Scrivener – Ideas, Research, Writing and Editing

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Scrivener site logoScrivener takes time to learn. Time you could spend writing, no doubt about that. But you’ve probably heard writers talk about the software and wondered “How can software help me write?”

Scrivener has attempted to take the mechanics of writing – generating idea lists, gathering research notes, URLS, images, storyboarding and reorganizing, and more – and put these tasks into a robust management system.

If you compose anything with more than two parts, or ever had to search your browser history to find out where you read that fact you want to double-check, then Scrivener will help. The more complex your project is the more it can help.

On Top of That

Then they added on bells and whistles because technology allows it. You can color code documents, mark them anything from draft to final, assign keywords, track footnotes, sort out scenes and chapters by labels, and other what-you-put-in you will be able to pull back out. There’s also an interruption free-mode that will turn off the Internet distractions. Plus a typewriter mode that keeps your current line of typing mid-page. If screenplay’s your thing, it has a mode to indent and format as you type.

Or, if none of that is useful to you, you don’t have to use any of it.

Color coding is a feature I didn’t think I’d find all that useful. I was wrong. I color code by the point-of-view for each scene. As a project gets increasingly complicated, I find being able to read only one “color” at a time immensely useful for continuity and tone.

Scrivener has the most thorough and painstaking tutorials and documentation I’ve ever seen. To the point of it feeling really overwhelming at times as it explains every possible use of the software.

Pet Peeves

I have three pet peeves. First, a lack of an effective find-and-replace. “Find next instance” doesn’t work as expected. This could be more helpful especially when many results (as when scanning for favorite overused words) are highlighted but there’s no way to hop to the next instance.

Second, it’s also a basic word processor with styles, but those don’t work the way a long-time Word user will quickly realize. Essentially, if a style is revised the new style isn’t retro-applied to paragraphs that already use it. I learned that consistent use of very basic styles was essential. That means when I output to Word I won’t have a lot of work to do to convert the output to the practices my publishers requires. (Spacing, margins, etc.) I learned that an entire fiction manuscript really doesn’t need much more than CHAPTER, HEADING, BODY, INDENT and SCENE BREAK for styles.

Third, the Windows version lacks some features and little niceties that the Mac version has. This includes an app for mobile devices that syncs easily. There is a way to sync for Windows-Android, but it is not intuitive. That said, the sync feature works.

Hidden Bonuses

I store my projects in the cloud, which means I will likely never lose work again. Plus I have the cloud storage set to keep as many previous revisions as space allows. That means I can revert to earlier versions. Scrivener’s built-in backups add a security blanket too as they are separately kept in cloud storage from the main folder of documents.

It supports an on-the-fly creative process. There is a main manuscript area for a project. Any time I cut something I think significant, it’s a snap to copy it to a note outside the manuscript area. All such notes and scribbles get backed up too, and their contents will show up in a search, so good-bye to that feeling that if I cut it I might lose it forever.

And this is something I increasingly rely on:

project and session targets sample from Scrivener

Decide for Yourself

Have a visit at their site, see what it offers. The price is incredibly reasonable, even if you use it just for research organization and outlines.

It has become a far more useful and essential tool than I ever thought it would be.

Thoughtful and Congenial are welcome visitors. Disrespect and Spite will be shown the door.

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