Last year I took the leap and purchased Scrivener writing software, and have been asked for my thoughts on it. I have a few— now that I’ve completed one book with it. Or rather, one first draft with it. I used it for Bleak Landing (releasing from Waterfall Press this August), but once it came time to send the manuscript to my beta readers and then to my editor, I needed to export it to MS Word. Exporting it to Word wasn’t quite as slick as they say and required some reformatting on my part. Not a deal breaker, though. From there on, I was working in MS Word because that’s what my editor/publisher uses.
I confess I had Scrivener on my computer for a long time before I actually started using it. It has an overwhelming number of bells and whistles for an old lady like me. I felt intimidated and frustrated because I’d spent the money and wasn’t using it, yet I knew if I could just figure it out, I’d probably love it. Finally, I went ahead and purchased Joseph Michael’s Learn Scrivener Fast course and was able to get a handle on the program. He’s a genius at breaking it down into bite-size pieces that you can build on.
The course is a series of easily-digested videos from two to ten minutes long that you can work your way through in snippets of time. I still haven’t watched them all, so I’ll need to go back and do that now that my project is behind me. So I guess my first piece of advice would be, if you’re going to get the software, get the course too. Even if you’re a natural wiz at computers and can figure it all out, there’ll be neat features you might miss on your own. Once you’ve bought the course, you can go back any time and rewatch or reread the lessons.
In a nutshell, the biggest difference with Scrivener over Word is that you’re working with three panels in front of you: on the left is a list of all your files related to the project. So you can easily hop from chapter to chapter or to a character list or to a bit of research you’ve stored there, including pictures and links to websites. You can also keep a file of deleted scenes in case you ever want to retrieve them. Everything is organized and handy.
In the center is your working panel, much like the page you’re used to working on in Word but with a lot of extra cool features (like a little bar in the bottom corner that shows you how close you’re getting to your word count goal for the chapter. It’s like your own private cheerleader, changing color as you approach the finish line!) This panel can display your entire manuscript or just one chapter, or an entire bulletin board of “index cards” outlining each chapter—all with just one click.
In the right-hand panel are more tools you can use, like keeping a synopsis of your current chapter in front of you, and project notes. One of the things I used this for was to display a table showing my goals for each week with a check box when I completed the required word count. Of course, these side boxes can be minimized at any time to get them out of your way.
What I absolutely LOVED:
- The free 30-day trial they offer is good for thirty days of actual use. This means if you work with it one day and then don’t open it again for several days or weeks (like I did), you still have 29 days to work with it before you decide to buy. And so on.
- The ability to click from one chapter to another or to my research files without having to scroll through a bunch of text or do a “search” and then lose my place. For example, What did I name that dog? Weeks may have passed since I mentioned him, and now I don’t recall what chapter I introduced the dog in. I can simply click on the “characters” tab for the dog owner where I’ll see the full description for that character, including the name of his dog. As I add characters, I can easily create a page for them and add these details for future reference—and then just click back to my chapter and I’m right where I left off. Of course, you can do all this in Word, but you need to keep separate documents. With Scrivener, everything related to your project is all right in front of you.
What I wasn’t so keen on—at first:
· Scrivener has no built-in thesaurus, but it does have a tool that takes you directly to Thesaurus.com. At first, I didn’t think I’d like this but it turned out all right, especially since the online thesaurus usually offers you more choices than the one built in to Word. It could be problematic if you have a slow connection or are trying to work off line, though.
What I could do without:Honestly, it’s just TOO MUCH. There are features and buttons I will never use, and I almost wish they made a dumbed-down, easier version. Much of the program is designed for self-publishing, so I suppose people who are creating their own e-books and uploading them are thrilled with those tools. That’s just not me.
Overall, I’d say the advantages definitely made the investment worth it and I’m confident I will find this to be truer as I continue using Scrivener for future projects.