What Works For Me: Scrivener Color Coding Pt. 2

In Part One of this mini-series I shared how I use Label colors to show progress of my documents. This worked really well for me during UNCHURCHED, which is a single POV. My trouble began when I started work on GISELLE, which has two POVs. Sure, I could use my original color coding method to track who was speaking, but then how would I track my progress?

Custom icons.

Screenshot 2015-08-11 16.35.45


The green and blue dots show me whose POV we’re in for that chapter.

You can change an icon at any time, and Scrivener actually provides a lot of them up front, but they’re a little tiny for my taste. I wanted something bolder, so I made my own. You can download the whole rainbow set of dots later in the tutorial.

How To Do It

1. Learn How to Select Icons

Right-click on a document in the Binder.

Screenshot 2015-08-11 16.39.33


You’ll see all the many icons Scrivener haas provided for you (minus the dots, those are mine). Select one and it will change the document’s icon. You can also change the icons for folders, and pretty much any level within the Binder.

2. Choose Custom Icons

Way down at the bottom of the Change Icon menu is Manage Icons. Click on that. A new box opens.

Screenshot 2015-08-11 16.45.19

We’re only going to work with Icons in Project Package for the moment. That means these icons are specific to that one Scrivener project, and they won’t be available the next time you open a new project. (I assume that the Application Support side would carry across projects, but that note about overrides makes me not want to play with it yet.)

Use the plus and minus buttons to add and remove icons.

When you hit plus, a file manager window will open and you can select your icon. You can use any image as an icon and it will be scaled down for you.

Double-click on the File Name to change it. There is no reordering option.

Hit OK.



Sharing is caring, that’s why I packaged up my dots for you. They come in a whole rainbow of options and they have a slight gradient, which gives them that nice bubble effect. Use them well, padawans.

Here they are:

Just right-click and Save As. I wanted to give them to you in a ZIP but WordPress has some issues with that. Anyway, enjoy!

What Works For Me: Scrivener Color Coding Pt. 1

A few months back, I shared this tweet:

It was retweeted by @Scrivener and is my most successful post, proving that funny sells almost as well as sex.

For the uninitiated, Scrivener is software designed specifically for managing large writing projects, like novels. You break the project into individual files–say, each scene or chapter is its own file. Then you can drag and drop those to reorder them, apply keywords for easy searching, and, yes, color code.

At a glance, I can look at my list of chapters, aka the Binder, and see what needs work and how much.

Screenshot 2015-08-11 16.12.56

Instantly I know where my work for the day needs to start: the trouble spots. And over time, it has become this serene blue:

Screenshot 2015-08-11 16.13.28

How cool is that?

How To Do It

1. Edit Label Colors

In the Inspector column on the far-right of your screen, open the dropdown for Label. Mine is called Work, because I was thinking ‘how much work to I need to do?’

Screenshot 2015-08-11 16.17.52

Select Edit.

That opens this familiar window:


You can give the Labels a custom title, like I did.

Double-click on the Label Names to edit them.

Double-click on the color squares to change the colors.

Drag and drop labels to reorder them.

Use the plus and minus buttons to add or delete labels.

Hit OK.

2. Apply Labels to Documents

There are a few ways to do this.

Method A: Select the document you want in the Binder. Right-click on it. In the menu, find Label (or whatever you chose to name it) and select the colored Label you want to apply.

Method B: Select the document in the Binder. In the Inspector, open the Label dropdown and select the colored Label you want to apply.

Do this to a few documents so you can see the full effect. …only you won’t see the effect just yet! That’s step three.

3. Show Label Colors in Binder

In the main menu, under View, find “Use Label Color In” (if you changed the Label title, that’s what will appear here). Select Binder. Voila! You now have a rainbow Binder!

You can also select Icons, Index Cards and Outliner Rows if you’d like to see the colors there instead/as well. Play around with the views to find the one that works best for you.

In Part Two I’ll show you how I use custom icons in my color-coding, specifically for distinguishing POV.

In Defense of Fanfiction for Aspiring Writers

I haven’t written fanfiction in years, but there was a time when it played a big role in my life.

Way back in the dark ages, also known as the late 90s, early 00s, I was a tween. We weren’t called tweens then, that slang hadn’t become popular yet. I had a good friend, a teenager, who lived a few blocks away. I liked her and trusted her judgment. So when she told me I simply had to watch this show Sailor Moon, I followed her advice.

When I turned off the TV, I thought: This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever watched. …I’m going to watch again tomorrow!

Thus began my love affair with one of the most popular anime of all time.

My older friend also turned me on to fanfiction. The TV could only give me half an hour at a time. The internet could give me so, so much more. Reams of stories, any time I wanted. I learned all the lore of this new world and was exposed to stories beyond what was ‘safe’ enough to be in the library, namely lesbian relationships. I read it all.

It wasn’t long before I started writing my own story. I gave myself a penname. I started a Geocities site. I joined Fanfiction.net.

I started getting readers. I got comments. People loved what I wrote, and so I wrote more.

The beautiful thing about that period of time is that I was part of a very large, very active community. Thousands of other people were also hungry for more stories, and they were happy to read and comment.

The next year I discovered Gundam Wing, and that’s when my fanfiction writing career really took off. The fandom could not get enough of those boys and their mecha. Neither could I. In the six years I was active on the site, I wrote some 265,000 words.

That’s a lot of practice. And let’s be clear, the vast majority of that was written in four years when I was really active. Figure 50k a year, between the ages of 14 and 18. Not including the originals works I did for class.

I wrote because I wanted to. I wrote for the instant feedback. I wrote because other people cared if I didn’t update. I wrote because playing in those worlds made me happy.

I sometimes miss the abandon with which I used to write. There were no rules. I had no craft lessons to deliberately apply. It was just me and the blank page, going wherever we wanted to go. For those years, I was a pantser.

And I can honestly say that over the years I got better. My taste and instincts matured. I read a lot. Both good, published books, and bad, what-is-this-burn-it-with-fire fanfiction. I read some outstanding fanfiction as well, things that deserved a much bigger platform. I became discerning. I learned what I liked, and what not to do. I began to articulate what was wrong with what I was reading. I began to absorb craft.

Over time, I outgrew fanfiction. My community of choice was dying out and I didn’t feel like joining another one. Instead I focused on my class assignments, original fiction. I subscribed to Writer’s Digest. I began looking for the colleges with the best writing programs. Because I wanted a career as a fantasy novelist, you see, and I was determined.

Writing fanfiction gave me confidence in my abilities. I trusted myself to know what was good and worth pursuing. Maybe that’s arrogance in a teenager, but that arrogance had me pursuing a dream instead of putting it aside. I kept taking classes, kept workshopping, kept reading. I knew I wasn’t good enough yet. But I knew I could get there.

So, the next time someone tries to argue that fanfiction is a waste of time, don’t listen to them. It’s a productive form of play. You wouldn’t tell someone to stop playing pick-up basketball if their aim was the NBA. Insist they do the drills as well, but don’t tell them to stop having fun. People argue that fanfiction is stultifying because it doesn’t require the writer to invent their own worlds and characters. I suppose children shouldn’t play with LEGOs because they didn’t mold the plastic themselves. LEGO sets may seem limiting, especially as they become more and more branded, but kids still do fantastic, imaginative things with them.

Nobody should be forced to read or write it, but those who do should keep on keepin’ on.

Moved to BronwenFleetwood.com

Time to get serious. I’ve set up my domain name, BronwenFleetwood.com, and the blog will continue there.

Thank you to everyone who has followed me on wordpress.com. You can subscribe to the new blog via email using the widget in the sidebar or footer.

In September I’ll be talking about fanfiction and sharing some nifty Scrivener tutorials. I hope to see you there!

#PitchWars 2015 Mentee Bio

(Is my hair straight? Have I got anything in my teeth? Is this thing on? It’s on. Crap.)

Hello, Pitch Wars crew! All you amazing, lovely people making this contest possible. I’m a little terrified to be here but also ecstatic to try for a slot.

A Little About Me…

I am an introvert who forces herself to do extroverted things. I would love to stay home, read, bake, and nap, but life insists I do something to sustain myself, which requires interacting with other human beings. I run two writing groups, because writers make the best friends and I believe in giving back to the community.

I studied at Eugene Lang, the New School for Liberal Arts because they had a writing program and I just fell in love with the place. For my troubles I got a degree in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Creative Writing, specifically fiction. I also got to study religion and digital media, so that was cool. I decided not to pursue an MFA because it felt redundant. I needed to get out in the world for a while, live a little. Also, Great Recession.

I was basically raised on Monty Python, so silliness is in my blood. Hello, fellow Pythonites! Can I get you a herring? There are tennis-playing blancmanges over by the comfy chair.


You sons of a silly person!

Random factoids:

  • I grew up in New Jersey but I was born in South Africa. I’m a naturalized citizen.
  • If I don’t sing on a regular basis, I get depressed.
  • Likewise if I don’t read.
  • In a few months I plan to adopt m’self some guinea pigs. Because GUINEA PIGS.

You rang?

  • I have celiac and I’m allergic to a bunch of foods, including eggs. I cook.
  • I make the most excellent marshmallow krispie treats out of Chex cereal.
  • I have much love for elephants, Alphonse Mucha, and shiny jewelry.
  • I am still waiting for Melanie Rawn to finish THE CAPTAL’S TOWER. It’s been 18 years. No one is allowed to complain about waiting for the next book in GoT, okay!?
  • Also, my day job’s editorial style guide has invaded my brain. (Every bullet item SHALL have a period at the end!)

What I Do

By day I’m a web and graphic designer, which means I get to make the pretties.



What I Read & Write

I read a lot of YA, and I’m trying to get into NA. My preferences revolve around fantasy, historical, and strong women. I tend to write in the same genres.

Except for this, the novel I’m submitting, which has taken over my life. UNCHURCHED is contemporary YA, though still with a kickass antiheroine. I never thought I’d wind up writing contemporary, but here I am with a novel and a wider universe of ideas. (All these years I could’ve sworn I would follow in the steps of Tamora Pierce.)

This lady, right here. First book that I ever felt, "YES, THIS IS WHAT I WANTED!"

This lady, right here. First book that I ever felt, “YES, THIS IS WHAT I WANT!”

What I’d Like From Pitch Wars

I am SO READY to WORK on this book!! I’ve already put it through the wringer, but I know it needs that little something more to make it really shine. I miss weekly workshopping.

I’m hoping for a mentor who I can bounce ideas off of as I address their notes. Normally I am very timid about squeaking up, but this book means a lot to me and I want to get it right. I’ve already done what I call committing manuscript surgery several times, and I’m willing to do it all again to get to a better end product. I’ve never been much of a phone person (see: introvert) but I’ll suck it up. If you’re into email and text messaging we’ll get along fabulously. Most of all, I want open communication. I want to feel comfortable reaching out to ask a question. I won’t, like, text you at 3am, that would be rude. You would totally have permission to sic squeaking guinea pigs on me.

No, wait, that’s wrong. MOST of all, I want someone to thrash the crap out of my manuscript. Scrawl all over it in red pixels. Make it cry. Then remind me I am capable of fixing it.

No, Seriously

This contest is amazing. I’m so happy to have the opportunity to apply. It’s says so much about the writing community that those who have gone before are willing to volunteer so much of their time and talent.

And if nothing else, y’all got me to perfect my query letter, and that’s worth a whole bundle. So thank you.

Hey, other mentees!

It occurred to me that part of this process is us making connections with one another. I’m looking for critique partners. So I wrote a profile just for that. Swing by, and if you think we’d mesh, drop me an email!

Seeking Critique Partners

This post is inspired by the #PitchWars mentors, who have said time and again that this contest is about community. Finding friends, CPs, commiserators, etc. And it occurred to me, “Why am I not talking DIRECTLY to the other wannabe mentees? We’re hopping to each other’s blogs, we want to get to know each other!”

So, this is me talking to you, my brothers and sisters in arms. This is about what I’m like as a critique partner and what I’m looking for in a partner. Please do not be shy about reaching out! I’m the shy one here. There can’t be two of us. (Actually, another shy introvert would be awesome.)

What I Write

Fiction about women, usually strong ones. That’s always my starting point. Lately I’ve been focused on contemporary YA, but my next WIP is NA paranormal romance. (I know, I know, poor market. Too bad. It’s in my brain.) I’ve got some fantasy and historical sitting on my hard drive that I want to get back to. Here are the pitches for three WIPs to whet your appetite.

  • In UNCHURCHED (PitchWars submission 2015), agnostic, feminist Janine is taken aback when her father joins an evangelical church. He’s delighted to help put on a purity ball, but Janine is horrified by the idea of making a vow of chastity in public. Taking the vow would be a lie and she’ll hate herself forever, but standing up to her dad will break his heart.
  • Based on the ballet of the same name, GISELLE follows a young woman with epilepsy who begins to see and hear strange messages from beyond the grave. These voices warn her away from Ali, the boy she’s been crushing on since high school. When he betrays her, Giselle is sucked into a world where disloyalty has deadly consequences.
  • In THE SILK THAT CUTS, a harem overthrows an empire. Twice.

What I Read

Almost everything? I’ve never been into horror, sorry. And I don’t read much middle grade, but I do read a lot of YA and adult. I love fantasy and historical, and really enjoy science fiction and diverse contemporary. (Please share your diverse stuff. It needs to be seen.) I’m a politics junkie, and love tackling controversial issues from religion to international relations (I skew progressive but I’m open to reading about more than that–if you’re doing it right, I’ll love your characters anyway).  I love funny stuff. I love irreverence. I love being surprised by twists and turns. I don’t shy away from hard stuff that may trigger others, but I don’t delve into really dark things very often. I do like sexy times, so erotica is totally ok.

Some faves:

  • Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
  • Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
  • The Heartland Trilogy by Chuck Wendig
  • The Black Dagger Brotherhood books by JR Ward
  • The Temeraire books by Naomi Novik
  • The Confessions of Georgia Nicholson by Louise Rennison
  • Various books by Tamora Pierce

How I Critique

I like to comment as I do my first read, catching typos (I can’t help it, they stand out and I just can’t leave them) and giving first reactions. I tend to ask questions rather than make suggestions. I trust you to know what you intended, and I’m just here to confirm that the way you depicted it worked or not. I’m a member of Scribophile and I can give you the link to check out my review work there.

I’ve been likened to movie slashers because I can turn a page red. I’ve also been told that I have a great combo of encouraging and relevant comments. I bring my sense of humor to the table, so if you use the same word four times I may tease you a little because I’m genuinely and affectionately amused. You will get squeals and gushing over things I love. I’m happy to reread portions or the whole thing.

If you’re looking for diversity research, I can help you out with: atheism, depression, and immigration.

My best communication methods are text-based (email, instant messaging) but I’ll suck it up and talk on the phone or meet in person, too.

What I’m Looking For in a Partner

Please, please, please hack and slash my stuff to bits. For years I’ve been plagued by comments that just kind of say it’s good but not why or how or what’s slipping or augh. Vagueness. Get in there and get messy, please. Demand high standards. Ask a million questions.

I love brainstorming. My best friend and I are constantly poking and prodding each other’s worlds to expand them. Again, I ask a lot of questions, and I love getting them back.

I can’t keep, say, a weekly schedule. Too much pressure. I’m happy to swap a chapter at a time, or a whole book. I don’t mind sharing as soon as a chunk is drafted to get a first read. Tell me how polished it is and I’ll read accordingly.

Reach Out

Send me an email! I would lovelovelove to hear from you, especially if something in this profile sparked for you. There’s no such thing as too many eyes.

Plot Points for Characters

Last week Writer Unboxed ran a piece called How to Craft a Page-Turning Plot by

The article is rather long, but the relevant part is under item 1. Apologies for such a long quote, but it’s totally worth reading the rest of the article.

Essentially, Yardley is reframing the elements of plotting in terms of what they mean for the characters.

The inciting incident is the first domino struck: if the incident hadn’t occurred, then the protagonist would not have a goal.

The first plot point, generally the end of the first act, is where the goal is established, although the protagonist has no idea how to accomplish said goal.

The midpoint is a turning point, where the protagonist goes from reactive to proactive — from aimless to focused.

The third plot point is the hardest to pin down, where the protagonist sets up for the final act… the calm before the storm, the prep, a moment of confidence because they’re stronger.

Then, there’s the black moment, where the worst thing that can happen to the protagonist, in terms of the story goal, strikes.

Then the climax and resolution. The protagonist’s transformation is complete. Through the lessons learned, the protagonist is changed and the goal is either obtained or not, depending on the kind of story you’re writing.

That’s it, in a nutshell. Again, this isn’t the only system, and it may not be the best for you. But I have found it helps to approach it in terms of your character thinking:

– “I want this, it’s important, but I don’t know what I’m doing”

– “I know what I”m doing, but it’s going to be really hard.”

– “I may have the hang of this, but I’m scared.”

– “My soul is absolutely crushed.”

– “I have grown, changed, and become more than I was. I resolve the goal, one way or another, as a result.”

When you look at it in terms of character, emphasizing change, you’ll usually find the middle starts shaping up a bit more easily.

This set off a lightbulb in my brain. I can’t even quite put my finger on it now, after the fact, but I know it’s there. I’d been looking at plot elements solely in terms of plot, as though that were separate from character.

This helped me to finally, finally!, write a decent query letter. In a query you have to lead the reader through your set up (the normal world), then the inciting incident, then where things start to heat up, then explain what the potential consequences will be for your primary characters. (Did I just come up with a query formula? I think I might have.) Query format demands plot, but it needs the emotion of character in order to mean something.

So, thank you, Cathy Yardley!! I’m ready to go wading into the #PitchWars trenches now!


Alanna, Tamora and Me

When I made the transition from picture books to middle grade I devoured everything in my path. Amelia Bedelia. Mrs. Piggly-Wiggly. The Egypt Game. All of the American Girl series. Most of the Babysitters Club–we’re talking twenty books at a time. I was voracious, because I was still searching for something.

When I was twelve, I found it. Tamora Pierce’s In The Hand of the Goddess, a book set in a medieval world, with royalty, magic, adventure, gender politics, and a BAMF for a heroine. I thought to myself, This is it! I knew then that there were books in the world that could be what I wanted, and I think that played a big role in my pursuing writing.

It’s sort of analogous to seeing yourself mirrored in media. When you see yourself depicted, you’re reassured that you exist, that you matter. Hand affirmed that my wants and desires existed in the world beyond my head.

For those who don’t know, Tamora Pierce is known for writing books about strong heroines. The Song of the  Lionness Quartet is about Alanna, a girl who decides at the age of ten that she wants to be a knight, not a lady, and disguises herself as a boy to do so. (Yeah, Hogwarts looks like a cakewalk now, doesn’t it?) She befriends a Prince and the King of Thieves. She battles boys bigger than her and forgotten gods. She learns to appreciate her body despite what she hates about it. The books follow her through her early twenties, experiencing love, hatred, magic, romance, danger, fear, heartbreak, and friendship. Basically it had everything I wanted omfg.

Alanna remains a member of my core head cannon, alongside Buffy the Vampire Slayer (who deserves her own post). She will forever be who I picture when people say strong female character. A lot of her strength comes from sheer stubbornness, a refusal to accept that she is somehow less capable than anyone else. Even in her darkest moments, she pushes through.

That was all in line with the Girl Power messaging of the 90s, which I absorbed a lot of, and so I had no qualms about picking up a pen and writing my own stories. I was a girl, I had heroines like Alanna, and I could do what I wanted. If I wanted to write stories, that’s what I would do. I would make more books as wonderful and amazing as Tamora’s. I was convinced I had a career as a fantasy novelist ahead of me.

Within a few years of discovering Alanna, I found Sailor Moon and the online fan community with its mountains of fanfiction. That’s where I really got started writing in earnest. Sailor Moon was BIG at that time, whereas Tamora Pierce’s books didn’t have a massive online fandom. Nowadays there’s fics and amazing fanart and fan theories like QueeringTortall, which is my new favorite thing. If I were fourteen right now I’d be in-freaking-heaven. Also less prone to drawing anime eyes. But I digress.

My point is, Tamora Pierce opened a door for me. For years I emulated aspects of her fiction, or held it as the standard to which I aspired. I still want to capture that sense of rightness I felt reading In the Hand of the Goddess for the very first time. I hope someday I’m able to do so. And that what I write will positively impact the next generation of readers, as I was impacted.

But, Therefore, Then – Plot Connectors

This is one of my favorite tidbits, made ever-cooler by its origin. It’s a trick that comes from the writers of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker. I first learned of it from the documentary about how an episode gets made, 6 Days to Air: The Making of South Park.

The WriteOnSisters blogged about it recently, and they have a really nice explanation:

If you can put “but” or “therefore” between scenes, then congratulations! You’re advancing the story!

If you can’t use the above words and put “then” between the scenes, you’re not advancing the story.

For example (each sentence represents a scene):

I ate a tuna salad sandwich for lunch today. Then I went and bought a coffee at Starbucks. Then I worked on that spreadsheet. Then I checked Facebook for an hour. Then I went home.

That’s a string of random stuff happening, not a story. “Then” isn’t a connection, it’s a segue into something unrelated.

“But” and “therefore” are connections. “But” denotes conflict. “Therefore” implies a reaction. Both mean that the following scene isn’t random; it’s connected to the previous scene in a meaningful way. For example:

I ate a tuna salad sandwich for lunch, but the tuna was poisoned. Therefore I had to go to the hospital, but the hospital was overrun by zombies who bit me! And therefore I became a zombie.

You can see how this is capable of getting out of hand rather quickly, South Park-style.

I think Matt and Trey’s original may have been “but” and “so”, but “therefore” is more polished. 😉

It’s an excellent tool, one I don’t use enough. Plot is about cause and effect, not just a string of events (“thens”).

On Jon Stewart’s Leaving

Last night, on my way to watch the GOP debate (I’m a political junkie), I caught a snippet of Rachel Maddow. She was doing a segment on Jon Stewart and the Daily Show, talking about how culturally significant they’ve been. She said she believes they made the country better, and the news media better.


I don’t think it’s possible to overestimate the significance. And that significance is being honored by the Newseum–they’re moving the set down to DC.

In an episode from earlier this summer, interviewing Seth McFarlane, Jon joked–but only half-joked–that it’s not love for people to demand he make more shows.


Audience Member: We love you!

Jon: Nah. That’s not love. Love, you bring a little soup. You okay? You sit down. Love is not, Do more shows. Entertain me.

That really stood out for me, because it’s so true.

For all that I adore Jon and have loved the show, I’ve never made a practice of watching it every night. I realized years ago, back during the Bush administration, that to watch is to expose myself to the most depressing news available. It’s a collection of the ridiculous, the insane, the infuriating. Laugh your ass off because if you don’t you’ll cry.

How can I blame Jon for wanting to walk away when I won’t expose myself to all of that, day in and day out? Worse, we only saw about 20 minutes worth of it. Jon and crew spent the entire day sifting through the garbage of our politics and media. “We are turd miners,” he said once. He was right.

So that’s why I say goodbye to him with love. He’s put his soul against the grindstone for us for 16 years. It can’t have been easy. He has done a marvelous service, helping viewers through some of the worst tragedies in our nation, and finding the few bright spots in otherwise devastating events. He deserves a break. More than a break, he deserves not to be chained to it anymore.

If you love something, set it free.