Friday, October 30, 2015

Seven Reasons to love Scapple

I’m in love with yet another piece of writer software, known as Scapple. It helps with brainstorming, and is made by Literature and Latte, the folks who bring us that other fabulous piece of writing software known as Scrivener.
Scapple is like having an infinite-sized white board or an endless roll of butcher paper. In the screenshot above, when I go to print that out, it will take 12 pieces of paper. Yet I can have the fun of doing it all on my computer screen, in a readable size, until I am ready to print.
This is only today’s output. Because I am brainstorming ideas for a series of novels set in fictional Twin Forks, WA during the time period between 1910-1920, I expect I will quadruple the size of my Scapple board over the next few days. 
What I like about Scapple: 

  1. Unlike other brainstorming or mind-mapping software, nothing is automatically connected. I have tried similar software and that is my #1 complaint. I often don’t know what will be the center of my thoughts, and I don’t like having to organize and connect them around hierarchies–or at all, in the beginning. With Scapple, it’s all free-form until I decide I want to join them by stacking them or drawing lines or arrows between them. 
  2. It is infinitely expandable.
  3. Moving notes around is incredibly easy, as is re-sizing, coloring and deleting, besides a bunch of other fancy things you can do with the notes, if you are inclined to play.
  4. When I’m done brainstorming, I can print up my notes or I can export them to Scrivener. 
  5. I can also import things into Scapple, such as images and text. Most of what you see on the screenshot is text that I imported into Scapple from Word files. 
  6. Scapple is simple to use. If you’re familiar with Microsoft Publisher, you already know how to use Scapple. 
  7. It’s available for Mac users as well as PC users. I’ve found in the past that sometimes, the more artsy software (such as the latest version of Dramatica) is available only for Macs. I’m grateful to L&L for making this available to Microsoft users. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Eliminating Weak Words from a Manuscript

For the past three weeks, since the ACFW conference in Dallas, other than picking my grandkids up after school two or three times a week and having dinner at McDonalds, Taco Time or Subway, and buying them endless decks of Pokemon cards, Walmart or Dollar Store toys, or books—while their mother tends to their baby sister  in the NICU of Sacred Heart’s Children’s Hospital, 90 miles away—I have been holing myself up in my office.
I have been editing a manuscript, The Perfect Wife. This manuscript has been a finalist in four contests, including ACFW’s prestigious Genesis contest. In three of four, it took second place. I don’t know if it took second place or third, in the Genesis. The information wasn’t made available to me. 
It feels pretty cool to have a manuscript final in a contest. 

But it is also frustrating when the scoresheets come back with scores that strongly suggest the manuscript is close, but not close enough, to be of publishable quality.
So I rolled up my sleeves and took a very hard look at my manuscript. And I discovered some things. It was loaded, and I mean LOADED with weak words.
Like a miner with a pick-ax, (yes, my grandsons are big into Minecraft), I worked at removing the coal to release the diamonds.
I replaced 750 “was” and “wasn’t” from sentences in the text, leaving only 170 that held their weight.
When I had removed 3400 other prose-weakening or unnecessary words, and saw that approximately 2000 similar words remained, (which would put me under the word limit for the line I am targeting), I started adding words back in—descriptive words that would help to create definite, not vague, images in a reader’s mind. I did no padding, but only filling.
Another comment I sometimes hear from judges is that I “haven’t quite found my voice.”
With the bland and unnecessary words scrubbed out, I do believe it enables my voice to shine through. I hope so. 
Have you discovered problems like this in your work? What have you done about it?
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