Are you still using the word processor that came on your computer to write your stories? While that’s technically fine, (I’m sure it’s great for what it does), you could be doing so much more for yourself and your writing. Probably the best thing I ever did for my writing was buying Scrivener.
Scrivener is, at its barest description, a word processor. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a corkboard, a file folder, a note taker, a photo album, an encyclopedia of your world. It has templates for fiction, research, recipes, and letters, as well as a blank template.
Let’s take a look under the hood using my own novel, Magic Beans:
(If you can’t see the detail, go ahead and zoom in (Control +). The resolution will hold.)
All the buttons, tabs, colours, sidebars look overwhelming, I know. It took me a good couple of hours to get through it myself, but luckily, for people who aren’t stubborn DIY-ers, there are YouTube tutorials and a handy manual. I myself might film a walkthrough, someday, if you want to hear me tell you personally.
So what are you looking at here?
What makes Scrivener different, for me, is the two sidebars. On the right, we have the Inspector. Right now, you see my Synopsis notecard, General Meta-Data, and my Document Notes; but there are tonnes of other features there alone, like References, Keywords, and a Snapshot function that lets you hang onto previous saves in case you’re not sure about the changes you’ve made.
On the other side is the Binder, where you keep all of your scenes and chapters, characters and setting, cover art, research, longer notes, and generally anything else that counts as part of the meat of your project. I don’t know about you, but my notes files are longer than the actual novel. I have a lot of history to keep track of!
For those of you who participate in NaNoWriMo, there are Scrivener templates available to help, with custom wordcount goals factored in. If you take a look down in the bottom right corner of the text area, you’ll see what looks like a bull-eye. It’s white because that chapter is fewer than 3,000 words, my usual chapter length goal. It changes colour the closer to your goal you get.
When you’re all done, you hit the Compile button, and the programme collects all of the pages in your manuscript portion (leaving out the templates and research and whatnot, unless you choose to keep them in). You can customise anything you want here, be it keeping formatting like italics, or custom scene break dinkuses (That’s a real word, I didn’t make it up. It means this thing: ***).
There is so much this programme can do, I can’t possibly outline it all here. There’s even–wait for it–an autosave function that has saved my sanity on countless occasions. Lucky Apple users even have a mobile version! I hear we Android people can look forward to one later this year, though I heard that rumour a long time ago, so I don’t know where we stand now. By our Play Stores, hands clasped in hope…
I eventually caved and bought an iPad because I couldn’t wait any longer.
And the best part for you aspiring writers, is that The Office of Letters and Light, the people who run National Novel Writing Month, give discounts to participants and winners. So, if you can’t afford the full amount right now, muddle through with your old word processor, then come back and follow the links on this page or on my sidebar, and type in your winner’s code. You’ll be glad you did.