As writers, we’re known to seek comfort in the form of tea, complaining, and well, more complaining. It’s part of the process, which as of late has been somewhat revolutionized with the software writing program, Scrivener.
If you follow authors on social media or have a critique group, you’ve probably already heard of it. Praised by mainstream media like The New York Times and tech publications such as Wired, The Seattle Times even went so far as to say that writers “swear by” Scrivener — which over the years has received awards from MacWorld and MacUser.
A self-proclaimed “content management tool,” the software is designed to help writers “structure and compose” long documents such as dissertations, screenplays, essays and of course the ever-daunting novel. The “binder” section in the left navigational pane helps you find and edit specific portions of your document and hop to and from your research or other notes then back to your writing easily. Don’t like where one scene or paragraph is placed? Drag and drop it into a new location; no need to waste time copying, pasting, and re-formatting your text. Last, but certainly not least, the virtual index card feature was created to help authors determine the best sequence for their work. Explains Allison Martin, who used the software to redraft her YA fantasy novel, plot a contemporary piece, and write a short story:
“Often while writing I’d have an idea for a future event or couldn’t remember what I was leading up to in the scene I was writing. So I’d pop over to the corkboard and check or type a quick note in the side bar so I would remember. Being able to see a point-form version of my novel is extremely helpful for me. Scrivener catches all my tangents and afterthoughts and compiles them into neat and organized homes that I can go back to and actually understand what I meant in my notes.”
Lauren Morrill, author of the upcoming young adult novel from Random House, Meant to Be, agrees about Scrivener’s organizational merit.
“I like the way it forces me to think in parts of a novel: scenes, chapters, etc. Word is just one giant, endless blank page, which can be really scary.”
Structure isn’t the only helpful Scrivener provides. The often updated software offers an outlining tool, allows you to switch to scriptwriting mode for screen or stage play formatting, and even exports your document into the format you need for self-publishing.
That said, there are some drawbacks, notably the program’s file exclusivity, meaning that it’s not possible to pull one’s Scrivener files into Word to do a read-through when not at your home computer. Although the company has stated on their website that they’re “hoping to bring a scaled-down version of Scrivener to the iPad (and possibly the iPhone too) eventually,” nothing has been announced just yet.
Those new to the software should heed advice from veteran users. Notes Allison Martin,
“Think of Scrivener as a ‘writing software program’ not as a ‘word processor.’ It’s not like Word or Pages where you just start writing. It’s meant to aid you in the ENTIRE writing process from research to outline to publication.”
Lauren Morrill concurs, and also advises users to “watch YouTube videos” to really understand how it works before diving in. Otherwise you may run the risk of reaping more frustration than reward.
Speaking of one’s experience with Scrivener, have you used it yet? If so, tell us what you think in the comments below.