Probably the main reason for a writer to own a computer is so they can use it for writing. That usually means you’re going to have to get yourself a word processor. But when it comes to writing your magnum opus, a word processor is but one choice.
Let me introduce you to Scrivener.
Scrivener is one of those bits of software that you never knew you needed until you tried it. It’s not so much a word processor as a writing tool. Sure you can use it for basic writing tasks, but that would miss the point entirely.
So what does it do that your usual word processor doesn’t?
Scrivener is intended for writing and organising long projects such as novels. But it can equally be used for essays, short stories or even screenplays if you like.
If you’re working on a novel you might have a host of files to go with your manuscript. There’s the text itself of course, but you might also have your basic synopsis, character sheets, location sheets and various bits of research.
The text itself might well be a continuous piece containing every chapter in the order you wanted it to appear in the book. I know mine is. Or rather, was.
You see, while that method of working is all well and good, it becomes much easier if you can have everything in one place. And that’s what Scrivener does. It’s like a cross between a word processor and Windows Explorer. What that means is, everything’s in one place and within easy reach.
Your main text is split into chapters so you can see each one as a separate file or as index cards on a cork board. If you prefer, you can see them all at once as a continuous document with just a click, but having them separate makes it much easier to work with. It also allows you to move chapters/scenes around by simply dragging the relevant file or index card. Great if you like to weave various sub-plots through your tale as I do. You can write in one order and then arrange your story how you like.
And of course, all your research and character sheets are there too. All on the screen (which you can split to allow you to see two things at once) and within easy reach.
But what makes Scrivener really good is the ability to have multiple versions of each section on the go at once via the use of snapshots. You never have to delete anything during your re-writes. You can try something new and if it doesn’t work, a click of your mouse will revert the thing back to one of the other versions you might have saved.
And when you finish, you can compile the whole thing into a single document ready for printing or emailing to your agent/publisher. Scrivener will even take care of the correct formatting for you.
I absolutely love Scrivener. It’s been available for the Mac for a while now and I’ve been testing the Windows Beta since December 2010. The Windows version is just about ready, I believe, and I’ll be upgrading to the full version as soon as I can.
In the mean time, I urge you to have a look at the Scrivener website. Read it through and have a look at the videos. You really need to see it in action to appreciate exactly what it can do and decide whether it’s right for you.
It can look like a very complicated piece of software, but you need to think of it like a toolbox. Everything you need is included – hammers, saws, screwdrivers, chisels – but it’s up to you what you use and how you use it.
And a quick reminder to those of you who are planning to use the voucher you won for completing NaNoWriMo 2010: Due to the full release of Scrivener for Windows being put back, your original voucher has now expired. You need to log back into your NaNo page and go to your winners section to get the new voucher code.
So there you go, Scrivener; it’s not your usual word processor.