This past weekend, we tackled editing chapters seven to nine of Sword of the Crown. Things were going along nicely, until we got to a section where a character had to go to the smithy, and Carol, who does the first edit, had changed the route the character took. I then explained that the smithy was in the basement of the Keep. Well, it was if the gates of the Underworld opened up! Apparently, she had not gotten that from the previous chapters, and did not feel that is should be in the basement, as the noble family lives in the Keep. I disagreed, and so as we have figured out from past editing conflicts, we went to researching on the web, to see what actual Keeps had.
This lead us to realizing that a map of the Keep and surrounding areas was needed, having us to looking at existing keeps and castles from the Medieval age. Then we started looking at what rooms would be in the keep, what the defenses were, and what the surrounding walls would be. Throughout the beginning of the research I was only half into it. I could not get past that my whole book revolved around the smithy being in the basement. Moving the location changed the whole flow of multiple major plot reveals. We stopped the research, as I needed to look at these areas in the book and determine if I could change them. After sharing them with Carol, she came up with a great idea. The scenes required one character to "walk down the stairs, and listen at the door to the smithy," so she suggested having the Keep on a slight rise as some of our research had indicated was normal. This would require the character to walk down stairs, then the smithy can be beside the Keep, so nothing changes really.
And just like that, the problem was solved! The smithy is now next to the Keep, so that people can sleep; we have a map of the village and Keep, and the story is still the same as I envisioned it!
I have to admit that watching somebody edit your book, with all the red lines and comments everywhere, can be hard to swallow some days, but I truly would not want anybody else to edit my book than Carol. She understands what I am trying to say, and stands her ground when she believes something is not working. Although we do have some heated conversations while editing, we have the common goal of sharing the best story of Merceria with the my readers!
This past weekend while we were working on editing 'Sword of the Crown' we ran into a bit of a dilemma that began with whom a knight would swear fealty to. In the land of Merceria, the king has been actively reducing the influence and power of his nobles over the past few years, so knights now swear fealty directly to the king, but in the past knights used to swear fealty to their liege lord. Carol asked the simple question of when did this change. This led us to a series of questions all about the recent history of the land, then what happened almost one thousand years ago, when Merceria was founded. I do have timeline of events, but Carol wanted more specific details! Some days it is tough when your editor is your wife; she can be relentless in pursuit of the facts!
We spent over three hours detailing past civil wars, how the different realms were founded, what happened to the ancient races, and so much more! It has become apparent that although my readers will most likely never see it in its entirety, the history of Merceria and surrounding areas is a tomb that I will be writing this week. I am already thinking about the different short stories that will stem from so many events in the history books!
I have been using computers so long I remember punch cards! Now, I realize that I am dating myself by admitting this, even though it was in high school, but I still cringe at the horror of tripping while carrying those annoying cards and having to pick them all up, only to realize that I had not numbered each one. I certainly learned my lesson that day! Fast forward to last fall when I began writing my first book. I chose to use a word processor as the tool of my new craft, as I had been using one for years for writing my game notes. My challenge soon became that I had so many different documents that related to the story; character notes, city details, chapter outlines and a rough storyline. Some days I did not want to write because I knew a portion of my time would be taken up in tabbing in and out of documents to ensure my dates, names and locations were consistent.
Around this time is when I started looking for a different solution. I came across another writer in the UK, Joanna Penn, who had a great website with plenty of information for new writers. Through researching her site, I discovered Scrivener. From this little nudge, I spent many hours researching the program, then downloaded the free trial, and finally, as a gift from my wife for my birthday in the New Year, I started using this extremely powerful program!
I would say that incorporating Scrivener into my writing toolkit has had the biggest impact on my ability to stay organized and complete a project. Before, I used to write by the seat of my pants (I have learned that 'pantsing' is the term used to describe this style). I would write the story, and let it wander where it wanted to. The problem was that every time I started a story, it would peter out; I did not know where it was going, so I could not write about it. Once I started using Scrivener, I found the corkboard, and it was like the whole world was at my fingertips. I was able to outline each chapter in a simple sentence to plot out the book and stick it on the virtual corkboard. I then went back and added more detail to flesh out the major plot points. I could now see my story at a glance, and rearrange it if I needed to. Finally, knowing what was going to happen in each chapter, I could sit back and just write, which was what I wanted to do all along. I am happy to now be a plotter instead of a pantser!
There are many other great features too, such as goal setting, full-screen environment, autosaving, and even the ability to import research documents into your project, so you don’t have to try and remember where you saved them on your hard drive. I would have to say the other feature that I like almost as much as the corkboard is the ability to export (compile) the project to epub or mobi. This feature has been invaluable, ensuring my ebook worked on all devices and looked good too, giving me more control over my finished product.
I highly recommend downloading the free trial and seeing if Scrivener is as helpful to you as it has been to me.
Call me old fashioned, but printing reference maps and lists to view on the fly is what I am talking about! While I am in the throes of writing an epic scene, the last thing I want to do is have to tab out and look up a location, or the name of noble of the land. I know that when I am on a creative roll, I need to stay in the zone!
I do of course use many different computer programs to assist me when I am writing. Scrivener is great as it allows me to create character maps, reference notes, pictures and outlines all in one virtual space. Grammarly helps so much for checking my grammar, spelling and punctuation. An online Dictionary/Thesaurus are a must when I have used 'the man' or 'strike' for the hundredth time in a chapter. There are more, and I will soon be adding a section to my website to share what I have found to be useful, but the purpose of this blog was to highlight the old-fashioned tool that I will never give up.
For those that write or are aspiring writers, what is your favorite tool, or something that you cannot imagine giving up?
Paul Bennett, Writer of Epic Fantasy Stories.