I’ve mentioned Scrivener writing software before. The Windows version of it (I have only Windows computers, so I won’t speculate about the Mac version) came out of beta testing several months ago and currently is at version 184.108.40.206 as of this writing. Which is what Scrivener does very well — WRITING, that is.
Or I should say, Scrivener makes the many tasks associated with writing fiction so much easier and quicker. This wonderful piece of software lets you customize your writing approach in so many ways. There is a danger, if you’re an obsessive person such as me, of being overwhelmed by the many, many options of Scrivener. So I urge you to start out slowly, learning through their excellent video tutorials, just the things you want and need to do with the software to accomplish your work. The first tutorial on the page I’ve linked to in the last sentence takes about 10 minutes to view and gives an excellent overview of Scrivener. It will introduce you to the basics and give you enough information to begin using Scrivener to organize and/or create projects as soon as you get it.
I’ve been using Scrivener regularly for about three weeks now and I’m getting comfortable with the basics. I get brave every now and then and try something new. But, along with being an obsessive sort of guy, I also hold several mental patents on time-wasting and procrastination — so I have to force myself some days to quit playing with the software and actually get some writing done.
Write your story in pieces or as one document
The key feature of Scrivener that differentiates it from Microsoft Word, OpenOffice, and some most of the other heavyweight word processing software out there is this: Scrivener gives you complete freedom to work with either your entire manuscript at once OR conveniently view bits and pieces, i.e., chapters and scenes, as individual “chunks” you can work on. (It very conveniently allows split screens, either horizontally or vertically split. It allows you to open different parts of your project in each screen, or different locations within the same chapter or scene in each screen.) And anytime you want to view all the chapters, scenes, whatever as a single document — either to read through the work or to simply work on the whole manuscript at once — you can make a few keystrokes and have that view. In fact, you can use the “compile” feature of Scrivener to put all the pieces together, and you can also use that feature to have the document as a Word document, or a PDF file, or any of a variety of e-book formats (including that used by Amazon’s Kindle).
Scrivener lets you keep everything in one location
One of the other great features of Scrivener is the “Research” folder. You can store everything from PDF files to graphics images to HTML links all in the Research folder. Anything in the folder can be opened and viewed from within Scrivener. Which means you can find a photo of someone you think your character might look like, download the image, and have it visible in split screen while you’re writing about that character. This single location feature of Scrivener has many more possible uses than I could think of here, so check it out for yourself. Indeed, Scrivener has a 30-day free trial. And that’s 30 days of USAGE, not just 30 calendar days, i.e., if you use it twice a week, the free trial will run 15 weeks.
Templates help you work easily and focus your projects
Scrivener comes with a selection of templates you can choose from when you start a project. These templates are grouped by category, such as fiction, non-fiction, screenwriting, blank, and miscellaneous. But wait, there’s more! Scrivener users all over the Internet offer custom templates you can import and save to help you even more. A few weeks ago, I began a short story project I wanted to do using the “Snowflake Method” of story development. (You can explore this yourself if you aren’t acquainted with it: the Snowflake Method explained.) A quick Google search led me to two or three blogs by writers which offered Snowflake method templates for Scrivener. I downloaded one and began experimenting with it. I’ve since used it on two different projects. And I THINK that the Snowflake-Scrivener combo has really been helpful to my current “WIP” (Work In Progress).
If I were to “rate” Scrivener using a model similar to the well-known star ratings on Amazon.com (1-5 stars), I’d have to give it a 4/5. I would really prefer to give it 5/5, but the one downside I’ve found is that Scrivener is so feature rich it sometimes distracts me from my work. (But, as I said above, that might just be a personality problem on my part.)
Seriously, Scrivener is the best piece of writing software I’ve ever used. I absolutely love it, would truly give it a 5/5 rating, and I encourage you to go to their website, download the 30-day free trial, and get on with your writing career.