Not so long ago, I commented that I had bought several different software programs for writers, but hadn’t even had time to explore what they could do. Writing software, I concluded, just wasn’t for me.
Famous last words.
I have now been using Scrivener for about a month, with occasional excursions back into Word to create a document or PDF that I then import into Scrivener for the research folder. (Example: a PDF with text and photos about a setting, or about a certain profession. I do this because Scrivener converts all imported Word docs to an .rtf file, but images don’t show up. You can import photos separately, but I find it convenient to have text and photos in the same document.)
Perhaps I’d better make it clear from the start that Scrivener isn’t so much about creating a plot as organizing your novel. As such, I can see that it really, really works for me. I’m ecstatic. Maybe it’s a case of the right program at the right time: I have pretty much always written my stories chronologically – until my current WIP. With this one, I found myself all over the place. A scene from here; another from there. One from Character A’s viewpoint, then another from Character C’s – and from different places in the novel. My Microsoft Word document was beginning to look like a 5-year-old’s knitting project: holes and different threads everywhere.
Then I read a Facebook group post from an author who waxed lyrical about Scrivener. A few days later, someone else said how much they loved the program; that they loved being able to keep their research within the project.
Okay, that got my attention. I’d been using Microsoft’s OneNote, which is actually pretty good. I had notebooks containing all my novel research, along with web links showing where I’d found the information – but I still had to open my Word doc; open the Notebooks, then get up and grab the Characters index cards from the bookshelf to remind myself of names and traits…
Hmmm, I thought. Maybe this is worth looking into.
I downloaded Scrivener. I watched two webinars about how a successful author used Scrivener to organize her work. Better still, she generously provided a template for a series of novels based on the same setting and characters.
I felt a curl of excitement. Wow, I could keep the whole series under one project name. I could work on separate scenes, and drag them around to suit myself, trying them out in different places. I could include folders for anything: characters, timelines, photos of characters… and hey, Scrivener even had a name generator! How handy is that when you want a character name on the fly?
I spent a day transferring all my research, character files and completed novels into a series project in Scrivener, as well as the current book. It’s absolute bliss having everything I need in one place; just one left-menu-click away. Thanks to colour coding, I can see which scenes need work; which scenes need to be written, and which scenes are at final draft stage. I can drag scenes around and click a button to see the summary on scene cards.
Scrivener’s Split Screen
The other feature that I really, really like is the ability to work with a split screen. This means that I can do things like have the character profile and photos open in the bottom window, while typing the scene in the top window. If I need a quick ‘cheat sheet’ on common phrases in another language, there it is in the bottom window. Ditto for ANY research. If I want to work on the scene, I can hit the ‘full screen’ button and just type – then hit ‘escape’ to go back to the split screen to check a fact.
AND I like being able to click on a scene and instantly know the word count for the scene, then click another tab to see all the scenes in the novel in a scrolling document, with a total word count.
Scrivener saves the whole project automatically every few minutes as a .scriv file. You can also compile your WIP in a format that you can open in your word processor or send to a critique partner, or print it out.
Scrivener has too many features for me to enumerate here, but you can download a copy and try it out for 30 days. I recommend that you do. Give yourself a weekend to explore its features and see what it can do for you – especially from an organizational perspective.
Where can you get Scrivener? From the Literature and Latte site, here: http://literatureandlatte.com/
You can also find Scrivener tutorials on YouTube. (Check out how many views the videos have had, and the date they were posted.)
Recommended: Scrivener for Dummies, available as a paperback or as an eBook from Amazon. I downloaded the eBook version to the Kindle app on my iPad.
BONUS: If you read the comments below, you’ll see that there are a few questions about how to compile in Scrivener – that is, how to prepare an upload file for Kindle, without having to exit and do it all in Word! Luckily, I happened to know someone who has the expertise, so let me introduce you:
P. Seymour is a woman on a quest to lose 100+ pounds and writes with the intention to help others create positive change in their own lives around weight loss and general personal growth. You can see her author page on Amazon here:
Paula uses Scrivener to write and compile all her books, and has been kind enough to provide a PDF sharing her knowledge. Right click the following link to download it to your computer: