How To Add Sources to the Mac Dictionary

It’s slow going so far with my edits in my 85k90 manuscript as I work on big picture development. Along with editing, I’ve been plugging away at my story bible and it’s starting to look like a real wiki. It’s also proving to be a great way to flesh out my story and find the parts that don’t stand up to scrutiny. So, despite the time it takes away from writing in my manuscript, it’s been well worth pursuing.

I’ve been using one of my favourite tools to help me with my work –  my Mac’s built in Dictionary app. It helps me find just the right word, define ones I sort of know but am unsure of, and get my facts straight using Wikipedia. That’s right. Wikipedia is built into my Mac. And yours too.

Finding Dictionary, Thesaurus and Wikipedia

Did you know you could easily access your Mac’s built in dictionary/dictionaries by highlighting a word in your document and right-clicking?  Scrivener also includes this app under Edit -> Writing Tools -> Look up in Dictionary and Thesaurus. You’ll notice there’s also a link for looking up in Wikipedia but I don’t take that route because it sends me to Safari and I want to stay right where I am. I can stay in Scrivener with the dictionary app while still enjoying a complete wikipedia experience. That’s great, right? But wait! There’s more…

If you want a quick definition, you can choose Look Up...  at the top of the list and get a pop up window with definitions from all of your dictionary sources (as well as App Store, Siri and iTunes results!) to open the Dictionary App itself, choose Open in Dictionary at bottom of the pop up or scroll down to Writing Tools -> Look up in Dictionary and Thesaurus in the right-click menu.

Pop Up Dictionary

Adding Sources

When the dictionary app opens, click on Dictionary ->Preferences in the main menu to be presented with a checklist of sources you can download into your Dictionary App. Now you can click on individual sources in the tab menu or choose All to see a listing of all available info.

Dictionary Sources on Mac

I added all of the English speaking sources. One of them is Wikipedia which brings up entry pages from the website and is the quickest and easiest way to find info while writing that I know of.

Wikipedia Entry in Dictionary App

Translations to and from English are also available in a variety of languages including French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese Dutch and Korean.

All sources will download individually to your computer when you check them off so pick only the ones you’ll actually use to keep it light.

Not seeing what you need?

You can find third party dictionary files to be found online (or, if you’re a real keener, make a dictionary yourself). With a bit of searching, I managed to find this set of dictionaries on GitHub. If any of these are useful to you, click on the green clone or download button at the top the list and choose Download Zip.

downloading dictionaries from GitHub

The entire folder of dictionaries will download. Open the folder you’re interested and find the file that ends in .dictionary. The icon will look like a lego piece.

In the dictionary app, choose File -> Open Dictionaries Folder and drag the .dictionary folder into the open folder. Add as many as you need.

Once you have what you need. Close the dictionary app and reopen it. At the bottom of the preferences checklist (Dictionary -> Preferences) you should see the dictionaries you added. Check them and they will appear in the app. You may need to widen the window to see them if you have a lot of dictionaries available.

And that it!

A wealth of info is now available to you where and when you need it with a simple right-click.

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Creating a Story Bible Using Scrivener

When I started my manuscript, it was a spur of the moment decision based on last year’s NaNoWriMo start and idea I had rolling around in my head only days before. I took no time for planning or research and now, as I begin my developmental edit, I’m suffering as a result.

So I’ve made the decision to veer off from my 85k90 timeline for research and to create a story bible to get and keep me on track.

Initially, I thought of using a wiki platform for my Story Bible and wasted a perfectly good writing day researching my options. Too much work, and for what?

It was only after scouring every other possible solution that I realized I already had what I needed. Scrivener.

*NOTE: Instructions and template are for Scrivener 3 on a Mac *

Why use Scrivener?

Using Scrivener, I am able to link existing files or create new ones on the fly.  I can link text documents I created as well as anything I’ve put in the research folder. Not only can I link to files, I can also embed images, tables (although these are terribly finicky so beware), audio and video files into my text files to create a robust story bible filled with information on my world and the people and places in it.

Indexing Files

I had a bit of trouble figuring out how to organize my files in the binder to make things as easy to find as I could. I’ve decided on an alphabetical structure (like an index) but I could also use a nesting folder structure based on subject (eg: characters, locations, cities, history, etc.). Here’s my structure.

*UPDATE* I’ve added an index along the top of my entry template as well as a HOME link so that I can Hide the Binder and use it as a single pane app. In my current project’s Story Bible, I also have added other important links as well as a table at the bottom of each page for links to research media. To add an entry rather than a blank page, right-click on the relevant section of the binder and choose Add -> New From Template -> Entry

 

 

To add content, I started creating file names in the appropriate folders. I then created a link list on the folder itself of every file that could be included. I did this by clicking on the folder to populate the editor and then dragging each item onto it and using styles to format the result as a list.

On the homepage, I can add a synopsis of the story and link to the most useful items, add images with links to other content, include research items, anything I’d like to use as a jumping off page for exploring content.

Useful Topics

Besides the obvious character and setting/location information, there are myriad ways to enliven your writing with detail. Here’s a sampling of topics  I’ve chosen to investigate:

  • Decor
  • Transportation
  • Fashion
  • Food/Drink
  • Slang
  • Music
  • Politics
  • History
  • Hairstyles
  • Religion
  • Climate

In Scrivener, you can nest files as well as folders. You can also convert files to folders and folders to files using the cog icon > Convert to Folder at the bottom of the Binder. Whether you use a file or folder to convey the structure of your Story Bible is up to you. Do whatever makes sense for you.

Once you have your broad topics stubbed in, you can further break them down into subtopics such as Climate > Winter. Be as general or as thorough as you need to be to give yourself a solid grounding in your fictional world.

Creating Internal Links

To create internal links in Scrivener, select a target and right click to find Link to Document or find it under Edit in the top menu. If your target has the same name as the file you’re looking for, you will find it easily in suggested documents. Otherwise, you’ll have to drill into the folders to find it.

You also have an option to create a new linked document by selecting New Link… A pop up window appears for you to put in the relevant details.

Right click on selected word (or look under Edit) to find Link to Document > Create New Link
Right click on selected word (or look under Edit) to find Link to Document > Create New Link

Template Sheets

What I have here is very bare bones. If you want to add any specialty template sheets, do so before filling anything out and then save as your own version this template by choosing File > Save as Template and renaming it.

Want to use my template? Here you go… Indexical Story Wiki.scrivtemplate

How To Install the Template

This template and the following illustrations are for Mac users. If you have a  Windows machine, Scrivener is available for you as well but you’ll need to find instructions elsewhere.

Templates are stored in the Application Support folder in the Library folder of your Mac. I had a hard time finding this folder. It turns out, if you buy an app from the App Store rather the company site, this Application Folder is tucked away in another section of the Library. These instructions offered on the Scrivener Forum cleared it up for me.

Did you buy either Scrivener 2 or Scrivener 3 from the Mac App Store by any chance? If so, because of the way the Mac App Store’s sandboxing partitions things, Scrivener 3 will not be able to see Scrivener 2’s project templates. However, if you bought both from our own store, Scrivener 2’s project templates should still show up.

If you bought Scrivener 2 from our store, the templates will be at this location:

~/Library/Application Support/Scrivener/ProjectTemplates

If you purchased it from the Mac App Store, they will be here:

~/Library/Containers/com.literatureandlatte.scrivener2/Data/Library/Application Support/Project Templates

(You can access the ~/Library folder by holding down Option/Alt when opening the “Go” menu in the Finder – this makes the “Library” item visible, which is normally hidden.)

You can then copy the templates to a different location temporarily, and then use the “Options” button in the project templates chooser in Scrivener 3 to access the “Import Templates…” option, and choose the files you placed in the temporary location to import them.

All the best,
Keith

Thanks Keith!

Once it’s placed in the folder, it will show up in the Chooser under Miscellaneous.

Conclusion

You might think that filling out your Story Bible is busywork, maybe even a form of procrastination. I thought that as well but, as I work through it, I’m finding out lots of information, getting it down and linking it in ways I hadn’t thought of before.

Once it’s finished (and even while I’m working on it!), I’ll be able to search for relevant info, use it to check my manuscript for inconsistencies bring the details of my characters’ daily lives to life for both me the reader.

If you’re like me and you dove right into your story without first getting an in depth view your world, take some time to create your own Story Bible. Your narrative will be richer for it.

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Pinterest for Writing Inspiration

If you’re a writer who hasn’t looked around Pinterest lately (or at all), you’re in for a treat. How to articles, word definitions, quotes, you name it, you can probably find a board dedicated to the subject. You can save your favorite images and articles to your own Writing board for a tailor made info bucket to fit a variety of writing needs. Looking for a few good words? Curious about how other writers use their writing journal? Looking for handouts for your writing group or medieval clothing ideas for your historical novel? Pinterest has got you covered. Or maybe, like me, you just want some inspiring quotes and how to’s for those can’t get started days. My writing info bucket is full of writing tutorials and quotes to give me a kick in the pants.

I love word definitions and have a board specifically made for Definitions that tickle my fancy. Sometimes I find story ideas in the definitions that I’ll use later.

Discoverability

The best part of Pinterest is it’s related pins section visible on each pin’s page. Using this feed of related materials is like surfing an internet filled only with the stuff you’re interested in. Save liberally to an existing board or create multiple boards for each topic. Access you saved pins on your profile and quickly add more from the related pins. It’s a researcher’s dream.

Addiction Issues

If I have one criticism, it’s how addictive surfing pins can be. Once I get started, it’s very hard to stop. With constantly changing feeds of related material, it’s easy to get carried away for hours “researching instead of writing”. When I feel myself getting sucked in yet again, I take comfort in knowing that I’m not alone. In fact, there are boards dedicated to the condition which fills me with a sense of belonging.

85k90 – Day 10 – Cut and Paste

Yesterday’s cut and pasted scenes from the past couple of days really needed to be dealt with today. I had to stop cutting and pasting and start going through the material with fresh eyes, rewriting much of it and fleshing out the scant details from the 50,000 word NaNoWriMo version. I thought it would be a chore – messy, hard to pick up. I’ve had that experience in the past working on another manuscript during an earlier NaNo attempt to write a novel. It was dismal and I soon gave up.

This time, it wasn’t bad at all once I got going. In fact, it came together well, thanks to my ongoing novel journaling and Scrivener‘s ability to cut up blocks of text into individual scenes. If you don’t know how to do that, let me give you a little tutorial.

First, I cut and pasted in a large section of text into one of my scenes. After reading it in this new context, I saw that the second half of it needed it’s own scene – perhaps even it’s own chapter – and that I needed to add a scene between what I had previously written and the first half of the pasted text. No problem.

First, I placed my cursor where I wanted to split the file in two. Then I went to the menu at the top under Documents -> Split -> at selection for a simple splitting into two documents in the binder.

If I’d wanted to, I could select some text and split with the selected text as the title of the new file but it’s not necessary here. I had a new scene to work with and it was already started!

I also needed another scene before the new one so I created a new scene file and tucked it in between. I added synopses to these three scenes to remind myself what I wanted from each of them and I was ready to go.

Right now, I’m still working on the first of the three new scenes in which one of my characters, Steph, arrives at work and chats up her friend Wanda. Because I’ve organized the cut and paste into three distinct scenes, I have my writing sorted until the weekend.

Hot damn, it feels good.

85k90 – Day 9 and Novel Journals

Today was an average writing day. I ended up with about 1000 words although a lot of that involved copy pasting from my NaNoWriMo draft. Mostly, I wrote in my Novel Journal which, as it turns out, is what the writing I’ve been doing in my Planner Pro notes is called.

According to James Scott Bell on the Writers Helping Writers blog in his article called Using the Novel Journal for Writing Breakthroughs, keeping a journal specific to the writing of a novel or lengthy work gives the writer a place to explore possibilities, dive into backstory or character/setting sketches, ask questions and express frustrations.

If I wanted to, I could do this work within my Scrivener project which I have done in the past, creating a Notes folder outside of the Manuscript folder for this purpose. For some reason, however, I’m finding it easier to focus my thoughts when I’m away from the project space. I feel free to write whatever comes into my head without trying to fit into the current logic of the piece.

I have tried something similar to this in the past, free writing by hand before each writing session as an brain exercise but, while fun, didn’t seem to help me, when it came time to working on a specific project.

Bell quotes Sue Grafton explaining her process in using novel journals which is where he first learned of the idea:

The day’s date and a bit of diary stuff, how she’s feeling and so on. This is to track outside influences on her writing.

Next is notes about any ideas that emerged overnight. I especially like this part, because the writer’s mind has been working while I sleep and I want to pour out everything I can. The trick here is not to think too much about what you write. Just let it flow.

Third, Sue writes about where she is in the book. She “talks” to herself about the scene she’s working on, or problems that have arisen.

This is exactly what I’ve been doing and it’s making a big difference both in the amount of work I’m able to accomplish and my ability to focus on where I’m heading in the story.

Choose a format that works for you and give novel journaling a try.