If you see a scattered pile of computer paper and hear muffled noises coming from underneath it, I promise it’s not haunted. It’s just one of us senior writing students, buried underneath our overwhelming major projects.
Truth be told, my senior seminar project is actually going pretty well. I’m on track in terms of my word count, and it seems like the story is moving along at a nice pace. I covered what my major project is about in my last Writer’s Life post, but here’s a quick recap: I’m writing an “alternate history” novel set in 1968. It features two young women (a college student and a journalist) as they investigate several U.S. soldiers who have mysteriously disappeared in their home country.
As of this writing, I’m at 26,783 words just over halfway to my word count goal 50,000. I’m also a little more than halfway to my deadline of November 30 (remember, I started mid-October). In other words, things are right on track and as long as nothing wild happens (knock on wood), I should reach my goal no problem.
Big-picture-wise, it looks like things have been smooth sailing, but this project has been more complicated than that. I’ve fallen behind a few times, though I always manage to recover within a few days. Fortunately, I’ve had a lot of great help – I have a writing program that keeps me organize, fellow writer who encourage me, and music that keeps me motivated.
Working with Scrivener
I’ve mentioned this before, but for big writing projects these days, I rely on Scrivener to keep track of all of my characters, settings, scenes, ideas, etc. It’s been especially instrumental with Project Quest, but I’ve found it to be helpful with senior seminar as well. Of course, it’s handy to be able to see my character sheets and outlines side-by-side with my draft document, but I’ve found some other ways to utilize Scrivener’s features too.
We did an exercise in class last week that involved looking at the different “threads” of our story and marking where they showed up in the plot, if at all. The professor brought a tupperware container full of crayons that I’m almost certain he stole from his children, and we drew out our own “plot maps” in various ways. I took that idea and implemented it in my Scrivener project:
The “bookmark” stripe at the top tells me what act that chapter is in – blue is Act I. The other colors on the side tell me which “thread” is present in that chapter. Like the acts, they’re also color-coordinated. For example, the orange one that shows up the most is the external “investigation” plot, while the dark blue is for scenes that build the relationship between the two leads. Charmaine, my fellow Scrivener-user, thinks there’s a way to actually turn these keywords into a map, but I think it might only be available in the new version of the program, and alas, it has not been released for Windows yet. But one day…
I’ve also utilized some of the custom meta-date for my scenes, so I can add labels that list the characters and the setting for each chapter. When I look at my chapters in the outliner view, I can see all off it at once, which I’m sure will be helpful come revisions.
One of my favorite parts about this project has been having the opportunity to work with fellow writers. I was lucky enough to be placed in a workshop group with three of my close friends, and the experience has been phenomenal. I’ve talked about the need to collaborate with other writers before, but this reconfirms it. Not only has my group been a solid sounding board for my ideas and concerns, but they’ve also been an encouragement throughout what can sometimes be a taxing project.
I know not everyone has the opportunity to meet fellow writers through class assignments and whatnot, but I encourage you to try and connect with a few trusted writer friends. Having people you can talk to and who will offer you advice is invaluable, and I’m thankful for the group I’m working with this semester.
And finally, because I’m easily distracted and noise is literally everywhere, I’ve been building a “writing playlist” to keep me focused during writing sessions. I go back and forth between YouTube and Spotify, but I have a trial of Spotify Premium right now, so I’m making the most of that.
I like high-energy instrumental soundtracks the most, because they get me excited to write but don’t have words to distract me. I’ve gone the route of “epic film scores” before, and while they sound nice, they often have a slower tempo and make me actually feel more sluggish. My playlist has a lot of video game music, plus some of my favorite movie scores and TV series or two thrown in for good measure. If you’re interested, you can check it out on Spotify below! (Or use this link here)