Novelizing My Writing Process

I love trying out different tools for writing. Over the years I’ve written on all sorts of devices from pens to word processors, Palm OS PDAs, Alphasmarts, laptops, Chromebooks, phones, and PCs. I’ve used digital recorders to record dictation. My current obsession is my Freewrite (and waiting for the Traveler to come out).

All of these devices have used different software (well, not the pens, although I’m curious about using shorthand and software to convert it to text). I love trying out new programs and have used a variety of programs on all of the platforms. Today I still use Word for some tasks. I’ve used Scrivener. I posted previously about trying out Novlr online.

I was recently contacted by the kind folks at Novelize who offered me a chance to try out their online novel writing program. It’s been available since 2014 but I’d somehow missed it. Of course I jumped at the chance to try it out. I’m going to share my first impressions in this post. Later, after I spend more time with Novelize and get to know it better, I’ll share my experience.

My Writing Process (Currently)

My writing process changes with different programs and devices. I keep trying to optimize and improve my process. Right now I love using the Freewrite for its tactile feel, the e-ink screen that works in bright sunlight as well as inside, the simplicity of the design, and the distraction-free nature of the interface. It is very much a smart typewriter. (The design can lead to distractions when writing in public because people will ask questions about it.)

The Freewrite is all about moving forward, writing new words. You can backspace to delete text (I love NEW+BACKSPACE keystroke for taking out the previous word), but that’s it. You can’t go back and edit previous lines. You can read over them, but not edit. The Freewrite’s design pushes you forward to create the first draft.

This is an issue if you’re a writer that frequently cycles through a draft as you write, going back up and working back through the draft.

I tackle this issue by copying the text after the Freewrite syncs to Dropbox (you can also use Google Drive or Freewrite’s Postbox) and pasting it into a program to refine and cycle through the draft. Again, here you could use any program you wanted. I’m interested in using an online solution that I can access on any device.

That’s where Novelize comes back into the picture.

First Date With Novelize

First impressions matter and Novelize made a good impression with the clean design and interface it offers. I looked at the website and the tour video. It definitely looked like a program that I’d enjoy getting to know better.

The writing interface is simple with few distractions. Pretty much open it and start typing. The full capabilities don’t show up right away. There’s a lot of depth to the program that it reveals as you spend more time with it.

The interface uses a chapter and scene structure, but you can use those sections how you like. If you write in chapters rather than scenes you can ignore the scenes and click the Add Chapter button when you want to start a new chapter. A Notes section provides a space for scene/chapter notes. Or Add Scene to add more scenes to the existing chapter if that’s how you work. The window continues to scroll as your novel gets longer. With lots of scenes or chapters that might be a problem if it wasn’t for Novelize’s version of the TARDIS–the Panel.

The Panel aka TARDIS

Open the panel by clicking or tapping the Panel link in the bar at the bottom of the screen. The panel offers several sections:

  • Manage provides a space for metadata about your book and word count goals.
  • Summaries shows the overall summaries of your novel’s sections along with chapter and scene summaries.
  • Contents solves the scrolling issue by navigating to that chapter or scene when you click/tap. It also shows word counts for the book and the individual scenes and chapters.
  • The Notebook provides many more sections to save information about your book. I’m not going to dig into that in this post but I will mention that I love the fact that the notebooks can be saved and used outside of the novel itself. I imagine it’d be a great help for a series bible.

There is a lot to explore in the Panel. It’s optional. No one makes you use it, although I’d think the manage and contents sections would get used by most folks.

Modes

On the right side of the bottom bar is the Modes link which offers three fairly self-explanatory links.

  • Outline. Exactly what it sounds like. If you like to outline, create chapters, scenes, and descriptions of your book. Even if you don’t outline before writing, I can see jotting down notes after each chapter/scene as I go. That might work well with the Freewrite, setting up sections as I finish them. I’ll come back to process later.
  • Write. I’ve already talked mostly about the write screen. You’ll spend a lot of time when in this mode creating your draft.
  • Organize. Use this mode to change the order of chapters or scenes. You can move entire chapters up or down, move scenes up or down, and even move scenes to other places. It doesn’t support drag and drop at this point, but it is pretty simple and works well on a phone (more on that too later).

Each of the modes provides useful tools to work on your novel. I’m still figuring it all out, so how I use it might change as I spend more time with the program.

The Menu

Finally, on the far right of the bottom bar, is a menu which provides links for your account, support, and more importantly the Dashboard.

It’s the Dashboard that shows all of your novels and notebooks. It’s where you go to download your work or create new novels. An important screen, but probably not one you’ll need to visit too often unless you constantly switch between projects.

Tap or click on your book or Novelize to quickly get back to your book.

Mobile Support

I’m thrilled that Novelize works well on my Pixel phone. I’m not at the latest phone with my Pixel 2XL, but Novelize is simple to use on the screen. It’s great to see the program support mobile use. It opens up the possibilities for working on the novel simply by taking out my phone, tapping Novelize on my home screen, and getting to work. It’s not an app, it runs in the browser, but it doesn’t need to be an app. It’s a good example of a site that works well in a mobile format. At least on my phone.

Writing With Novelize

Okay, so that’s all my first date impressions with Novelize. They did give me access to the program. Other than that, I don’t have any sort of affiliate relationship with them.

How do I plan to incorporate Novelize into my creative process?

I said earlier that I’m obsessed with my Freewrite. It’s a joy to use and keeps me moving forward on my projects. For my current work-in-progress novel Synthetic Pain, when I finish writing a chapter, I’m adding it to Novelize. Once in the program, I can cycle through the draft. I can add notes, or add things to the notebook.

I don’t outline an entire book before starting. I usually write down thoughts in my journal for an overall general idea of what I’m planning with the book. I could transfer some of those notes into the summaries in Novelize. If I’m thinking about the next chapter, I might add a few notes about it in the outline.

Although you can go back and read over what’s written on the Freewrite, it’s more convenient to pick up my phone, open Novelize, and look over the previous chapters or notes right there on the phone screen.

In fact, I imagine that’s going to be a major way I use the program. I’ve done some of that but expect to try out different options. Alternatively, I could open the novel on the PC while I’m writing on the Freewrite if I needed to refer to something.

Or just avoid the distractions and come back later to update the draft in Novelize.

Am I Going to Keep Seeing Novelize?

Absolutely. I want to give it time and see how well we work together. I’m still figuring that out. I like a lot of what I’ve seen so far with Novelize. We need to spend some quality time to really see if this relationship has legs and fits in well with my other tools. After I finish Synthetic Pain I plan to come back and report on how it all worked out, along with any suggestions for how we might work better together.

If you’d like to give Novelize a try, visit getnovelize.com and check out the trial period. Pricing is $5/Monthly or $45/Annually.​​​​

‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

The Marsten House hung over the town of Jersualem’s Lot, ‘Salem’s Lot, like a tombstone over a grave that hadn’t been filled in yet. The people in their homes and shops didn’t recognize the rich smell of fresh turned earth, the odor of their own deaths. They hadn’t caught up to the fact that they were already dead, their last days on earth evaporating like morning dew.

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Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Have you ever had something bad happen to you? Something done to you by another person? Maybe a lover betrayed you? A parent abandoned you? A thief robbed you? It’s probably more surprising if you’ve skated across the thin ice of life, hearing the creaks, cracks, and groans but somehow never falling through yourself.

Bad things happen to the characters in this collection of four novellas from master storyteller Stephen King. Very bad things, done by bad people. Mostly without anything supernatural going on. This collection won 2010 Bram Stoker Award for Best Collection.

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The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

I picked The Last Policeman entirely by chance while perusing science fiction titles. The cover caught my eye and the description convinced me that it was something I might enjoy. That’s what it takes isn’t it? And I have a fondness for science fiction mystery stories. I enjoy reading them almost as much as writing them.

If you enjoy science fiction mystery stories…

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Henry Palace recently found himself promoted to detective after only 16 months on the job. The department made an exception in his case–it’s hard filling positions at the end of the world.

When Palace investigated the body of an apparent suicide–a ‘hanger’–in the bathroom of a McDonald’s it didn’t feel right. Questions about the scene bothered him. Despite the rash of suicides by strangulation in Concord, New Hampshire, was this really a suicide? It might be the end of the world, but Palace finally had his dream job. He wasn’t going to mess it up. Not if it’s the last thing he does.

In The Last Policeman Ben H. Winters writes a compelling story set in a recognizable near-future where a despondent world waits for the coming impact of a 6.5-kilometer in diameter carbon and silicates asteroid. The same unlikely scenario that was the death blow to dinosaurs is unfolding for humankind. Unlike our distant saurian cousins, we know that the asteroid is coming and how much time remains.

For some people, it’s a chance to finish a bucket list. For others, time to spend with family. Some people suicide, seeing little reason to go on.

Winters’ detective, Palace, investigates the death of Peter Zell, insurance man. Zell lived a mostly solitary life with work and infrequent contact with his sister. A bit of a geek, even before the news about the Maia asteroid he wouldn’t have been described as happy. He’d talked about suicide. He’d said that he’d do it at the McDonalds just as he was found.

What Would You Do?

Palace investigates what happened, doing his best to work through Zell’s life. Suicide or murder? Unwilling to accept the easy surface answer, Palace digs deeper into the case. He keeps going when others give up.

I’m reminded of Seeing a Friend for the End of the World. Like Winter’s book, the movie kicks off making it clear that an asteroid is going to wipe out everyone and there’s nothing that can be done about it. It also came out in 2012.

Winters does a much better job of world-building and showing through Palace’s experiences how people are handling the news. What would you do in that doomsday scenario? I don’t remember Winters mentioning the library, but I wonder if the library isn’t still open. Even now we have many people come to the library for internet access. In this story networks have begun to fail but I suspect that libraries and librarians would work to keep access for their patrons as long as possible. Would they be recreating card catalogs and resurrecting card pockets and date stamps? Or is that too much trouble if it is all going to end? I think many librarians, like Winters’ detective, would strive to keep the library doors open. How many more people would want access to books that they’d never had a chance to read?

As a writer myself, I could see spending time writing stories, a final novel, even if it was by hand on sheets of paper. Take away so much else and what are you going to do?

Palace works the case and the result is an engaging, sad, and compelling novel. The first in a trilogy of books. I’m looking forward to reading the others.

Highly recommended.

Blaze by Stephen King

Clay Blaisdell called “Blaze” by his friends, a petty crook, con-man, sometimes speaker to ghosts, who stood up to bullies, who didn’t become a bully despite his size, didn’t want to hurt anyone. We don’t always get what we want.

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Night Shift by Stephen King

Collecting Fears: Night Shift by Stephen King

I picked several short stories collections for the 2019 Hail to the King Reading Challenge because I plan to write quite a few stories this year. I wanted to study stories by the master of the short story. I’ve read Night Shift several times over the years and I continue to revisiting this classic collection that has tapped into so many fears and inspired so many movies (of varying quality).

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Dreamcatcher

Dreamcatcher: Hail to the King Reading Challenge 2019

Three weeks of gray boys, SSDD, alien fungal infection, friendship, and so much more. Dreamcatcher kicks off the 2019 Hail to the King Reading Challenge with all of its 620 pages. I read this one in hardcover and it was a weighty book to haul around in my bag. Could I have read it on the Kindle? Sure. I didn’t. I own most of Mr. King’s books in print and I do like to take them down sometimes and read the actual book.

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