Category: Writing

I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You

This is a draft of a short story written for one of my Creative Writing workshops. I’m working on a collection along these lines, and thought I’d share an excerpt here. It’s a bit experimental, so it may be kind of weird! 


They sit by the lake, as they do every night, and nurse cups of fast-cooling tea. She is good with words but only when they are used for the unraveling of her own execution. He is adamant about sugar in his tea; a half-teaspoon is enough for clear nights such as this. Above, the moon hangs round and heavy. It is the sort of night for quiet reflection or portents—a haphazard squint at the stars. Don’t be surprised if the stars explode one by one. They are wont to do as they like.

He insists; she demurs. A translucent fish with silver fins streaming like ribbons surfaces. Finding nothing of interest, it becomes absorbed back into the lake, which has difficulty falling asleep, and often simply pretends until something exciting occurs.

He insists again. “Okay!” she says, putting her cup down. He continues to sip his. Tonight his tea was prepared with a steep of broken nails. No sugar. His silence about the matter confirms her worst suspicions.


A little girl finds herself lost in a magical forest. She circles for hours amidst restless trees, who misinterpret her movements for a desire to dance. They pass her around from brethren to brethren and shake their leaves in laughter. Exhausted and afraid, the girl collapses onto the ground and weeps.

Drawn to the sound, a kind woodsman spies her and makes to approach with promises of aid, but the trees wrap him tightly in their roots and hide him deep beneath the ground.

The little girl picks up a crumpled leaf and wipes her face with it, and starts at the cries of dismay coming from within. She unfolds the leaf once, twice, thrice. An uncountable time later the leaf stretches before her like a meadow. On her final unfolding she pulls the leaf aside to reveal a bustling city full of miniature people.

“Oh, thank goodness!” she cries. “Good people, can you help me get home?”

“Where are your manners?” the miniature people cry back. “Didn’t you ever learn to mind your own business? Quick, close us up again. It is cold and we cannot stand the stick of your tears!”

The little girl falls silent. She lifts her foot — slam! Stomp! The soles of her best Sunday shoes thicken with blood and debris and clumps of miniature people matter. She might, at the end of her massacre, find herself beyond the leaf and safely out of the wood. Or she might find herself more lost than before.


Our house is haunted by a specter who only exists in foggy glass. I see him first thing in the morning when I’m on the toilet peeing. No sooner are my pants down than his form begins to coalesce in the little round window on the door.

“Pervert!” I spit out, but that’s not the worst of it. He’s there when I shower, drifting back and forth across the door, his face pressed up against the glass when I’m good and soapy. The cheek of it! Yet when I lunge at him, nearly killing myself in the process, he dissipates in a silver steam. At least there’s no foggy glass in the bedroom. Bet he’d really like to see what goes on in there!

Peter doesn’t believe me about the specter. “I wish you’d be more quiet in the morning,” is all he says. Peter blocks out his time in 15-minute increments. It helps with his productivity – or productivi-Pete, as he calls it, as he’s the one who has to work. I used to have four increments with him at night but lately I have had zero. We fall asleep in a bedroom blacked out by thick curtains.

I awake when it’s the darkest of the dark and crawl to the bathroom. “Specter?” I whisper. “Are you there?” I pull my pants down, sit and wait.

No answer. The cold bites extra much. In the apartment across the bathroom, a woman lights a candle with a newspaper. In the room next over, someone confirms in a loving murmur: milk and two sugars, thank you.


“He didn’t!”

“He did!”

“How could he?”

“How are you?”

They look at her with stained-glass expressions, checkered with fury and dismay and pity. She smiles back.

“I’m perfectly all right! See?”

She grips the base of her skull and pulls forward, unrolling her external skin as she goes. She steps out of the pile and kicks her former self aside. “Ta-dah! Like new again.”

They exchange glances. Some solutions are more satisfactory than others. “You can’t just do that.”

Rip, kick. “Yes I can!”

“Don’t be a bitch, Emma.”

Rip, kick. “Water under the bridge!”

They pinch her hard enough to bruise, and she’s sobbing when they’re done. Rip, kick. Rip, kick.

One wants to go further but she’s stopped by the other. Curiosity is a lottery that tempts many and rewards few, so they say. Instead they silently scoop up the discards and take them home.

“We can steam-press them and hang them up for later,” one whispers, a peacemaking effort.

The other is overcome with disapproval. She is remembering a peach she ate the other day, perfect except for a bit of rot on one end. This she had relished with a sprinkle of salt.


Or maybe, I amend, peering deep into the foggy glass, maybe I am the specter.


She, now finished, sips her cold tea. He peers down at his empty cup. He is weary for some reason, but he cannot explain himself: she is usually better with words. On that note, whose fault is it, really?

On the other side of the lake an earthquake disrupts evening television, to general confusion. The shuttering of TV screens one by one reminds him to put water in the kettle before bed. It is late. His bones ache with a phantom urge, an echo from somewhere unbidden.

She draws her attention to the moon. It is time to settle the balance of the hours wiled away. Enraged, she bats the moon out of the sky, and it splashes into a startled lake, softly bobbing. The translucent fish returns and swallows it up. Light fills the bursting fish to the tips of his scales, his pretty silver fins, till he glows unbearably.

She regrets what she has done. She dives, and fins flash coyly in her palms before flittering out of grasp. She follows the light further into the darkness, falling so deep she might as well be floating upwards, her hands outstretched for a star.


Featured image via eyvindwolf 

Midori Travelers Notebook: Review and How I Use It

Midori, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Mi-do-ri. 

While my love for the Midori Travelers Notebook may be far more socially (and morally, and physically, and generally) acceptable than Humbert Humbert’s love for young Lolita, there’s no denying that it rides upon a similar vein of fervent obsession. The Midori goes where I go. Whenever I have a moment to spare, out it comes: a sturdy, compact leather frame that compartmentalizes my garbage bag of a mind into slim and elegant volumes. But let’s start from the beginning.

I can’t remember where I first heard of the Midori, but I know it was during Christmas last year, around the time I was looking for planners and procrastinating on several deadlines. Long story short: I spent three days in an Internet k-hole reading and watching everything I could about the Midori, then bit the bullet and bought it along with a selection of refills. I purchased mine from Scribe Essentials, the official distributor of Midori products in the Philippines, but there are a couple other options I will get into later.

About the MTN

Some people including myself call their notebooks ‘My Midori’ (it sounds exactly like Gollum saying “My preciousss”). However, Midori is technically just the company that makes them. Midori sell several kinds of notebooks and stationery products, but are most known internationally for their Traveler’s Notebook. The company and products hail from Japan, and pride themselves on high quality writing tools that, 8 out of 10 times, are also pretty freaking adorable.

BEHOLD these penguin paper clips. Try not to die of the cute.


Image via

The Traveler’s notebook is a touted as a “life notebook”, built upon an analog system that can be perfectly customized to suit your lifestyle and work habits. It’s like a more rugged, minimalist relative of the Filofax, without the clunky metal binder and the fuss of finding the right inserts.

Essentially, the Midori is a leather notebook that is comprised of inserts slipped into elastic strings. What are inserts? The Midori system is comprised of different things that you slip in the leather notebook itself. The notebook inserts come in lined, grid, and blank versions, as well as different types of paper: craft, sketch, and lightweight (which uses Tomoe River paper, one of the most magicalest papers in the world). You have planner inserts: blank ones for year, month, week, and day, as well as pre-dated ones.

The Midori + inserts, closed

But the beauty of Midori is that the inserts go beyond paper: you have credit card inserts, craft folder inserts, pocket stickers you can affix directly to the leather interior, and plastic pouches to hold loose stationery supplies and travel material. You can choose everything and anything you want to put in your Midori, making it a notebook custom fit for you. After years of dropping planners because half of the book was irrelevant to me, or losing notes in disorderly notebooks, the Midori offered a fantastic solution.

My Use-Case Scenario

Finally mine, ALL MINE. The notebook to end all notebooks (so I’ve heard) #travelersnotebook #midori

A photo posted by Bea Pantoja (@dalagaproject) on

As the douchey sounding header implies, , I thought I’d go briefly into how I “work” and use notebooks. Because if you can relate even a little bit, then you might like the Midori a lot. But if you’re comfortable with the work systems you have in place, you might find the Midori unnecessarily fussy. Everyone works differently, and the Midori may not work for everyone.

First, I realized that I suck at managing my life digitally. I hardly ever check digital calendars, and many a to-do list has been left to die on apps now forgotten (with one exception: Clear). Yes, I’ve tried Evernote! I still rely heavily on Scrivener for writing, but since no iOS version is out yet, the program is not exactly portable. Not to mention that I find it easier to work with limited access to the Internet, meaning I try to work with only a notebook on hand. If I need the Internet, I’ll check my phone or bookmark links for later reading.

In addition, I tend to work on multiple things at once. An hour writing, an hour journaling, an hour dreaming up blog posts. An hour is a generous estimate – really, it’s more like minutes.  I wish this weren’t so, but that’s how my brain is wired. Before the Midori came along, I’d fill one notebook with everything from reminders to article drafts to isolated chapters of abandoned stories to dreams of the future. Things would quickly get lost, and I couldn’t distinguish between throwaway drafts and important lists.

Why don’t you just use a different notebook for each thing, or pre-sectioned notebooks? Carting 6 different notebooks in your bag is serious baggage. I don’t like pre-divided notebooks because some categories require more paper than others. If you’ve guessed by now that I’m extremely particular about notebooks and how they’re used…you’re right.

How I Use the Midori

I have had my Midori for about a year now, and you can see that it’s displaying a few scratches and scuff marks that give the leather character. The Midori will look better the more it’s used (though mine might be due for an oiling and rubbing down!).  You can add a charm to the elastic that holds the notebook together to personalize the notebook. I used to have one – an earring made of a Grey Goose vodka bottle – but it kept falling off.

When you open the notebook, there’s a pocket sticker on the interior with scrap paper – for things I jot down and need to reference quickly, like grocery lists or numbers to call. I don’t use this section frequently, but it’s always good to have.

The first two inserts are hooked together by an elastic band, and then slipped into the first string of the Midori (the black line visible down the center).

The left insert is my monthly planner (Refill 017) it comes with 15 blank month templates, and you write each month as you go. I use monthly planners to track major deadlines or events that might be of interest, but I don’t use it regularly. In fact, I might go two months without need of a planner, which is why I’ve found previous planners such a waste. In this planner, I can write out October, miss November and December, and just start the next month on January without wasting anything in between.

The second insert is a grid notebook (Refill 002) that I use to brainstorm and outline blog posts. 60% of what goes in there gets rejected, but I like having a dedicated notebook just for blogging.

A clearer look at how the inserts are used in the Midori. It literally slides right into this elastic.

Next is the card file (Refill 007), which you can use to hold business cards, credit cards, rewards cards. I use it to store my washi tape collection. You can store up to 12 cards, 3 on each “page” but since the rolls are pretty thick, I only use one side.

Most of these washi tape styles are from Hey Kessy in Manila. I have a separate bag full of MT Tape and MT Casa, as I wanted to bring all the rolls. I know — I have issues.

Simply use old plastic cards and wrap your washi tape around it. No tutorial necessary, but using sturdy, credit-card quality plastic is a must. Avoid cardboard or floppy plastic.

This plastic refill and 3 other refills go into the second elastic. How does it work?

I don’t know if this picture makes it clearer. But two notebook refills are held together by a rubber band and slipped as one unit underneath the black elastic as in the first example, and then one lone refill goes on top of that. The plastic card refill goes beneath these refills.

So, what are these 3 notebooks for?

“Bullet Journal” (Refill 002) 

A picture from January: slightly different now!

A picture from January: slightly different now!

I use the graph refill to track my daily tasks, deadlines, and notes. I tried to follow the Bullet Journal system but I’ve simplified the process so it’s essentially a glorified checklist divided into times of the day. It’s also where I’ll make running lists: aka a Reading List, Shopping List, and Packing List for major trips. (I write my grocery lists on Clear).

This makes me sound like an extremely productive and Type A person, but I assure you that I am the opposite. In fact, I’m convinced that I write things down is so that I can neglect to do them. And then see them several days later and panic-eat my way through a cinnamon roll. Or five.

Writing Notebook (Refill 003)

From January

From January

I use the blank refill notebook to track: writing projects, new story/article ideas and prompts, writing goals, outlines, basically anything that has to do with writing, but isn’t a piece of writing itself. These were the notes I would lose in larger notebooks. I also use this notebook to weigh the pros and cons of taking on a project, because if you couldn’t already tell, I overthink things.

Journal (Refill 013)

When I first got the Midori I had grand visions of keeping a beautiful art journal. I mean, people go cray cray with their Midori decorating. Just like Krysty, I even considered buying an Instax camera so I could paste pictures into my Midori. All you have to do is search “Midori inspiration” on Pinterest (or click that link) to see what I mean. Naturally, the allure of art journaling faded when I realized I had neither the time, talent, nor patience to sustain it, and this notebook gathered dust for months.

Failed attempt at art journaling: right hand side is a sketch my brother drew

Failed attempt at art journaling: right hand side is a sketch my brother drew

In June I decided to keep a writing journal. I’m not sure how, but this developed into a regular habit (falling out of love with blogging must have helped). Now, I’m on my fifth notebook – the longest I’ve ever sustained a journal! I’ve tried many refills for journaling, including lined and blank, but my favorite is Refill 013 – lightweight paper. It’s a smooth, tissue-thin paper from Japan that magically holds the thickest fountain pen inks with no bleedthrough, and as such is a joy to write on. Points if you can decipher my handwriting.

Midori Travelers Notebook with all the refills

And here they all are! Loads of people decorate their refill covers but totally not necessary. I have more types of refills (might do a separate post just on refills), which I either use in my school Midori or keep on standby. How I use the Midori now is not how I used it when I first bought it. Nothing is set in stone, which suits my lifestyle just perfectly.

Who Would Not Like the Travelers Notebook?

While I’ve said repeatedly that the Midori is my perfect notebook, the Midori is not for everyone.  The sizing can take some getting used to, and can be annoying having to get special Midori-sized accessories. If you are very particular about size, you might not be a fan (though the Midori Travelers notebook does come in a passport size).

Second, if you use notebooks exclusively for on-the-go logging, the Midori might be too fussy in comparison with something like Field Notes that you can just jam in your pocket. It’s the sort of notebook you sit in a cafe with for a couple blissful hours. My mother bought the Midori on a whim but then bequeathed it to my sister then I begged for it so now it belongs to me. She wanted to use it for journals, reflections, and meditations, but simply did not have time to really use it.

Also, it’s quite pricey for a notebook that one could easily make themselves. In fact, many people have taken to making their own Midori notebooks (commonly called Fauxdoris), which looks simple if you have the right materials. You can even make your own refills with the paper of your choice.

If you’re in the Philippines, you can get a great genuine leather Fauxdori from @bpmontilla for less than half the price of a Midori, and even customize the leather you want and size (depending on price and availability). Worldwide, there are numerous Etsy sellers who make beautiful Fauxdoris (like this one – hubba hubba!!!).

Personally, I think the original Midori is worth the price, and I’m happy with the refills sold, but I have a Fauxdori as well and will likely commission a custom one in the future.

The Final Word

I hope this has helped you decide whether you need a Midori in your life (and hopefully that answer is yes!). Thank you for indulging this long review.

I’m no Midori expert, just a fanatic, so I’m happy to answer any questions you might have about your own use of the Midori. I might do some more Midori-related posts as well. Otherwise, you can get your own Midori at:


  •  Scribe Essentials (Notebook: P2595, refills range from P245-395)
  • @bpmontilla (Fauxdori – price varies)
  • (ships from Japan; may be customs issues)


My Fountain Pen Collection

Kicking myself because I had planned early to do this post on Saturday, since it was Fountain Pen Day. Yet, I remained blissfully unaware until this lazy Sunday morning, whereupon I leapt out of bed, grabbed my camera and pens, swatted away an affectionate Matt (priorities, yo!) and got to snapping.

(Edit: actually, Fountain Pen Day is the first Friday of November, so even if I’d put it up on Saturday I would have been late!)

Even at the beginning of this year I didn’t see the point of fountain pens. I was peripherally aware of an underground network of fountain pen addicts who talk about pens the way beauty junkies talk about NARS. I only knew of this because of my sister’s growing interest in pens, and also because these groups sometimes crossed paths with the Midori Notebook enthusiasts. I considered fountain pens fussy and clunky and high-maintenance, and I didn’t trust that they’d be safe in my whirlpool of a bag. In fact, I prided myself on using Papermate pens – so basic. So utilitarian. So unsexy. That’s real hipster normcore shit, you guys.

Fast forward; my, how things have changed. Now, I love using fountain pens.

I’m a fountain pen newbie, so I won’t be able to comment much on the technical qualities of pen or ink. What I know, I learned from the woman who has taught me everything about stationery, pen, and storytelling: my sister. Instead, this post is more to showcase my humble fountain pen collection. I haven’t allowed myself to fall into the fountain pen rabbit hole because you think I can sustain a makeup, food, and fountain pen collection? Ha! Think of your life, Bea. Think of your choices.

Of course, this avoidance of the rabbit hole is aided by the fact that with pens, my needs are particular but simple: it has to feel amazing writing across the page. Once I find a pen that fulfills this, I’m good for months on end. It also has to be durable, so no delicate, vintage, gold-plated extra-fine-point fountain pens for me! What I have are budget-friendly workhorses, and most of them were in fact recommended or gifted, so I’m really one of the lazier fans.

The Collection

lamy vista, lamy safari, pilot metropolitan gold,

Here are my four fountain pens! From top to bottom: Lamy Vista, Lamy Safari, Pilot Metropolitan, and I’m not sure what this is but I think an entry-level Sheaffer.

The Sheaffer was my first fountain pen, picked out by my sister as a very budget friendly entry-level pen (I think it’s like P300 at National Bookstore). I still remember us sitting over plates of lechon in Greenbelt as she demonstrated how the cartridge and nib works. It writes very well, but nothing extraordinary. The slim body also makes it a little less easy to grip. I like my fountain pens the way I like my peanut butter: chunky.

The Vista and Metropolitan have as much sentimental value as functional value because they were going away gifts from my sister and Liz. I think the fact that they loved these pens so much makes me extra appreciative using them.

The Vista is my everyday journaling pen – combined with Diamine ink it simply glides over the page. I can write pages and pages with the Vista and never get tired, though as a result I constantly have to refill the cartridge. This Vista uses a Broad nib (meaning thick lines) that my sister had ground down into a stub, meaning it has extra-juicy writing.

A closer look at nibs:

From left to right: Lamy Vista with broad stubbed nib, Lamy Safari with 1.5mm italic nib, Pilot Metropolitan with M nib, Sheaffer with I dunno.

The Metropolitan has a finer nib that appears more delicate. In fact, I fear crushing under my Viking grip. Even though it’s a Medium nib, Japanese pen designations tend to be finer than elsewhere, so an M nib is more like a Fine nib from a Western brand. However, I recently filled it with Diamine Sapphire Blue, a wet ink that facilitates faster writing and can flow even through a finer nib and hard pressure. I used it to draft my most recent creative writing assignment and couldn’t be happier.

I purchased the Lamy Safari from an art supply store in London in order to get a free student gift bag (I know, I’m such a sucker. If you have to buy something, it was obviously never free to begin with!). At first, I thought the Safari with the standard M nib was okay – like the Sheaffer, it did the job, nothing special. But after hearing good things about Lamy italic nibs, I ordered a 1.5mm nib from The Writing Desk  on Friday and it arrived the next morning (!). I slid it onto the Safari and it was a transformed pen. Thick, crisp writing that makes my writing look more elegant than it is. Best £4.50 ever.

By the way, the Vista and Safari are the same pen, except the Vista has a see-through plastic body. Visually, I prefer the Vista because I like seeing how much ink I have left (that tiny little window on the side doesn’t help at all).

Writing Samples

Lamy Vista with Diamine Ancient Copper, Lamy Safari with Noodler's Sequoia Green, Pilot Metropolitan with Diamine Sapphire Blue, Sheaffer with Noodler's Heart of Darkness

Lamy Vista with Diamine Ancient Copper, Lamy Safari with Noodler’s Sequoia Green, Pilot Metropolitan with Diamine Sapphire Blue, Sheaffer with Noodler’s Heart of Darkness. Sorry, I totally misspelled Sheaffer.

Fountain pen inks overwhelm me, so I just use what my sister and Liz have recommended. Of course in this case I am going to defer to the artists, who know how to check such things!

A closer look at the Lamy 1.5mm italic nib:

A calligrapher I am not. Sorry for the smudging! I wrote this on a sheet of Tomoe River paper, which fountain pen aficionados claim is one of the best papers ever because of its onionskin-like properties with the resilience of a hardier paper. The ink dries slowly on the paper, especially with this nib.

A closer look at Diamine Ancient Copper:

Diamine Ancient Copper writing sample

It’s much prettier in person — a subtler, softer copper than what the image might display.

Random Paraphernalia

Sac People pencil case

I house my everyday pens in a pouch from Sac People – they have a kiosk in Megamall and I believe Glorietta as well. It’s very thin but surprisingly strong, with three pouches enclosed in a single zipper. It’s the perfect case for my workhorse pens, and surprisingly fits a lot. Lurking behind the fountain pens are the Schneider Topliner 967s, which are fiber-tip pens and serve as everyday writing pens. With this and the fountain pens, I rarely use any other pen these days…unless it’s to stencil.

Also in my Sac People pouch are alphabet stencils, because I’ve become that person who has to stencil the dates on journals and planners. There are even more pens hiding in the pouch at the moment. It can fit numerous pens, my stencils, and my Samsung NX Mini. And maybe a lipstick or two.

Phewf! Thank you for indulging my rambling about pens. I hope this post reinforces the point that you don’t have to be a particular sort of person to use fountain pens or to write calligraphy – anyone can use it, for any purpose.


6/30 NaBloPoMo

How I Use Scrivener to Write, Work, and Blog

Welcome to the second installment of Writing Week! In The Writer Tag I mentioned writing with software called Scrivener. Sometimes I think there are two types of writers in this world: those who have discovered Scrivener and those who still write on papyrus. Just kidding; I am no writing snob. I’m definitely attached to my notebook and pen, but there’s no doubt that Scrivener has changed the way I work and write.


What is Scrivener?

Scrivener is a writer’s best friend, because it’s easy to learn and capable of anything. You want to open a new file and start writing? Fine. You want a template preset with blank scenes and chapters, that once filled up can be crunched down and spat out into ePUB form? That’s fine too! Scrivener can be molded to fit your writing habits: linear writers always have it easy, but Scrivener especially helps organize those whose notes and drafts are scattered like the stars. If you tend to jump from reference to character to chapter back to reference again, Scrivener can handle that and more.

Okay…but what is Scrivener?

Scrivener is a writing software that makes it very easy to see and access  different parts of your work. It’s more than writing software: it’s a a data management system that relies a folder structure not unlike your computer set up. These folders organize all your notes, references, character guides, and drafts within your project “Binder” and make it available for you at any step of your draft. Once you’ve completed your work, Scrivener can quickly export or “Compile” the relevant sections of your draft into a specified format: .doc, .mobi, .epub you name it.

It sounds a bit insane, but it’s really easy to learn. I promise. *earnest stare*


The window outlined in red is what you see when you open a new project. You can choose a project template that befits your work – I usually just pick Fiction > Novel and modify the folder structure however I need to. I think I’m psychologically averse to starting from ‘Blank’ even if I don’t need half the things in the Novel template.


This is the screen you see for a brand new fiction project. How exciting! The first time you open Scrivener can be very confusing, especially if you’re used to seeing one window for all your text. Luckily, Scrivener anticipates this, so the first thing you see is the written equivalent of the Scrivener creators gently patting your head and reaching for your hand.

Is it difficult to use?

Short answer: there is a learning curve. Longer answer: in my experience, Scrivener can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. I use it very simply. I’m not a very organized person nor is automation important to me, so some of the more elaborate processes make my eyes cross.

However, I do appreciate the quick access into any part of the project I want. It’s the digital equivalent of having all my stuff out in plain sight, but in a much neater and more compact way. You could theoretically use Scrivener the way you use Word and write everything on a single text file, but…you might as well just use Word and save the $45!

Remember Carrie's wall of research in Homeland's Season 1 finale? This is kind of what Scrivener is like, but more stable.  Photo: Kent Smith/SHOWTIME

Remember Carrie’s wall of research in Homeland’s Season 1 finale? This is kind of what Scrivener is like, but with less threats of terrorism.
Photo: Kent Smith/SHOWTIME

As I now use Scrivener for all my writing, I thought I’d go over the basic setup for some of my current projects. It’s really just going over the folder structure and taking a rudimentary look at the software – nothing too crazy. There are exhaustive tutorials all over the net plus Scrivener’s own 500-page manual if you really want to get your hands dirty!

Scrivener for “Novels”

(I feel like a fraud calling them novels since all have yet to be finished).

So a brief overview into the 3 sections that make up the default Scrivener layout, which you can reference in the next screenshot.

The column on on the left is the Binder, which shows the entire project – manuscript, notes, research – in a folder tree.

The right column, the Inspector, contains data about each specific section of the project, such as your document notes, labels, and outlines.The bottom half of the Inspector changes depending on which icon is selected below – it defaults on “Document Notes” I believe, but in this screenshot it is set on Keywords.

The middle column is the Document Window where you actually (try to) write.

Your layout doesn’t have to stay this way. In fact, there are a trillion layout settings you can save. This is not something you will see here, because I just learned of this five minutes ago and have no idea how to do it. Judging from how many people do it, it appears to be very simple though. T.T


Basic Scrivener Layout + Binder Structure

The Binder + Document View

This particular YA novel was storyboarded on index cards then transferred to Scrivener, so I already knew what the chapters would be. Not all my stories are organized this way – in fact, they’re hardly this organized at all, and so would make very poor examples.

Each folder under MANUSCRIPT represents a chapter, and each chapter contains 1 text file per scene. But again how you structure it is all up to you. You can click and drag scenes around folders or split them into two scenes.


The red box shows all the non-Manuscript folders. These include: Orphans (text that I’ve removed from the story but don’t want to delete just yet); Notes (mainly brainstorming and research); Production Notes (a short-lived effort to track “breakthroughs” and challenges in writing), Characters (a Scrivener pre-set with a template for Character notes, but I use standard text files); More Orphans?!, and DARK MANUSCRIPT which is a porny scene that became obsolete once this turned into YA.

The remaining folders are templates that come with the Novel project, but I don’t use them. Also, Trash – nothing is truly deleted until you say so.

One of the cool things about Scrivener is you can view your project in 3 ways: document view, corkboard view, and outliner view. What you see in the screenshots above is the document view. The corkboard view, if you like storyboarding, index cards and visual cues, is really cool as well.

Using Corkboard View + Inspector


Seriously, how cool is this?!

These index cards basically represent the folders in the manuscript. The body text in the card is pulled from the text in Sypnosis in Inspector. You can configure the size of the cards and how many you want to see in a row, or you can  select a “freeform” view if seeing cards in grids freaks you out somehow.

Once you do that, you can drag them around and reorder however you want – any changes made to the cards will also be reflected in the Binder view. This view is awesome for people who aren’t linear thinkers, and who need to be able to move parts around effortlessly and see the project as a whole.

The Inspector view really comes into use when you’re in corkboard view. Here are the 3 sections boxed in red above:

  • Sypnosis: Overview of the chapter/scene/character/note/etc
  • General: General information about the specific section. You can add labels, statuses, or whether or not to include them in the final compiled document.
  • Keywords: Whatever keywords you want to associate with each section. I use keywords to track subplots, but this is up to you. I’ll go into Keywords more in a follow up post.

You can also configure additional organization/tracking to your cards by setting labels and statuses.

Setting Labels


Labels in Scrivener

In the General section of the Inspector, you can set labels for each scene, mostly to indicate category or type. Scrivener’s pre-set labels are above but you can make your own. The labels are represented by colored boxes on the upper right hand of each card. If you are a visual person or consider color coding a form of porn, you can also set label colors to appear in the Binder under View > Use Label Colors in… The correct label color will highlight the folder background.

Setting a Status


Underneath Labels, you can also set the status for each card to indicate progress and priority. The status will appear on the card as a red stamp – it’s pretty hard to miss!

Using statuses makes it very easy to find scenes that need your attention the most, and to pass over scenes that are truly completed. If you are a meticulous tracker, Scrivener is your thing.

One more view to show you for novels then we can move on…

Outliner View

Outliner View on Scrivener

Outliner View on Scrivener

The Outliner view is valuable for tracking progress in a quantifiable way. Aka, word counts! Set a target word count and watch as Scrivener tells you, via a dynamic progress bar, whether you’re doing an amazing job or ought to flay yourself for incompetence. You can configure which columns to view in the outliner bar, like character counts (?!) and meta data (date created, modified, etc).

I am not in Outliner very much because as you can see, the word counts are too depressing.

Scrivener for Freelance Work

For work, I organize articles in a similar way you might organize them on your computer, but this way is much cooler. The folder marked LUXOLA contains three folders distinguishing the type of work: blog post, longform article, or press release. 


The blog posts and miscellaneous articles are too simple to go into, but the LX Guide section is a good way to go into how Scrivener is valuable for research. Any research I’ve gathered about the topic goes into a subfolder called Articles, and within that subfolder I use one text file per article

This means I can flip through research articles ridiculously quickly, or even do a blanket search for a specific topic (let’s choose a sexy example, like “cystic acne”) in that folder alone. Scrivener will then pull up only the relevant excerpts from all those articles. Then I become an expert on cystic acne!!! And then my actual writing goes into a text file titled DRAFT.

I use the Inspector column to structure the draft and list any notes of interest. For example, in the top space I’ll include the deadline or other reminders – specific product I have to mention, requests for more images, etc. In the yellow Document Notes section (which is where the Keyword view was in previous screenshots) I’ll plot the general outline of the article. This way, I have a constant visual reminder of what’s coming next.

Scrivener for Blog Posts


This one’s going to be quick.

I don’t use Scrivener to blog.

Actually, I used to. If I came up with an idea, I created a file for it under its respective category in the Brainstorming folder. I’d jot down an outline if I had one in mind, but mostly it was just the title and a rough note.

If I was drafting a post, I’d move the file up to the In Progress folder. When it was complete, I’d move it back down to a Brainstorming > [Category] > Published folder. Hassle, right? For some reason, I could never get into blogging on Scrivener. I write blog posts for work on Scrivener, but no personal ones. I think I’m just more comfortable blogging on WordPress’s text editor. Also, I started using a Midori notebook to brainstorm and outline posts and it was more portable so this whole project became obsolete.

The Things I Didn’t Mention

…Could fill an entire book. And it already has – more than 500 pages of one, not to mention countless Youtube tutorials and blog posts. I didn’t even talk about scrivenings for crying out loud, which is what the software is freaking named for. Because I don’t use them. (Because I don’t know how.)

But I think that’s what’s so great about Scrivener. You don’t have to know everything to get started. You can learn along the way. It’s very easy to move things around and switch things up if you’ve outgrown your current process. The only thing I care about is the answer to: “Is this helping me write?” When it comes to Scrivener, for me the answer is an unequivocal yes.

(But please, please, come out with the iOS version guys!)

Coming in a few days: a post on how to stay motivated and productive with Scrivener!

Wait! Where do I get it?

Scrivener is available from Literature & Latte for Windows ($40) and Mac ($45, because we are suckers).

You can download a 30-day free trial of actual use – that means they only count the days you actually use Scrivener. If you use it only twice a week, it lasts fifteen weeks. Come on. These are the good guys. Do yourself a favor and at least give it a try!

The Writer Tag: A Survey For Writers

Hello, and welcome to Writing Week! My name is Bea, and I’m a writer. Phewf. It’s taken me awhile to affirm that because in 2013 I was distracted by things that did not involve writing. Fun fact: I auditioned to be a radio DJ, on live air! It did not go well!

Anyway, I’ve been wanting to do a themed week for awhile but I cannot sustain a conversation about lipstick or a single brand for a week. Hell, I can’t even write about makeup for an entire week. Hopefully Writing Week does not go the way of MoBloPoMo, which is phonetic for the disaster that it was.


Wow, such banner, many skill.

What to expect during Writing Week? 

Mainly posts about my writing processes + tools, an overview of Scrivener, maybe some essays. I will still post about other topics because not everyone finds writers writing about writing exciting. Unfortunately, there will be scant few posts on how to get published, because…lol.

To kick things off, here are my answers to The Writer Tag! I’m terrified no one else will do this, but if you are an aspiring or established writer I hope you do! I love knowing how other people get shit done.

The Writer Tag

1. What type of writing do you do?

I write fiction, nonfiction articles, and occasionally middling poetry. As a sample of my recent bombastic efforts I invite you to check out my Ode to Potatoes.

2. What genres and/or topics do you write about?

I write YA contemporary fantasy fiction, but I get paid for nonfiction journalism covering beauty, lifestyle, and profiles. I have neglected creative nonfiction essays but love writing them. The genres I would love to explore in the future are magical surrealism and longform creative nonfiction.

3. How long have you been writing?

My earliest memory of writing a story is in the first grade, when I had to get a second page and was so excited. But I only declared wanting to be a writer in a third grade journal, one “more famous than Shakespeare.”

4. Are you published?

Most of the articles I write are online, but I have been pursuing more print work as well. My most recent article is the cover story on Lovi Poe in Meg Magazine’s April issue. I am not a published fiction author. Usually that statement would be appended with a cheeky “Yet!” but it’s gotten so depressing lately that all you’re getting is a wan smile.

5. What was the first story you ever wrote?

I can’t remember, but it involved a haunted house. It was probably a rip-off from one of the creepy stories my sister would share before bed.

6. Why do you write?

Because I’m surrounded by great stories.

7. How do you find time to write?

As a freelance writer my schedule for writing is pretty generous. My problems lie in discipline, motivation, and execution.

8. When and where are the best times to write?

The best places to write are outside the house. A bright sunny cafe with just enough of a thrum. A place where I can leave my laptop under safe watch because I pee every five minutes. A place that’s not too cold, because it makes me pee even more.

The best time to write is between the hours of 3AM-9AM. Lately this has been difficult because I’ve been sleeping late. The worst time to write is in the afternoon/early evenings – I use this time to brainstorm, or surrender a heap of brain cells as a tithe to the Internet overloads.

9. Favorite food/drinks while writing?

If at home: cold water or hot instant coffee. If outside: a glass of house white, or cold Stella.

10. Your writing playlist?

Fiction: The Final Fantasy soundtracks (like all 20GB of them) are always reliable good music. My favorite soundtracks are the piano collections from VI – X.

Articles: I just need background music that is pleasant but relatively monotonous. Lately I’ve been listening to Lorde and Lana del Rey for this reason. Otherwise I just plug in some Miike Snow into Spotify radio and listen to whatever pops up: M83, Passion Pit, etc.

God, I am so ambivalent about music. I used to just start my boyfriend’s “Because Bea Listens to Shit Music” playlist on Spotify, which he now uses as a dumping ground for all his favorite songs. Lately his taste has been all over the place so I need something more consistent.

11. What do family/friends/loved ones think of you writing?

I’m lucky in that my family is very supportive in more ways than one (AKA, I acknowledge my privilege in getting to live at home rent-free while pursuing my dreams). My boyfriend is also very supportive but is definitely holding me more accountable to the “doing” part. My friends who are writers are extremely supportive and thank God for them.

12. Parts of writing you enjoy the most?

When a scene comes out exactly how you imagined it in your mind – this has happened once or twice, ever. I also enjoy when you’ve built up momentum and are writing 5,000+ words a day. Finally, I enjoy writing with a glass or two in me. Alcohol kills your inner editor and makes you feel more brilliant than you are.

13. Parts of writing you find challenging?

The discipline portion. Committing to complete a project. Not abandoning at the first sign of struggle. ALSO, the story aspect. Crafting the right story. Being okay with completely gutting a story because it doesn’t work/stakes aren’t high enough, even if you’re 10,000 words in.

14. What do you use to write with and on?

I’ve been realizing that I’m a more productive writer on paper. I use a Rina Designs notebook for drafts and “throwaway” notes that I won’t have to reference again, because I toss out these notebooks when done. For notes I want to take around, I use 4×6 index cards and my Midori. I write with a 0.8 or 0.7 UniPin. When writing with my laptop, I exclusively use Scrivener.

15. How do you overcome writers block?

I work on something else, or I give permission to myself to suck. Or I read. Or I…don’t overcome it.

16. How do you motivate yourself to write?

Sometimes I will read an awful book just to stoke my ego so it will tell me to write something better. Sometimes I will just sit at the desk, all day, until something comes out. Sometimes I read again. Reading fixes everything.

17. Authors who inspire you as a writer?

Sherwood Smith, a YA fantasy author whom I admire for her prolific work and extensive worldbuilding. She writes upwards of 500,000 words a year, despite being part of this and that and not always being in the best of health. Since my biggest weakness now is discipline, I admire any author who is highly disciplined.

18. Books that inspire you as a writer?

Other books in the genres I write (Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith remains a favorite) but also books from the business/self-help side. It sounds hokey, but it helps to view writing as a discipline! My favorite is “Refuse to Choose” by Barbara Sher, which talks about people who are “scanners” (jump from one thing to another) and how they are not doomed to a life of ineptitude. It helped me realize that it was okay to be this way, and also no matter how many times I jumped from thing to thing, I still wanted to write.

19. Best advice you’ve gotten as a writer?

1. BIC: Butt in Chair. That’s the only way you’ll ever get anything done.

2. “You can’t edit a blank page.” I think this comes from Alyson Noel. It’s true – things will always be perfect in your mind, but if you don’t try to get them down on paper they’ll forever be a dream.

20. Writing goals this year?

To complete a YA novel. To apply for an MA in Creative Writing. To write one article that makes a difference.


Isa of Everyday Isa

Johna of Out on Seventh Street

Carina of Nothing Spaces

Mikka of The Tiny Traveler

Krissy of I Am Krissy

Krysty of This Jane is Vain

Sara Garces

Eliza Victoria

Mina V. Esguerra

Mia Marci

And whoever wants to join in!