I’m not a linear writer – my main frame of the story is pretty set when I begin hammering out chapter 1, but then the twists and turns take me many places. I had read about Scrivener but thought much of what it contained would be useless fluff. I decided to give it a shot, though, and downloaded the free trial (you can get that here: http://www.literatureandlatte.com). I played with it for two days, basically ignoring the handy user guide – I’m more of a hands-on girl and way too impatient to work my way through a guide 🙂
My initial assessment was that the learning curve would be relatively steep, but I decided to try it for my next book and actually use the program the way it was intended. Before we get to those details, here’s a little background:
I used to write in WordPerfect then in Word. My manuscript was one document with long blank spaces where I had to work on joining two sections together. Some days, I write the ending, other days I change the beginning, sometimes I have a random idea I stick in the middle of a section so I won’t lose it. When I changed something important that I’d mentioned earlier in the manuscript, I’d have to hunt around the document to find the section I needed to rework then go back and continue writing. The constant back and forth made me read brief sections of my text over and over – that is a total enthusiasm killer for me because it was so distracting.
My ideas usually come to me in the early morning before I even bother to get out of bed, or (worse) in the middle of the night. When I hit an issue in the plot where I have something to resolve I fall asleep trying to think of ways to work it out. When I wake up in the morning I spend a few minutes still trying to resolve the issue and sometimes it’s so clear that I rush out of bed and flip on the laptop. I add the new thought to the bottom of the manuscript and figure I’ll find the exact place to put it later – this is how I create larges blank spaces in my document…and I lose things that way.
Yesterday morning, I resolved a huge issue in my next book (A Whisper of Feathers). I jumped out of bed, raced to the laptop and opened my Scrivener document. I used my index cards on the cork board – RIGHT IN THE PROGRAM – to find the right section of the story and banged out the resolved issue in a brand new chapter. I have an outline of my book sitting right on the screen – it’s generated from my index cards so I know where I’m going and how long I have to get there. I have index cards for ideas, documents with character and setting sketches and the ability to take some ideas and throw them from Book 1 of the series into Book 2 or 3.
My chapters are labeled with the main event so I can easily find things. My cork board is filled with ideas and I can move them around as I see fit or as the story changes. All of those capabilities have made me a diehard Scrivener fan. It has given me organization in a way I can actually use it to drive my story. It has enabled me to spend those days where I don’t feel like writing just pinning index cards to my virtual cork board so when I do feel capable of writing long passages, I have a place to put them and ideas about where they’ll fall in the story.
I haven’t compiled the chapters into a manuscript for publishing yet, but so far the program has exceeded my expectations. I honestly didn’t think “writing software” could actually make me a better writer – but it did because it enables me to write the way my brain works and the software lets me put things together in a logical order and then easily rearrange it if necessary. If you want to buy the software (currently $40.00) you can click on the logo below and be taken to Amazon.com. If you’re a writer, I recommend trying it. I didn’t think I’d be a convert, but I am!