The story so far: the draft of Hal Spacejock III is due in next Tuesday. Over the past week I've been scribbling on a printed version, turning the last five chapters into a mess of arrows, underlining and crossing out. I've inserted sentences describing new scenes, added comments explaining what the sentences are for, and then added notes explaining the comments explaining the sentences.
One page amongst 30 from the end of the book
So far so good... this is working. Now, some months back I generated a DOC file from my Hal 3 yWriter project because I thought I'd finished the structural stuff. Since then I've done two line editing drafts, which means the original project is outdated and unusable. So, today I tried to perform the edits in the word processor, and within half an hour I felt like I was up to my waist in quicksand and sinking fast. I couldn't get an overview of what I'd changed, what needed doing, what the structure looked like now that I'd moved scenes around, whether the chapters still ended on high points or hooks... nothing. I couldn't find the placemarkers for new scenes I had to write, or the comments I'd written telling me what they should contain. I couldn't link the narrative, quickly check that characters weren't in two places at once... I couldn't function, full stop.
Finally, in desperation, I cut the last five chapters from the DOC file and built a new yWriter project. I pasted the chapters into files, automatically split on the scene breaks (* * *) and applied scene descriptions and titles. Then I marked scenes as 'outline', 'draft', '1st edit' and so on. I felt myself relaxing as I did this, gradually hauling myself out of the Quicksand of Despair. By 1pm I was ready to write again, and by 4pm I'd knocked off two thousand words and knew exactly what I needed to do to finish the book off.
This isn't a commercial for yWriter (it's a free program anyway, and I really don't care if I'm the only person on the planet using it), but I don't understand how other writers can sit down with a big DOC file and come up with a coherent book. I'm an organised person with a decent attention span and a very good memory, but I'm in awe of anyone who can leap about in a huge file and make it work.
I realise Word and OO have outlining, but it's never worked for me. Last time I tried every line of dialogue was picked out as a heading, which defeats the purpose of an outline. And you can't drag and drop a scene, and editing comments is clunky, and... Well, they're not yWriter.
Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)