This year for NaNoWriMo I’m using the writing software, Scrivener, to help me tackle my project. For years I’ve read about how great Scrivener is for writers, but to me it always seemed silly. Who needs a specific software to write with? Outrageous. I have all of my handwritten notes and outlines, I don’t need to buy something to help me write better.
I finally gave into getting Scrivener once I started outlining The Morgan Mythos, mostly because this is the largest project I’ve ever done and it’s super annoying to carry around a huge ass binder just so I can flip through it when I need information while I’m writing. I then proceeded to spend about a week or so adding in everything from my hard copy binder into Scrivener, and from there I’ve been building and building, finally coming to a place where writing comes almost…easily? Bear with me here: I want to show you how Scrivener has helped me with my NaNoWriMo this year, including visuals (be excited!).
Welcome to Scrivener, The Morgan Mythos edition! Book one of the series, Parasomnia, has three sections outside of the prologue: Past, Present, and Eternal. Though the story starts out in the present, there are chapters located in the past to flesh out the story and give you clues to what’s going on in the present. Eternal, on the other hand, represents Morgan’s time with Cthulhu while comatose. These are conversations between that exist within the mind they share, so the tone for each of these feels much different than the rest of the novel. When I first started branching my ideas out for this project, one of the things I wanted to attempt is to write what I call a Mixed Media Novel (I’m sure there’s a proper term, but as an ex-art student, my term seems more appropriate.)
A Mixed Media Novel, to me, is one that jumps between different writing styles, different characters and point of views to dive into. My favorite example of this is Megan McAfferty’s Perfect Fifths, the final book in the Jessica Darling series (not including the middle grade novel she released much later as an origin to Jessica’s story.) This is one of my favorite books, because it jumps between regular prose, freestyle, poems, and point of views. Going backwards, I’m starting my series with this style, and following books with move back towards more traditional styles.
For now, as you can see, I have each section separated for easy access and writing. I’ve gotten a higher word count this way than I have on any other project I’ve worked on, because I can choose which section I want to work on when I sit down at my keyboard. When I was writing White Houses, I was writing in a straight forward way: I’d sit down and pick up where I left off, and if I got stuck, I’d usually stay stuck until I could force myself over that bridge. So far with Parasomnia, getting stuck doesn’t mean having to walk away, it just means that I jump to another section and move forward with that section of storytelling. This has also made it easier to make sure each aspect of my timeline for the novel stands up to snuff with the other parts; for example, I noticed that the first year of the novel (which should go through three entire years) had a lot more content than the last two years. When I noticed this I began to move around cards and add new ones, finding ways to fill the story that I probably wouldn’t have caught without the visual aide.
Speaking of visual aides, you can also add photos into your Scrivener project. As you can see, I have a bunch of different mansion photos and layouts under my “Places” section. One of the most important settings in Parasomnia is the Phillips Family Beach Mansion; this is where Morgan is first called for by Cthulhu from the depths of the ocean and leads her into the coma that forces her story into the “Eternal” section for the majority of the novel. It’s also in this mansion that we see the majority of the “Past” scenes, including the night that Morgan’s parents, Scott and Sara, first met, as well as an inside look into Morgan’s grandfather, L.C. Phillips, who is the character that truly sets the entire story on it’s journey. I knew this mansion needed to be old and creepy, with traces of blue blood money and sea wreathed tales, so I researched real and fiction versions that together make the Phillips Family Beach Mansion inside my mind. Having access to those visuals has helped me in moments of writer’s block when I couldn’t find that specific description that’s just…right on the tip of my tongue.
This also helps with my character profiles. With a project of this size, the amount of characters I’m having to create is more than I’ve ever even dreamed of trying. Writing horror means that you’re going to have to kill characters off at some point, which means that I’m going to be going through a large list of people to introduce to my readers, get them to feel something for them, so that way when I destroy said character, it truly impacts the reader. Every time I get overwhelmed by the amount of people I’m meeting in this journey, I just remind myself that J.K. Rowling built and entire world of characters completely from scratch — I at least have the inspiration of H.P. Lovecraft’s career and those that went on to continue The Cthulhu Mythos. As you can see, each character has a profile page with their characteristics, history, future, etc., as well as images of the characters that I use for inspiration. A friend of mine who is also a writer creates Pinterest boards for inspiration on her WIPs, and seeing those helped me realize how helpful having those visuals can be. All of the core characters in The Morgan Mythos have specific actors and actresses that inspire their look and way of movement. Being able to watch a show with the actress who plays Morgan inside my head — to hear her voice, notice her mannerisms — helps me understand Morgan better. They come alive inside my mind, actors in the play that I am curating for the world. If you’re lucky, I may even give you a sneak peak to these characters before the month is over with my own Pinterest style inspo-boards.
Finally, my favorite tool to use on Scrivener is the Full Screen mode. You can use any photo you want for the background, and being able to that allows me to feel more involved with the story as it’s happening. As you can see in my example below, I’ve been writing Parasomnia — particularly scenes with Morgan (and Cthulhu, once he arrives) — with an image of Cthulhu rising through the fog over a beautiful mountain top. I’ve also used images of being underwater, a makeshift maintenance garage, and of course, images from Cthulhu fan sites of the settings H.P. Lovecraft originally created, like Innsmouth and Miskatonic University, both of which are settings in my trilogy.
Now, if you’ve been following my NaNoWriMo profile, you’ll probably think that I’ve given up on my project, as I haven’t updated my word count in about a week, so it seems like I’m roughly 15,000 words behind schedule. Fear not! Though I am a few thousand words behind the goal, I have faith I’ll be back on track by the end of this week. As I’ve spoken of multiple times before on this site, sometimes life gets in the way of writing. This past week I was fortunate enough to spend some time with my family, so I missed roughly three days of writing. Then I had a job interview that required a lot of my focus. As these are both done, I see the next few weeks to be full of writing days: I even took a vacation day for the Friday after Thanksgiving — the first time I’ve ever done so — just so I can spend the day writing Parasomnia. The end of November is also primo submission time for short story contests and the such, which I’ve been trying to get pieces ready for. As I spoke of in my 2017 Goals post, there are pieces I’ve been wanting to write and submit for awhile, and though I’m cutting it close to the end of year, submitting itself is the best step forward I’ve ever taken in these regards.
Even with the hiccups life brings to the table, I’m still feeling really confident about NaNoWriMo and Parasomnia. I’m inspired and writing more than I have in what feels like a very long time, probably since I was diligently working on White Houses. Here’s to hoping I’ll continue the good work and good mojo.