Scrivener: the ultimate writer’s tool

Today’s announcement of the upcoming release of Scrivener 2.0 gives me a good excuse to write about my experiences with this invaluable tool for writers.

There are literally scores of positive reviews of Scrivener available online, and for good reason:  it is an outstanding piece of software that allows a writer to focus on his or her primary job, writing.  Philosophically, Scrivener focuses on content.  Since most professional markets (novels, short fiction, plays and screenplays) have a standard manuscript format, Scrivener knows how to take the content a writer provides and turn it into the proper format–so that you can concentrate on writing.  All of my stories since 2007 have been written using Scrivener, including the stories that I have sold to professional markets.

Scrivener uses an innovative “corkboard” that allows you to plan out your scenes on virtual index cards, easily shuffle them around, color code them (by point-of-view, for instance) and visualize your story at a high level.  There are features that allow you to set goals for a story and session.  (I want to write 1,250 words today.)  And there are features that allow you to manage your research.  (Scrivener is even used by students for writing research papers.)  All of these features have been described by others many, many times.  I wanted to describe some of the unique ways that I use Scrivener, in addition to just writing my stories.

Scrivener provides templates for different projects.  I made some small modifications to the Short Story Manuscript template, adding some folders that I use with all of my stories.  There are 3 of these folders that are part of my template: Deleted Scenes, Critiques, Business.

One of the toughest things for me as a writer is cutting my own writing.  But it is a necessary evil and I’m a better writer for the cutting I do.  Scrivener has made this cutting easier.  I have a folder called “Deleted Scenes” and when I am cutting scenes, I simply move them to the “Deleted Scenes” folder.  This allows me to preserve what I wrote (and possibly reuse it somewhere else) without cutting it and losing it forever.

Back in the summer of 2008, I participated in an 8-week writing workshop led by science fiction writer James Gunn.  One of the most beneficial things to come out of this workshop was a trusted cadre of writers whom I trust to give me feedback on my stories. Scrivener makes it easy for me to manage these critiques and keep them associated with the story.  Each critique gets a document in the “Critique” folder (with the person’s name) and in this way, I can keep feedback on the story with the story.

Finally, I have  “Business” folder.  In the business folder goes things related to the business-end of the story.  For instance, if I sell the story, a scanned (PDF) version of the contract would go in the folder.  Correspondence with editors get placed in this folder, and I also put any reviews of the story that I find in this folder.  (I could probably keep a separate folder for reviews, but I haven’t done that at this point.)

The ability to keep everything together for a writing project, from the first index card on which the idea is scribbled, to the contracts and reviews of the published story is one of the things I really like about Scrivener.  The clean, unobtrusive interface makes it easy to focus on the writing.  I used Scrivener to successfully complete NaNoWriMo last year and plan on doing it again this year.  I would highly recommend Scrivener to any writer out there.  (Although that writer would have to be on a Macintosh.)

I can’t wait for Scrivener 2.0!

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