Writing Tools: Scrivener Project Targets

Update 9/18/2017: A commenter pointed out that some of the features mentioned here aren’t available in the PC version of Scrivener. It’d been long enough since I used it that I didn’t realize. There is a stripped down version of Project Targets in the PC version, but there are parts of this post that will only apply to the Mac version. Unfortunately Literature & Latte doesn’t seem interested in introducing a full featured version of their software for PC users at this time.

I use Scrivener for all of my writing. Once upon a time I used Word because that’s what I had, but if you spend any time around writers you’re going to have someone recommend Scrivener to you. And at $45 it’s really a steal compared to Microsoft’s flagship word processor. It’s certainly less expensive than Wordperfect.

Assuming you’re old enough to remember what Wordperfect is.

The point is I use Scrivener a lot and I figured I’d share some tips and tricks that I use on the daily. This will be an occasional feature since it will only happen when I think of something useful.

Today’s subject? Project Targets. Easily one of the most useful little tools hidden in Scrivener.

Lots of programs will tell you a word count. The wonderful thing about Scrivener? It will give you a word count and also allow you to set a target goal for your manuscript. It then calculates how many words you need to write per day if you’re going to hit that goal and provides cool little progress bars that show both the progress on your novel as a whole and your progress on today’s word count.

Talk about useful!

To activate this feature you navigate to Project>Show Project Targets in Scrivener. There’s also a keyboard shortcut, but it’s different on Mac and PC and the tooltip is right there on the menu so I’ll leave it to you to figure out what it is in your particular OS.

Once you do that Scrivener pops up that helpful little window I mentioned that has the two bars showing progress towards your total goal and progress towards your daily goal. The only thing is it’s not going to work like that right out of the box. You could type 100,000 words and those bars would stay empty even as the word count climbs.

You have to play with them a little bit to get everything working properly.

First you need to set a word count. Under the top progress bar it says 0 of 0 words. Assuming this is a new project. If it’s an existing project you’re writing on there will be some different number in the first spot. Simply double click on the second 0 and input your estimate of how long you think the manuscript will be. Voila! Scrivener now shows you your progress towards your ultimate goal!

That’s not the best thing Project Targets will do for you though. No, you want to know what your daily goal is too. So click on the Options button to open up… your options. It’s pretty much what it says on the tin.

From here there are a couple of things you’ll want to adjust to get everything working correctly:

Click the checkbox next to Deadline and insert the date you want to be finished in the date box to the right.

Click the checkbox next to Automatically calculate from draft deadline and then select the days of the week you’re able to write.

Everything should be working as intended now and you don’t need to mess with any of the other settings. However those settings can mess with your progress bars depending on how you have your manuscript configured so I’m going to talk about them briefly and how they can screw up your total word count.

Count documents included in compile only is just what it says on the tin. When you click the compile button there are checkmarks next to the folders and chapters you want to include in that compile. If something isn’t checked it won’t be included.

This is important to keep in mind. I once had a novel that I thought was 10k words shorter than it actually was because I unchecked compiling a couple of chapters for some reason that’s lost to the sands of time. It was a pleasant surprise when I realized my mistake, and a boneheaded mistake I never made again.

There’s really no reason to uncheck this option since you only want to include stuff that’s going into your finished project.

Count text written anywhere in the project is best left unchecked. At least in my workflow. I have a lot of notes and different drafts of novels that I keep in various folders. If I checked this option then it would count those multiple drafts and suddenly I’m not getting an accurate count of what’s going into the final draft. Your workflow may vary depending on how you use Scrivener.

Allow negatives lets you go into a negative word count. So say you write 1000 words but then you go back and edit and remove 1200 words. You’d be at -200 for the day. I don’t use this option because when I’m writing I just write and don’t edit so there’s no point in tracking negatives. Again, your preference may vary depending on your workflow.

So there you have it. Project Targets in Scrivener! I’m always working on anywhere from 4-6 novels at any given time and I always write small chunks of each one daily. It harnesses my natural tendency to distraction and keeps me from getting bored writing one novel at a time. It’s indispensable knowing exactly how many words I need to write in each project on a daily basis to hit my target goal.

Even if you don’t use it that way I’m sure this will be useful if you’re a Scrivener user. Hope it helps!

When life interrupts your indie job

It’s been a busy few months since the last time I wrote a post on here. I’d feel bad about the length of time, but at this point no one is reading this and I’m not selling anything so that assuages the guilt a bit.

I’ve been busy though! My daughter was born at the beginning of June and that’s been taking up a good chunk of my life for the past couple of weeks. She hasn’t been taking up near as much of my time as she’s been taking up my wife’s time, but one of the nice things about working for corporate America is you get paid time off for having a kid.

That’s one of the few downsides I’ve found to this self-employed writer gig. Most of the time the flexibility is a wonderful thing, but there’s another side to that I didn’t realize until my dad went into the hospital last year.

A lot of people have jobs that will continue to pay them if they need to take vacation time. If you’re an indie creative of any sort then you’re stuck in a different situation where if you don’t work you (eventually) don’t make money. Granted it takes some time, but the threat is still there.

The longest I’ve taken off without working much at all was back when my dad got sick in 2016. Even after he passed I wasn’t firing on all cylinders for a couple of months after, and the slump showed in my pocket book. The good news is it was a nice experiment that let me see how long I could go and still make a livable income.

By the end of September 2016 I hadn’t dipped below my monthly financial failsafe point despite not putting anything out for a month.

I know I don’t have much to complain about here either. There are a lot of people who are in this situation working jobs that are a lot shittier than being self-employed as a writer. I know I didn’t think about it until I found myself in a situation where I couldn’t work for an extended length.

I was fine, but it’s always good to think about. For you planning ahead might be the difference between making it or not in a given month, and you never know when the universe is going to give you a kick in the nuts.

Goals: 4/25/2017

In an effort to be more accountable I’m going to start posting about what I accomplished the day before. Mostly this is being accountable to me since I’m the only person reading this right now, but maybe someday other people will read and be inspired too! At least that’s what’ll happen if some of the things I have in the pipeline work out.

Writing Goals:

LGBT Romance – 2926

Erotica – 5014

Steamy Romance – 1216

SciFi – 2032

Total – 11188

Thoughts:

That was a pretty good word count. If I hit my goals I should do about 12,000 in a day, but I very rarely hit the ideal goal. I had to write a lot in erotica because I’ve fallen behind and have to keep to a release schedule there, but I made up the difference because I didn’t work on a paranormal romance I have in the works.

I also decided to start working again on a science fiction story I’ve had in the pipeline for awhile. This is one I’m planning on releasing under my name rather than a pen name and it’s coming along nicely.

Finally I made the difficult decision today to put to rest a science fiction romance pen name. The first novel I had on that pen did insanely well and made me thousands of dollars, but after spending a year trying to cultivate that pen with diminishing returns it’s become clear to me that I caught lightning in a bottle with that first release and haven’t been able to do it again.

It’s difficult letting something go that was once a good moneymaker for me, but the charts in Book Report speak for themselves and it’s time to start exploring other pen names which is why I’m dedicating my old SFR writing block to good old fashioned SF.

Editing Goals:

Paranormal Romance – 7843

Nothing much to say here. I was a little behind on editing a PNR book so I dedicated some extra time to it last night to get closer to back on schedule. I have high hopes for this one, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Podcast Goals:

I’m working on a podcast audio drama based on an old webcomic I worked on once upon a time which is in turn based on a novel I’ve been working on for years. I feel like the thing is too quirky to find an audience with a traditional publisher and it would be difficult to market in the Fantasy self-publishing space. Instead I’m going with a podcast audio drama because quirky and funny seems to fit in there. Plus I’ve always wanted to do a podcast and I loved the BBC Hitchhiker’s Guide growing up so it’s a fun experiment for me that’s a change from putting words on the screen all day long.

Today I:

Sifted through old comic scripts and put them in the correct order. I was bad about restarting the comic and have multiple versions of multiple stories saved in different folders so I’ve been trying to make sense of them.

Finished editing the draft for episode 1.

Put in an RMA request for some microphones I tried out and ultimately didn’t like. I’ll be doing a post on a microphone shootout at some point on this blog.

Listened to a few episodes of Wolf 359 which is a popular audio drama, though scifi, in the space I want to break into. Had a pretty good time listening to it.

Came up with a few new ideas about how to structure the podcast. I’m still trying to decide how I want to release episodes. I may have come up with a way to have something out weekly, but we’ll see. I don’t want to say too much since we’re still early days.

Personal Goals:

One of the difficult things about working for yourself is the illusion of time. It looks like you have a lot of it, and the reality is you have none. I’ve decided one goal I want to work towards with the little free time I have is getting in shape. To that end I went on a 1.5 hour walk today down to a reservoir near my house. Pushed the kid in the stroller and listened to some podcasts along the way. Also burned about 400 active calories according to the iWatch and I stayed within my calorie goals for the day so I blew my fitness goals out of the water.

All in all it was a productive day. I’m also off to a bad start today as I spent more time at the FedEx store than I should’ve sending those microphones back, but what can ya do?

Catch you tomorrow with another (hopefully shorter) update!

A new distraction

Hi. I’m Andrew. I’m an independent author (that’s the fancy dressed up term for “self-published”) living in Indiana with my wife, kid, and soon to be second kid.

Don’t bother looking me up on the Amazon. I got my start in erotica in 2014 during the KU1.0 gold rush and transitioned to romance about a year later. Which is to say there isn’t a single thing published under my name out there in the world as of this writing.

Romance readers tend to want to read a lady name. In the interest of keeping food on the table I’m reluctant to reveal which lady pen name(s) are mine until I have a solid income that keeps food on the table from something under my own name.

And that’s what this site is all about. I’m launching a few projects this year under my name for the first time. I also wanted an outlet where I can talk about what I’m up to and life as a full time creative.

It can be a lonely existence at times since it’s just you all by your lonesome in your home office. This is an outlet to the world.

Mostly, though, this has to do with my dad. He started losing weight rapidly last year, but he said he was on a diet so no one thought anything of it. Then in August they found a mass on his liver. A mass that had spread to other parts of his body. He was told to get his affairs in order and do anything he wanted to do fast one week. Went on a vacation to Florida the second week. Came home the third week because he couldn’t handle it and wasn’t all there mentally. Went into the hospital and got the diagnosis of terminal cancer. By the end of week four he was gone.

It was a slap in the face from mortality. Watching someone go like that is heartbreaking. I didn’t share my romance pen names with anyone but my wife for the reasons outlined above, and I was sad that my dad never got a chance to read something I wrote. I always figured I’d do something under my name someday, but that someday didn’t come fast enough for him.

In short I realized life’s too short. If I have projects rattling around in the back of my head then I need to do them now. Not keep putting them off. If I want to talk about life as a creative then there’s no time like the present, because who knows if tomorrow is going to be waiting for me? It’s certainly going to come, but there’s no guarantee any of us will be there to see it.

So here we are. I’m starting a new leg of my journey as a full time creative type, and I’ll be writing all about it here!