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Friday, February 14, 2014

Can We Ever Learn Enough?...

By Anna Jeffrey

 I’ve lost track of all the courses, classes and workshops I’ve taken since I started my writing journey years ago. Besides studying characterization and story structure and any number of other elements of a story, I’ve learned various systems for keeping up with information. I took a class once that taught how to keep copious detail about story people in multiple 3-ring binders. For me, that turned out to be mostly a mess. I was so busy gathering and sorting information I had no time to write the story.

The most profound thing I’ve learned from all of this learning is that I can never learn enough. Consequently, I’m starting a class to learn how to use Scrivener.

Scrivener is writing software that’s supposed to improve the organizing of what you write. Everyone I know who has mastered Scrivener thinks it’s the answer to the organization and flow of information through a story. I bought the program believing I could teach myself. Boy, was I wrong. So now I need a class. The woman teaching the class is the author who wrote “Scrivener for Dummies.” Appropriate, huh?

Organizing storytelling information has been a challenge for me forever. A manuscript of 100,000 words has a lot of information to keep up with. In one story, there might be two-dozen speaking characters, for example, playing only minor roles in the story, but not giving any one of them critical attention would be a mistake.

You can’t have the heroine’s aunt be blue-eyed on page 36 and green-eyed on page 150. I’ve read books that made it to print with this type of flaw. And for some reason, in spite of all the other details a writer might put into a story, despite beautiful prose, a mistake like that one jumps right off the page at a reader. Scrivener is not going to help me keep up with all of those details, but hopefully, if I’m better organized, I’ll be able to find them easier and discover a flaw if there is one.

Over time, I’ve devised all kinds of “systems” and record-keeping methods to help me keep it all straight. Most of them work to a degree, but none of them are great. Lately, I’m using a clumsy system I’ve created in Microsoft Excel. Fingers crossed that Scrivener will be better. If it isn’t, and if I have to go back to Excel, I’m going to be extremely disappointed.

This is particularly important to me right now as I’m writing a romance trilogy that’s a family saga, with a sub-story arc that carries through 3 books.
The organization and flow of information is important to the whole trilogy. The trilogy, THE SONS OF TEXAS, is about three brothers and the family they live within. As anyone who has ever written a trilogy knows, it’s critical that facts in Books #2 and #3 correlate to Book #1. Hopefully, by the time I’ve finished my Scrivener class, I’ll be able to pull that off a little more easily than I’m managing now.

Oh, and by the way.....HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY.


  1. Anna, I'm eager to hear how Scrivener works for you. Certainly your books are wonderful as you write now.

    1. Thanks, Carolyn. Word has its challenges, too. I've been years trying to learn to use it and still have a long way to go. ..... Thanks for the compliment on the books. As you know yourself, compliments are food for the ego and I don't know anyone who needs that more than people who write fiction.

  2. Happy Valentines Day to you! Since I am a reader - not an author - I was not aware of all it takes to write a book! Whatever your system is now, it must be working because I really enjoy what you write!

    1. Thank you, Karren. I think my *system* is one of the things that causes me to take so long to write a book. LOL ... And thanks for the compliment. It takes only one to make my day. I don't know about others, but when I write a story, I'm so into it and so close to it, I lose objectivity. Only after I've put it out there for consumption by readers do I know if I've succeeded in proving what I set out to in my premise.

  3. I just decided yesterday to buy Scrivener. It sounds so sane and logical. Since I really hate Word, I hope Scrivener is a nice alternative. Also hope it is easy to learn. Good luck with the class.

  4. I have not found it easy to learn, Joan, but I'm a little short on patience. Apparently others haven't found it easy either because there are at least a dozen books for sale on how to use it, plus videos and classes. It's so large and comprehensive. I kind of didn't know where to start. That's why I think I need a class.


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