I blame that Michael Manz. There I was, perfectly happy with my six Word documents open at once and a desk covered with relationship diagrams, sketches, little plot cards that I could shift about, books, photocopies of research snippets I’d found, my tablet with notes & pics of interesting research material that I’d found in the library, and coffee. That is how I write, usually, perched in the middle of a big old web of paper and tech and hot beverages.
Then right in the middle of a Skype conversation PLOP! he inserted into my brain the idea that Scrivener might be worth a look. OK, Mr. so-called Michael so-called Manz, I’ve had a look now, and you know what? It’s a bit bloody good.
What it is, at heart, is an organiser. Yes, you can type in it, but far far over and way way above the fairly basic word-processor capabilities, what it gives you are the tools to organise everything (and I mean everything) you might need for your writing, in whatever order you see fit. You can write non-sequentially, and drag your various scenes around until you achieve the perfect order. You can keep all of your notes, sketches, and references handy in Scrivener, and can view them alongside the text you are writing.
The corkboard feature provides you with index cards for salient features that you can move around a virtual, yes, corkboard – no more making little index cards for the cats to knock on the floor. It will export to Word and other formats for final formatting, or directly to a .mobi file for upload to Amazon. You control which parts are included in the output file and in what order. Tags, Labels and the ability to save Searches give you great power over which parts of your document you see, and allow detailed analysis. For instance, I can look at only the scenes that mention ‘Ralf’, say, and check through his timeline for consistency.
A big bonus for me is that it’s British, with British spellings (hurray!) and occasional exhortations in the tutorial for you to take a break and have a cup of tea and a biscuit. That tutorial is chatty and comprehensive, and reads like it was written by your mate. For example – “When you’re ready then—after a stretch of the legs, a glass of wine, a good curse at the prolixity of this tutorial’s author, whichever helps—let’s move on to Step 10”.
To sum up, Scrivener’s purpose is to provide a sort of writer’s studio; a place where you throw everything, all of your research, ideas and scribblings, with the aim of mashing it together into a draft which you can then either print for posting off to a publisher, or export, whether to another program for tweaking or to an e-book format for self-publishing.
You can try Scrivener free for 30 days – that’s 30 days of use, which don’t have to be consecutive; I strongly recommend that you download it, take an hour to go through the tutorial, which will immediately spark ideas of what you’re going to use it for.
I give Scrivener FIVE HAPPY WOMBATS.