The content of this post is a short talk I will be giving to Otley Writers the creative writing group I am a member of. I will be sharing my personal experience of using technology when writing my novel.
I have written a novel. Whether it is good or bad is not the point of this session; what is important is that I managed to construct and complete a novel of 89,000 words. It is complicated by time shifts between 2016 and 1916.
My story began with four students, Tom a First World War British soldier and the central victim, a German soldier called Ernst. When I started writing I had no idea where the story would go. I had no idea Josh, one of the students, originally from Wakefield would evolve into a Canadian from Toronto. Or that his father was not a Yorkshire builder but an international lawyer based in Paris. It surprised me that the son of Ernst became a nasty Nazi war criminal who would commit an atrocity in Amsterdam involving Josh’s Jewish family.
In the epilogue, written half way through the writing process, Ben’s father Jack was dead; killed in the Gulf War. But I needed someone to kill Neo-Nazi Mattaus Kroeling (Ben’s biological father) and who better than a military explosives expert. Jack Shaw, bomb disposal expert was brought back to life albeit without a leg.
These are just a few examples of how my novel evolved. I wrote the novel in bits according to how I felt at the time. One day I might write about the gig at Bootleg Joe’s, then the next day I would describe Captain Machell calling on Maggie after Toms death.
Early on I realised I would need to use technology cope with this movable feast. The two main apps I found useful are Excel, Dropbox and SimpleMind +.
I write on an iPad Air and use my laptop for some formatting – for example: changing a name throughout a manuscript.
Microsoft 365 package includes Excel. I used a simple spreadsheet to enabled me to see the order of the chapters and a brief description of the content. When the Nazi atrocity in Amsterdam storyline developed I could see where it could be inserted. It also allowed me to keep a word count.
I use the free version. I can access it from anywhere with internet connection and allow others to read all or parts of my novel.
I stored my chapters in a sequence as T00 THIEPVAL Prologue, T01 THIEPVAL Chapter 1, T02 THIEPVAL Chapter 2 and so on. Numbering the chapters in this way keep the files in order and together in a block separate from other projects.
Initially I set out my chapters from T00 to T24. This allowed me to write parts of the novel at different times and file these parts in the appropriate file ready to assemble into a complete chapter.
I like the versatility of the iPad. Writing the Nazi atrocity scene in Amsterdam for chapter 3 ( T03 THIEPVAL Chapter 3) I could instantly search Pinterest WW1 images which I save as screen shots for reference which I file in chapter 3 Dropbox. Then I used Google to find information about troop transportation to France.
T03 THIEPVAL Chapter 3 now has images of soldiers at stations, harbour scenes, troops marching through French villages and historical data along with the chapter manuscript at variously stages.
This is an app I bought for £7.60. Mind mapping is a great way to build a picture of all the connections between the places and people in a novel. As my novel evolved I found it easy to add places and people and adjust the connections and interrelationships. My VARK learning style is Visual/Kinesthetic (Google VARK Questionnaire to find out yours) means I am more comfortable with diagrams than written lists.