Writing Software Worth Investing In: Aeon Timeline

Though I’ve yet to be published, I’ve written a great deal of manuscripts, all of which are still work in progresses. Characters and plots are always buzzing through my mind as a result of this, but to make matters even more confusing, all but one are linked in the same universe. It hadn’t been intentional – it just sort of… happened. A side character became interesting, or sequels just appeared out of thin air, or the new group of characters I was working with told me they existed in the same timeline and world.

So, when all of these plotlines started to cross over and interfere with one another, I knew I needed a way to keep them all straight. Random pieces of paper shoved into the pockets of my overflowed writing binder (my current plot-outlining method) just wasn’t going to cut it anymore.

It was as this point my friend and fellow writer, Lyndsay, introduced me to the writing software, Aeon Timeline. Though there has been a second version of this software which has come out since I’ve purchased it (and I’ve yet to get personally), there are still so many features I find extremely helpful, and I think you will too. All of the features I’m writing about in this version are available in Version 2, though their set-up and details might vary slightly.

Aeon Timeline is first and foremost a timeline software designed to help keep whoever’s using it organized. For writers, this in unbelievably helpful because you have a place to keep track of all the events of your plot and information about your characters. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve found my character doing two different events at the same time. Without Aeon Timeline, I might not have realized this error ever – or at least it would have taken much, much longer.

arcs in aeon timeline blurred

What I think I love the most about Aeon Timeline is the ability to have multiple story arcs within one document. In the picture above, all of the arcs are listed in the left-hand column. The arc titled Global is the default found in Timeline. All of the events which are found in this arc are able to be seen no matter which arc you’re focusing on at the time. In the case of a multi-story universe (like I have), using these arcs makes it possible for me to view every single one of my events together to make sure things coincide in each respective story. I can’t stress how much this has made my writing that much more accurate for dates. Now I know where all of my characters are (no matter the book they’re in) for every single event that ever happens in any of my novels. Currently, I’ve got my arcs set out for each set of main characters it follows since I’m working with a multi-story universe, but really you can break it down even further. If you have a book with lots of sub-plots, each of them can be assigned a particular arc and voila, everything is now organized.

Want to know something that’s even more awesome? There doesn’t seem to be a limit to the number of years available to you in your timeline. It could be as short as two days, or as long as a thousand years, and Aeon Timeline can do it.

noah

Events and character ages are found together for convenience

Another feature, though small, helps me out so much when I’m story-plotting. Aeon Timeline has a way of viewing the age characters will be at the time of events. You also have the option to choose whether each of your characters (called Entities in Timeline) are participants or observers of the event. In my example to the left, the coloured-in green circles means that particular character is a participant in the events, and the outlined white circle means they are the observer. This feature is a nifty little thing that helps keep your plot organized and structured properly.

aeon timeline inspector blurred

 

The inspector function of Aeon Timeline is the one last feature I’m going to talk about here, though there are many others I know I could go on about for much longer. Basically, the inspector feature allows for you to see details on events. All you have to do to view it is click on an event in your timeline and then click on the little ‘i’ icon near the top right corner of the program. Once in inspector mode, you can view and/or edit the duration of the event (in a choice of years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds), when it starts and when it ends, it’s title, label (the colour it appears in the timeline), what arc it’s in, as well as adding any notes you may need to remember about that event. When you’re working with a lot of plot points and characters like I do, having a tool like this to either make quick changes on the length of an event or add information reminding me of what happens here is quite convenient. The note function works well too for when you’re still in the plotting stages and maybe have just a few quick ideas you want to jot down about what’s going to happen in the scene when you’re writing it.

So there you have it. A couple of quick facts about Aeon Timeline, a wonderful software I recommend every writer gets their hands on. If you or anyone else you know has experienced other aspects about Aeon Timeline and wish to share your experience, please comment below. Or if any of you writers out there have Version 2, I’d love to hear about some of the new features available exclusively to it.

As always, keep writing everyone! And to those who have just started participating in the April Camp NaNoWriMo session, good luck and I hope the words are flowing wonderfully for you!

Until next time.

 

 

 

When You Don’t Know Where The Story’s Going

It’s happened again. I’m pantsing a new writing project.

Now, in case there are some of you out there that don’t know what pantsing is, let me give you a quick sum-up. Pantsing is a style of writing where the author doesn’t have any real sort of plan of the story when they start to work on it. Basically, it’s when you’re literally flying by the seat of your pants, hence the name.

The opposite writing style is plotting, which is fairly self explanatory, I think. If you want to know more about these polarizing writing styles, I wrote an article a while back on the matter. You can find it here.

So as I was saying, I’ve begun to work on a new project, and like a similar issue I’ve had before, I don’t know much about it other than a couple of characters and a few scenes. What is different that last time? Well, this time I know what’s going to happen in my story leading up to when the male and female leads finally meet. As a sidenote (which the context is important, I think), my characters don’t actually meet until well into the plot of the story. There’s a lot of character development and plot which showcases their lives separately. Let’s just say I have a feeling this piece is going to be a long one.

Since I’ve been there before, I have a few tips I think may help first-time pantsers who are all probably crapping themselves at the scary and murky plot which awaits.

  1. When you think of something, jot it down. I’m serious. Literally anything that can pertain to your story. A character, a plot, a conflict. Just write it down. You never will know when you might be able to use it.
  2. Use timed sprints to jolt your creativity into action. I find that writing for fifteen or twenty minutes without any interruptions really helps, especially when you don’t have anything particular planned out. Doing this allows for your characters to speak out for themselves and since you’re writing without distraction, you can find that you stumble on a new plot point.
  3. To go with the previous point (though this is a tip I suggest for all writers in general), don’t edit as you write. Just write the draft. You can come back to it later. There’ll always be time for editing. The flow of the actual writing, now that’s harder to keep going.
  4. When you do find you get stuck, try thinking of something else. Think of what you already know about your characters or the plot you’re working with. Draw from that. Maybe there’s a small scene you know you want to work on. Do it. The point is to just keep the writing flow going. Just write something.

As for myself, I still have many questions involving my story that are nagging at me. The mystery lies in what will happen after my characters first meet. How will they react to one another? What will their first impressions be? I know there’s going to be some sort of romantic relationship between them eventually, but how will that transpire? Who will make the first move? Will they stay together or will their chemistry flame out?

Thankfully I’ve been here before, so I know what to expect. And I hope that for all you first-time pansters out there, you’ve found a little bit of comfort or serenity in the suggestions I’ve made here.

If anyone out there can think of any other tips or suggestions for pantsers, please comment below. I’d greatly appreciate it. And as always, keep writing everyone.

Until next time.

Writing Software Worth Investing In: Scrivener

Two months ago I blew the dust off of an old manuscript from NaNoWriMo 2014. I’d dabbled with it throughout the past year, but had set it aside for the latter part to focus on the 2016 version of NaNo and finishing up another old project. So come January, there I sat with an eighty-four thousand word unfinished manuscript. At first, the writing process went great, but I soon realized that one of my main characters was asking me for a pet. I had to oblige, but that meant I needed to go and add in a dog to so many scenes. This was going to be a huge undertaking.

Enter the writing software, Scrivener.

As writers, I’m sure many of you have heard of Scrivener, but in case you haven’t, I’d like to tell you how Scrivener most definitely saved my life… errrr, well… writing life at least.

Scrivener is a glorious writing software designed to help frazzled people like me get organized with their writing. Everything that Scrivener does can be boiled down to compartmentalizing. In other words, it basically takes a very large jumbled mess of a text and breaks it down into smaller, more manageable chunks.

For me and my manuscript’s pet problem, this helped immensely.

scrivener-manuscript-details

Scrivener’s detailed manuscript options

Let’s say you have a novel. Well that novel is going to be broken down into chapters, right? Easy. Scrivener can do that. But let’s say within those chapters, you’ve got point of view changes, or jumps in time between different scenes. Well, Scrivener can also do that. You can customize your manuscript to have as many scenes within a chapter, all while having them in a separate file so they can be easily navigated through. The best part about this? Every single bit of your manuscript is in the same document. Goodbye alt-tab window-flipping.

 

This doesn’t work for you? No problem. Click on the Manuscript function in the sidebar and you get another version of manuscript organization, though this time it’s on a traditional, more old school looking corkboard.

 

With the corkboard, you’re given different options than the sidebar. First of all, if you’ve set it up you can view the status of each of the files and folders within your whole document. Some of the options? First Draft. To Do. Revised Draft. Done. All of these are tools you can use to help keep your manuscript organized and up to date with current achievements.

Another cool feature? You can use what Scrivener calls labels to give unique markers to each of your file and folders. This shows up in the right corner of each corkboard note. Each label has it’s own distinct colour. Green for chapter, orange for notes, blue for scene, yellow for idea, and red for character notes.

scrivener-corkboard-variation

Scrivener’s corkboard: the hub of all your folders and files

As you can see, for my specific project I currently only am using the chapters label, but you honestly can’t believe how helpful some of the other options were during the writing process. All of these labels and status options made the construction of my manuscript much simpler.

So, how did this help me when I needed to go back and insert a dog into various chapters? Well by working in this program earlier, I was able to use the folders and files to split up my novel by important events and character point of views. When it came time that I needed to go back to old chapters, finding them was a breeze. If I’d been using just a normal word processing document, I would have wasted so much more of my writing time trying to figure out where my chapter breaks were. It would have taken me a lot longer to complete my draft. Of course, it also helped that I’m able to write on each of the notes signifying files. I used this space to write a quick summary of key points that happen during each chapter. Does that ever help when you’re scanning through for certain moments.

The label and status features Scrivener offers was a time-saver as well. Since you’re able to write on each of the little notes, I had no problem locating the chapters requiring my newly acquired pet. Marking them as a To Do was as simple as right-clicking on my mouse and selection the option from the drop down menu.

I’ve only just really begun to utilize Scrivener for my writing. I know there’s still much more I have to discover and learn about it, but I honestly can say that I can’t wait to do so. Scrivener has changed my life, simplifying elements of my writing that used to be so complex and take up a lot of my precious time. I highly recommend it. Trust me, it’ll save you.

If you’ve had any amazing experiences with Scrivener, or you know of another really cool feature I haven’t talked about, please, share it in the comments sections and help a writer out.

As always, keep writing everyone!

Until next time.

 

Novel Endings: Dos and Don’ts

Congratulations, you’ve almost finished writing a novel. You’ve been working with your characters for months, maybe even years, at this point. You feel like you know them better than almost anything else. You just have one thing standing in your way: the elusive novel ending.

The ending to a novel is one of the most crucial parts of the writing process. Yes, you’ve successfully hooked in your reader with a killer beginning and provided them with entertaining characters and plot to drive the book forward through the tricky middle. But now, you’re at the ending. The ending is the final lasting impression your reader will have on your characters, your world… everything. It has to be good.

In my current manuscript, I’m facing this exact dilemma. I’ve put a solid 90,000 words down on paper, but I’ve taken a bit of a breather to make sure I get this ending done correctly. See, I’m walking into this ending without a certain idea of how I want to have everything get wrapped up, which makes everything I’m about to share below even more important. While trying to figure out what I want to do, I’ve come up with some tips and strategies to help writers out when they’re crafting the final pages of their novels.

Don’t rush it. You may feel like you need to just push through and let it be over and done with, but the ending is so crucial to the overall success of your book that you need to do it justice. You don’t want your reader to feel cheated.

Do tie up any loose ends. Throughout the writing process, you probably have left a trail of unanswered questions. It’s important that these questions get answered so your reader will be fully satisfied with your novel’s ending. The last thing you want is for a reader to be left scratching their head wondering.

Don’t introduce any new plots or characters. Though you might be tempted to throw in something new to peak the readers interest, instead, keep the ending simple. Wrap up existing storylines with existing characters and then leave it.

Do resolve the central conflict. It doesn’t have to be wrapped up neatly in a bow with a ‘happily ever after’ type of ending, but there needs to be some sort of finalization. Even if you’re writing a multi-book series, a resolution is still required (though it doesn’t have to be the overarching conflict, for obvious reasons).

Don’t change your voice or tone. You’ve written thousands and thousands of words without wavering your narrative voice and style. Make sure to stay consistent with it as you push through the final pages.

Have any more tips? Please comment below and share! And as always, keep writing, everyone!

Until next time.

Writing Book 2 of a Trilogy

I don’t know why, but for some reason when writing a trilogy I find the second book the hardest.

Book One is simple. Introduce the characters, establish their working relationships with one another, and tease the big, BIG conflict which will happen two books from now.

Following suit, Book Three isn’t much more difficult when you break down its fundamentals. At this point, we know the characters. We know the conflict. Book Three is where everything completely blows up in the characters’ faces at the final battle… and then promptly gets resolved in some fashion during the closing pages.

Book Two, on the other hand, is something entirely different. You don’t have the wonder and amazement that comes with the Book One world and character building. You also don’t have the war-to-end-all-wars conflict which is coming in Book Three. No, Book Two is the “we know what the problem is and now we’re trying to fix it” book. To some, it’s the most boring book out of the whole trilogy. It’s also where a writer can go wrong and derail everything that’s good about the entire series.

Now, how to fix this problem?

To start off, an author needs to make sure that Book Two gets just as much individual attention as both Book One and Book Three. Book Two sometimes get neglected by the author and becomes just another version of Book One, something which can’t happen if you don’t want to lose readers.

Pointer #1: Book Two needs to have it’s own plot, it’s own conflict. Keep the tone of Book One, but don’t let it be a copycat. Find something for your main character to grasp onto and let them run with it. Just remember to let this thing get resolved. This way you’re giving your MC something to do while they prepare to weather the storm that will be Book Three. The overarching BIG conflict is still there, but there’s a definitive conclusion of something smaller.

Pointer #2: Remember the end point of the series. This is important. Generally when writing a series you have an idea of where it’s going to end, so use that to your advantage. Determine where your character needs to be by the time the Great Battle comes and get them there. No matter what.

Depending on who you talk to, there’s another way to go about writing Book Two. Pointer #3: Give another character the stand. There’s always another character (usually secondary) that becomes interesting to the author and readers. If it works with your storytelling style, let them have a voice. Let Book Two be theirs, at least partially. There are lots of novels out there which successfully made Book Two more of a companion-styled book. This doesn’t work for everybody, but it’s a good option for some and definitely something to consider.

Another thought here relating to characters. Pointer #4: Bring in some fresh blood. New characters help to bring life to a story which is stagnant. Let your main character interact with different people than they’re used to. Who knows? Maybe one of these new characters will bring out something in your MC that you didn’t know.

Those are all of the suggestions I can come up with for now. If you can think of anything you’d like to add, please feel free to comment below.

As always, happy writing!

Until next time.

Prepping for NaNoWriMo

With only a few weeks before the 2016 edition of NaNoWriMo starts, I thought I would focus this post on the prep which goes into taking on this daunting task. For those of you who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it is an even which occurs every year in November, where authors from around the world attempt to write 50 000 words in the 30 day month. If you’d like to know more about it, I wrote a post about it a while back. You can also check out their official website for more information.

Prepping for NaNo is insanity. You need to do character profiles, world-building, plot construction… All of which will require a decent amount of research. And that’s not even including the whole mental preparation side of the matter. Since there are a few ways to complete NaNo (plotting and pantsing), writing prep isn’t always necessary, but I have some tips for those who decide to plan their novels out.

Creating an outline is the suggestion I think helps out the most when it comes to NaNo prep. Without one, you’re left to fend for yourself with plot progression. An outline can be as simple or as complex as you like. Personally, I tend to write out in point form as much detail of every scene I plan to write in chronological order. This helps to keep your thoughts straight and allows for you to pick back up where you left off every day without much hassle. If you’re looking for something more structured to plot your novel around, take a look at this blog post. They have a few different types of templates for story plots, but also some helpful ones for character profiling.

Speaking of character profiling, this is extremely important too. Everyone always focuses on the concern around the plot planning – which is definitely important – but just think about it. If you don’t know how your characters will react in a certain situation, how are you going to write about it? The key is to know the little things about them. Do they have any weird idiosyncrasies? How do they react under pressure? Do they have any nervous tics? Or what about their likes and dislikes? What’s their favourite colour? Season? Food? All of these things might seem useless when it comes to your plot, but knowing them will help you understand your character in more depth. To make them believable, they need to seem real to you.

While prepping for the writing side of NaNoWriMo is good, you need to remember your mind needs some prep as well. This is just as important – you can have everything planned out perfectly, but if something goes wrong along the way, you need to be able to think clearly and handle it quickly.

Tip #1: When you partake in the journey of writing 50 000 words in 30 days, you need to remember just that: you’re trying to write 50 000 words in 30 days. That means what you write doesn’t have to be perfect. It can have mistakes, it can have plot holes. The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to just finish. Perfectionism can’t happen during NaNo – if you let it creep in, it’s going to stunt your creativity and make writing that 1600 words per day extremely difficult. I know it’s going to be difficult – trust me, five years in to participating in NaNo and I still want to edit while I write – but you need to shut away your inner perfectionist if you want to finish.

Tip #2: You should lay out a writing schedule. Set a time every day, even if it’s only an hour or two, and stick to it. For those of you that do shift work and can’t set a definite time for every day, that’s alright. I get it, I’ve been there. Instead of a particular time of the day, just try for a time limit. Tell yourself that you will write for an hour every day – it doesn’t matter when, but before that clock strikes midnight every night, you have to have spent an hour writing.

Tip #3: Find a writing group or partner. Mentally, the thought that there’s someone else out there keeping tabs on you will push you to write and stick to that schedule. Check out the NaNo regions page and see if there’s one near the city you live in. They’re really good for setting up write-ins (places where you and other NaNo-ers can meet up and write together) and are a great support group.

So there you have it. Some tips to get your NaNo prep into full swing this year. As always, if you have any other suggestions or comments, please leave them below. Happy writing, everyone! (And to all my Canadian readers, Happy Thanksgiving!)

Until next time.

Writer’s Block: Rearing Its Ugly Head

I believe (though someone correct me if I’m wrong) that this is the first time since I’ve started this blog that I’ve actually posted more than one entry in the same month. I know, pathetic, right?

Getting to the matters of writing, I have to say that writer’s block is currently my biggest problem right now. My friend and I managed to finish up two short stories in our collaboration that were WAY overdue to be completed – like we started these things back in July of last year, that’s how long it’s taken. Other than those two pieces (which maybe needed 500 words each, tops) I’ve unfortunately been stuck.

The story I mentioned in my last post which I was going to work on as come to a complete standstill and it’s all thanks to lack of interesting plot. See, I’m at the point in this novel(la?) where I need time to pass, though nothing really interesting happens. I know I could do a time-jump and just put a “6 Months Later” heading in the text and just continue writing, but I’m not really sure if I want to do that yet. It also probably doesn’t help that I’m no longer certain the span of time this story is actually supposed to extend over. I thought I knew before, but all that’s changed recently since I’m editing another book that takes place in the same universe, same time frame. So now I’m not sure. Enter writer’s block on this particular manuscript.

And then I’ve got the collaboration which I’m doing with my friend. Again, same universe, but this time a different time frame which is set at least a couple years later. So why the writer’s block, you may ask? Well this one has to do with lack of inspiration instead… although I guess it’s also related to plot as well… But anyway, the semantics of the situation isn’t the point I’m trying to make here. What I’m doing a terrible job of saying is that when my friend and I started working on this collaboration we wrote down a list of all the short stories we wanted to tell with our characters. We agreed that it was the chance for us to see them in a different, more mature and grown up light. Weddings, funerals, career decisions… those were just some of the big things we wanted to touch on. The project started in July of last year and in those first few months we probably wrote 30,000 words – maybe even more.

Now fast forward to today. All of the initial “big” ideas and stories we wanted to tell have pretty much been written now, leaving the straggling, fragmented ones left. Yes, we still have more we want to write, but the amount of time and energy it’s going to take into making those partial ideas whole is a lot to tackle together, let alone when living an hour or so away from each other. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that little wrench in the works? We don’t get to see each other much and have had to resort to Skype dates along with the absolutely amazing editing function of Google Docs. To be perfectly honest, I’m not surprised that writer’s block as reared its ugly head in this scenario.

So here I am, stuck on two projects because I either can’t translate the ideas from my head to the page (or I guess technically it would be the keyboard or word document…), and I’m frustrated as anything. Don’t you find that whenever there’s finally time to write, that’s always when it becomes the hardest to do so? I guess in a way that’s Murphy’s Law for you right there.

Well, beyond my ranting about yet another bout of writer’s block, I don’t really have much to share writing-wise. You’ll have to excuse my lack of usual “wisdom” (Okay, I can’t even write that without cracking up) – let’s go with the moral that usually sums up whatever entry it is I’ve written; my favourite tennis player just lost a semi-final match early (like 3:30am start time early) this morning and I’m still bummed out by it. So there you have it – interesting fact about me: I’m a sports nut, tennis being one of the sports I’m super nutty over.

But without further ado, I shall end this blog post now and stop rambling. Keep writing, everyone.

Until next time.