Microsoft Word or Pages works well for a manuscript – you have all the features you need and you know the program. Fair enough.
But…if you want something you can manipulate faster, keep track of, highlight on a sidebar to investigate later, plan like index cards on a corkboard, and be able to bring it into the Word program, completely styled exactly the way an agent would want it, then you might do better with a professional writing software program.
Writing software programs abound out there – I attempted to do a comparison of a few of the bigger ones, but found myself getting too confused – there are way too many of them!
So I decided to talk about Scrivener, my personal favorite. Why? Because I haven’t used any of the others. (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.) I’m a Mac user and proud of it. I went for it immediately because the description sounded perfect, the price was right, and it had come highly recommended. They now have it for Windows, so everybody’s happy.
And believe me, they are happy. I haven’t received any negative input about Scrivener. You can do just about anything with it – it’s programmed for novels, short fiction, and even screenplays.
Here are my top ten reasons for believing in Scrivener:
- Write whatever moves you in whatever order you want. You can move scenes around by a simple drag and drop. Yes, that’s right. On the left hand side of the desktop is the binder – a place where all your chapters, scenes, or events are listed in the correct order; if you decide that Mary needs to die later in the sequence of events, all you have to do is grab the title, move it down below Heather’s demise, and drop it in. No cutting and pasting and possibly losing your hard work down the black hole of death. Using Scrivener, you input in small chunks. Much easier to manipulate and move things around. If you decide a scene doesn’t work, just drop it in the trash – it’s always there in case you want to bring it back.
- Storyboarding/brainstorming. You can plan things easily by looking at your scenes on index cards on which you can write all the details of the scene, or even questions for yourself to follow up. Manipulate the cards and you have a flowchart of the story. That manipulation in turn rearranges the chapters or scenes in the manuscript. Seeing it all on a cork board visualizes the flow of the story. Try that on Word!
- Watch it your way. You have many different ways to look at your work in progress – you can use an incredibly beautiful backdrop behind your page-by-page work, you can keep several copies of the same scene and see them side by side for comparison, you can do split screens, and you can review daily any way you choose.
- Get organized in one place. You can keep your research in a binder – websites, documents, pictures, anything you have to back up your story or your research. I visualize one of my characters as Kathy Bates, so I have a picture of her in a folder and I look at it from time to time when stuck on what this particular character would do – she speaks to me!
- Automatic backup to the Cloud. You have no fear of losing your work – this is the biggie. Scrivener prompts you to save your work into your Dropbox, which is really helpful when you are out and about with your Tablet. You can work on the manuscript, toss it into Dropbox and Scrivener will pick it up. When you get back to your desk – voia! There it is.
- Formatting is a breeze. You can send the draft or the final to your agent, editor or publisher just the way they want it. Scrivener automatically formats everything to the “normal” rules for novels, short stories, plays, and screenplays, but maybe your editor wants to see things a little differently. You instruct Scrivener, compile it, and it is converted to Word (or any other work processing software) just the way they wanted it – no fuss, no muss.
- If you’re into e-book formatting, it’s done right there on the screen in every format needed: Kindle, Nook, whatever is required for you to publish it yourself. I have not used it so I cannot speak to its efficiency, but if it’s anything like the rest of the program, it should be just what the doctor ordered.
- Goals and Motivation – there are stats you can easily see, and there is even a feature where you can program in your writing goals for the day. You’ll be typing along and all of a sudden you’ll see “your writing goal for the day has been reached.”
- Flowcharts – They also have a brand new add-on called Scapple that looks like an organizational chart to plot cause and effect strategies on the storyline. It looks interesting! A happens, which leads to B, which causes C….
- Snapshots – say you wrote a scene, but want to look at it from another angle. The Snapshot feature will allow you to keep your first attempt, write the second, and compare them.
I love Scrivener. We are waiting for a Scrivener app for the iPad, they’ve been working on it for a while now, but they offer a workaround that seems to work very well at no cost. Go visit them at www.LiteratureandLatte.com and look at the many tutorials they have on the site. It’s amazing! (How did Hemingway and Steinbeck, et al, do it without something like this?)
5 thoughts on “Why I Love Scrivener”
So many of your reasons dovetail with mine. Now that I’ve figured out a few of the power user tricks, I’m blown away by how powerful and useful Scrivener is . . . and at such a fair price. It truly lets you work, and write, and dream, in any which way you like. Have you checked out Scapple yet? That sounds a bit daunting. But then, so was Scrivener at first. Now it’s (almost) a breeze–there is so much out there to help you learn it: blogs, youtubes, e-books, etc.
I love Scrivener for drafting, for organizing, for revising and rewriting. I’m not Mac so I can say I’m happy with the Windows version. It’s not expensive and can be used simply or more elaborately. I can store information on research and character profiles and the corkboard is so useful! Thanks for posting this!
I’ve been thinking about using Scrivener. I’m still doing the old style scenes-on-the-cork-board-hanging-on-my-wall thing. But someday soon I may make the switch…
I have tried and tried, but Scrivener absolutely overwhelms me. People who love it, really love it and I’ve tried online tutorials and books, but I just get too tangled up to use it effectively. And that frustration gets in the way of the work. So I’ve found other ways to do most of what you listed–to each his/her own as they say.
Try this for a learning system: Grab one of your old stories that you have laying around (finished or not, whichever you prefer) and drop it into Scrivener. Split the screens and take your story apart scene by scene. Copy and paste each scene into their own section. Once your binder starts to grow, Split your scenes into sections (Acts, Chapters, etc.). Play with the story. It’s yours. You won’t break it.
I just decided to test-run Scrivener AFTER NaNoWriMo – as you said, it seemed easy to get tangled up, and there was no way I wanted anything tangling me at this point, so I stuck with what I knew best. Now that I have 60000+ words to play with, I’m putting the interface through its paces.
I hope this helps you.