My Name Is Tom Dorin

Worth Every Penny: Scrivener

Many people work with long, complicated documents: students, professionals, authors of all flavors. I found myself among them as I began working on the document that would eventually become My Name Is Tom Dorin.

Using this novel as an example, I have two protagonists who are in different centuries, living out their fates in interlocking but separate story lines, plus a cast of secondary and supporting characters in both centuries. In my first novel, mind you. Yeah, I never do things the easy way, do I? I started off riding a bicycle by heading down a steep hill too, towards a tree.

The novel’s impetuous undertaking ended with a glowing sense of success. That first bicycle ride? Let’s just say parts of me glowed for quite a while afterward. . . .

Anyway, retracing that rabbit-trail: After struggling with legal pad pages covered in scrawls and swooping arrows, stacks of index cards bordered with bilious highlighter marker colors, and a Word document that scrolled on longer than the credits for the original Superman,I began to get a sharp pain behind my eye every time I tried to figure out which scene should go where.

I can’t remember where I first found Scrivener mentioned, but it sounded exactly what I needed. In fact, it sounded too good to be true, and $40 is a tad steep for me to take a chance on something I’m not certain about.

I decided to give the free trial a whirl. I used it about a week before deciding that I would purchase it the instant the trial period ended. The software looks complicated at first glance, but it quickly becomes intuitive. Still, I strongly recommend going through the tutorials before you dive in and start merrily deleting templates and resaving stuff.

I honestly do not think I could have finished Dorin without the organizing structure and ease of revision that Scrivener provides. The Literature & Latte site describes its glories better than I can, but I will say that it set me free to write and allowed me to revise with ease. The corkboard replaces all those stacks of index cards, and requires zero floor space to see them all laid out.

I could deal only with Jon’s scenes, or Tom’s, the 19th century or the 21st, just by clicking a folder. Scenes can be swapped around with the ease of moving a physical index card, and you never have to worry about a weak rubber band snapping, scattering them into chaos and under the couch. You can switch from the corkboard view to a compiled text view, to a single card view with equal ease.

Scrivener also reveals itself to be a well-appointed basic word processor, and has a very nice ‘distraction-less’ view for working, by fading the menus away into the background while you’re wooing your muse. It’s just as easy to get a high-altitude view of your entire project, or to compile it all back into one document for reading, printing or for final editing in a dedicated word processor. If you prefer to work in Word or OpenOffice or whatever, copy/pasting from those programs to Scrivener (and vice versa) takes nothing more than good ol’ control-c or control-v. Sometimes there’s some formatting changes, but nothing that’s a huge aggravation.

I also recently discovered that Scrivener will compile your project for publication as ePub or mobi, for eBook distribution. I haven’t tried that option yet, but it sounds straightforward. I’m not sure about the more precise, fiddly formatting requirements necessary for something destined for paper printing, but I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that Scrivener does that well, too.

Scrivener isn’t only for fiction writers, nor, I suspect, was it originally designed for fiction. If you write non-fiction, or create documents for business or scholarly use, then Scrivener is really going to shine. I didn’t fully utilize its research and media files organization and integration features for Dorin, because I was too deep in my own method by then to switch everything over. That said, I am using its Research and media organization for the next book, as the in-progress novel is the first in a projected three book series, and requires a lot of world-building. I can set up the first book, and the overarching plan for the whole series, in Scrivener and have everything neatly in one place, easy to get to on the fly.

Scrivener was created as Mac software first, then adapted for Windows, so Mac users will likely find it even more of a seamless experience than I have. I have no idea about Linux, sorry. You’ll have to check their site.

Are there any negatives? Well, sure, nothing’s perfect. Scrivener opens slowly, and closes even slower. It does an automatic backup each time it’s closed, and that takes a fair amount of time when a project has grown to spider-whacker novel proportions. To be fair, that feature could probably be disabled, but I consider it good protection and leave it alone.

Another related caveat is that Scrivener saves your project files in its own proprietary format, which is not usable by other programs. I STRONGLY urge you to compile and then save your work frequently in another format and different location. Preferably also on removable media and then back that all up somewhere completely out of your house, like some form of Cloud storage or a safety deposit box or your Grandma’s hall closet. Y’never know, y’know, and if disaster strikes it’d be a real shame to lose all your work as well as your belongings. I have not had one single problem with Scrivener misbehaving, but it’s a computer program. Programs and computers can flop over onto their backs and die without much warning sometimes.

Scrivener is also not very portable. Even if you license it for more than one computer, it scolds you roundly for transferring files from one system to another. If you need to bounce from one machine to another as you work, it might be better to do your actual writing in something like Word, and only plan and compile finished chapters and research on Scrivener.

Even though Scrivener is fairly intuitive, and has excellent tutorials, it is not a Microsoft product, so things are set up a bit differently as far as commands and features. It took me a little while to figure out where the Paragraph formatting commands resided, for instance. Not a major issue, and once you know where everything is, it’s all easy to use—but there is that bit of a learning curve and unfamiliarity to traverse. It’s also not designed to be your primary word processor, so if you need to do fancy text manipulation and elaborate formatting, you’ll need to do that outside of Scrivener.

For what it’s designed to do, however, I can recommend it without reservation. It has proven itself to me and has definitely earned my accolade of Worth Every Penny!

[I don't receive any kind of compensation for any recommendation I make. The folks at Literature & Latte don't know me from Adam's off-ox, but I believe in giving credit where it's due and spreading the word about excellent goods and services. I hope it'll aid someone else in their quest to get their creative effort out into the world.]

* A quick Googling informs me that Clerks 2 now holds the record for longest ending credits. I haven’t seen that one, and it sounds as though the credits padding was done as a publicity stunt, so Superman holds the record still as far as I’m concerned.


I know we're close to an indie bookstore

Categories: My Name Is Tom Dorin, Novel, fiction, writing, Software, Editing | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Creation of a Book Trailer: My Name Is Tom Dorin

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WFo_9czqMk

“Your book may be a novel, but your trailer should be a poem.” Chuck Sambuchino

A woman I met, who is part of a well-known Hollywood production company, advised me that I should create a book trailer for My Name Is Tom Dorin.  Now, she’s a wonderful lady who gave me impeccable advice and the production company is top-notch, but she is a new acquaintance.   Not exactly someone I felt I could smile sweetly at and ask “Will you do it for me?” (though perhaps I should have! Who knows, right? Oh well, there’s going to be another novel soon, God willing….)

Since I published my paperback version through Createspace, I toddled over to their book trailer page to see what they offered.  I almost got a nosebleed.  A trailer using stock stills, stock music, and text with no voice-over is roughly $1200.  A trailer using stock video footage, stock music, text and a voice-over actor is about $2200.   Perhaps quite reasonable for professional quality– I know now that stock video costs dearly in higher resolutions, for instance– but still, up in the financial stratosphere for me and I have a fear of that sort of heights.

So, I channeled one of my lifelong heroes– The Little Red Hen– and decided I’d do this myself.  I’m also a major information junkie, which means I began to do research.  One of the first pages I encountered was on the Writers’ Digest site. “How to make a book trailer: 6 tips.

I may not have followed all Mr. Sambuchino’s advice to the letter, but that one statement above was my guiding principle.  I thought long and hard about how to distill Dorin down to its emotional essence.  How to make something visually and emotionally intriguing without giving away too much of the plot.  Even after all that thought, it was my son who came up with the germinal storyboard.  The finished trailer doesn’t follow it frame by frame, but it certainly retains the spirit of the original inspiration.

I watched a bunch of book trailers on Youtube.  The ones by the big publishing houses are lavish, full cinematic productions.  I know I have no chance of emulating those.  I eliminated them and focused instead on trailers made by the authors themselves.  Those were more attainable, and some are very good indeed.  I paid close attention to how they incorporated stock images, and what they chose to use as text, and how they used live talent, whether actors or voice-over artists.

I realized I didn’t want to visually “cast” anyone as my characters.  I can’t afford to hire professional actors, nor to costume them and create sets.  The last thing I want to do is to leave an unsatisfying impression that way.  To ‘cheez it up’ as Mr. Sambuchino puts it.   So, I decided that there would be only voices and images.

That narrowed my search.  I accumulated a lot of sample stock images, footage and sound files.  iStock.com turned out to be quite reasonable for footage and images that are of lower, web-quality resolution. DeviantART also has an astounding variety of stock resources available, most free to use with only an attribution.   Freesound.org is a treasure trove.  Everything is licensed under the Creative Commons, so abide by the contributor’s wishes in that regard, and that’s all you have to pay.  For anything you can’t find on Freesound, check out Pond5.com.  Their files are not free, but their prices seem to be reasonable for what I needed.  Pond5 has stock images and footage as well.

The best find for me, however, was Fiverr.com.  I wanted a male voice, with a Southern accent, to do the voice-over.   Now, I’m an east Tennessee native and have lived there my entire life till very recently, so fake Southern accents really grate.  Too, most actors tend to do an exaggerated Texan or Savannah, Georgia accent… which comes out sounding like a lethargic John Wayne or smothers every word in Scarlett O’Hara’s cloying ‘moonlight and magnolias’ drawl.   Neither of which would work for this.  Tom Dorin was from the hills of East Tennessee, in the mid-19th century.  East Tennesseans twang as they drawl, and sometimes throw some nasality in there with it.  It’s a hard accent to shake if you grow up speaking that way, but it’s also a hard one to fake.

But Fiverr came through.  More specifically, an artist with the user name of Fromtheburro came through for me.   He’s a native Tennessean, from Nashville, and both his accent and his voice quality appealed to me for this project.   He was even able to do the two different sounding voices for Carl and Tom, at the very beginning.  I couldn’t be more pleased with his work, and I’m awed that he did this for the very affordable fee of $5.  On top of his skill, he also came across in his communication with me as a very nice person.  Please check him out if you need any sort of Southern-flavored vocal talent.

So, with all my raw material gathered, it was time to move what I saw and heard in my head into an actual computer file.  Full disclosure here:  I have never before attempted any sort of video or audio editing.  I really had no idea where to start.  I remembered, years ago, using Audacity to clip sound files into ringtones, and a lot of sites mentioned Windows Movie Maker.  I wasn’t sure I even had Movie Maker on my computer till I ran a search for it.

Like making the book cover, making this trailer was a lot of fun.  It took a day of solid work at it to get it to the version I am comfortable posting.  Probably it wouldn’t take that long again, or for anyone familiar with video/audio editing, but I was figuring out both programs at the same time I was figuring out the entire creative process.  Afterwards, I heard from several reliable sources that while Audacity has a very respectable reputation as quality software, Windows Movie Maker is considered….  Well, let’s put it this way.  It’s akin to trying to create art with a flattened brown paper sack and a blunt crayon.  It can be done, but you’d be better off with more sophisticated tools.

After finishing this trailer, I was given a list of free video-editing software programs that are supposed to be much more powerful than WinMM.  However, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to even unzip and install them, so they’ll be the subject of a later post.

All that said, am I happy with the trailer I created?  Yes, I am.  At my stage of know-how, and with what I had to work with, it’s my best effort.  It gets across the images and emotional tone I set out to portray.   Maybe, someday, when I have better software and a lot more experience, I may look at this piece of video, cringe, cover my face in shame and yank it off Youtube for a remake.

For now, though?  This Little Red Hen is eyeing her creation and clucking contentedly over it.

Categories: Book Trailer, Createspace, fiction, My Name Is Tom Dorin, Novel, Self-publishing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alive… alive… it’s ALIIIIIVE!

At long last, the fateful day arrives!  My Name Is Tom Dorin is available for sale in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.  Wow, it feels fantastic and a touch odd to be able to say that, the day has been so long in coming.  It was an unexpected sort of thrill, too, to type the title into Amazon’s search bar and find my novel.

Even more awesome was to do that in Google and find that it’s the only result that comes up.  Out of the multiple millions of search items, the chances of a piece of your own creativity being the one single returned result? They’re… well, the word astronomical is probably an exaggeration, but I bet it comes close.  I’ll savor it while it lasts.

Almost as strong as the sense of elation and triumph is the sensation of a heaviness dropping away, the bone-deep relaxation that comes when a long drawn-out, emotionally arduous task is at last completed.

I’m glad I had a couple of days to savor that, because I’m now at that nervous stage where the first half-dozen copies have sold, but it’s too early for the first reviews to come in.  It’s not as pleasurable a place to be, because it’s akin to a sense of stage fright that lasts for days instead of minutes.  My beta-readers were all generous with their praise, but who knows how others will see it?  The thought of getting a bad review this early in the game– well, it shortens my breath and constricts my chest.  I know harsh words will come eventually, even God can’t write a book that gets unanimous approval, but I do hope and pray the inevitable happens later rather than earlier!

At least, regardless of what happens from this point forward, I’ve met my main and most important goal.  The only outcome that was entirely in my hands:  My Name Is Tom Dorin is finished.  It’s in tangible form.  It is the best story, the best piece of writing, that I’m capable of creating at this point of my life.   That is the only part of this process that has been entirely under my command, and it’s what I’ve planted my expectations of the meaning of success upon.

Now, whether it goes down into the void without creating a ripple, or whether it becomes the mythical Great American Novel, is largely beyond my control.  Oh, I’ll market it as best I can, and spread the word as best I can– but anything from this point on is a bonus, unexpected gift as far as I’m concerned.

I am, finally and truly, not only a professional writer but a published novelist.  And that feels like an enormous personal achievement to me!

Categories: Amazon, fiction, Kindle, My Name Is Tom Dorin, Novel, publication, Self-publishing, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.