Writing instead of Riding

Lately I’ve been pushing to finish my second book, Ohlen’s Bane, the sequel to Ohlen’s Arrow. My goal is to get it published and available for purchase by Thanksgiving. Because of this, I haven’t had many opportunities to ride lately. To further complicate matters, highway 224 between Estacada and Ripplebrook Ranger Station has been closed because of the 36 Pit Fire back in September. It burned on both sides of the highway and ODOT is concerned about landslides. This effectively eliminated rides to Detroit as a possibility.

Speaking of landslides, there was a bad one on 224 recently, further complicating matters. It is possible 224 won’t be available for riders like me until spring of next year.

In the meantime, I have been taking short maintenance rides on both my V-Strom 650 and GSX-R750 just to keep them running. Having my bikes stabled in a storage unit a half mile from my apartment makes it that much more of a hassle to hop on and go for a ride.

How Scrivener makes Ohlen’s Bane possible

As I have mentioned on this blog and on The Ardent Scribe, Scrivener has proven to be a wonderful tool for my writing and creative productivity. It’s not about putting words to electronic paper — a basic text editor can do that — it’s about organizing and maintaining that text as the process unfolds.

My second book, Ohlen’s Bane, is possible because I am using Scrivener.

I started out with a plot event list. This is basically a list of sentences, each describing a specific scene in the book, in chronological order of how they will appear in the book. Once that is done, I begin my work in Scrivener.

I create a new scene, or text card, for each sentence. The scene title is 2-5 words describing what happens, and the full sentence I created in my plot event list goes into the card description. I drag and drop those scenes into roughly equal length chapters.

In the research section of Scrivener, I create cards for each named character in the book that describes their physical characteristics, personality and background. I also create a page of place names and yet another filled with randomly created names that I may grab from as new bit players turn up in my story.

Once Scrivener is pre-loaded with all of my research and scenes, I fire the trigger and begin writing.

Ohlen’s Bane started off somewhat slowly. I wrote the first six chapters, about 10,000 words, and then read over what I’d written. It dragged. I found myself growing impatient for the good stuff to start happening. Thanks to Scrivener, I was able to drag and drop scenes to rearrange their order. I scrapped entire scenes — not by deleting them, but by putting them into a Scrap chapter. This gave me recourse in case I found a use for them later on, or even just to grab fragments of scenes.

After paring it down and reorganizing scenes into a better order, I was able to start cranking away again. Now that my story found a good rhythm, thanks to Scrivener’s ability to keep my book organized, I was then able to crank out 12,000 words in a single weekend.

When I finish one scene, I open up the text card for the next. Since it has a brief 2-3 sentence description of what happens, I am up to speed on what happens next and can bang it out in record time.

Scrivener really is a brilliant piece of software, and I don’t think I’d ever get my second book written without it.

Be willing to kill your babies

When I was in high school, typing was a required course. We used IBM Selectric typewriters rather than computers. By the end of the one-semester course, I was the fastest in my class, banging out 90 error-free words per minute. It was the most useful thing I learned in high school.

Since moving to computers, I can edit as I type. I still type close to 90 wpm, but thanks to the backspace key, I type backwards even faster … clickity clickity clickity WHACK WHACK WHACK clickity clickity clickity, etc.

Where am I going with this?

I’m working on my second book, the sequel to Ohlen’s Arrow, tentatively entitled Ohlen’s Bane. The first weekend I worked on it, I cranked out over 12,000 words. I typed a lot. Since then, my word count is up to 15,000. I decided to read over what I had so far, and although it was interesting, it wasn’t engaging.

The last thing I want is for my book to require the reader suffer through to the fifth chapter before anything good happens. One of the things going for Ohlen’s Arrow was its pace. It started with action and maintained an engaging level of action with few pauses throughout the story.

I am now killing my babies. As I read through my first four chapters, I am looking for sections that can be rearranged to maintain a better pace. I’m also looking for sections that aren’t important at all. When I find them, I kill them. I’m not tied to the words I created. I can remove them and write new ones, better ones. The story also has sections that take far too long to get across what can be conveyed either indirectly or simply.

Because of my technical background, I tend to be rather verbose in my descriptions. I am learning to adopt a more compact and dense writing style, conveying an equal or greater amount of information in fewer words.

My goal is to write 100,000 words for Ohlen’s Bane. I’ll probably write more than that, because I know that during the revision and editing phase of the project, I’ll be whacking the backspace key a lot more than any other.

I am willing to kill my babies.

NaNoWriMo and Ohlen’s Bane

November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I had already begun writing my new novel, Ohlen’s Bane, at the tail end of October, a process that included brainstorming and then creation of a plot event list. I set up Scrivener to have proper chapters and scenes based on that plot event list and had even begun writing Chapter 1.

Now that November and NaNoWriMo has come along, the timing is perfect for keeping me motivated. Over this past weekend I cranked out over 12,000 words on Ohlen’s Bane and am now neck-deep in Chapter 4.

I set up Scrivener to have a project goal of 100,000 words, and a session goal of 3,000 words. It’s very rewarding to see that 3,000 word goal whoosh by with tons of creativity and energy left in me. I think 50,000 words by November 30th is a very achievable goal.