Anyone who has participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is familiar with their promotion of Scrivener novel writing software. For years, this genius program has been available to Mac users only and flaunted each November with percent off discounts during NaNoWriMo. They promised the software program would be available for PC users soon, but alas, the wait continued. A few months ago I noticed Scrivener available for PC and immediately downloaded the program. It has so many great features, I didn't know where to begin. I went looking for help.
I've invited Gwen Hernandez, author of Scrivener For Dummies, to join us today. I purchased her book and it did indeed help me scout around the program. I have also registered for her online class on how to use Scrivener which begins later this month. Gwen has a wealth of knowledge to share. I hope you find it as helpful as I do!!
Scrivener-Everything But The Muse
Even the best writing software can’t write for you, but it can make writing—and the management of notes, ideas, images, and research—easier.
My favorite writing tool is Scrivener. With versions for both Mac and Windows—and even an iPad version on the way—just about anyone can use it. But what does it offer that a standard word processor like Microsoft Word doesn’t?
Just about everything but the muse. Here’s a small sample of what makes this software so fabulous.
Scrivener is like a Trapper Keeper®. No, it doesn’t sport sparkly unicorns or montages of Justin Bieber, but the concept is the same. To start, Scrivener lets you write in chunks—such as scenes or chapters—called documents. So you can quickly find the spot you’re looking for, and easily move parts of your manuscript around.
You can also import research documents, web sites, and photos right into your project, so even when you take your laptop on the road, you have everything you need.
Plus, you can keep outlines, notes on ideas for changes and future scenes, and character and setting information all within the project. No more scouring your hard drive or that pile of sticky notes on your desk for a crucial piece of information.
Scrivener remembers your spot. Every time you open a project in Scrivener, it takes you right to the document and line where you left off. Maybe not such a big deal when writing the first draft, but when you’re in the midst of revisions, it’s a lifesaver.
It even saves the last spot you worked on in each document. A small, but wonderful thing.
Your structure is easy to see. The Binder, where you view all of the documents in your project, gives you an at-a-glance overview of your entire manuscript.
Scrivener works well with unpredictable muses. When the muse strikes unexpectedly, capturing your idea is a breeze. I tend to be a fairly linear writer, but when I get an idea for a future scene or bit of dialogue, there’s no easy way to store it in a Word document without keeping it at the bottom until I’m ready for it.
In Scrivener, you can create a new scene, write out your idea, and then figure out where it goes later, without it being in the way of what you’re working on now.
You can also add notes right into the text you’re working on. When you can’t think of the perfect line of dialogue, or you need to do some additional research, simply insert an annotation as a reminder and then get back to writing.
Other options include putting a note in the Synopsis section (the index card), adding a document note, or using a separate document for an ideas log.
Another trick I like is to use the Project Notes (visible from all documents) for a quick-view list of each character and his/her vital stats such as hair and eye color, height, age, and job/role/rank. Everything is under the umbrella of a single project and easy to find.
Color-coding. In Scrivener, you can label and color code your documents by whatever piece of data you want to track. For example, I tag my fiction scenes by point-of-view (POV) character, using blue for the hero and pink for the heroine (because I’m so original). Instantly, I can see which character a scene belongs to and check my overall POV balance.
When I wrote Scrivener For Dummies, I used the Label field to keep track of the status of each section of the book (e.g. Not Started, WIP, To Editor, Author Review, Complete). My blog project uses colors to track the group blog on which the post appears. For guest appearances, like this one, I track the phase the article/interview is in (e.g. Planning, Submitted, Accepted, Delivered).
Auto-save protects your hard work. If you’ve ever faced the Blue Screen of Death, or lost power after writing 3000 words without saving, you can appreciate that Scrivener saves your project every time there’s more than two seconds of inactivity. So while you’re pondering your next sentence, Scrivener’s committing your words to memory.
Scrivener also makes it easy to back up your project to an external disk (e.g. flash drive, external hard drive, or online site like Dropbox). A must in case your hard drive fails, you spill water on your laptop, or someone steals your computer.
Working without distractions. Scrivener’s full screen composition mode—I call it Zen mode—blocks out all distractions, making it easier to focus on your writing. Change the background color or image (images are Mac only for now) to suit your mood or story.
Tracking progress. Scrivener makes it easy to set word count targets for your entire manuscript, as well as each session. You can also set a target for a specific document. A colorful progress bar shifts from red to green as you approach your goal.
Scrivener works for plotters and pantsers alike. Plotters and storyboarders will love the Corkboard where you can create an index card (another view for a document) for each scene—and add a synopsis or note about the scene, if desired—and then add text to the documents when you have the order figured out. And if an outline is more your thing, Scrivener has that view too.
Pantsers can just create a document within the project and start writing their first scene. If you’re a pantser, you might find the Outliner or Corkboard helpful for looking at your story structure or checking your timeline as you get further along in the manuscript.
Advanced searches. Scrivener lets you customize and even save searches to quickly find what you’re looking for. Want to know in which scenes you mentioned an item, person, or place? A project search returns a list of all documents that match your search criteria.
You can also find specific types of formatting, including annotations, comments, highlighter color, text color, and footnotes.
Exporting to e-books is a snap. Scrivener is your one-stop publishing program. When your masterpiece is done, you can compile (export) it to an EPUB or MOBI (Amazon Kindle) file for easy self-publishing, or for perusing on your e-reader. You can also export to DOC, RTF, TXT, PDF, direct-to-printer, and other formats.
FREE trial. Scrivener comes with a 30-use free trial which gives you access to the full version of the software. There’s no time limit, it’s based solely on the number of times you open it. And if you decide—gasp!—that Scrivener’s not for you, just export what you’ve done to a Word DOC or other file and you’re good to go.
That’s just a small list of what makes Scrivener too hot to resist. So, if you’re tired of your stodgy, inflexible word processor, hook up with a program that frees your mind for the important things. Like coaxing your muse back from the Bahamas.
Gwen will be giving away either a signed book (US/Canada only) or a free class registration for either February or September to one commenter. Check out her website www.gwenhernandez.com for class details! Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.
Gwen Hernandez is the author of Scrivener For Dummies (Aug 2012, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.), and the teacher of popular online Scrivener classes for Mac and Windows. A 2011 Golden Heart® finalist in Romantic Suspense, she lives in Northern Virginia with her Air Force husband, two teenage boys, and a lazy golden retriever. Learn more about her book or classes and get free Scrivener tips at www.gwenhernandez.com.