologues have gone out of fashion, but that doesn’t mean that you should avoid them.

I think of a prologue as splashing something vivid onto the page. I may discard the prologue completely later, or I may incorporate it into the body of the novel somewhere, but a prologue gets you started with a bang.

Consider how “prologues” are used when you’re watching a movie, or a TV episode. Law & Order for example always starts with someone’s murder, or serious injury. If you’re writing a mystery or thriller, you might begin with the murder too.

Think of your prologue as:

  • Setting the mood of your novel;
  • Foreshadowing a major event in the novel; and most importantly…
  • As something you write casually, which you may or may not use in the novel.

3. Writing the ending of your novel FIRST

I love writing endings first, because I know that the ending will change. So you can write the ending easily enough; there’s no pressure.

However, once you’ve written the ending, you’ll find that you’re on fire to start your novel. And you’ll get started, without thinking about it, because the ending is “done.”

Yes, this is a psychological trick you play on yourself, but it’s a good one, and it usually works.

Try this simple strategy if you’re finding that starting your novel is a huge challenge.

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Happy writing. 🙂

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99

I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.

More info →
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Inktera
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

eBook: $5.99

Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters.

More info →
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Amazon Kindle

Resources to build your writing career

Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.