How to use Scrivener – Get writing fast

I’m a big fan of Scrivener, so I’m going to share some simple features on how to use Scrivener and get you started fast. I’m also sharing some cool features you can find in the Mac version. Scrivener works by letting you put all your research, character sketches, and story content in one setting. PC Magazine gave it an “Excellent” rating because it’s “one of the best pieces of software for writers because it was built with their needs in mind.”

Know Your Version

Currently, I’m using version on my Mac. If you have it on your computer and you don’t know what version you have:

  1. Open the program
  2. Go to upper left Scrivener/Check for Updates
  3. A screen will open with your version number (or will tell you to update)

They now have a 3.0 version available for purchase for Mac (the PC 3.0 version is coming in 2019) – so I’ll be getting that soon.

Get Started

Open Scrivener and you should see the Start Panel pop-up. From this screen, you have several options. (If you are already in Scrivener and this screen isn’t open, you can go to File/New Project to open the Start Panel.)

How to use Scrivener

How to use Scrivener

From the left side, choose from Getting Started, or the type of project you want to start. Getting Started is nice if you want to check out the interactive tutorial, the expansive User Manual, or YouTube videos.

Or, choose the kind of project you’ll be working on.

In this case, I’m going to select Fiction. For this blog, I’m going to use my already published novel, “Toy of the Gods
, as an example, but pretend I’m starting from the beginning so you can see how it all works.

Start Your Novel

  • Click on Fiction, then double click on Novel to open up a new novel project.
  • scrivener save

    scrivener save

  • Name your project in the Save As field.
  • Click Create.
  • Now you have a new Novel project to start with.

Write Your Novel

Navigate your new project by using the Binder on the left side of your screen.

  • Novel Format: Explains how to use the template.
  • Manuscript: You can rename this file anything you want, but this top file is where your story lives.
  • Chapter: You can rename chapters anything you want – just don’t use numbers – Scrivener can number them for you.
  • Scene: You can split your Chapters into scenes – for example, The second chapter of my book is split into three scenes. Intro Leslie, Leslie explores the eco-resort, Leslie chases a burglar.
  • Characters: I love this part of Scrivener! I create a sheet for each character. This helps keep my characters organized. I title each sheet the name of the character so I can quickly find them.
  • Places: If your story is based on a certain location, you can make place sheets, just like a character.
  • Front Matter: This will be important when you’re ready to publish.
  • Research: Whatever research you collected for your story can go here. For example, I collected a ton of research about the Amazon. Once I add it there, I can access it quickly when I need to be reminded of something.
  • Template Sheets: I love this option! This is where you can find templates for your new character and setting (Place) sheets. I use a very detailed table for my characters. Here I can insert the table and now every time I create a new character, the table will be there in a new sheet.
  • Trash: When you send something to trash in your project, this is where it goes.

Start writing:

  1. Click on Scene.
  2. Click in the open space known as the editor window.
  3. Start typing. This is where the text of your scene goes.

Create new chapters or scenes:

  1. Click on the green + sign along the top in the for new scenes
  2. Click the drop-down arrow next to the green + sign to add a new chapter.

Here’s another screenshot with some examples of the chapters and scenes named. You can rename them by double clicking on them and typing the new name. 

Fun Things to Use

And, here are a few fun tools you might want to try out!

Word Count Goals. Have a writing goal? You can set a goal for your complete manuscript as well as session. Go to:

  1. Project
  2. Show Project Targets
  3. Click Edit
  4. Edit the number goals
  5. Click Apply

Then you can always go back to the Project Targets to see where you’re at with your goals.

Name Generator. Seriously! There’s a name generator.

  1. On the top bar, click Edit
  2. Writing Tools
  3. Name Generator
  4. At the bottom of the screen click and drag the indicator to tell it how many names you need
  5. Click Generate Names

Change the Icons for your folders. My other favorite option! When I’m editing the novel I’ll change the icon on a folder to show that I’ve edited it for the first draft, second draft, etc. It helps me visually see where I need to work next.

  1. Right click on a folder image in the Binder
  2. Select from the long list of images!

What Next?

FYI: If you’re in Albuquerque, we’re holding a class in January to teach Scrivener. Scrivener is also our sponsor, so we’re able to keep the tickets inexpensive for this 3-hour class. If you’re interested, sign up today!

Want help writing your novel? Check out the Plotfinder Package.

Publishing Short Stories Online – A Short Story-A-Thon

The idea came to me after talking to a few people who wanted to publish short stories online to Amazon but weren’t sure where to start or even what they wanted to write about.

Publish that short story online

So, I’ve come up with a way help everyone through the process with this Short Story-a-thon.

Here’s how it works:

Friday-Idea Creation

The idea of the event is to start off on Friday night and gather ideas for our stories. For that, I’ll be taking everyone to a few different locations in downtown to people watch and idea gather.

So Friday is all about movement, observation, and note-taking. Then we’ll come back to FatPipe ABQ to wrap up, have some snacks, and anyone can stay for a while to start writing.

Homework: Everyone has to come up with a paragraph about their story before Saturday morning. This is so you can either hire a graphic designer or have an idea what your book cover should look like. (more on that is below)

Saturday-Lot’s of Work

Saturday will be the long hard day it’s. It’s a lot of work to write and edit, plus you really need to get it input on your story from readers to become a better writer and to write a better story. So, Saturday will start off bright and early. We will write, edit, and review each other stories. I will also have a couple of editors on hand that I will hire to help edit grammar for the participants.

I’ll have coffee and snacks available during the whole event. And, lunch is on your own, but I’ll bring in a food truck, Cheesy Street, if there is enough interest.

To break up the day a little I will also address Cover art as well as share a list of graphic designers so you can hire and are willing to design a cover within 24 hours.

I will also talk a little bit about how to use Canva if you don’t want to hire someone for your cover.

Sunday-Publishing Your Short Story

Then Sunday is going to be the fun publishing day. We will eat cake while I show everyone how step-by-step we publish our short stories online to Amazon. I will also share a list of contests.

I’ll also share some template information to include in your short story for copywrite.

If you publish to Amazon you’ll not only get a chance to make money off your creativity, but you’ll also receive a fun ducky pen.

A Contest Too!

Plus I’m going to have a contest. The top stories (number to be determined later) will receive a stamp in their story that says they are plot duckies approved. And those stories will also be listed on the plot duckie’s website with a link to their respective Amazon pages.

Ready to sign up Albuquerque? Get your tickets here. FYI: $40 for all three days or you can sign up for an individual day.

Short Story-A-Thon ABQ

Short Story-A-Thon ABQ

More Happening!

If you bring a donation to this event on Friday night or Saturday morning for Albuquerque Reads, you’ll be entered to win a free cover design from Leslie Reilly! (Leslie designed the cover for my first novel – Toy of the gods)

The donation must be either funds ($5 or more per person) or new/gently used early elementary books!

Writers Forum

A new, unique opportunity to get help for writers with our new Writers Forum for Plot Duckies (aka Duckies Forum)! This will only be offered for the next 10 days (March 29, 2018) – otherwise, you have to be a Plot Box subscriber to get access.

I’m creating a forum where writers can connect online (not a group, not a facebook page).

How does the Duckies Writers Forum work?

1. Join Duckies Forum
2. Share a challenge, obstacle, question, or setback you’re facing in your writing
3. Answer someone else’s challenge, obstacle, question, or setback with ideas or feedback.
4. Get ideas and answers from me and other experienced writers.
5. Don’t waste time searching for an answer on Facebook or Google.

BTW: One of you lucky ducks will win a free Plot Box (first box). AND – as I build out the Plot Duckies platform, you’ll get the opportunity to tell me what you need help with the most. My goal is to be your most helpful source of ideas, inspiration, and motivation to keep writing creatively.

Ready to connect with like-minded writers who want to grow and learn? Then sign up here:

Next step? At the end of ten days, I’ll turn off the sign-up, and send you an email with more information. Connect with you soon!

Writing Box Subscription!

The Idea for the Writing Box

When I started Plot Duckies, I wanted to find a way to help as many creative writers as possible. Events are great, but I wanted to do more.

I was looking for help on running an idea hack session for my business. Turns out ABQID runs idea hack sessions! It’s like a brainstorming session only better. (I’ll create another post about how old fashion brainstorming isn’t the best way to come up with new ideas.)

For this session, it was TJ Cook, two target customers, and me. We ended up with some amazing ideas and two of those ideas came out on top.

One of those ideas, a writing box. A subscription box that would have helpful and fun things for creative writers. Wow, I love that idea!

The writer subscription box

Now I’m running with the box idea. What I’ve done so far:

  • I created a survey for input on what people might like, as well as what issues I could help them with.
  • I’ve created the first prototype of the box.
  • I’ve done a ton of work on costs and pricing.

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What Comes in the Box

This is what I’ve narrowed it down to:

Box 1:

  1. Chapter 1 of “Feed Your Creative Writer” A how-to on creativity,
  2. Welcome card with access to private Slack group and information on what to do with everything in the box.
  3. Fun 8 1/2 X 11 notebook,
  4. Dividers for your notebook,
  5. How-to outline your novel, and getting started
  6. A fun pen,
  7. A five-minute timer,
  8. and a plot duckie.
  9. There’s even a discount code for the writing platform Scrivener!

I’ll also use the pain points of the first five Beta testers to add additional items to the box so it’s as helpful as possible.

Future boxes all include a new chapter of how-to on creativity, a notebook (various sizes), a pen, a helpful outline or information on a writing topic like questions to ask your characters. I’ll also be on the lookout for coupons and great deals on things writers love.

Box 2 will specifically include a workbook on finding time to write. Members of the Slack group can let me know what they’d like to see in upcoming boxes.

The price will probably be $25 a month plus shipping.

What I learned creating the prototype

  • I really, really wanted to include a fun mug, but I found it would make the subscription too expensive (Darn it!) I might offer it as an add-in or a one-time order. Why? Because I love shopping and I’ve found some cool mugs.
  • That there are a few ways to set-up a subscription plan and some want more money than others to do all the hard work in the background.

Where I’m going

The best option I’ve found: Adding Woocommerce to my website and purchasing their subscription piece. Luckily, I’m familiar with WordPress and adding Woocommerce shouldn’t be too difficult. However, it means taking some time to learn, purchase an SSL certificate, etc.

So, as soon as I have everything set-up, I’ll have it connected to this website!

If you want a Writer Box Subscription

It’s all ready! I’m looking for 5 beta testers that will get the box at a discount. Send me a message through the website, and I’ll get back to you with the code. The box is live at

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Flash Fiction Alexandria and The Egg

My NYC Midnight Challenge #1 Flash Fiction (994 words/1000 word limit/written in 48 hours)

The following is pretty rough. I’ve left it in the form it was, having only 48 hours (minus all the hours I had to work those days).

Assignment- Genre: Fairy Tale; Location: Barn; Object: Crystal Ball

In the days now long departed lived a small community of part elves, part humans. They lived to help others by building homes, making clothes, and fighting for causes. When they came under attack by a ravenous horde of trolls, they found themselves without help. In the midst of a long siege, two young villagers mused over a mysterious object.

“What do you think it is?” Asked Len, his young voice cracking with puberty.

Alexandria shooed away a fly from her face. Of all the places this object had to show up, it had to be the horse barn. All the flies in the world seemed to find their way in here and it smelled. “What do you mean, what do I think it is?” Alexandria rolled her eyes but then tried to keep the annoyance out of her voice. “It’s obviously an egg.”

Len nodded and walked toward one of the horse stalls with a pitchfork in hand, seeming intent on doing his chores in spite of this strange appearance. “Not any kind of egg I’ve ever seen.”

She did have to admit it was pretty strange for an egg. And what could be in an egg that was the size of farmer Weir’s prize watermelon with skin predominately red, almost as red as her hair? There were also fine lines of gold intertwined, like a trellis.

She swatted at another fly hovering near the egg. In the process, she brushed against it. The red and gold surface swirled into bright multi-colors, but then it returned to its opaque state. The shape of the gold markings had changed. The top was a solid gold disk with gold lines trailing down.

The surface had felt extremely cold, but her hand was warm, almost hot. “Len, tell me if you think the egg feels cold?”

Len came back to the egg and gingerly touched the surface and shook his head. Nothing happened.

Alexandria’s shoulders sagged. This was not good. It was possible that this was what her fairy godmother had warned her about. “My dear,” She had said in that sweet voice, “You have magic in your blood. You’ll need to embrace who you really are someday.”

She wanted nothing to do with it. She was a fighter, not a magician. She stalked to the doors of the barn, intending to head for the blacksmiths to get her first sword and then find Derrick. Derrick was the adult of the fighting league and he could deal with this.

She stopped when she reached the door. Their town needed all the help they could get. The roaming band of trolls had been attacking with all their magic and swordplay. And no one wanted to help them. Even fairies dared not come around because there were so many pockets of unchecked magic. The last fairy who had bumped into one of the pockets had been turned into a firefly. She was currently working with the town’s doctor to overcome her fear she had every time her butt lit up.

She turned and faced the object. “Maybe this thing materialized due to all the magic being thrown around.”

Len nodded and touched the egg again. The absence of any change forced Alexandria to acknowledge what she needed to do. She walked up to the egg and touched it.

The surface changed immediately. The gold colors peeled away and climbed up her arm. The shape of the object became circular, then solidified into a crystal ball. The gold color felt warm on her arm and molded itself into images of flowers on her arm. She could also feel a new energy seeping into her.

Len stood quietly, watching with wide eyes.

Alex picked up the crystal ball with both hands, and spoke to it, “What can we do together to save my village?”

She looked into the ball, expecting a face, a voice, something to tell her exactly what to do. Instead, a scent arose from the cold ball.

She held the crystal ball towards Len. “Does that smell like vinegar to you?”

He sniffed the air, looking at her like she was crazy. “I don’t smell anything.”

Their village had been working on a few vats of apple cider vinegar to use as trade.

She tucked the ball into her knapsack and ran for the vinegar vats. The place was open and empty with all of the adults fighting at the wall. She could take a sample and throw it on a troll to see what would happen, but she didn’t feel as if she had time. She needed to take all of it with her, all four, two-story tall vats of it.

She glanced at her arm with the gold patterns and felt the energy inside her, but how to get it to work?

“Abracadabra!” She yelled. And nothing happened.

She thought back to what her fairy godmother had once said. She thought it was a terrible idea, but she imagined what she wanted to happen in her mind and said, “To thine ownself be true.”

The tattoos on her arm glowed brightly and the vats floated up in the air. She turned and ran, looking behind her only once to make sure the vats were following her.

She dashed up the stairs to the top of the wall. The fighting was still outside the village. The main work was keeping the trolls from attacking the wall itself.

From the top she pointed at the trolls below. “Go get them.” She yelled at the vats. They moved forward, tipping and pouring vinegar over trolls. The trolls looked dumbfounded for a moment until their dirty old coveralls fell off of their bodies. In embarrassment, they ran into the woods.

Not only was the village now free of its troll problem, the vinegar also cleared up all of those pesky magical balls floating around the village. Alexandria continued to use her powers and be true to herself.


Keep Creative Writing!

I know you hear it from fellow writers that you should write every day. So you probably know that you should.

If I can do it, you can too

As a startup business owner, freelance technical writer, roller derby player, business mentor, etc. I have a hard time eeking out the minutes to write every day, but I do it anyway. Sure I lose some sleep, but we get better at something through practice, constructive feedback, and change. And my goal is to be a better creative writer.

Find a writing deadline

Even while in the depths of planning the first big writer’s event for Plot Duckies, I’m currently working on a novel re-write, a new ebook, and I joined a flash fiction writer’s challenge by NYC Midnight. By having a deadline, it pushes me to make sure I get the writing done.

It also helps if I consider myself my own client. How many times have you finished a project for your boss or a client? How many projects have you finished for yourself? So, just like a boss or client, give yourself a valid deadline and stick to it. Then give yourself a reward if it gets done.

Finding other Writing Options and Deadlines

If you are looking for a deadline and way to get your writing reviewed there will be a submission and review period as part of any of upcoming Plot Duckies events.

Or, if you are looking for different types of writing opportunities, I highly suggest signing up for C. Hope Clark’s Funds for Writers newsletter. You can get the free version with some super helpful writing contests and more, or you can go for the $15/year subscription that shares a lot more.

About NYC Midnight’s Challenge

The challenge is “a competition that challenges writers around the world to create short stories (1,000 words max.) based on genre, location, and object assignments.”

If you missed signing up for this one, their next challenge will be the Short Screenplay Challenge.

If you’d like to read my flash fiction submission for the challenge (under 1,000 words) that was written within 48 hours – it will be in the next blog post “Alexandria and The Egg“-that I’ll share on August 5. My assignment was: Genre: Fairy Tale, Object: Crystal Ball, Location: Barn. I’ll tell you now, it’s pretty rough, but in order to become better writers, we have to start sharing and getting feedback.

Get out there and get input

And that’s another thing. Share your writing and be willing to hear feedback. let’s all grow as writers. Feel free to leave comments for any feedback you have for my story!

If you’d like to keep up to date on Plot Duckie Events, sign up to our Duckiemail below.

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