Tag Archives: Writing Toolbox

Toolbox 31: Let Me Introduce You to The Inspector

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.


As most of you know, I use and love Scrivener. Mostly because helps me organize my work. But I also use The Inspector specifically for tracking what I’ve written. It is versatile.

Here’s what I do to fine tune The inspector.

You’d find The Inspector on the right side of the window. It can be turned on/off by clicking on the big i in the blue circle.

It’s broken down into sections: Synopsis, General Meta-Data + the bottom section that changes depending on what button is highlighted at the top.


Is a perfect place to write a logline for each chapter or a slice of your outline. 😉

General Meta-Data:

  • Label: I tend to use this to follow my plot (& subplots), or on occasion POV characters. The color can be changed for each label, so that a quick look in The Binder (possibly another post) tells you where you’re heavy.
  • Status: On The Corkboard, I can easily see how close my project is to completion. Some status choices are: 1st draft, 2nd draft, before beta read, after beta, polished + notes only.

Note: Both, Label and Status, and their subtitles are edited through a separate window. To open it, click on the drop-down menu to the right of either Label or Status then click on edit.

  • The last three refer to the act of collecting and printing the WIP.
    • Include in Compile: Tick the box if you wish to include the scene in your printed project.
    • Page Break Before: Tick the box if you want to insert a page break before a chapter/scene.
    • Compile As-Is: In the compile section you can change the project’s formatting, however, if you prefer to format as you go tick this box.

The bottom section is controlled by the buttons at the top.

Right to left: Document Notes, Document References, Keywords, Custom Meta-Data, Snapshots, and Comments + Footnotes.

Document Notes (Project Notes):

When selected, there is a drop-down menu and you may choose between either Project Notes and Document Notes.

If it is not obvious, comments noted on the Project Notes can be accessed from anywhere within the project. Any notes on the Document Notes can only be accessed when on the associated page.

I think of this as my fix-it-later place. Learned this from NaNo, when I don’t want to stop and don’t want to forget what I’ll need to change later. I’m sure you’ve been there. 😉

Document References (Project References):

Again you have the choice of a Document References or Project References from the drop-down menu. Further a long is a ‘+’ with a downward arrow to add an item  and a ‘-‘ to remove an item.

The choices are:

  1. Add Internal Reference: creates a link to another part of your project.
  2. Look Up + Add External Reference: creates a link to a file somewhere on your computer.
  3. Create External Reference: creates a link to a website.


No doubt you know how versatile keywords can be. Assign them to clues, characters, settings, or whatever you’d like.

You can add ‘+’, remove ‘-‘, or access all the Keywords within the project with the ‘gear wheel’.

Clicking on the gear wheel lets, you organize them within a hierarchy.

I assign a heading of characters, settings, items, clues and list the actual names of each underneath.

I tend to drag and drop them from the big list as I need them.

Custom Meta-Data:

At first glance it’s an empty space. You’ll want to change that. To the very right is a gear wheel. Click it and it opens the same window as before. You should see tabs: Label, Status, Custom Meta-Data, and Project Properties.

Once the window is open you can make a checklist of things you want to track using the ‘+’, ‘-‘. The up-arrow, and a down-arrow can move your list around.

What do you want to track? Timelines, Emotional level 1-5, Setting tags. It can be almost anything. For longer answers click the word-wrap button. If you like colors… Well, I think you know what to do.

Here’s my list.

If it’s not obvious, you fill in the blanks with your answers.

The Project Properties Tab:

Is where you can add your name, the project title, etc. This is primarily used when compiling. The entries are used in the header/footer of the resulting document.


Snapshots is another fave of mine. A quick back-up of any scene. Click the ‘+’ and an exact copy is made. Each is saved with a date & time as well as a title. Don’t like how the revision went and want to start again. Rollback and its as if you didn’t do a thing.

I use this (along with Status) to track what I’ve done so far. Some titles of my Snapshots are: 1st Draft, Revision #, After Beta Read, etc.

Comments + Footnotes:

Comments + Footnotes are more for Non-Fiction. I rarely use them unless I want to check a fact in a sentence. Like I said sucky memory.

I’m hoping with the headings that you only hopped around the post. It’s much longer than my usual. Don’t mean to bore you, but hey, Scrivener is jam packed with possibilities.

Thanks for dropping by. If you have any questions, I’ll gladly share.

Toolbox 30: Free Courses Through My Local Library

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.


My life is quiet right now. No doubt, many of you feel the same way. Boredom was my enemy until I discovered my local library’s website linked to free courses. I’m a lifelong learner. So yay for me!

How I got there.

It may not be the same for you, but here’s what I did. On my library’s main menu, I clicked on the Research tab. That led to the Gale Courses. From there I chose what I wanted: Research Methods for Writers, and Mystery Writing. That was where my heart was but there were many more to choose from.

In my world of writing and my day-to-day life, I want quick direct answers. I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole and spend hours digging through information for one fact when I’m only touching on information in passing. My goal is to avoid infodumps. For me and for my readers.

I retrieved the fact to keep to the truth and that’s where it ended for me.

And it turned out that sometimes my quick in-and-put plan failed. If anyone has read Minor Error, you’d know what I mean. My facts were not as accurate as they should have been. Eventually, I moved it from the sci-fi genre to the sci-fantasy genre because I loved the images I created as inaccurate as there were.

The Course Pointed out that:

  • I needed to make a plan. (Mind-maps work well for this.)
  • I should determine what exactly I need to know to figure out where I need to go.
  • I might start with an internet search and land up anywhere.

I tried:

Google Scholar, and Google Books

And landed up:

Now that I’ve stuck my toe in, I know I’ll be more diligent. I want my readers to enjoy what I’ve imagined and not get kick out of the story because I was sloppy. Bottom line: I will still make mistakes because I’m human, not because I’m lazy.

How deep do you dive-in when seeking facts? Any links you’d care to share?

Toolbox 29: 7 Ways to Improve Concentration

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.


Like everyone else I’ve been watching the corvid-19 numbers go up. My stress level has gone up too. I can’t seem to stop it.

I’ve tried to make myself focus on other things to bring my stress down and return to—if not a positive attitude—an inner calm.

I know sitting in the sunshine or taking a nature walk helps, but I want to get back to writing.

I’m unable to concentrate

From my reading I’ve discovered that I’m at odds with my brain. It’s doing what it does best. Absorbing my environment and bouncing around like Tigger. In fact, when I try to focus, my mind fights back by distracting me, encouraging me to do it tomorrow, and making me feel too lazy. All in the name of it keeping its freedom.

Apparently is an evil genius and I’m not. Who knew?

How did this happen?

The world today comes at us through the internet, our phone, and the people around us. We have taught ourselves to read quick blurbs. Pop into a conversation to comment and pop out again to do something else. We jump around mentally and it works fine, usually.

But what if you want to focus on revisions, or filling a blank page.

There are ways to fight back. Try this to gauge your level of concentration. The goal is to quickly say aloud what colour you see in every word you read.

Was there a problem?

This has inched up on all of us.

To improve, we’d have to do some exercises.

But first some Tips:

  • Schedule a block of time and try to be consistent.
  • Know that you’ll easily be distracted so remove temptation temporarily.
  • Use a timer for your focus sessions. For example, twenty minutes on and five minutes rest.
  • Be patient and expect it to be harder than it looks. Understand that like physical exercise, it will take time to improve.
  • Keep the mood as light as possible.

The Seven exercises:

  1. Try sitting in a chair for 15 minutes.
  2. Breathe deeply concentrating on one scent at a time.
  3. Concrete on opening and closing your fists for 5 minutes.
  4. Follow the second hand of a clock for five minutes.
  5. Open any book and count the words in a paragraph and then double/triple check your work.
  6. Read something long or intense slowly. Savour the sentences. Look for deeper meanings.
  7. NOT ALONE, TAKE ADVANTAGE AND try attentive listening: don’t interrupt, paraphrase what you heard, focus and stay engaged.

I don’t know how much this will help and suspect it’s like a computer. Garbage in; garbage out. I’m going to give all of them a try and see what fits best.

Are you having trouble concentrating? What are you doing to stay focused?

Gleaned from:

Toolbox 28: Imposter Syndrome

I’ve set up a community within Riot.im. If you are interested, or didn’t get an email because it landed in your spam folder; make an account with Riot.im, and reach out to me through my contact page. I’ll need your Riot handle and the email address you used to set up your account. Then I’ll be able to send you an invitation to the Pen Connection Chatroom.

If you had/have trouble, I’ll help. We can to it together with Riot Support. Although, you and I might have to coordinate through the time-zone madness. 😉

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.


Imposter Syndrome

What is it?

‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence. They seem unable to internalize their accomplishments, however successful they are in their field.

from Harvard Business Review

What does it feel like?

…can leave people fearing that they will be exposed as a “fraud”, usually in their work lives.

from Independent

Do you have these symptoms?

  • Have Difficulty Accepting Praise
  • Tend to Discount Your Success
  • Often Described as a Perfectionist
  • Actually Dread Success, in Some Ways
  • Focus More on What You Haven’t Done
  • Convinced You’re Not Enough
  • Attribute Success to Anything But Your Skill Set or Ability
  • Go Overboard With Task and Goal-Setting

What to do about it?

Talk it out. Learn more about it. Track your accomplishments and celebrate them. Accept perfection is impossible. And STOP THE NEGATIVE SELF-TALK.

We are people first; writers second. And we need to use self care and kindness not just on others but on ourselves. If you wouldn’t say something to someone you care about, then don’t dare say it to yourself.

Words have power. Each of us know this. Be kind to yourself and if you suffer from imposter syndrome don’t let it drag you down.

Because the bottom line is, self judgment and condemnation is bad. Very bad.

Have you ever dealt with this? What did you do to fend it off?

Gleaned from:

Toolbox 27: Creating a Writer’s Nest

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.


I was reading a book.

Okay, okay. Stop rolling your eyes.

I know we all do that

This book cut to the crux of an issue that I’ve read about, but never incorporated into my writing life.

Inspired from

Soul Between the Lines by Dorothy Randall Gray touched on how to create an inspirational work space.  She has a spiritual approach which isn’t for everyone, but some of her suggestions hit home.


I‘ve heard this before some people take the time to make a playlist to set the mood and mindset for their story. She suggested the music is simple and without lyrics.

I don’t use music often, but I’ve listened to crickets, rain, birdsong, thunderstorms, and crashing waves through YouTube.

It does help me focus.

Aroma therapy

Dorothy loved scented candles and I get that. I prefer a diffuser with essential oils. You may prefer incense, smudging or just an open window.

Hey, whatever works.

Objects that inspire.

I thought long and hard about this. When I worked in an office, almost everyone had pictures of their favorite people, places or things. I loved dragons and had some postcards sitting center stage.

Others had bobble heads or a little collection of McDonald’s toys which made me think of Yondu played by Michael Rooker. His little row of characters on his captain station.

Crazy! Right?

Not one workspace has the same thing. Something to consider. Add whatever touches your heart or awakes your muse.

Meditation or Yoga

We all start cold with a cursor waiting to move along the screen or a page waiting for some ink. Before you attempt to write a word…

Here comes some spiritual stuff.

…take a moment to let your thoughts slide through you. Don’t let any of them take root. Breathe. Stretch. Relax. Feel the energy in the room. Let it fill you up with pure white energy.

Release it through your skin.

Free Writing

First thought. Write it down. Same with the second. Third. The page isn’t so empty…

Now, on to your project.

I’ve read posts like this, so I get it if not all of it is for you.

I related to what Dorothy said. The more comfortable my working environment; the better I did.

The words came and the pages filled up.

How about you. Any other suggestions on building the perfect writing nest?