I have over twenty-five years managing software trainers, computer techs, and program developers, combined with about the same amount of time as a novelist and screenwriter. So I believe it’s fair to say, I possess good credentials to recognize a sensational software program for authors from both a technical and an end-user perspective. From the moment I viewed the features of the Scrivener program, it was love at first sight. Coincidentally, the same thing had happened the day I met my husband.
When I went online to purchase the program, I discovered that not only did it cost only $45, but, the vendor offered a free week trial. It almost sounded too good to be true. With virtually nothing to lose, I downloaded it that afternoon. After using it for one full writing day, I paid my $45 cognizant I had found a lifetime writing partner.
In the creators Literature and Latte’s own words, “Scrivener is a word processor and project management tool created specifically for writers of novels and long text. It won’t try to tell you how to write – it just makes all the tools you have scattered around your desk available in one application.”
In Scrivener, you start your book by creating a new project just as you would do if you were planning to build a skyscraper. A chapter is essentially a folder, and the scenes in the chapter are called scrivenings. You get a collapsible, hierarchical view of your novel, and the ability to edit scrivenings individually, or as a continuous scroll of text. The binder is essentially the manuscript index.
Another cool feature is creating collections. My novel, The Girl from Long Guyland, has alternating past and present scenes. I color-coded each chapter, past (red), and present (blue) then created a “collection” labeled “1970” and one called “2012.” I also did collections of chapters that contained ongoing clues to the mystery to make sure they were methodical and consistent. I could then read the “scrivenings” in each collection as a separate contiguous file.
Scrivener provides other powerful tools for viewing and editing your book. There’s a cork-board in which you see each chapter or scrivening as an index card, and in which metadata (notes, keywords, etc.) are visible. When you fill out the “Synopsis” field for any chapter or scene, it appears on the index card on the corkboard allowing you to easily shuffle them around as needed. Perfect for plotting and planning a work in progress.
You can display the manuscript as an outline of documents and sub-documents. The character template is outstanding. For each character you answer the following questions: Role in Story, Occupation, Internal conflicts, External Conflicts, Personality, Habits and Mannerisms.
Do you have your research files scattered all over your computer? The RESEARCH folder is set up to add text, images, files, links, etc. Ah, and then there’s the ability to split your screen. You can view both your research and your document simultaneously for easy cut-and-paste.
Scrivener can also help you with the “business” of writing books. I’ve set up a project I call “promotions.” It allows me to quickly retrieve data I need for filling out forms for advertisements by organizing ISBNs, synopses, premise, author bio, links, sales and expense data, interviews I’ve done, etc., in one place for easy retrieval. This was invaluable when I recently did my KDP Amazon free promotion and filled out forms on over 30 websites to advertise the days my book went free.
A critical feature of Scrivener is the ability to take your data out of the application. Scrivener will export your projects or you can use the “compile feature” which takes the scrivenings, filters them with criteria you set, and generates a document in a targeted format—Word.doc, PDF, Final Draft, and e-books formats—Epub or Mobi. I personally haven’t used the e-book formatting feature yet, but plan to in the future.
I suspect that if Scrivener catches on, the result will be greatly improved structure in both novels and non-fiction with fewer inconsistencies and plot threads gone astray. The sensational flexibility of Scrivener will allow authors to increase effectiveness and focus on creativity.
So that’s the story of my love affair with Scrivener. Please don’t tell my husband.