Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for May: (5/4) Linda Norlander, (5/11) Connie Berry, (5/18) Mary Keliikoa, (5/22) Annette Dashofy, and (5/25) Rosalie Spielman.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Tools of the Trade, by Kait Carson

When I find a writing tool that works, my first thought is, how cool, my second thought is, alert the media and tell the world. I consider it a public service.


One of my favorite tools is Scrivener. It’s a fabulous program from the Literature & Latte stable that has turned me into a plotter from a pantser. I do not pretend to know all the bells and whistles of the program. There are any number of fabulous classes, Facebook groups, and YouTube videos to teach the finer points for those who want to master the program. When I sing its praises, I suggest that writers learn the basics and then drill down into the aspects that work for them.


Initially a pantser, I discovered that the index cards in the inspector are fabulous plotting tools. With the Inspector open, the index cards are displayed on the right-hand side. Because I’m visual, I’ve attached a screen shot of my current WIP as a shorthand explanation. I use the color function for the 


index cards to indicate whether the scene is a clue, red herring, red herring resolution, inciting incident, twist, or grand finale. I can see my plot at a glance. This card is red to indicate it is the inciting incident. There are several prompts on the card to describe the content of the scene. All I need to do is connect the dots. Hah, not that simple.


Liz Milliron, a fellow writer and former blogmate at Mysteristas, introduced me to the missing Scrivener link. Scapple is another Literature & Latte product. Full disclosure, I’ve had it on my computer for years. I think I bought it in 2016. Never used it as a writing aid. I played with it. It’s a fun program and creates documents similar to mind maps. Until this WIP, I failed to see how it could be used in writing.


The events of this year have discombobulated me. I’ve become a full-time writer. Yea! But I’m also a news junky. Boo! Writing has been steady but distracted. Current event distractions and the interruptions of life in general meant I was having a hard time remembering who did what to whom, with what, and why. By the end of each writing session, I’d spent more time scrolling and searching than I did writing. That’s when I remembered Scapple.


My stories are puzzles and they revolve around the victim. To solve the puzzle, I have to know my suspects. Then I must know where the clues are going to fall in the story and where the red herrings will lurk. To avoid loose ends, red herrings must be accounted for and my killer revealed by the clues. Ever play the game of Clue? Then you know it can be a challenge to reveal Ms. Scarlett as the murderess in the library with the wrench while Col. Peacock clamors for attention in the hall with the knife. Scapple provides an easy way to organize my suspects, clues, and resolutions in a clear format. 


In a perfect world Scapple would integrate with Scrivener via keystrokes. Until it does--or I learn how to use the drag and drop function--I simply print my charts and keep them handy with my notes. Thank you Literature & Latte. Writing made simple. Well, sort of.


Do you have programs and tricks that help you keep track of the many moving parts of a story?


Jim Jackson said...

I use Scrivener for the first few drafts of my novels then I move them to Word for the final polishing. For a time, I used a bunch of Scrivener’s features to export ebooks and the such, but I’ve found more effective ways to get what I want.

I’ve looked at Scapple, but it seems more work than usefulness for me.

Kait said...

Hi Jim, Yes, I used to do the same thing - write in Scrivener and finalize in Word. Then I discovered the snapshot feature and now, even if I use Word, I return the document to Scrivener. What do you use to export to e-book these days?

I felt the same about Scapple until recently. Like much else, we need to use the tools that speak to us.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

The computer aids are inspiring, but I'll stick with charts on sketchpads.

I do need to make a master plot and character list so I don't repeat plots and reuse secondary character names.

Kait said...

Oh those secondary character names! I once fell so deeply in love with a name that I used it for both my victim and somewhere mid-book, my killer!

Annette said...

I love Scrivener for plotting and keeping all my research and notes-to-self. I've never used it for drafting though. I like using Scapple for getting my early thoughts organized. Your screen capture looks much neater than anything I've created with it!

Kait said...

It was the drag and drop of scenes that sold me on drafting in Scrivener. Much easier than in Word. Of course, you still have the references search to make sure the timeline is still accurate! I love my messy work in progress Scapple sheets, but I'm afraid they would be a mystery to anyone else.

Susan said...

“Writing has been steady but distracted.” I can relate to that. At one point I downloaded Scrivener, but decided It would take quite a while to figure out, especially when they have books and classes to teach you how to use it. I am not interested in all that time. I’d rather write, I guess.

Kait said...

I hear ya! It's definitely not for everyone, and it's clear that your system works well for you. That's the bottom line with any program or aid.

Polly Iyer said...

Just the thought of plotting in advance gives me the shakes. I agree with Susan. Too time-consuming, and I'm too old to take that time to learn another process. I'm a pantser to the core. But I'm glad you found something that works for you, Kait.

Marilyn Levinson said...

I think I'll continue to write as I have been: plotting out my basic storyline, then changing and adding to it as I go along. I agree with Susan and Polly and don't want to learn another way of brainstorming and outlining. But I'm glad the programs work well for you, Kait, as they do with many other writers.