Advent of the Insurgent Creative, Day Five: Scrivener

Today we start looking at tools to enable the Insurgent Creative method. This one is for the writers out there: Scrivener, from Literature and Latte.

Scrivener is a brilliant piece of software (originally designed for the Mac, but now a version for Windows is available, with another version for Linux currently in beta. ), for just for writing, but also outlining, development, research, revision and even electronic publishing. It’s categorized as a “word processor”, but would be better described as a literary project management platform, due to the over-arcing nature of the tools provided. You’re not just putting words down here. You can use the virtual index-cards-on-corkboard system for organizing and re-ordering entire sections of the manuscript. Utilize the management system for notes, metadata, and store whole documents for reference (including web pages, audio, video, images and PDFs in addition to plain text), all of which are saved in a single project file with your manuscript.

In short, Scrivener is a tool designed with writers in mind. Compared with the bloat, “helpful” additions and general cubicle-farm business soullessness of Microsoft Word, it is an absolute revelation. (And, given the widespread dominance of that program, you’ll be happy to know that Scrivener is able to export to Word format for delivery.) The software is not free, but sells for only $45 US, which is an incredible price for everything you get, and how useful it is.

There are tutorial videos available on the Literature and Latte website which walk you through the various tools available, and a robust forum for discussion and sharing tips. In addition to these official sources of instruction, David Hewson (a writer than I had a chance to meet at Thrillerfest in NYC five years ago) has released a Kindle book called “Writing a Novel with Scrivener” which walks you through the process, from set-up and management to creation and even use of the newer functions of the Mac version which allow you to directly export into Kindle or eBook format, ready to upload for sale at Amazon via Kindle Direct Publishing, Barnes and Noble’s PubIt platform, Apple’s iBooks, and more.

I cannot recommend this software enough. I’ll put it like this for my fellow writers: It is a tool designed for every aspect of the job that you do. You can use other tools, which will work, but this works better. Just as you can drive a screw with a hammer if you must… but a screwdriver is built for that purpose, and makes the job easier.

From planning, to research, to note-taking and development, to writing, to structuring, to revision and then to production — for the Insurgent Creative writer, this should be the weapon of choice.

Storm the gates.


Advent of the Insurgent Creative, Day Four: CwF+RtB=$$$

You’ll forgive me for harping on the whole “monetization of fans” angle, but honestly, it’s a critical element of the Insurgent Creative method.

The title of this article is a formula, the creation of Mike Masnick from Techdirt — taken from a 15-minute presentation he did at the 2009 MidemNet conference in Cannes. It means:

Connection With Fans
Reason To Buy
Business Model.

Find a way to engage and connect with people who are into the stuff you do, using your various social media platforms. You have to walk a fine line between genuine engagement and avoiding coming off like a spamming douche, and I’m afraid that is something that cannot really be taught, although I’ll talk about this more in future installments. For now, jut think about every bot-spam link post on Twitter, and don’t do anything that remotely reminds you of that.

Once you’ve managed and are maintaining that connection, give folks a reason to buy from you. At its simplest and most obvious, this reason can be that you have something that nobody else has: the thing you’ve created. It’s the way the business has usually worked — scarcity of physical merchandise. “I have this nifty thing, and you want it.” Yeah, it works — but it’s less of a motivation now, in a world where most things can be digitized, copied and shared with a few clicks of a mouse. (And, briefly, while we’re on the subject — don’t freak out about unauthorized file sharing. It’s going to happen to your stuff. Think of it as an opportunity to convert a new fan. Again, more on this later in the series.)

Try coming up with other reasons — special stuff beyond the thing itself. It helps to understand fan psychology — those things which motivate fans and appeal to them. The best resource I found (through a video of another talk given at the same MidemNet as Masnick’s) was Online Fandom, a blog that covers that very subject, by Nancy K. Baym, a professor of Communication Studies. Baym’s work (and the work of others, which I found through her references) taught me a lot, but also confirmed what, as a fan myself, I already knew: Fans tend to assume a level of ownership of the object of their fandom — they view it as theirs.

If we can give them things which speak directly to that sense of fan ownership and tribal identity, that gives a very compelling Reason To Buy.

Here’s the video of Masnick’s presentation to MidemNet. It’s only 15 minutes, and well worth your time:

(He did an expanded, 30-minute version of the presentation at the Leadership Music Digital Summit, about 3 months later —it’s available on vimeo, if you’ve got a bit more time.)

We’ve spent a couple of entries now dealing with theory, so in the next few I’ll give you some tools that you can use directly to put those theories into action.

Storm the gates!



Advent of the Insurgent Creative, Day Three – The Free Content Model

In yesterday’s entry, I referenced Howard Tayler’s bit about “Grizzly Bear Soup.” I first heard this reference while watching a video of his keynote address to the 2008 Utah Open Source Conference (which I’ve embedded below).

Howard Tayler is a webcomic creator — his strip, Schlock Mercenary has been running daily since 2000. All of his content is available for free on the website… and yet he makes a comfortable enough living as a Creative that he was able to quite the proverbial “Day Job” and create full-time. In the keynote address, he explains a bit about how this business plan, the Free Content model, works.

When I first saw this video, it literally changed how I thought about my career. I was lucky enough to meet Mr. Tayler at GenCon a couple of years ago, and told him so. Whether you are an artist, or a writer, or a musician, there is advice here which is applicable to reaching the point where you can create for a living.

During the keynote, he talks about the fact that the goal for any creative is to build a fan-base. Once you have a fan-base, they can (WARNING: Horrible, marketing douche buzzword ahead) be monetized. Not only do they become loyal customers for any merchandise you offer, but you can (if you wish) charge others to sell to your fans, by offering advertising on your site, etc.

He mentions that the hard part is getting and keeping the fans. The monetization part is relatively easy. Hence the idea that this business model is as easy as Grizzly Bear soup — first, you have to track, find, hunt and kill a Grizzly Bear. The rest is just a soup recipe.

Take a half hour and watch the keynote, below. Not all of it may be applicable to what you do, but it will definitely give you some things to think about in your journey to becoming an Insurgent Creative.

Storm the gates!