Monday, January 27, 2014

The New Guy in my Life

I'm a messy writer.

I make notes everywhere, backs of envelopes, receipts, box tops. If pen or pencil will make an impression on it I will write on it. If I don't lose the notes, I transcribe the notes or scan them for later use. When I research for a book I make notes, bookmark web pages, scan whole pages of books and I try to keep everything in one folder on my computer, but sometimes I still can't find everything. I also like to keep my chapters separate, which can cause all sorts of other problems with keeping facts straight and combining them all when the book is near completion. I often have several windows of Word open at a time. And then there are the multiple versions of each chapter. It all makes for a rather circus-like situation.

A friend of mine (who, by the way has never seen my method, never been near my computer or my office, so I have to guess that my madness is apparent in my conversations and my writing) recently introduced me to a wonderful writing tool that is helping me to transform my confusion into sanity. Scrivener by Literature & Latte is an award winning tool for novelists. It's not new and I wouldn't be surprised if everyone on this blog has tried it, I'm often behind the curve, but if you haven't heard of it before, do give it a look.

Scrivener is many things, but essentially it is a management system for documents, images, and everything else you might be using to create your novel. It allows you to break up your document as you wish, write synopses of each section of the document, associate images with sections of your document, and look at multiple sections at a time while maintaining your place in each section. You can take a snapshot of your document before a major change. Although the document may be fragmented, Scrivener will search the entire document for a key word. And you can work on multiple sections of the document as if they were one. For example, if you have separated paragraphs one and two, you can work still look at them as if they were one document while maintaining the separation. At the end of all your hard work, Scrivener can combine your selected fragments into one document.

Scrivener stores research documents and images, character descriptions and so on, all within easy reach.

Scrivener is not free, I paid $40 on Amazon, but I consider it a worthy investment for someone who works the way I work. It won't help me retrieve the ideas I jotted on the top of the credit card application form right before I shredded it, but it has been great with organizing the notes I manage to keep and generally allowing me to work on the  novel in chunks without worrying about losing my way.

Literature and Latte actually provide links to other applications that are useful to authors for whom Scrivener may not be the answer. You can view those links here.

I'm new to Scrivener, so I would love to hear if you have tried it and what your experience has been like.

10 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I used to keep my chapters separate but have completely given up on that. It just requires having too many files open when your working, especially if it is a series book.

Carol Mitchell said...

Perhaps you should try Scrivener, it really helps with organising.

Liane Spicer said...

Carol, I've been hearing about it for years but never felt moved to try it. Your blog has me reconsidering, though...

William Doonan said...

Too Cool. I can't keep track of anything anymore. Do I need a password to use it, because I'm completely out of passwords.

Stefanie Worth said...

William, you don't need a password, and Charles, you'll essentially have all your chapters open as you work because Scrivener has a great navigation bar on the left that lets you see the headers of all your chapters, scenes -- however you've organized your manuscript. I especially love it because I tend to move scenes or chunks of text and its very easy to do with this software. I love it!

Carol Mitchell said...

I have been using it on a novel, but I am working on a short story that I cannot seem to get straight and the ability to have each scene separate and kind of play with the sequence is quite valuable.

Captain Black said...

I'm guessing most people here are Apple users. Nevertheless, I have to warn you that the Windows version of Scrivener is pretty appalling, unless things have drastically changed since I tried it. It has far less features than the Mac version and is quite unstable in some areas ("crash on auto-save" is not a good behaviour, in my book). From what I've heard, the Mac version is fine.

There's another writers' tool that lets you organise as well as write, scene-by-scene if you wish. It's a freebie called yWriter. I've used it for short stories and can highly recommend it for that. I've not tried it for longer pieces, but you have to admit: the price is nice.

Carol Mitchell said...

Hi Captain Black. I am using the Windows version of Scrivener and so far so good. I haven't had any issues. Of course, I haven't seen the Mac version so I don't know if there are any features missing.

Of course if there is a free product that works as well ... as you said, the price is nice!

bettye griffin said...

I've been using Scrivener for several years and absolutely love it! It helps me structure my story, outline it, keep notes, check my progress, etc. I wrote a blog a few months back about working with the Windows version; you can read it here: http://chew-the-fat-with-bettye.blogspot.com/2013/09/september-6-2013-adventures-in.html

Jewel Amethyst said...

I've never heard of it, but I do tend to keep everything in one file or at least in one folder. But it sounds like a great organization tool that I'd like to test out.