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Scrivener 3 update incoming! Here’s a peek

I try to keep my insane, nearly fanatical, love of writing tools contained—at least in public and on this blog—but I have to take a moment to share how excited I am about the Scrivener 3 update that’s coming out on November 20th.

According to their blog, it will look a little something like this:

That looks pretty similar to the current version of Scrivener, with some minor aesthetic tweaks. But wait until you see what’s inside.

One particularly awesome feature for all writers, no matter what genre or subject, is the Linguistic Focus mode. You’ll now be able to highlight specific parts of speech within the visible part of your manuscript, like dialogue, or adjectives.

This is particularly useful to fiction writers for whom some of these elements of speech could be used as crutches, and need to be rooted out and eliminated. I can also see myself using this when I’m doing a pass at a long manuscript with a particular aim. Say, for example, I just wanted to do a pass to improve the dialogue. Linguistic Focus mode will allow me to be more efficient by helping me ignore any irrelevant text.

Super neat.

Another feature I’m really excited about is wordcount history. Currently, Scrivener 2.x only supports cumulative word count for the manuscript, and word count for the day. The new version can apparently log word count per day over a period of time, which is something I used to have to do manually in a spreadsheet, if I wanted to see how productive I was over time.

Now, it seems, all that will be done automatically! Fantastic.

One last cool thing to share is particularly relevant to indie authors. It’s not something you’ll notice much unless you’re publishing, but for me—and anyone else who uses Scrivener to create epub and mobi files—Scrivener 3 will now support the most current versions of EPUB specification, EPUB 3.

This should fix the Look Inside issue on Amazon that was troublesome to so many authors.

Literature and Latte says that….

  • Scrivener 3 can export to Epub 3 format.
  • Its Kindle export is also much improved, and should now work fine with Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature.
  • The internals of Epub 3 and Kindle files are tidier, containing only a single CSS file.

And the exporter will now also have a place to edit the CSS yourself.

So all this sounds great to me, and it’s easily worth the small price they are asking for the upgrade. New users will be able to get a 30 day free trial of Scrivener 3. If you’ve never tried it before and you like to write at all, it’s worth checking out.

I wrote a how-to book on Scrivener 2 that will still be 99% applicable to Scrivener 3, although perhaps missing a few of these cool new features. You still may find it useful.

Fast drafting mindset on Day 1 of NaNoWriMo

Today is day 1 of NaNoWriMo.

Which means thousands and thousands of people are setting out on the crazy journey to write a 50,000 word novel in one month.

That’s 1667 words a day.

Which is awesome. Crazy awesome.

Good luck to all the writers. You got this. Buckle in and get to work.

I didn’t plan on doing NaNo this year, partly because I’m 25k into a novel already and partly because I’m juggling a lot of projects right now and didn’t know if I could handle that time commitment.

I was only thinking 30k :p

But I was on my game this morning so I did a nano wordcount before work, to cheer on those who are doing it.

I got 1830 words. It took me five sprints of twenty five minutes a piece, writing with focus, to get there.

You can see it unfold on twitter.

That’s about 2.5 hours, and most of it done in the morning.

A Nano Mindset

For those if you reading and thinking “1700 words a day is insane, matt, I could never do that!”

I hear you.

It does seem scary. Part of the magic of NaNoWriMo is how it teaches you to face that fear.

What practicing novelists learn early on is that half of doing your words every day comes down to mindset.

Everyone has their own take on mindset, but essentially it comes down to this:

  • Keep going
  • It’s good enough
  • You can fix it later

I have a theory that every writer reaches this point in their mindset at some point in the writing of a long project.

The key to winning nano is getting there faster than everyone else.

On day 1, if possible. Abandon perfectionism and just focus on putting one word after the other.

The key to finishing a book at all is just getting to the end of the rough draft. In November every year, that’s what nano is all about.

NaNo provides both community and the structure of a fixed deadline to help you get there.

Take advantage of it if you can!

And as always, fail forward. If you don’t win nano, you still have half a novel in your lap.

Finish it.

Then do it again!

Keep going

Don’t stop here. Let me be your gateway drug.

Here’s some more good advice from writers I admire. Read the threads!

3 things I learned blogging for 30 days in a row

Today marks the 30th day in a row of blogging here on mgherron.com!

I’m celebrating this small victory with my favorite cider…

*KACHNK*

*HHSSSSSSSS*

*SLURP*

Ahhhh, yeahup. That hits the spot.

Blogging every day for a month was a good challenge. Here are a few things I already knew, but which the challenge brought to the forefront and clarified for me.

1. Streaks don’t tolerate excuses

Inevitably, if you try to do anything worth doing for 30 days in a row (writing, exercising, getting enough sleep) there will be days when you won’t feel like doing that thing.

Just the way it goes. The sun can’t shine forever. Clouds will roll in. Such is life.

Does that mean you get to take a break? No way, buddy. Don’t even think about it.

Having a 30 day blogging streak means that I posted when I didn’t want to. I even posted when…

  • I didn’t know what I was going to say
  • I didn’t feel like writing
  • I was tired
  • I was on vacation

There were even days where I nearly forgot, and didn’t post until close to midnight.

But I didn’t give in to the excuses.

It helps when you set the bar low, and can always reach for some low hanging fruit. With blogging this means being able to post a photo or a quote and call it a night. With fiction, try setting your goal so low that it’s laughable. How’s 50 words? Five minutes? Surely you can manage five minutes a day. And when you’ve got that down pat, make it fifteen.

Piece of cake. You’ve got this.

2. Daily words add up over time

Even better is to see how many words it all adds up to in the end.

I totaled the number of words in all 31 blogs.

Total (including this blog): 7,250 words

And this took about fifteen minutes of effort per day. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

7,250 words is the length of 1 – 3 short stories.

Or 2 – 3 epic blog posts.

Of course, in that time period I also wrote about 15,000 original words of fiction 😀 But that’s my life, not yours.

Set your own standards.

Stay calm, write every day, and it will eventually add up if you can learn to be patient. This works with any kind of writing, whether that’s fiction, nonfiction, blogging, or your memoirs.

It’s amazing what’s possible with consistent practice over time.

3. The more you give, the more you have

This concept is hard to put into words. It’s even harder to explain to beginning writers in a way that they are inclined to believe because it’s counter intuitive. But I’ll try.

Take this example:

The more ideas you brainstorm, the more ideas you will have.

Don’t believe me? Try to brainstorming 10 new ideas a day. If you do that for a week, I’ll bet that you’re bursting with ideas at the end of the week. At the beginning of the week you won’t be able to imagine what those seventy ideas would even be. By the end you’ll be writing in the margins of the page because you’re running out of room. Ten won’t be nearly enough!

That’s because your creative brain gets used to the idea, gets better, and comes up with more ideas. How? By teaching it to come up with ideas in the first place.

Same with writing. The more words you write, the more you will be able to write. You build your muscle by using it. At first, fifteen minutes of writing will exhaust you. You’ll be able to increase the amount of time you spend writing given practice.

A lot of people (myself included) started out by thinking that creative energy is some kind of finite well. That you can use it up, or run it dry.

But that’s not true. Writing isn’t a well. It’s a muscle.

And how do you make muscles stronger? By using them.

I’ve overcome this hurdle so many times that I thought I was past it entirely. And yet when I undertook this challenge, one of my first thoughts was, “I’m going to need more ideas. I don’t have enough blog ideas for 30 days. What am I going to write about?”

That’s the well trap. When you see yourself speaking negatively like that, saying “I can’t” or “I don’t” or “I never,” cut it off at the root. Creativity is not a well. It doesn’t dry up…unless you don’t use it.

I don’t always know what I’m going to write in the day’s blog post. Most of the time I have no idea.

But the more I did it, the easier it became.

Having a daily practice even took the anxiety out of it. If I don’t post for a long time, I feel a huge pressure to make the next post great, perfect, wonderful. If I post every day, there’s another chance tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.

If I’m in the mood, I can write long posts like this one. If I’m not, there are other options. Half the fun is coming up with creative ways to maintain the streak with the minimum amount of effort.

I guess you could call me lazy. I call it smart.

I’ll try to keep up the daily blog, at least for now. It’s a good challenge, and fun. Hope you stick around.

***

Special thanks to Jason H. Abbott, BookDragonGirl, jenniereads, todaysechoes, Christy Esmahan, and Jason Knight for reading and liking and sharing. I see you, and I thank you.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written here in the past 30 days, would you chime in with a quick comment to let me know what you’d like to see more of?

Giving up on perfect

At some point in every draft of every novel I’ve ever written, I’ve had to give up on the idea of perfect and get out of my own way.

Like many artists who want their work to be considered good, the words that end up on the page often fail to match—sometimes barely even resemble—the shape of the story that exists in my head.

Such is the nature of the beast.

No reason to fight it. Just the way it is. People aren’t perfect, and neither are the things they create. I’m certainly no exception. I just do the best I can with what I’ve got.

Still, perfect is one of those things that I struggle with. It stops me up from time to time.

Today, as I sat down to write, I finally identified the problem. Not being sick (though I was) or busy (that too) or distracted (guilty), but just being a damned perfectionist and stubborn to boot.

So I kicked perfectionism to the curb. Once I did, the words began to flow faster.

I got out of my own way by giving up on perfect.

Don’t know why this happens, but it’s one of those things that always seems to come at me again from a different angle. As soon as I recognize it, I remember how to get past it. It takes a mindset shift more than anything else. Just being able to accept that rough drafts are rough, and keep typing.

I got 1000 words before lunch, a good pace for me. They might need some polishing, but that’s the best part of writing—you get lots of second chances.

Good music for writing

An impromptu collection of some of my favorite albums to write to.

I’m never at a coffee shop without headphones. Music helps me focus. It’s a reliable way to block out distractions when needed, which is most of the time.

My choices of tracks for writing are instrumental or electronic. Almost none of the songs on these albums have lyrics.

The moods range from rhythmic rock jams to brooding melodic vocals with crooning guitars. Lots of Jazz thrown in and scrambled up the way it should be.

I’ve been listening to these albums for years—they don’t go stale for me.

In no particular order…

Ratatat – Magnifique

Absolutely anything from Ratatat’s playlist makes for good writing music.

Mogwai – Atomic

Mogwai is hit or miss on writing music but I like this one

Chequerboard – The Unfolding

I listened to this album for a month straight.

Jazztronic Playlist on Spotify

This playlist helped me find a bunch of new stuff.

Amon Tobin – Bricolage

Stoney Street. Easy Muffin. Chomp samba! Even the names sound like jazz. Love the names, love Amon Tobin.

David Heinemeier Hansson on Flow State

David Heinemeier Hansson

Tim Ferriss recently interviewed David Heinemeier Hansson, the creator of Ruby on Rails and winner of “world’s biggest endurance race: 24 hours of Le Mans.”

Early in the interview, Tim and David had a fascinating discussion about creative flow state that I had to capture and share with you.

DHH: It’s exciting, it’s a loud car and shaking. There’s the element of danger, you could go off course, you could hit something. But just the closed loop system of improvement was absolutely intoxicating. It was kind of like you just had a bottle of flow. You could just go open your fridge and go ‘I’d like some flow, please. Can you get me into the flow state where you lose track of time and where you just have such a great experience learning and getting better—that’s how I felt the first very many times I got into a race car. I could just switch on flow. Which was something I had discovered in programming a fair amount, but I find at least in programming it was a little more elusive. The best programming sessions I’d have flow, but then I’d also have a fair number of other programming sessions where I wouldn’t have flow. When I stepped into the race car, I just felt like, oh, you turned the ignition and flow comes. And that was just magic.

Tim Ferriss: Why do you think it was more elusive in programming and can you identify any common factors for the sessions that had flow or that didn’t have flow?

DHH: I think part of it with racing was just that the intensity level was at 100% right away. As soon as you stepped into a car you had maximum danger—actually you had more danger in the beginning than you will have later on because it’s more dangerous to drive a car in the track when you don’t know what you were doing than it is later on. Versus with programming I didn’t get flow until I was—I mean, I shouldn’t say that. I didn’t get great consistent flow in the quantities that I’d like to enjoy it before I was actually a fairly well-developed programmer. Because that was when I had enough of an eye for the whole scope of programming to really dive into Oh let’s make this beautiful, Oh, let’s make this as simple as possible. When, in the beginning, I was just focused on, Oh, let’s get this to work. Can the PHP page render? Oh no, I get an error, let me try something else. That was fun. There was glimpses of flow. But the real moments of flow I wouldn’t get until I was much better.

Flow state is what I strive for in writing, and I guess it’s just good to hear that other people also find it elusive at times.

Listen to the whole interview at FourHourWorkWeek.com.