Writing By Hand: First Impressions

While I’ve been waiting for my beta readers to get back to me with notes on Goddess, Book 2, I decided to start writing a new novel. After creating a detailed outline, I’m now writing my first draft in my lovely red notebook using a fancy new pen I bought for the occasion. This is an experiment to find out what happens when I step away from the computer. It’s been interesting enough that I wanted to share some of my initial impressions.

  • Writing by hand means less distractions. There are no temptations to check Facebook or look at an email that just came in. I can’t look up the perfect word in my electronic thesaurus or check a fact on Wikipedia. Instead, I just plow ahead, making up what I don’t know, knowing I can fix it in the second draft.
  • Writing by hand is more spontaneous. There’s no need to start up, log in, and open my document. If I have a few minutes on a bus or waiting for an appointment, all I have to do is pull out my notebook and pen and write a paragraph.
  • I can’t check my progress. There’s no word count or page number at the bottom of the page. I have no sense as to how a handwritten page translates to a page in a published book. It feels like I’m moving ahead quickly, but who knows? I have to let go of worrying about that. I just write and the pages fill up.
  • There’s no going back. There’s no search box to find a sentence I already wrote. If I missed something I should have put in earlier in the story, it’s very difficult to add it in the right spot now. I either have to let it go or put it in where I am and move it elsewhere later.
  • Writing by hand is physically hard. I used to write morning pages – three handwritten pages of random thoughts. But writing a novel by hand is much more challenging. My hand cramps and I have to rest every page.
  • My handwriting is terrible. When I’m inspired, I write quickly, which makes my handwriting even worse. And when I’m writing on the train, my handwriting becomes almost illegible. It will be interesting trying to decipher what I’ve written when I transfer the first draft to my computer.

Happy writing,

Kelee

Snowflake Pro Outlining Software: A Review

I fully admit that I hate outlining. It rarely feel as satisfying as actually writing the novel I’ve cooked up in my head. Often, I end up with a jumbled mess of scene and chapter breakdowns that don’t serve me well in the first or subsequent drafts.

That’s why I decided to try Snowflake Pro. I was hesitant because I’ve had experience with screenplay outlining software that was either too complex or tried to put my script into a formulaic, three-act box. Thankfully, while author and software developer Randy Ingermanson talks about three acts and other structural tools, he doesn’t push them hard, so I felt comfortable only using what I needed to help me write my outline.

The snowflake method isn’t new. The idea is to start with a simple pattern and make it increasingly elaborate until you end up with a beautifully designed snowflake or, in this case, a novel.

Snowflake Pro retails for $100, but discount codes are easy to find. I paid $50. It’s easy to install. The only issue I had was that it’s not yet compatible with Mac OS Sierra, but a quick email to Snowflake’s support staff told me that all I needed was to download an earlier version of Flash. I did and was quickly up and running.

snowflake-welcome

Snowflake first asks you to choose a number 1 through 6 for how much detail you want in your outline. It didn’t give any direction as to what those levels meant, so I chose 4, which felt about right.

After entering some author information, step 1 asks you to write a one-sentence summary of your story. I think this is a vital step in any story development process, and one that was very familiar to me through my years of writing screenplays.

In subsequent steps, Snowflake has you expand that one sentence, first to a paragraph, then to longer synopses. It alternates this with steps where you develop your characters in more detail. At each step, Ingermanson offers a short audio lecture to guide you. I found these useful to get my bearings. Less useful are the examples offered from other books. There are only five available: Gone With the Wind, Harry Potter, Book 1, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Pride and Prejudice. I would like to see a wider variety of well-known classic and genre novels, and isn’t Pirates a movie, not a novel?

I appreciated the systematic way the software helped me expand my novel. When new ideas or changes popped into my head, it was easy to backtrack and add them in at earlier steps. In fact, Ingermanson encourages this.

Not as useful to me was the step where you add various details to your character profiles: what color are their eyes, what kind of clothes do they wear, what books do they read, etc. I know some writers like to consider these things, but I find it useful only when it comes up in my narrative.

While I loved the step where you make a list of your scenes (Though I know they’re going to change as I write.), it wasn’t useful to think about the typical pages per scene and the ideal pages per chapter. If that’s what your focus is on at this point, you’d better get your head back in your story.

The other step I found kind of strange was the final one, where you take what you’ve outlined and turn it into a proposal, adding marketing details, endorsements, etc. I know it’s useful to consider some of these things before writing a novel, but what are you going to do with a formal proposal? Unless you’re an established writer with an agent and publisher, who’s going to even read it?

I also missed having spell check and drag-and-drop editing. I’m so used to those conveniences in Word and other software that it made Snowflake Pro feel a little underdeveloped.

Overall though, I would highly recommend Snowflake to any writer who wants to improve his or her outlines. While you could create something like this on your own, it’s great to have it in a neat package. In my humble opinion, it was well worth a $50 investment in your writing.

Kelee

 

A Quiet Blog Means Hard Work is Afoot

I haven’t shared much recently because I’ve been so busy with my writing (as well as the rest of my life). While waiting to get comments back from my beta readers on Goddess, Book 2, I’ve been hard at work outlining a new novel. Don’t you love that feeling of possibility when you’re starting a new work? I know I’ll eventually run into roadblocks and frustrations. But right now, the world feels ripe with excitement and inspiration, like starting a new relationship.

I’ve been using Snowflake Pro to outline the new book. I’ll post a review of the software soon. Meanwhile, back to work!

Happy writing and reading!

Kelee

Questions I’ve been asked …

For those writers who might be considering looking for a “real” job…

Hey Hey Julia

…during a job interview.

It’s no secret to those who know me that I’m looking for a job. You know, preferably one that pays me what I’m worth, has benefits, is interesting and employs other smart folks.

What has not been fun are the interviews. Fretting about wearing the right outfit, if my makeup is too heavy and if I’m showing too much cleavage is enough to turn me into a day drinker.

However, the superficial concerns are nothing like wondering how the interview will go. I always do research on the company that’s considering me. I take copious amounts of notes, tirelessly search the Internet for information on who’s who at the company and by the time I arrive at the front desk, I can name the CEO’s college roommate’s cat.

What always sends me into a tizzy are the possible questions I could be asked. Some are sane and…

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