I’m a writer. Nowadays that means spending a lot of time on a computer, typing away word after word until the glorious moment of THE END is reached. Granted, I don’t always type. My favorite two tools remain a pen and paper. Oh! And Sticky Notes. But I’m also open-minded. I love trying new technologies like Dragon Speak or Character Planner on my Android. Recently—and I know I’m super late to this writing party—I downloaded Scrivener.
For those of you who don’t know, Scrivener is a writing software. It claims to help organize the chaos in your mind by supporting numerous ways to view, edit, and write in your manuscripts. It’s available for Windows and Mac, it’s $45, and there’s a free download to try out.
Let me start out by saying I went into this skeptical as hell. I love, love, love Microsoft Word, and I’ve lived on Word since…Well, as long as I’ve been alive. (Literally.) In Word, I have a system. I have files. I know what to click on when I need it. Word is my first and only love…right?
Well, it’s safe to say I learned a lesson.
I love Scrivener, too.
Why? Honestly, there are quite a few reasons, but I don’t plan on keeping you on here forever, so I’ll only name my top three. One thing that’s super popular, for instance, is the corkboard, but I won’t list it here since it’s not in my top three. Definitely check out their website to see other features, since these are only a few.
1. The Layout
In the screenshot below, from left to right, you can see my book’s outline and notes in what’s called the “Binder”, the synopsis notecard, the chapter I’m drafting, the current status, and my character inspiration. I love being able to have everything in one place all the time—AND I can change whatever I’m seeing whenever I want. I love being able to look at two documents and a photo at once. This saves me so much time. In Word, I kept flipping back and forth between documents, forgetting things, and having to flip back all over again. Yes, I can get one or two documents on my screen in Word, but Scrivener makes it much easier to adjust size and visibility, all while accessing whatever I need without leaving the program.
2. Character Board
For me, I love having my characters photos and notes in one place. I often use Pinterest to find inspiration, but this can be a deadly game when writing. If I need something, I might end up on my Pinterest for an hour before I realize I’m not working. In Scrivener, I can keep my photos (and notes) right next to my manuscript without going down the Internet rabbit holes to find something. And Scrivener also comes with Character Profiles that ask for basic descriptions, background info, and more.
3. Cancel Out Feature (Compose)
As an editor and a writer, I spend my workweek and my free time on the exact same laptop. This can cause a lot of distractions for me. As an example? In Word, I might minimize my manuscript to open up another document…only to see my work folder and recall something I need to do. It also opens up the Internet for me…and then, my ADD is in full swing. But Scrivener saved me. Scrivener allows me to fill up my screen (as does Word), but Scrivener allows me to flip back and forth through numerous documents, photos, and screenshots of websites without having to actually exit or risk getting distracted. If I use another tool known as Quick Reference, too, I can have numerous documents open while in this mode as well. Below is a Quick Reference note next to my current chapter in Compose mode. This mode can also be modified to show pictures, themes, and other fun scenarios.
In all honestly? The free download sold me. I loved that they allowed me to open it 30 times—rather than put a time limit of 30 days on it—and the tutorials paved the rest of the way. Listen, when you open it, it might be overwhelming. (It freaked me out.) But I took the tutorials, figured out all the tools, and got to work. I will confess to one thing. The tutorial took me about 3 hours. Granted, I was taking the time to log off of the tutorial to try everything out with a novel rather than work through the tutorial videos. Anddddd I’m still learning new capabilities. (For instance, while writing this piece, I figured out how to move my notecards around on my corkboard. So far, the corkboard isn’t something I personally use. I prefer my Sticky Notes on my office wall. But it’s a great tool.) My latest new discovery was the Simple Notes app, which is a syncing tool that allows me to take my Scrivener files wherever I want through my phone. I have a feeling I’ll be using that way too often.
Now, I will give Word its dues. I still work on Word. I always transfer my drafts to Word, because I find Word’s editing software—specifically Track Changes—more universal with my clients and easier to handle, even for myself. So, as an editor, I use Word and only Word. That being said, Scrivener has an editing tool, specifically screenshots that will save numerous versions as you work through your book, but I haven’t been sold on that yet. It seems too complicated and a bit confusing and disorganized. However, that could be me and just the way my brain works. Maybe one day I’ll love editing on it, too. In fact, Simple Notes (the app stated above) is forcing me to embrace it as I type this. (And Word has a syncing app as well.) For now, though, I transfer everything to Word in the end.
So what about transferring files? One of the best parts is the ability to transfer a Scrivener file into a Word file. It also formats your manuscript for querying or publishing. If you’re like me—and struggle way too hard to get page 1 on page 5—you will love that feature.
But why take my word on it?
Download the free sample (a sample that doesn’t require a credit card for once!) and check it out. Here’s their website.
I wish I had tried it earlier.