Tools of the Trade: Scrivener

I talked about things I did to change my habits of writing in a previous post. One of the biggest problems I had as a new writer was that I wanted to constantly edit what I had written before, essentially trapping myself in a constant loop of write / edit / write over and over and over again. I learned the hard way that editing while writing is hard to do. One of the things that helped me move past that habit was a program called Scrivener. Scrivener is a lot of things. It's an outlining tool. It's a word processor. Describing it in these ways doesn't really do it justice. What it is is hands down the best writing tool I've ever used.

Scrivener allows you to break up your chapters, scenes, or however else you delineate your work into separate files. Now, before you tell me that you can do that with any word processor, yes yes, you can. What Scrivener does that these others don't do is allow you to then compile all of your separate items back into a single document again with a click of a button. Bet yours can't do that!

As you create the outline for your novel, you can add in descriptions. You can add in tags. You can organize before you even start writing (and you can compile out the outline too, by the way). Then, as you begin writing, you can track the status of each individual section. For me, it's chapters. I can assign a word goal for each chapter, so I have an idea of how close I am to my target for that specific chapter s I write.

I can flag each chapter based on its individual status, to be done, draft, revised draft, etc.

I can even check the overall target for the novel based on the individual target goals of each chapter.

If you know me, you know I love new, cool toys. So yes, Scrivener is a new cool toy for me. I'm sorry. However, I've been using it for over a year now and I really do believe it's the best way to go. The thing is, I have seen a marked improvement in my writing since I started using Scrivener. I think a lot of that improvement is the sort of organic improvement one would expect from someone who is writing more frequently. I do attribute at least two very specific things to the application however:

1. I'm actually outlining: I used to hate to outline. The fact that I had to keep yet ANOTHER document in sync with my actual book was a real pain and a major deterrent for me. Now the outline actually makes the writing easier, since it goes into the Scrivener project.

2. I'm not 'accidentally' reading other stuff anymore. I can't read anything else. When I click on a chapter, I can only see that chapter. This isn't one giant word doc with a hundred thousand words in it. It's a single chapter with a few thousand. I find that I'm much more focused (at least, within the context of my writing... the Internet is still a problem).

There are certainly things I don't much care for.

Transitioning into Scrivener was... not easy. I blame this more on Word than I do Scrivener, but still. I had to do a LOT of reformatting. They DO have a free trial of Scrivener, but if you have an existing novel, by the time you transition everything in... well... it's not something you necessarily want to abandon.

Scrivener doesn't have a grammar check at all, and its spellcheck is certainly inferior to Word's. That's just fine. The other improvements are WELL worth these areas where it lacks.

There is a bit steeper of a learning curve here than there is with Word. It's a much more complicated application. The benefits are worth the time, but you will have to put in some time to learn about it.

All in all, I highly recommend it. The application is only $40, and like I said earlier, there is a free trial so you can tinker.  What have you go to lose?