Workflow 2013

I’m currently working on The Fall of Macharius and, since I am right in the middle of a new novel, now seems like a good time to talk about the tools I use and my workflow. It’s on my mind and a nice easy subject to write a blog post about and, hey, I’m all about taking the easy way out whenever possible.

I am constantly trying to optimise my use of time. I’ve streamlined my working process a little since the last time I discussed it so here are my current methods.

I still use Evernote to gather ideas, information, and bits of stuff. It is basically my notebook, journal and store for pretty much everything I clip from the web. It works cross-platform, even on my Galaxy S3 smartphone, so I have access to all the information everywhere I go. I even keep pictures and PDF print outs of tickets and receipts in it. Pretty much anything I might need to remember goes into Evernote along with pretty much anything I think I might need to remember. 

It’s best to think of Evernote as the primordial ooze from which all of the ideas for my books emerge. (I think I am borrowing this image from Rachel Aaron’s book on writing but I am not sure and as ever I am too lazy to go and check.) Everything is in there somewhere, tagged, sorted into different notebooks and easily available from a quick search. Some of the ideas will sit there for years before bubbling to the surface, some may never be used at all, but at least I can find them if the need arises.

Once I get started on the actual writing itself, it probably comes as no surprise to you that I still use Scrivener. This still provides the best development environment for writing a novel I know. (As an aside I write these blog posts in Scrivener as well and then export them as HTML.)

I start with the outline and then when I have reached the stage of a chapter by chapter or scene by scene breakdown, I transfer each section to an individual card so that I can refer to it as I write. I put character sketches, location descriptions and any other relevant information in the Research folder.

Where an outline is required by an editor, such as when working with Black Library, I simply export it from Scrivener, and reimport the modified outline as needed. My main change in working methods now is that I store my Scrivener file in Dropbox so I can access it from all my machines— OSX, Windows or even Linux. This lets me use whatever machine is handy and fully charged.

In the past I was reluctant to do this, fearing corruption of my working files, but I have been following Literature & Latte’s best practises and have not had any problems in over a year now. To be on the safe side, I keep zipped backups in Dropbox, Google Drive and Amazon’s S3 cloud. I also regularly compile the document into an RTF file and export it to Dropbox and Google Drive just in case. I know all this sounds hideously complex, but in practise it takes only a few seconds for every backup.

I basically stick with Scrivener until I am happy with the manuscript, however many rewrites that may take. Once I have reached a more or less final stage I export it to Microsoft Word. In the case of my work for Black Library, it goes off to Nottingham. In the case of my indie work, it goes off to my test readers and then my copyeditor. At some point the manuscript returns and I go over it for the last few times in Word, taking advantage of the track changes feature.

At this stage, the Black Library work is simply emailed in. For my indie productions, I clean up the text and prepare the ebook file. These days I do this in Jutoh. For indie print books I stay in Word and use the templates I talked about here.

Although it is perfectly possible to produce an ebook in Scrivener, I find I prefer to separate the production side of things completely. It just seems to work better for me. Jutoh is a very nice ebook program that allows you to produce MOBI and EPUB files simultaneously at the touch of a button. I confess that these days though I mostly just upload my Word files to Draft2Digital and let them create the EPUB files.

That’s it. I use a grand total of 4 programs to produce all my work these days. Of course, my workflow is simplified by the fact that I no longer do my own covers. If it were not for the requirements of editing, I could quite easily do pretty much everything inside Scrivener.

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Comments

  1. Elliott Middleton says:

    Hey William –
    I am a semi-retired financial exec (unemployed, 62, no pension and not enough assets to retire). I read English at Yale eons ago and have taken advantage of my current status to cleanup a couple of novels and put them on Amazon.
    My purpose here is to ask how I can connect with folks to become test readers and constructive critics.
    Best,
    Elliott

    • Hey Elliot,

      In general, I think you need test readers who are sympathetic to your work and who like the genre you write in, if its genre work you are doing. They also need to be able to tell you where they think you have gone wrong, if you have gone wrong. My test readers are for the most part friends and family whose judgement I respect and people who have emailed me comments on my work that impressed me as having the sort of insight I needed. There are often local writers groups who do this sort of thing as well (Glasgow has a particularly excellent SF group.) You can usually find circles and groups who swap critiques on the internet as well. Hope this helps.

      • Elliott Middleton says:

        William –
        My thriller “Incident on Summit Avenue” is free Saturday (tomorrow GMT – 7), deals with Gorbachev just before the fall of USSR, with update on where Russia has gone. Grab if interested.
        Thanks for your reply. I fly in an online soaring simulator called Condor with Czech, Slovak and Slovenian pilots over very realistic scenery–looks beautiful.
        Thanks,
        Elliott

  2. Will the Fall of Macharius feature any slippery flights of stairs?

  3. I strongly recommend Jutoh. I got it initially because it made nice clean Smashwords files, but occasionally I’ll run into a problem where Nookpress & Kobo choke on the EPUBs I make in Sigil. Whenever that happens, I just import the EPUB into Jutoh, generate a new EPUB within the program, and then upload the new file. So far, it has worked every single time.

    • That sounds very like my experience, Jonathan. I was having a problem with an EPUB generated by Scrivener and I just could not fix it. The issue resolved itself when I used Jutoh. I also find I really like having the production side of things separated from the writing side and I do the vast majority of my writing in Scrivener. I like the one button, multiple compile functionality in Jutoh.

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