On an impulse I bought Scrivener a little while back, before I’d really read any reviews on it or knew anything about it. For those who haven’t heard of it, it’s a word processor and organiser aimed at writers. I took a quick look at it when I bought it and then forgot about it; I was quite busy at the time and really didn’t want to have to learn how to use something new, which at first glance I thought would take a while. This was an incorrect assumption, as I shall outline below.

Since then I’ve seen more and more talk online about how good a tool it is for writing novels. Long story short, I decided to give it another look. I started off with the included tutorial. It took me about 2 hours to go through, although I was dithering and distracted a couple of times, so this might not be a good guide as to how long it will take someone else.

As I worked through the tutorial, there were a lot of features that immediately jumped out as being very attractive to the way I work. With Word (I’m on a Mac by the way), I always write in focus view, which is great for eliminating distractions. Scrivener has this feature also (compose mode), so in making the switch I wasn’t losing it.

My current (now former) work practice is (was) to have my main manuscript in a word document, and all my notes, character details and what not in a separate notebook document. This meant quite a bit of jumping between my manuscript in focus view and my other documents which annoyed me a bit but I couldn’t work out a better way to deal with the situation (that’s certainly not to say there isn’t one!).

Scrivener allows all the information relating to my work to be contained within the one document, which I really like. It has a section for the manuscript, research, and templates, which can be modified to taste for describing and recording character information and locations, or anything else really. Very handy. What’s more, all this information can be accessed by a non-intrusive, disappearing menu bar while in Scrivener’s version of focus mode, compose, without having to exit it and go to another window, which I find  incredibly useful.

Manuscript handling is also very clever, with each scene, chapter and part being contained within individual files which can later be very easily compiled into a single document in a great many different formats. For me this isn’t such an earth shattering thing in the first draft writing process, but where it really comes into its own is when you are reviewing and editing. Having just come out of this process in the last couple of months with The Tattered Banner, there are a great many features here that I wish I had when doing that. The ability to move individual scenes about with minimum effort is great, as is the ability to append notes to each individual scene, outlining what happens, what is meant to happen etc and being able to display this information in an overview. All very useful stuff when working on an existing manuscript.

I’m not even gong to start on the ability to add keywords and tags for easy navigating, as I haven’t really gotten that far into this myself, but the usefulness of this is pretty obvious and I’m just starting to avail of it to make it easier to keep track of sub plots.

There’s plenty more that I could mention even after such a short time using it, but to sum up, after 2 hours going through the tutorial and about the same amount of time mucking about with a manuscript I imported into it, I’m completely sold. There are features in it that I can’t understand how I ever did without. Needless to say I’m going to be using it for the foreseeable future!

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