A First Foray into Novel-Writing Software

We didn’t get too much done this past week due to unforeseen circumstances and a death in the family. It’s been a rough one. We started out the week with our first Litzo work session which was very productive and then it all went downhill from there. We’ll focus on the positives. Anne explored the possibility of using a novel-writing software to streamline the rewrite process.

Recently, we’ve begun using Google Docs as a writing platform because it allows us all to access a shared set of documents and it’s fairly easy access. It is also free. The downside is Google Docs is unwieldy when formatting and we often experience typing-lag which can be a bit frustrating. Our preferred method that we have used in the past is exchanging Word documents via email. The main writer maintains the master file and then emails the current version to our coconspirators…I mean collaborators, for their input and additions. After they are finished, they would email their contributions to the main writer for inclusion in the master document. It worked, it just had quite a few extra steps. Anne was hoping there might be a better way out there.

First, she looked into Scrivener. She heard good things about it from her writer friends, along with the warning of the steep learning curve. The problem with Scrivener, for us anyway, is it has no functional way to allow for collaborative writing and editing. Scrivener was scrapped as a possible solution.

Next, Anne looked into Living Writer software. It seemed like a really good fit, if a bit spendy compared to Scrivener. (Scrivener is a one-time purchase, whereas Living Writer is a monthly subscription.) It claimed to be more user-friendly while also allowing sharing for editing. She was also intrigued by the use of character cards and auto-fill for character names (also available on Scrivener). She signed up for the two week trial. It did not go well. After signing up, the new user is supposed to get a link sent to them to confirm their email. The link never arrived despite numerous requests for a resend. Anne finally decided to skip the email confirmation and go straight to exploring the software. One feature offered is to upload a partial or completed manuscript to the site. This seemed ideal as we are in the middle of rewrites of our New Mother Earth series. Anne uploaded the 100,000+ word manuscript of Exiles of Gaia, and that’s when the problems started. First, the software didn’t recognize page breaks or original formatting. It placed the cursor at the end of the manuscript, and there was no way to scroll to the beginning of the manuscript. If there was another way to navigate, besides using a the up-arrow and down-arrow, she couldn’t find it.

After a frustrating morning with the Living Writer website, Anne gave it up as a bad job. It might be different if starting from scratch but she cannot recommend this software if you are looking to rework an older manuscript. She has not given up on her quest for a better way to collaborate.

We’re not sure how much we’ll get done this week. If we explore using another writing software, we’ll let you know. For now, we’ll stick with Google Docs and Microsoft Word. We appreciate your patience and we’ll keep you posted. Thanks for sticking with us.

Kind regards,

Anne, Nancy, and Eric

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Happy New Year!

Yay, we made it to 2021! Happy new year, everyone. We took time off over the holidays to give ourselves some breathing room. While our workload is self-imposed, we still feel guilty when we don’t spend our time productively. It was nice to give ourselves permission to not think about anything writing-related for a few weeks. Now, our break is over. Today, we hit unpublish on the two finished books in our New Mother Earth science fiction series. So what’s next?

Now that both Exiles of Gaia and Hunters of Gaia have been taken off-line, we will be reading them from the beginning. This will allow us to identify areas that need work, fix a few problematic characters and plot devices, and update our resource manual that was left to languish after about half-way through Exiles of Gaia, the first book. Anne and Eric will focus on the re-do for the foreseeable future. Nancy will be picking up where she left off on our latest horror manuscript.

Last year kind of knocked us off our feet. It was hard to concentrate, hard to get motivated, and hard to get excited about any of our projects. We know not much has changed with the dawning of the new year, but we have hope. In the meantime, we implore you to keep your heads down and your masks on. Thanks for sticking with us.

Kind regards,

Anne, Nancy, and Eric

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Ugh! Back to the Beginning!

Exiles of Gaia was written in the Fall of 2013 and published in March 2014.

We came to a big decision this week about our science fiction New Mother Earth series and the trilogy as a whole. We’ve been struggling with writing the third installment, currently titled Servants of Gaia. The problem is workflow. We know the general details of the storyline for the new manuscript. Most of the major plot points have been identified. What we don’t know, or at least can’t remember, are the details. Over the last seven years, we created a very detailed future universe with hundreds of named characters and reams of background information. The details have gotten fuzzy in the four years since we last hit publish. And that brings us to our big decision…we’re going to unpublish the first two books and go back to the beginning.

There are other reasons besides a need to refresh our memories for the decision to unpublish Exiles of Gaia and Hunters of Gaia. During our recent research of the previous two books, we’ve identified a few problematic representations/stereotypes which were used with some of our characters. We’ve also found plot holes that need to be plugged and scenes that could use fine-tuning. We feel like we’ve come along a bit in honing our craft and we can definitely use what we have learned to fix what needs fixing.

It’s not what we want to do but it is what we need to do. If we are ever going to get the writing flow going again, we need to go back to the start. Anne and Eric will be spearheading the re-do. Nancy will continue to work on our latest horror WIP, Area 25. She hit a bit of a speedbump and we’ve all agreed that she just needs to work on the fun parts and we’ll fill in the rest.

It’s been a hell of a few months and it doesn’t look like it is slowing down anytime soon. We hope that you are able to get into the holiday spirit, wherever you are. We’ll be celebrating the holidays (social-distancing style) as best we can.

We’ll keep you posted! As always, thanks for sticking with us.

Kind regards and happy holidays!

Anne, Nancy, and Eric

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Thanksgiving Week 2020

We have a lot to be thankful for this week, although it is hard to remember that sometimes. We have each other, even if we can’t see each other in person. Oregon is in COVID-19 lockdown for the next two weeks. The last week and a half or so, we did not get as much done as we would like. We are hoping that in the coming days, we can turn things around.

Nancy spent last week writing a transitional chapter in our current horror novel project. She then decided that it had become a huge information dump and, after much deliberation with Anne and Eric over Zoom, she has decided to put it to the side for use as a reference and move forward with a different concept. We think it will make for a more subtle introduction of our antagonists and will include a solid hint of things to come.

After staring at a page with only two sentences on it for several days in a row, Anne finally put the chapter aside, with the intent of making Eric write it. That is the beauty of collaborative writing, you don’t have to go it alone. She worked on the chapter map this week, and she is ready to move on with writing new material. The third book in the New Mother Earth series currently sits at approximately 13,500 words.

We hope to have more to report in our next blog post. We are dealing with extended family issues at this time and we may have to drop everything to help our Mom, Nancy. Just know that we are doing our best. We wish you all a happy Thanksgiving, or our day of gratitude as we like to call it. We are grateful for your support.

Kind regards,

Anne, Nancy, and Eric

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Veterans’ Day 2020

Anne’s Basic Training Platoon, Fort Dix, New Jersey 1989

Honoring and remembering our veterans on this Veterans’ Day. Both Anne and Eric are veterans. Anne served in the US Army, 1989-2004. Eric served in the US Coast Guard, 1986-1992. Nancy sent us care packages and worried herself sick the whole time we were away on active duty. We spent this Veterans’ Day the way we always spend it, at home, with our families. Thanks.

We’d like to tell you that we got a lot done last week, but that would be a lie. We spent the time glued to the election and managing family crises, in between all the doom-scrolling on the internet. Hopefully, we can move into the next week with a renewed purpose and the time to make it happen.

Thanks for your patience and sticking with us. We appreciate the support.

Kind regards,

Anne, Nancy, and Eric

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October 2020 Wrap-up from Halloween Town, Oregon

Halloween Town, Oregon

Halloween Town, Oregon, real name Saint Helens, looked a little bit different this year, thanks to the pandemic. Our little hometown’s claim to fame is that it was the location where Halloween Town and Halloween Town II, Kalabar’s Revenge were filmed. For the entire month of October, the town is decorated with scarecrows and over-the-top Halloween displays. The visitors love it and the locals hate it. The downtown area sets up a number of attractions, including visits and photo opportunities with the Halloween Town actors, witches’ dance troops, a zombie survival 5k, and other Halloween-themed activities. This year, it felt like a hush fell over the town for the entire month of October. All the events and activities were scaled-back to meet COVID-19 guidelines. The weekend crowds were missing and everyone was asking if the holiday would be cancelled. No one can stop a holiday but it was a very transformed event. Anne has volunteered for the last five years in various capacities (The Fairy Festival, The Museum of Curiosities, and the Nacho Booth) but this year, she opted to stay home. It was a good decision.

As for Litzo business this week, Nancy finished the second chapter of our latest horror project, Area 25. Anne wrote another chapter in the third New Mother Earth science fiction series, bringing the total to 18. Eric got about 5 pages into his edits on those same chapters. Progress, while slow, is being made. No one is signing up for NaNoWriMo this year. We’ll keep with the steady pace for now. We’ll all be meeting up on Zoom this evening for our weekly meeting. We tend to do better when we are beholden to one another. It keeps us honest.

We hope you had a Happy Halloween. Fingers-crossed for a better November. Thanks for sticking with us.

Kind regards,

Anne, Nancy, and Eric

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I swear I already wrote that!

Happy Halloween!

This week, we will be preparing for our pandemic Halloween celebration. Anne’s family loves Halloween but won’t be participating in trick or treating this year. It will be a strange end to this month, and the start of a very pared-down holiday season. Changes must be made.

A big change for the Litzos is a move to virtual meetings. Meeting in person just isn’t practical anymore and we haven’t been able to coordinate it on a regular basis. So this last weekend, we tried out Zoom for our very first online meeting. With the exception of one teenage photobomber, the meeting went off without a hitch. As well as virtual meetings, we also made the decision to move all of our working documents and materials into a shared Google drive. This will allow us to add material and make changes without the hassle of emailing current copies back and forth between us. We’ve honed our collaboration methodology over the last seven years, so, with well-established assigned color-coding system, we can make changes and updates without confusion or fuss.

After establishing a plan for virtual work, we continued to add to our current manuscripts. Nancy has started on the second chapter of our latest horror novel, Area 25 (previously referred to as The Phoenix Project). Anne finished chapter 16 of Servants of Gaia, lost it, then wrote it again but better (at least she thinks it is). She also finished chapter 17. It was a slow work-week because she is still reacquainting herself with the plot details from the first two books. It’s been a series of checks, rechecks, and backtracks in the hopes of getting it right.

We’ll be checking in with each other on Zoom here in a couple of hours. Ain’t technology grand? We appreciate all of you who are sticking in there with us. We’re slow, but hopefully, not George R.R. Martin slow. Progress continues.

Happy Halloween and kind regards,

Anne, Nancy, and Eric

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Finally, Forward Progress!

We know you’re dying to find out! Were we finally able to break through our writer’s block and get some writing done last week? The answer is yes! Less than a lot but more than none, that’s something, right?

Anne is working on her current project, the third book in our New Mother Earth series, Servants of Gaia. Last week, she was able to add two and half more chapters (14, 15, and a good start to 16). This week, she plans to continue to add new material and to flesh out the chapter map as she goes.

Nancy is working on a stand-alone novel set in our Riverside universe. The story features a character from our horror novel, Creek House, by the name of Jack. He was a child in Creek House, and this book is set 15 years later, present day. After much deliberation, Nancy scrapped our prologue written earlier this year. Of course, she didn’t scrap the prologue, merely set it aside to possibly be used as a later chapter. We can never commit to completely throwing out completed material. You never know when you might need something from the slash pile. She wrote a completely new first chapter this last week and she has the next seven chapters mapped out. It’s a good start to the new book.

We also took the time to set-up a shared folder, so that Eric will be better able to access the files. This will allow him to edit in real time, rather than waiting for us to email him the relevant files.

It’s slow-going but at least we feel like we’ve taken our first steps. And, it’s a hell of a lot better than spending our time doom-scrolling the internet and binging Netflix. We thank you all for sticking with us. We’ll continue to update you with our progress. We appreciate the support.

Kind regards,

Anne, Nancy, and Eric

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Preparations Begin…

If only it were always this organized.

This last week, we spent time getting reacquainted with our neglected projects from last year. It’s been so long since we last looked at them, it felt like starting from scratch. We had to locate all of our scattered notes and make sure we had our most up-to-date material. It’s hard getting back into writing mode.

Anne pulled up the files on Servants of Gaia. She thought that she had a more complete chapter map than she actually did, and that meant a complete review of material that was written last year. (Sad but true, it has been languishing for a year.) She’s updated the chapter map through chapter 14, added in character notes for new players, and mapped out the next five chapters up to chapter 20. She has no more excuses and should be starting on writing new material this week.

Nancy pulled up all the notes and material from our other Riverside horror novel, The Phoenix Project (working title). She wasn’t happy with the beginning and decided to scrap the entire prologue and first few chapters. She’s got a working chapter map ready to go for the first seven chapters and she is also ready to start working on the new material.

Both of these projects have fully-fleshed story arcs but the chapter maps are where we really get the work done. The devil is in the details. It’s much easier when you have a really detailed idea for each chapter. We’ll be continuing to add to the maps as we go along, but at least we know the big picture and how it comes together. That’s what all our planning/brainstorming sessions are for.

You know, we always feel a bit down on ourselves when we let our productivity languish. It’s been a rough year. We really appreciate you, dear readers, for sticking with us.

Kind regards,

Anne, Nancy, and Eric

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Break’s over! Back on your heads!

Picture of Anne’s dog, Schnitzel, just because we could all use a cute dog pic right now.

As you might have guessed from the title of this blog post, we’ve been on a writing break for the last several months. Unfortunately, it lasted a lot longer than we anticipated but since this year has pretty much been a lost cause anyway, we’ll blame it on 2020. The title is a punchline to a terrible joke about a man sent to hell and getting to choose his punishment. He is escorted to a series of rooms, each one worse than the next and asked in which one he wanted to spend his afterlife. He chose a room that looked like an ordinary office conference room, complete with coworkers standing around drinking coffee. But he saw that the floor was covered in a noxious liquid, about a foot deep. He happily chooses the office room, at which point a voice calls out, “Breaks over! Back on your heads!” We keep waiting for the unpleasant surprises, and boy, this year did not disappoint.

We started out this year feeling hopeful and motivated but alas, it was not to be a normal year. And so, this summer, we took a step back to regroup and recover, and gave ourselves a self-imposed deadline of the 1st of October to get back to business. We have plenty of material to work with, with at least three projects partially completed.

We had a meeting to discuss our way forward and we agreed that we will focus on one project at a time, with some writing on the side as time allows. Our main project will be to complete the third book in our science fiction New Mother Earth trilogy, Servants of Gaia. We have about 10,000 words done, and the storyline is well-developed (but subject to change as we go along).

So that’s where we are right now. We’ve got a plan, a detailed plot, and we’re cleaning our desks, gathering our piles of notes, and rolling up our sleeves. We’ll keep you posted on our progress, but for now, wish us luck!

Kind regards,

Anne, Nancy, and Eric

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