Happy New Year, and I hope you all had a lovely holiday season! 💕 As we launch into 2024 (and how weird is that to type?), I have a couple of ebook sales for you, in case you need something to keep you company during these dreary days of winter.
Both Polaris Rising and Hunt the Stars are on sale for just $1.99 this month, so it’s an excellent time to dive into either series—or, hear me out, why not both? ;)
Today, HTS was featured as a BookBub deal. Behold!
As always, you can read the first three chapters over on the book pages for Polaris Rising and Hunt the Stars. International pricing will probably vary, so double check the price before getting your clicks on. :)
Quick question if you’re busy putting off book two … Do you use any particular software for your first draft?
Since I am still putting off book two (though I hit my word count goal every day last week! 🎉), I thought I’d get into a little more detail than a comment would support. The short answer is that I use Scrivener for all of my drafting, including edits, but if you’d like a peek behind the curtain, read on!
I’m going to use my actual Scrivener file for Polaris Rising, so if you haven’t read the book yet, you may want to do that first. There shouldn’t be too many spoilers, but why wouldn’t you want to read about a badass space princess and an outlaw soldier? ;)
Scrivener has a default project type for novels, which is what my custom template is based on. My template evolves a little bit over time as I find ways to tweak it just so for my writing style, but the basics remain the same as the default template. All of my new projects start out looking like this:
One of the things I really like about Scrivener is that text is broken down into scenes. A scene is technically just an arbitrary piece of text—it could be anything—but thinking about them as actual scenes of a book is useful for me, especially for pacing. And scenes can be moved around, split, reordered, and dragged from one chapter to another with ease, which helps when the pacing isn’t quite there and things need to be adjusted.
This is what the first nine-ish chapters of PR look like in Scrivener:
There’s a lot going on here, so let’s break it down. On the left (called the binder) is a list of the chapters and their various scenes. I give mine short descriptions so I remember what’s in them without having to open each one.
In the middle is the main editor. This is where I spend most of my time, because it’s where the words actually happen. You can see that I’m one of the ancients who still uses two spaces after a period while drafting (but weirdly, only while drafting). Scrivener handily strips them out for me when I export, another perk.
On the right is the inspector which has all of the meta info about the selected scene. Here it’s showing snapshots of the scene’s history. This is another big benefit of Scrivener: version history. Just like git for code, Scrivener can keep a history of your documents, so if you make a big change and decide you hate it, you have the original. You have to set it up (mine snapshots changes on every manual save), but it’s a nice feature. Before I do any edits, I make a titled snapshot of the whole manuscript so I can roll back if I need to.
Scrivener can also hold all of the information about a project, not just the manuscript itself. So all of my notes and research can go right in the file, keeping everything together. Here is part of the research and notes section for PR:
Here you can see I keep character sheets for my main characters, as well as place descriptions and tons and tons of notes. Mostly my character sheets are just places I dump description as I write it, so I don’t accidentally change their hair or eye color, but it also keeps some personality info and other things important to keeping their progression consistent throughout the book.
The research section is where everything else goes. I keep a list of minor characters so everyone doesn’t share the same name, or the same starting letter. Apparently I love some letters more than others, so I have to watch it.
When I start the second book in a series, I’ll copy over all of my character sheets, location details, and research from the first book, then keep adding to it. This helps with continuity and means I don’t have to keep pulling up the first book to check minor details.
The last thing Scrivener really shines at is exporting your text into various formats. Publishing runs on Microsoft Word, so I export to Word in the standard manuscript format (Times New Roman 12, double-spaced) before sending the draft off to my editor. As I said before, Scrivener strips out all of my extra spaces as part of the export, saving me a find and replace step.
When edits arrive, I keep Word open with my editor’s feedback and make the changes directly in Scrivener, then do a clean export of the edited draft. Copyedits are a little trickier, because all of the changes have to be made directly in the Word file, but I duplicate the changes in Scrivener, so my saved draft matches the copyedited text. Same for changes made to the galley pages. When I’m done, my Scrivener project exactly matches the final text in the book.
Scrivener can also export directly to the various ebook formats, which is great for getting the book into the hands of my early readers, as well as output in a HTML format that is compatible with the blog, so I don’t lose italics when I post snippets. And you can set up custom formats that are shared across projects, so the output is always formatted exactly how you want.
All of this flexibility is one of the reasons Scrivener tends to have a very high learning curve. I didn’t even get into a fraction of the features, but I don’t use a lot of them because I usually draft from start to finish, so I don’t need to see my outline or corkboard or any of the other million little things Scrivener supports. Finding the way that works for you is one of the biggest challenges of using Scrivener.
I’ve been using it since 2008, have written seven published (or to-be-published) books, one trunked novel, and countless partials with it, and I still find things I didn’t know about. But if you have any questions, drop me a comment and I’ll do my best to answer. :)
I know many of you have been yearning for a little peek into Loch’s head, so because this is the month of love, I decided to deliver. Happy early Valentine’s Day!
And if it also helps me procrastinate on the projects that I’m supposed to be working on, well, win, win. 😘
If you haven’t read Polaris Rising yet, then this snippet probably won’t make much sense. But you’re in luck! PR is on sale for just $1.99 this month (international pricing will vary), so if you want a copy of your very own (or if you know someone who would enjoy it), now is an excellent time to pick it up.
This snippet is from early on, when they are first escaping from the mercs and Rockhurst, in chapter three and four. Happy reading!
The princess was having a nightmare—again. I intentionally banged my hand against the console, which had been enough to rouse her out of her dreams before, but she just whimpered and continued to shift in the cot.
“Ada, wake up.”
She ignored me. I tried to return the favor, but she made another small, hurt sound, and it was all I could take. I might be a monster, but I wasn’t the kind who let others suffer when I could prevent it.
I unclipped from the captain’s chair and cautiously approached the cot. I didn’t think she was faking, but I’d been burned too many times to lower my guard now.
The blankets were twisted around her body and she clutched a sheathed knife in one hand, her knuckles white around the handle. It seemed like I wasn’t the only one who slept with a blade close, but I wondered what had happened to make the daughter of a High House so cautious.
Happy book birthday to Ilona Andrews! Their absolutely superb Sapphire Flames is out in the world today and you can pick up your very own copy. I got to read an ARC and it’s delicious. I love Catalina and Alessandro and can not wait for book two (she says on the day book one comes out, lol).
To celebrate the release, Ilona and Gordon are doing an Austin event on Thursday and kindly invited me to join them! 😍🎉
I’ll be signing Polaris Rising because it’s a bit too early for Aurora Blazing, but my publicist did send me extra AB ARCs to give away at the event, so if you want a chance to read it early, come see us!
Ilona and Gordon are always fantastic at events and I’m so, so happy that I get to join them.
Nine years ago, I met them for the first time ever at a convention in the Renaissance Hotel around the corner from the B&N. Back then I was a baby writer just trying to decide if this writing thing was something I could feasibly do, but I never, ever thought that one day I’d be at a book signing with them! What a difference nine years makes! 😍
EDIT: I know a lot of you probably already have copies of PR, so please don’t feel any pressure to buy another one. Check with the bookstore on their policy (and definitely try to buy Sapphire Flames from them), but if it’s allowed, I’ll happily sign books you bring from home. If it’s not allowed, I’ll meet you in a back alley and sign them afterwards. :)
I finished the rough draft of book three! 🎉 I expected to be writing right up to the deadline, but some super productive alien took over my brain last week and I ended up writing over 17k words in four days, which still kind of amazes me. I’m not sure what happened, but I wouldn’t mind if it happened every week. :)
The first draft clocked in around 103k and since then has grown to almost 105k as I go back and edit. It’s out with my alpha readers right now and I’m letting it rest a bit, then I’ll do another editing pass before I send it off to my editor next week.
Finishing a book is always a little bittersweet, especially this book which gave me such trouble during drafting (the last four days notwithstanding). During edits, I read it end-to-end, which you don’t really do when writing, and it’s not as bad as I expected.
It might even be good.
I don’t know, I’m too close to it, but that’s why I have early readers. None of them have stopped answering my calls yet, so maybe it’s okay. Or maybe they just haven’t gotten to the bad parts yet. 😅
In other news, my publisher is running two giveaways on Goodreads right now. Both of them are US only (sorry, international folks!). The first is for a chance to win one of 100 copies of Polaris Rising. It ends August 10, so get cracking.