Tools for Organizing Your Story

Are you a plotter or a pantser when you write?

If you’re unfamiliar with those terms, allow me to explain. A “plotter” is a writer who plans and outlines their story ahead of time. Conversely, a pantser writes “by the seat of their pants”, with no strict plan to begin with. They simply go where the story takes them.

It seems to me that most authors are somewhere in the middle, which is certainly true for me. When I was writing Grigory’s Gadget, I would say I was pretty much 50% plotter and 50% pantser. I’d set out a plan, run with it until I hit a road block, then step back and plan some more. It seemed to work pretty well for me…for book 1. Book 2 has become another story (well, both literally and figuratively!).

Due to the fact that I made the (frustrating) decision to set Book 2 at the same time as Book 1 (just following different characters), I have much less freedom. There are certain events, and even some characters, which cross over and therefore need to line up correctly with Book 1. That limits just how much pantsing I can get away with. It’s also forced me to become a lot more gung-ho about organizing my story.

Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, organization is necessary! It just might come in later for a pantser, when you go in to revise and edit.

Organizational Tools for Plotters

Plotters love organization, so some of these tips and tools might be no-brainers. As plotters, we typically begin a story by outlining it. This can be hand-written in a notebook or on note cards, or created in word processing software. I personally tend to begin with a bulleted list of the plot points, beginning with the most important and vivid and then connecting those dots.

There are two other pieces of software that I’m a huge fan of as well: Scrivener and Aeon Timeline. Scrivener is like a word processor but with many more capabilities. For the purposes of outlining and planning, Scrivener has an Outline view and a Cork Board view where you can set up your story beats and scenes. These beats can then be made into scenes or chapters (or however else you want to organize your story; for Grigory’s Gadget and Serafima’s Stone, I created a folder for each day to help me keep track of the passage of time) which are organized as individual documents or folders. Documents can be placed inside folders, and everything can be moved around as you will it. (Did you write scenes X, Y, and Z, then decided that scene Z needs to come first? No problem, just drag and drop it!) You can also create documents and folders that are not a part of your manuscript, where you can save research, character summaries, etc. Scrivener’s software typically costs $40; however, if you participate or win National Novel Writing Month, Scrivener is often a sponsor offering discounts on their software.

Aeon Timeline is a visual timeline software. It allows you to essentially create Gantt charts of your story (or your writing time frame!). You can create dots and lines indicating plot points, which can be color-coded and given meta data such as the characters involved, the setting, and more. You can also connect events visually to indicate the one event is directly linked to the next. This software is especially handy if you have multiple characters who are not all in the same place at the same time, or who are traveling for an extended period. Aeon Timeline typically costs $50, but like Scrivener is often a sponsor of National Novel Writing Month, offering discounts to participants and winners. It also can sync with Scrivener!

Organizational Tools for Pantsers

A lot of the tips and tools mentioned above for plotters also apply to pantsers. The main difference is that pantsers normally use these tools after the first draft is complete. Organizing your first draft will help you find inconsistencies, plot holes, and plot seeds you totally forgot your planted (this happens to me all the time!).

This is the stage when I start using more of Scrivener’s capabilities. The first tool that comes in handy is Annotations. Annotations allow you to write notes in your text, the way you’d mark up a physical draft with a red pen. The other tool I use a lot is the ability to add meta data to a document. Specifically, I add keywords to my scenes to indicate which characters are involved, and any other handy keywords that may be useful to me. This is a big help to check the consistency and completeness of different characters’ storylines. I can simply do a keyword search and pull up every seen a specific character is in.

Those are my biggest tips for organizing your story. What tips and tools have worked for you in your writing?

Grigory’s Gadget Dream Cast

Every author dreams, at least a little bit, that their book will some day get adapted to the big screen. Here is my dream cast for a Grigory’s Gadget movie!

Cara Delevingne

Zoya Orlova played by Cara Delevigne

Just have to dye that hair purple 😉

Aimee carrero

Anya Filipova played by Aimee Carrero

Summer Bishil

Lilia Alkaeva played by Summer Bishil

Ansel Elgort

Demyan Volkov played by Ansel Elgort

Jessie T Usher

Nikolai Polzin played by Jessie T. Usher

Bryan Cranston

Captain Edward Sokoll played by Bryan Cranston

Nicholas Hoult

Alexi Sokoll played by Nicholas Hoult

Lucy Lawless

Captain Snezhana Krupina played by Lucy Lawless

Naveen Andrews

Pavel played by Naveen Andrews

Keke Palmer

Tonya played by Keke Palmer

Oscar Isaac

Yeremiy Robertov played by Oscar Isaac

Neil Patrick Harris

Gotfrid played by Neil Patrick Harris

Daniel Dae Kim

Adam played by Daniel Dae Kim

David OHara

Igor played by David O’Hara

Isaac Hempstead Wright

Pyotr played by Isaac Hempstead Wright

What do you think of this cast? Are there any actors/actresses you think would be better for different characters? Let me know!

Meet the Characters: Edmund Sokoll

(Image source: Sergey Samuilov)

For this series, I’m going to delve into the characters of Grigory’s Gadget in the style of those fun/silly surveys that pop-up on social media from time-to-time. I’ll also include name pronunciation, because I know a lot of people have been asking about that! (That being said, you can pronounce the names of my characters however you like, I’ll just be listing the “official” pronunciation) This post will be about Edmund Sokoll.

WARNING: Mild spoilers for Grigory’s Gadget contained in this post!

Name: Edmund Sokoll (ED-muhnd soh-KOHL)

Name Meaning: Edmund – From the Old English elements ead “wealth, fortune” and mund “protection”; Sokoll – Slavic word for “falcon”

Age: in his 50s

Physical Appearance: Light skin, short gray and brown hair, blue eyes, his right leg is a mechanical limb

Hometown: Unknown

Family: His sister is the pirate Captain Snezhana Krupina of the Hell’s Jewel; his son is Alexi Sokoll

Relationship Status: His wife, Alexi’s mother, died sometime before the story. It is implied that, somehow, Edmund was responsible for her death.

Education: unknown

Religion: None

Greatest Strengths: great fighter and leader, great at rallying people to his cause

Greatest Weaknesses: He is short-sighted and has an enlarged and fragile ego

Favorite Color: Purple

Hobbies: piracy

Biggest Goal in Life: Find the Bronnerush and harness its power to gain infamy as the most notorious pirate at sea

One Year After Publishing Grigory’s Gadget – What I’ve Learned

Sunday, March 12th, marks one year since Grigory’s Gadget was published!

2016-03-12 13.28.24

Since about a year has passed since publication (wow!), I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned in terms of writing, publishing, marketing, and more.

In terms of writing, I’ve discovered that it gets a lot harder after publishing a book! There’s an added pressure that simply doesn’t exist if you’re an unpublished author. Now I need to finish the next book – people are waiting! I can’t just push it aside for months or years, nor can I switch gears to work on a different project. Well, I could, I guess. But my personality won’t allow it!

One thing that surprised me about this process is which distribution channels sold the most books. Most information on the internet would suggest that eBooks are the way to go in this regard. However, as you can see on the chart below, I’ve sold almost a majority of my books through vending events and consignment.

Total Sales 3-17.png

I have attended 8 vending events since publishing Grigory’s Gadget (and I have two more this month!). These events, combined with selling books by word-of-mouth, have proven to be the best way to get my book out there.

Smashwords was my second-most successful distribution channel, thanks in large part to their sale events they have multiples times per year. Amazon, via Kindle Direct Publishing for eBooks and CreateSpace for paperbacks, was also successful.  Books sold through Indiegogo and Amazon were pre-sale books. IngramSpark by far is the least successful distribution channel. I still suggest that self-publish authors utilize this channel, however, if you have any interest in getting your book into brick-and-mortar stores.

Another factor that contributes to the success, or lack-there-of, of each distribution channel is the fact that I haven’t done much in the way of advertising. I’ve dabbled a bit in Facebook and Amazon ads, but never saw an impressive return on either. I’ve done a couple interviews, and had my book reviewed on a few blogs. I’ve also started to utilize Newsletter Swap, which actually seems to have boosted my sales quite a bit. (By the way, if you haven’t already, you should join my email list!)

For now, I still won’t be putting a lot of money and effort into advertising, since writing is still a (passionate) hobby for me. For the time being, most of my writing-related efforts will be directed toward the actual act of writing. I need to finish the first draft of Serafima’s Stone!

Have you grabbed a copy of Grigory’s Gadget? In celebration of its anniversary, Grigory’s Gadget will be on sale throughout the month of March!

happy-anniversarygrigorys-gadget

Find the eBook on Amazon and Smashwords!

Get the discounted paperback through my CreateSpace eStore using the code 8CAZ5J8X!

Meet the Characters: Snezhana Krupina

(Image source: Already Pretty)

For this series, I’m going to delve into the characters of Grigory’s Gadget in the style of those fun/silly surveys that pop-up on social media from time-to-time. I’ll also include name pronunciation, because I know a lot of people have been asking about that! (That being said, you can pronounce the names of my characters however you like, I’ll just be listing the “official” pronunciation) This post will be about Snezhana Krupina.

WARNING: Mild spoilers for Grigory’s Gadget contained in this post!

Name: Snezhana Krupina (sneh-ZHAH-nah KROO-pee-nah) née Sokoll (soh-KOHL)

Name Meaning: Snezhana – from the Slavic word for “snowy”; Krupina – from the West Slavic word for “barley”; Sokoll – Slavic word for “falcon”

Age: in her 50s

Physical Appearance: Light skin, short brown hair, blue eyes, wears an eyepatch

Hometown: Unknown

Family: Her brother is the pirate Captain Edmund Sokoll of the Ocean’s Legend; her nephew is Alexi Sokoll

Relationship Status: she is married; her husband was not discussed in Grigory’s Gadget

Education: unknown

Religion: None

Greatest Strengths: great fighter and leader, keeps her sights on the larger picture

Greatest Weaknesses: her morality has become skewed after living as a pirate and being betrayed by her own brother

Favorite Color: Blue

Hobbies: reading up on mystical artifacts, helping to start revolutions

Biggest Goal in Life: Destroy the Bronnerush and get revenge on her brother

The Benefits of Taking a Break From Your Project

We’ve all been there. You start a passion project – you’re so excited! – and you make progress and make progress and – hit a wall. Your passion disappears and your project becomes a chore. You lose your vision and your motivation.

I have to keep going, you tell yourself. If I stop working on this project, it will never get done!

Sometimes that’s true. But sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes taking a break is warranted, and beneficial.

I participated in NaNoWriMo in November, working on Serafima’s Stone. By the end of November, I was sick of my story. I didn’t like my characters, I didn’t know where my plot was going, I hated my writing style. I felt boxed-in: I wrote Grigory’s Gadget with the intention of having this sequel. I have to write this sequel! But I hate this sequel and have no idea what I’m doing!

So, during the entire month of December, I didn’t touch my story. I didn’t open Scrivener once for the entire month. I didn’t force myself to ponder the story, to try to figure it out. I just left it sitting patiently on my hard drive.

And do you know what happened?

During the month of December I was inundated with ideas and inspiration. I’d be listening to music (namely, the Westworld soundtrack) while working on a report in the office when – BOOM – I’d get an idea! Yes – that’s what motivates that character! Yes – that’s what will happen next! Yes – I need to work that detail in! I have a chain of emails I sent to myself in December, jotting down the ideas so I wouldn’t forget them.

When January 1st rolled around, I was itching to get back to writing my story. I like my characters again. My plot has a direction, and even a discernible  ending! I’m still critical of my writing style, but so is every author ever. At least now it’s not in a self-defeating way.

So if you’re working on a project – a story, artwork, etc. – and you’re getting stuck in a rut like I was, know that it is okay to take a break. Give yourself a time limit that works for you – take off a day, a week, a month, or even a year (sorry, a year is probably too long, I just got the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. theme song stuck in my head…) – and then jump back into your project.

And I’ll be there for yooouuu….

…sorry…

Year in Review: 2016

The year 2016 has been a roller-coaster-ride of a year. Between wars, crazy politics, and the huge number of celebrity deaths (on that note, I’m not a religious person, but isn’t there something in the bible about good people being sent to heaven right before the apocalypse, leaving only the sinners left on earth to suffer? Anyway…) a lot of us are ready to kiss 2016 goodbye.

But it wasn’t all bad! This year, I’m proud to say I became a published author, one of my life-long dreams. So below is my Year in Review for 2016, highlighting the milestones (some writing-related, some not) that have defined my personal journey this year.

I really encourage you all to sit down and make a similar list. What were the moments in 2016 you were proud of? No matter how big or small, try to remember every moment that made you happy. Did you reconnect with an old friend? Get acknowledged for your hard work? Meet a fitness goal? Find a new favorite movie?

Make the list, and if you still feel rotten about 2016, do what my friends and I are doing on New Year’s Eve: build a bonfire and burn 2016 calendars. I think it will be pretty cathartic.