Do You Have a Writing Platform?

What is a Writing Platform?

Writing for me is a multi-media experience. I like to start with a brain dump type of document on a very large piece of paper, like 22 X 16. I have even been known to tape two or three of those together for something much larger.

I begin with a central idea, in the middle somewhere. I draw lines out from that center object without much organization, and draw a circle at the end of the line. One circle might represent, say, characters. I will create more lines out of that circle one for each major character or maybe just groups of characters that will be broken down to the individual character. I write around the circle representing a character notes about the character. Physical characteristics, character traits, flaws, motivations, etc.

On a separate line coming out of the central idea will be setting. Lines coming out of that circle will be things like time period, physical characteristics, characteristics of people, cultures, other important details about where the story takes place.

On a separate line coming out of the central idea is plot or event flow. Events that make up the struggle of the protagonists, and the interplay between them and those that are opposed to them. What events have to come ahead of others. What needs to be communicated to readers and what needs to be held back. My story is developed over these lines.

I like to use sticky notes to start with, putting my ideas and developments around the central idea, and starting to create the organization. Now I can see what things I need to go together. Which characters? What settings? What pieces of the plot? What are the points of conflict? What has to be overcome for the protagonists to succeed?

A story is beginning to take form.

There is magic in seeing the “big” picture, and there is a part of me that relates to the physical aspects of designing the story.

However, for me the real magic happens when it starts to go into a digital form. This is where the framework and the platform come in. I used to keep everything in word documents. Then finding that I needed graphics, and quotes, and timelines, and so many details that I couldn’t find when I wanted them. I decided to start looking for a way to manage the whole thing. I found that way with Scrivener.

What is Scrivener

Some people want to call Scrivener a word-processor. Perhaps at the simplest level it could be thought of that way, but it is also a story organizer, a research keeper, a scrap book for story items, a book compiler, a book formatter, a complete desktop publishing warehouse!

It might seem a little daunting at first. It does have a lot of moving pieces, but it also has a few wizards to help you out. It is the only way that I know of to organize and keep track of everything for writing a full-blown story.

When you first get Scrivener, it looks like this. You can use the tutorial, the YouTube videos, and the user manual to get started.

Once you decide to on the type of book that you are writing, you can select amongst a number of options shown above. If you are writing fiction the template looks like this:

If you are writing a non-fiction book, then select the non-fiction icon to get a screen that looks like this:

There are so many options! Templates that will make writing your non-fiction book very formulaic. Kind of like painting by the numbers. I really like these templates and find them very useful for writing non-fictions books.

Getting back to fiction, my favorite use of this software, you need to select a name for the project and where to put it. Then it creates a template that looks like this:

Here I am able to write my manuscript chapter at a time, or write them in a much more eclectic way. I tend to jump ahead, then drop back as I fit in different pieces. I can also keep all of my research right here. I can type in my notes about characters, settings, and plot. I can grab screen-shots and pictures, and keep it all in one place. I have tried a lot of different solutions, but have never found one like this.

I really love Scrivener. I have found over my lifetime that the tools make the job. Writing is no different.

Go ahead and give it a try here:

Scrivener Software

Once you have scrivener up, here are some of the things it will help you do:


Using the Novel format you can:
By default, when compiled (File > Compile), this project will generate a document in the standard manuscript format for novels.

The necessary settings are also provided to make it easy to compile to a paperback-style PDF for self-publishing or an EPUB or Kindle e-book.

Using the Template

Create a new folder for each chapter. You can add a title each folder with the name of the chapter. If you don’t intend to use chapter names, just use something descriptive that tells you what the chapter is about. (You do not need to—and indeed shouldn’t—title the folders “Chapter One” and so on, because chapter numbering will be taken care of automatically during the Compile process.) The first chapter folder has been created for you with the placeholder title “Chapter”.

Create a new text document for each scene inside the chapter folders. (Upon export, scenes will be separated with the “#” character for standard manuscript format, or with a blank line for other formats.)

Information about characters can be placed in the “Characters” folder, and information about locations can be placed in the “Places” folder. (These are just regular folders that have had custom icons assigned to them using the Documents > Change Icon feature.)

Character and setting sketch sheets have been provided which can be used for filling out information about the people and places in your novel. These are located in the “Template Sheets” folder. You should not edit the documents in the “Template Sheets” folder directly unless you wish to change the templates (which you are free to do – you may wish to customise the sketch sheets or get rid of them entirely). Instead, to create a new character sheet, click on the Characters folder (or wherever you want to create your new character sheet) and from the Project menu, select New From Template > Character Sketch. This creates a new character sketch document for you to edit and fill in with your character details. You can create setting sketch sheets in the same way. Alternatively, you can just click “Add”, or hit cmd-N, with the Characters or Places folders selected.

Pick up Scrivener here:

Scrivener Software

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