Blog for budding Sheikhspeares entering National Novel Writing Month 2006

November 04, 2006

Novel writing software

Previously I was writing my novel in one long Word document, and things were getting really unwieldy. After a few thousand words, it gets hard scrolling backwards and forwards. Unless you are one of those rare people that write from A to Z in a completely linear process - frankly impossible for something that needs extensive plotting and writing "backwards", like a thriller or detective novel when you have to work out how to reach the end.

So I did a bit of Googling, and found a superb currently freeware (it's in beta) programme called Scrivener. It lets you organise things into sections and chapters, which you can move around, and you can group things very easily. Scrivener is a Mac programme, but there is bound to be loads of similar software for Windows.

The best thing so far has been arranging my chapters into sections (I won't use these sections in the final novel, they are just for my organisational purposes now). I found that things divided quite naturally into five roughly similar sized sections, which I am hoping is a good thing. My sections look like this:

1. Arriving in Dubai
The main character arrives in Dubai, and gets to start work, and we meet various other character and protagnoists.

2. Settling In
The plot start to unravel here, more characters meet one another, and we learn more about Dubai and the general situation. The section ends with a Big Event (a murder!)

3. Weird stuff happens
Through various coincidences, the innocent protagonists get caught up in the main plot, as generally happens in a detective novel/thriller. It starts to affect them: they get burgled at one point, for example, and there are more key meetings between the heroes and the characters that they don't know yet are villains. This section ends with a Big Event (another suspicious death).

4. Investigations begin
In this section the protatonists have realised they are caught up in something, and actively start to investigate it. The tables are turned in a sense, as the people who hunted them in the previous section now become the hunted. The section ends with a Significant Discovery (the MacGuffin, if you will.

5. Final stages
In the final stages, the protagonists are now hot on the trail, and the danger is escalating. This is where we get the capture and the intrepid escape and such like, leading to the final denouement and conclusion.

I doubt all these sections will be the same length at the end, it may even be that 1 and 2 get somewhat merged, as they are less "exciting". But for now it's a very useful mental and physical way to organise things.

Another thing this software does is help with character continuity. While it may seem the easiest thing in the world to keep track of a few characters in one novel, the reality is that even experienced authors make mistakes. Having a place where you can create character profiles, and then cut and paste any significant details you later write about their life, or their looks, is very helpful.


Blogger BD said...

Intersting detail. I like seeing how your story develops. I find myself working chapter by chapter, where the chapter title pretty much guides the writing process. Each chapter is then distinct enough to almost be a stand-alone reading. The trick, of course, is to make sure that it all connects.

Nice to get the Mac tip.

05 November, 2006 00:45


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