If your writing process is anything like mine, each of your projects may consist of a dozen or more documents thrown together in a folder somewhere on your computer. You have old versions of the work-in-progress you’ve abandoned but can’t bear to delete, as well as one or two files serving as scrap heaps, a few for research, some for outlines, notes, and character sketches, and scattered everywhere are images, songs, maps, deeds, ships’ manifestos, cease and desist orders, and maybe editorial advice from friends and colleagues. Mixed up in all this mess is the book itself, trying to claw its way out.
Or maybe you’re a writer with one pristine file, and everything you put into it is perfect, and you never go back or second-guess yourself, or have to refer to anything beyond the world of your own perfect brain. You may leave now.
The rest of us ought to consider using Scrivener. Gwenda recently asked for a yea or nay on this piece of software, and having used it for several months now—both to revise one novel and to start work on another—I can heartily recommend it.
First, Scrivener collects all the files related to the project into one browsable, searchable, cross-referencable master document. You can divide the text proper into chapters or smaller sections, and all your research and outlines are never far off. Drop images into your research folder and view them as you’re writing. Want to see only the documents with a certain character’s name in it? Type the name into the search bar and Scrivener immediately picks them out for you.
You can also change the way you look at your material. Arrange it as a series of interchangeable index cards, view only the synopses in outline form, track word counts, sort by keyword tags, or color code according to your own organizational style. If that sounds like too much clutter, there’s also a full screen option, which recreates the glory days of WordPerfect.
There are dozens of other smart features worth exploring, including a screenplay mode, internal and external links, and snapshots (second-guessing made easy).
Scrivener’s been an invaluable revision tool, as I’m able to see more of the book at once while tracking all the changes I’ve made and all the changes I still have to make. It’s great for collecting research as well, and should serve those who are working on dissertations, novels, comic books, and fortune cookie fortunes.
Keith Blount is a writer who wanted to design a piece of software for writers, and he’s done a fantastic job with Scrivener. Check out the demo here.