Tag Archives: Curio

So You Want to Plan a Screenplay?

Ok, don’t get the idea that I know what the hell I’m talking about because I don’t. At all. As I’ve mentioned before, a goal of mine for the year is to write a screenplay. Ideally, I’d like to submit it and see if it’s salable, but my main focus is just learning the nuts and bolts of the format, which has always seemed so mysterious to me.

In preparation for the goal I’ve read both “Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need” (Blake Snyder) and the third book “Save the Cat! Strikes Back: More Trouble for Screenwriters to Get into … and Out of” (Blake Snyder). I have the second book as well, but I’ve been using that as a reference as I watch the different movies it covers, rather than reading it from front to back.

The books really make it seem pretty doable. They don’t cover formatting at all, but luckily for me Scrivener has a screenplay template so I’ll let that handle the basics for now. Since I don’t know any better, I decided to just trust Mr. Snyder’s system for structuring a script. Why not? I’ve got to start somewhere.

He suggests in the book using “The Board” to arrange your 40 index cards, which he seems to think is the magic number of scenes a screenplay needs. I’ve decided not to question it until I’ve had at least one or two tries using his methods.

I don’t have a literal corkboard (although I have made a habit of sticking post it notes to the wall behind my computer area) so I decided that software is a good route for me to go. There is software available based on his books (“Save the Cat!® Story Structure Software 3.0” (Blake Snyder Enterprises, LLC)) which seems pretty cool, but the price is prohibitive. I’m willing to give most stuff a try if it’s $25 or less, but $100 is higher than I’m willing to go. Time to figure out how to make this work with something I’ve already got.

I’ve seen people use notecards with Scrivener, but I’m pretty much awful at using that program for anything than the basic word processing functions. If you know me at all then you probably guessed that I turned to my new favorite planning software, Curio. It worked great.

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I set up the 10×4 structure that Blake Snyder recommends and filled in some of the cards with the different beats he recommends in his books. That still leaves quite a few cards blank, but it’s a good start.

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I filled in the first one with the information he says to put on each card. It’s my little reminder of what I need to include as I fill them all in.

I will keep a copy just like this and just copy it for every project I start and fill it in with scenes that are relevant to those projects. Since I do all my work on my computer, this is a handy way to have that information available no matter where I go.

I do realize that there are probably a dozen programs that do something similar. It would actually be more useful to do it in Scrivener and then shuffle them around in there where it will actually affect my script, but this is actually perfect for my needs since I use Curio to keep track of everything that goes on in my life. I can keep The Board right next to my character sketches and brainstorming mind maps.

And how is my screenplay project going? I’ve got a pretty well developed idea, I think. I came up with a log-line and have a decent concept of the major scenes (plot points, midpoint, and final scene). I’m hoping to come up with a rough outline today and see how workable I think it is at that point. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a surprise novel. It started out as a naughty story, but ended up being way too funny to be truly sexy. So now it’s on it’s way to becoming an erotic comedy. I’ve got a pretty good start written. I’m curious to see how it works out since I’ve never started a project that I thought would be a short story only to realize that there was a lot more potential there than I thought there was.

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Creating a production schedule

I’m not sure if there are other terms that apply to what I refer to as my production schedule. But my definition is my plan for upcoming writing projects mapped out through 2012.

My schedule hinges on my ability to write 2k words toward my novels per day, every day. I’m not giving myself any planned days off because I don’t really feel like I need them. Writing is not a chore for me. It’s something I enjoy doing and I can knock out 2000 words without too much effort. If I do miss a day due to life getting in the way, I’ll just add those missed days onto another day. It’s the end result that counts. I did this with I Wish… with great results.

I used the Curio software to set up my schedule. It allows me to assign due dates to lists. So this is what my schedule looks like for 2012.

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This plan hinges on me being able to do several things at once. I’ll always have something in either a 2 week pre-writing stage or actually being written. Then there will be edits happening as well. At which point I’ll find a pro to give my drafts a final polish. I haven’t factored in hiring a cover artist, this only covers the things I’ll be doing myself. I’ll probably work with someone while I’m writing the story since I’ll know from my outlining what will happen in the story. Depending on the turn around time with the editor, I should have these books up within a few weeks after I finish my round of edits.

As you can see, you can expect the Witches of Desire trilogy to be done by next January. I figure that should give me some breathing room in between projects to keep up my enthusiasm for the project. This is a tentative schedule. I plan to keep flexible on what projects I tackle. If I’m not feeling it when it comes time to work on something, I’ll either swap it with something due later in the year or take on a new project altogether. This schedule isn’t meant to stifle me, just hold me account able to a certain level of productivity.

The novels aren’t the only thing I’ll be working on. I have my short fiction under my pen name that I’ll be writing simultaneously. Also at a pace of 2k words a day. Each story averages about 4.5k words. My plan is to write 3 stories a week that I’ll upload on Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays. On Saturdays I’ll spend some time coming up with story ideas for the week and creating the covers so when it’s time to upload them, all I have to do is format and go.

This is a pretty ambitious year. I do expect that I’ll come up short on the stories because there’s not much room for error and my life is full of socializing with the other girls on the derby team, as well as more serious commitments to the team. On top of that, I have a family which includes my young minions. Summer vacation will play havoc with my carefully structured schedule, I have no doubt. The novels I feel a little bit better about. Since I work from strict outlines, there’s not a lot of on the spot creative thinking necessary. I can do that with kids arguing in the background. I’ve done it before.

So you want to know how I came up with this schedule so you can make your own?

Come up with a daily/weekly word goal

What’s reasonable for you? I went with 4k on a daily basis because I feel like it’s not much of a strain. I don’t work outside the home. Writing IS my job so it’s not unreasonable to expect myself to put in a full day’s work doing it. It’s enough to challenge me, which I think is a good thing to strive for, but I don’t run much of a risk of burn out since I’ll be working across several projects at a time. Figure out what a good number is for you. Challenge yourself, but don’t make it impossible to achieve.

Determine the length of your projects

My shorts are ~4.5k words each and my novels are being planned at 90k each. 90k/2k = 45 days. Or about 6 weeks. 2 weeks of outlining seems reasonable to me since I’ll be working on that unofficially during the time leading up to them. I LOVE that part of writing, so I’ll think about it for fun. By the time I’m ready to start a project I’ll already have a really good idea of what I’m looking at.

Mark it on your calendar

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This is what my February is going to look like. It seems pretty chaotic in the overview, but by taking it day by day, I don’t think it’ll seem so overwhelming. Other things to add would be any anthologies to which you contribute, contest dates, submissions to traditional agents/publishers (if that’s your thing), and other writing projects. Write it down and then live by your calendar.

Hold yourself accountable

When I wrote I Wish… I kept a daily word tracking log. It told me exactly how many words I’d written that day, how many words I’d written total, and how many I had left to meet my goal. It was motivating to watch my word count slowly grow. I’m still debating about how I plan to keep track this time around. I’ll probably just start a couple of lists with Curio and add the date and the number of words I wrote that day for each project. I won’t stress about daily totals as long as I’m good about finishing my weekly goals (4k a day or 28k a week).

Don’t go easy on yourself. When you are an indie writer you don’t answer to anybody but yourself. Oh sure, your fans are going to want to know when they can expect the next book, but believe me, no matter how much you want to give it to them, if you aren’t motivated internally, it’s not going to happen. You won’t be fired if you don’t finish your manuscript by a certain date. These are your goals so you need to be the one making sure you meet them.

Stick with it

This is going to be the hard part. It’s easy to make goals, but something else all together to stick with it until you get the results you want. If you fail to meet your goal one day, or a week, or even a month, don’t just throw in the towel and give it up as a lost cause. Either reevaluate your goals since maybe you were being too ambitious or, if you’re sure your goals are reasonable and it was a just a weak moment on your part, pick it up again and carry on. Don’t beat yourself up over past mistakes. Self loathing isn’t going to get your books written. Put it behind you and try again.

Are you planning to set up a production schedule for 2012? Let me know and we can try to help each other stay motivated to stick it out.

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Long time no see!

This is the first in what I hope will be a long string of regular blog posts. Of course I thought that a few months ago too and then didn’t have much (if anything) to say for the last 4 or 5 months. So no promises.

One of the main reasons for a lack of blogging has been dissatisfaction with my blogging software. To briefly recap, my old laptop was a Dell. It wasn’t good for much but typing my stories and when it started randomly pressing the control button while I was typing, it wasn’t any good for that anymore either. I replaced it with a lovely Mac machine, which I was extremely leery of at first. These days I’m happy to report I’m actually quite smitten with it and spend hours of every day doing pretty much everything on it.

One of the downfalls to switching OS was that I needed to replace Windows specific software, including the Windows Live Writer software I used for blogging. It’s free and intuitive and I love it. But how hard could it be to find something similar for Mac? Well, I wouldn’t know because I more or less gave up on it. I tried Qumana, but it didn’t click with me. Now I’m working with Ecto. So far so good.

I only tell that long and ultimately uninteresting story to segue into the real point of my post. Almost a year ago now, I posted about my go to software programs for my Windows set up. I’m still 100% supportive of those choices, by the way. It was hard to find replacements for them, especially Onenote. That one was tricky, but I’m so inspired by the replacement that I found that I overcame my aversion to finding a new blogging tool to just to be able to share with you.

Scrivener– This could very well be a one stop program because it has some pretty robust planning tools built into it, but I personally just use the word processing capabilities because I don’t care for Open Office (free). There’s a lot of positive things to be said for Scrivener that have been mentioned at length in the many reviews out there so I won’t restate them all. It’s worth checking out.

Curio– This is the only other program I use for writing these days. I tried several note taking/organizational programs before I settled on this one. It combines the mind mapping features I loved in Xmind (free) with the free form note taking capabilities of Onenote. It does have a pretty steep price tag. I bought my copy on “Cyber Monday” at 25% off and still ended up paying over $100 for the mid-grade version, but I feel good about it. I’ve posted before about my need for extensive outlining and prewriting so I get a lot of use out of the program.

As far as I’ve been able to determine, Curio does all the same things I used Onenote for and then some. It’s got all the flexibility to arrange text, images, and other media around on the page that I enjoyed with ON. In a writing context, I used that feature to arrange several pictures per page (I use pictures I find online as inspiration for characters or settings) and I like to write summaries in one column with annotations running beside it. I’ve tried other programs, but that’s a fairly unique feature, but one I really wanted.

Another improvement is that Curio supports more levels of hierarchal organization than ON. ON is committed to a notebook analogy, which is fine. I actually find it very attractive. But that seems to preclude very many levels of organization. Curio uses a combination of sections, folders, and workspaces to organize everything and allows folders within folders. I haven’t found a boundary to that yet, although I haven’t tried to go deeper than 4 or 5 levels at this point.

The visual tools in Curio are what really sets it apart in my mind. You can make mind maps and lists using several preinstalled templates and you can then further customize them with color swatches you can download from different online sites. That’s such an unnecessary feature, but one that I love anyway.

Here are a few screenshots of Curio in action with the story I’m working on currently.

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This is an example of one of my character’s mind maps. I have a blank template that I have saved and I just copy and paste it onto each workspace I create for a character. I customize the colors as desired, but otherwise the style information carries over from the original. This is also a look at the interface itself.

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This is just an example of how I drop a photo onto the workspace to use as visual inspiration. I either search Google for photos or look at stock photo sites. I don’t pay for the images since they are for my own personal use. I just ignore the watermarks. Sometimes I’ll add a paragraph of notes underneath if there’s more to say than what I can easily put into a mind map. Curio supports voice recording and other kinds of media, including handwriting using a tablet, so there’s a lot of room for building some truly epic notes.

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This is a grab of the list tool. It also supports color customization. These are just some notes I took while reading a book (“Story Engineering” (Larry Brooks) good book, btw. I’m enjoying it a lot.) the other day. **

Curio also makes tables and notecards, although I haven’t used those features at this point. You should truly take the time to look at their samples. If you aren’t totally impressed then I want to know what note taking program you use because I think I want to buy a copy.

That concludes my little essay on the reasons why Curio is a writer’s best friend and a viable substitute for ON. As far as the Ecto experiment, I haven’t tried to publish yet, but everything else has worked as good, if not better than, hoped. It even has an “Amazon Helper” tool that let me look up the link for the book I mentioned without having to leave the editor. Very cool. I think you guys might be seeing more of me around these parts real soon.

**Edit: I took new screen shots for this post since the old ones were too small to be useful due to my inexperience with Ecto at that time. The list is actually from “Story Structure Architect: A Writer’s Guide to Building Dramatic Situations and Compelling Characters” (Victoria Lynn Schmidt) which is another helpful book that I’d recommend.

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