Stuff I Like: Scrivener

showcase-scrivener_headerOkay, writing people, I’m going to make a very brash and likely controversial statement: If you’re not using Scrivener to write your book, you’re crazy. Downright loopy-in-the-head. It is by far the biggest time and sanity saver I’ve ever encountered and you MUST make it part of your writing toolkit. I’d put it up there with ‘ol Strunk and White. It’s THAT good.

Before you go and tell me to jump in a lake, know that I’ve been a writer my entire adult life…a technical writer, but a writer just the same. I’ve used everything including Word, PageMaker, FrameMaker…even Word Perfect (remember that, anyone?) to create technical manuals that often hit the 500+ page mark. Scrivener is hands-down the best tool for the job, whether you’re writing fiction, non-fiction, user manuals, or even your college dissertation.

I’m sure you’ve heard of Scrivener. It’s the awesome writing program developed by a lovely little company called Literature and Latte. It was designed BY a writer FOR writers. None of this Microsoft “Let’s Be Everything to Everybody” sort of nonsense. Everything in Scrivener is organized into projects and within each project, you can keep track of a variety of things, including characters, locations, research material, words you no longer want…it’s pretty much limitless.

Here’s an example of my current project.

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 8.59.46 AM

On the left is the Binder. Within my binder, I have several areas and folders. At the top, you can see my book, Three Proposals, and all of the folders within it. Each “file” that you see (frex, S vs. C: marry marquess) is a scene within my book. You can use the folders to organize your scenes in any way you choose. Right now, I have mine organized by day because I’m focusing on the timeline of my scenes, but I will likely change that later (into chapters, sections, or whatever I need).

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 9.14.40 AMOn the right side of the screen is information about this particular scene. At the top, in the notecard, is a brief description of the scene. Below that is more information, including a label.

I’ve made my label “POV” and created four categories, one for each POV character, so when I look at the list of scenes in my binder, I get a quick visual of how my POVs stack up. This helps me quickly see where I have too many/not enough of a certain character’s POV. It also helps when I open a scene to know immediately whose head I’m in.

I also have a Status…in this case, First Revision. There are default statuses that come with the program, but these, too, are customizable. I have customized mine.

At the bottom, I can see a variety of things for my scene, including a list of reference docs (which can be pictures, websites, or individual files on your hard drive), a notepad for taking notes specific to that scene, a change history, and footnotes (if you have any).

There’s lots of information I can keep track of in my project, like characters and setting.

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 9.05.15 AM

On the left, in my Binder, you can see the categories for Setting, Characters, and Research. Here, you can pull in anything (website, picture, files on your hard drive, etc.). There are templates you can use for setting and character, or you can create your own. In the example above, I’ve selected a particular character. On the right side of the screen are a few details about her, but in the upper right corner, I can pull in a picture of her if I so choose.

There are two really neat features that make this program indispensable (not that it isn’t already with the stuff I’ve mentioned above): the Corkboard and the Outline.

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 9.22.01 AM

In Corkboard view, you can rearrange your notecards in any order you choose, and the files get rearranged in the same order in your binder. This is immensely helpful if the timeline of your story changes and you’re trying to get everything reorganized. There’s no cutting/pasting, no trying to find your way through your massive Word doc…you simply slide the notecards around and your story is rearranged.

The other feature I love is the Outline.

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 9.24.30 AM

In Outline mode, you get a quick visual of your scenes (again, organized by folder, and you’ll notice that some of my folders at the bottom aren’t expanded, so I’m not viewing every scene…just those that are relevant to me. They’re color-coded by label (in my case, POV), and I can filter at the top by POV or Status (First Draft, First Revision, etc.). As with the Corkboard, you can rearrange your scenes in Outline mode. You can also print the outline.

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 9.49.54 AMSpeaking of printing, Scrivener makes it so easy to compile your book into just about any format you choose, including novel, ebook, iBook, non-fiction manuscript, script or screenplay, standard manuscript format, or synopsis outline, to name a few.

You can compile for print, PDF, Word, Open Office, text, epub, iBook, Kindle, web page, and more. In fact, when I read drafts of my book, I almost always read it on my Kindle.

There’s lots more you can do with Scrivener. I’m only scratching the surface. I highly recommend you check out Literature and Latte’s website, including their Case Studies (for different ways to use Scriv…in particular, Monica McCarty’s case study on using it to manage serial novels) and tutorial videos (immensely helpful and there are many).

Scrivener is available on both Mac and PC platforms. Although it was originally developed on the Mac (and that’s where full functionality is currently), L&L is working hard to achieve parity between the two. All the things I’ve talked about here you can do on the PC version of Scrivener. They’re also working on an iOS version of Scrivener.

It’s fairly inexpensive ($45 US for the Mac version), easy to use, and such a time-and-worry saver. Do yourself a favor and download a trial. Yes, getting your book into Scriv might take some time (never fear, there are great import tools that can even divide your large Word or RTF doc into individual files within Scrivener), but believe me, it’s worth it.

If you’re currently using Scrivener, what features do you like the most or find the most valuable to your writing?

2 thoughts on “Stuff I Like: Scrivener

  1. Pingback: Do You Use Scrivener? | Jennifer Branigan

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