Writing in a fog; a Nice Review; Story Mill v. Scrivener v. Word: the writing tools

I’ve been writing for most of my life, but for me the writing process has always been a bit murky, like I never know exactly what I’m doing. Over the years I have learned that–at least for me–it’s never going to be crystal clear. I now accept the fog. I would like to love it, but that’s not going to happen. What I have also discovered is that within the fog, the thick soup of the mind that envelopes you when you are processing a narrative, that at any given moment certain things, maybe just one, will be clear. Go with what you can see and that will become a compass to the next clear thing. It’s a bit like a scavenger hunt.

If you think you’d like a wisecracking hero desperately trying to keep a villain from ruining his life in New York City, you should check out David Hansard’s debut novel One Minute Gone. His hero, Porter Hall, keeps his sense of humor through a series of threats to his children and his life that rival Candide. Among the elements of the novel that hooked me include a sexy reporter that’s taken a professional and personal interest in him, his antagonistic relationship with New York cops, and his adorable twins he’s raising as a single parent.


Yesterday I found this nice little review of my Porter Hall novel, ONE MINUTE GONE, posted by Hopeton Hay, who does book reviews on radio station KAZI in Austin. He’s interviewed an amazing array of authors including Walter Mosley, David Baldacci, Marcia Clark and many more. Check out Hopeton’s Facebook page. “Like it” and you will get regular updates.

Until a few years ago I wrote everything from concept notes to first draft to final draft in Microsoft Word for Mac. I had an incredibly difficult time keeping track of everything. I would lose scenes, I would get sidetracked, waste time trying to figure out where I was. Also, because if I closed and reopened the file, I would ddo countless rewrites of the first few pages, since that’s where it always opened, when I should have been adding word count. In 2008, I started using Scrivener for drafts. It was a major improvement over Word, but for me it was still not perfect. Someone suggested Story Mill. SM was, for me, and maybe it has to do with the way my particular brain works, a massive improvement over Scrivener. Except for one small thing. Story Mill would crash and I would lose all my work. I was not alone in this and there were a lot of complaints on the Story Mill site and in chat rooms. I learned after that to periodically, every day or two, to export everything to Word. I have not had that problem in several years although I am now in the habit of occasional exports to Word, as well as now back both to an external drive and the Cloud. In short, after using dedicated composition tools like Story Mill and Scrvener, I will never go back to composing in Word. I have found, however, that once a complete draft, or maybe the second revision is finished. I prefer revising in Word to either of the dedicated platforms.

Thanks to Amazon, my book is a veritable bargain right now. 99 cents for the Kindle version, or free to borrow, and only $6.70 for the trade paperback, which may allow you to get the Kindle version included for free. (I think, but I’m not sure).


Happy New Year. I am so damn glad to be out of the old one I can’t begin to tell you.


Self-publishing is not hard, but there is more to it than you might think unless you’ve actually done it. This series is not about telling you how to do it, but telling you how I did it, what I went through. In most cases, what you will go through will be similar to my experience in getting my first novel, ONE MINUTE GONE, live on Amazon in both ebook and trade paperback forms.

There are a lot service providers, platforms and sites that will help you self-publish. Below is the list of my providers. It doesn’t matter who you use, or which platforms you choose, but these are the essential pieces of self-publishing.

INTERNAL FORMATTING, TYPESET & COVER DESIGN: This is the process of converting your Word file, or whatever word processor your finished manuscript is in, to a form, generally a PDF, that will become your book between the covers. In addition to your novel, or whatever the content is, you will probably want to add a copyright page, acknowledgements, dedication, and author bio. Keith Snyder at Typeflowny.com did all of this for me. Because Keith is a talented graphic designer I had him do my cover, though generally the internal setup and cover design come from separate sources. Keith is a mystery author himself, but does a wide range of designs for children, YA, sports, poetry, etc. His prices are reasonable, he’s professional, prompt, and easy to work with. In addition to the formatting for print, as part of the package, Keith also formatted mine for Kindle and other ebook vendors.

COVER ART: I purchased the rights to a photo of Lower Manhattan from http://iStock.com. I first found it on another photo bank, which was selling it for more than I wanted to pay. After half an hour of scanning, I finally found the same photo in iStock for a third of what the other site was asking. Keith modified it and turned it into—what I think—is a terrific cover. Of course, you can do your cover yourself, but, unless you are a talented designer, it will look amateurish. When you are selling online, your cover is one of your most important promotional tools.

WEBSITE DESIGN AND MAINTENANCE: You really need a website, and you can do it yourself. Generally (see COVER ART), that’s a bad idea. I used Maddee James at xuni.com. Maddee is unbelievably good, which is why she has a waiting list. She was a dream to work with. She used to do only crime fiction, but has recently expanded to romance and YA. Check out my website, http://davidhansard.com, and then go to Xuni.com and look at some of Maddee’s other client sites.

NEXT: CHOOSING A PLATFORM: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Bookbaby, etc. And how do you PRICE YOUR BOOK, the ebook and the hardcopy?