Steinbeck used to contrast his “big books” (East of Eden, Grapes of Wrath) with his smaller gems (Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men) and the difficulties that each type of book posed. One of my early readers, who has read all three of my novels, has been after me to write a ‘big book’ with Silicon Valley at its core. I didn’t set out to make my next novel ‘big’ just to satisfy my friend, but as I laid it out, I realized that it was going to be at least half again as big as its predecessors. It had more of everything: characters, locations, back stories, technologies, etc. So I got in touch with some writer friends and asked for their advice.

Best-selling journalist Jim Fallows recommended Scrivener, an app that gives authors, fiction and non-fiction alike, a single source for all your writing materials and tools. It takes a little getting used to, but once you’ve got the hang of it, you won’t go back to Word. You have the obvious for novels:  layouts, word count, chapters (which you can drag and drop at any time). But you also have areas for your research and separate docs for each of your characters. In my case, I had an annotated outline and deep dives on all major characters before I started writing, but others like to work free-form, then use the Scrivener tools to bring it all together. Either way, the app supports your writing efforts, keeping you from shuffling back and forth between docs and apps.

One last thing: it’s worth spending an hour with a Scrivener expert (you can find them on YouTube) to organize your work and show you how to access and use the different tools that come with the app.

The second tool that is great for writers of novels and scripts:  Save the Cat. What used to be only for fiction writers is now available for screenwriting as well. STC is a great source for structuring your novel or screenplay, though it should be taken as a guide, not as gospel. The originator of STC is Blake Snyder. He explains—and then shows examples—of how a strong story depends on 15 essential ‘beats’ or plots points. My recommendation, so that you don’t become a slave to STC and produce a formulaic project is to write your annotated outline first, then overlay it with STC beats. If you reverse the order and write to the 15 beats, you’ll most likely edit out some ore material and have a script that reads too much like the others that your target reader have to read and promote/reject. So use STC as a guide but don’t become a slave to it.