Friday, December 16, 2011

A New WritingTool

In my writing, organistion has been one of the biggest challenges I've had to face. When I first started writing articles it was easy to find what I was looking for in the one to three thousand word documents. However, when it came to writing an 80,000 word novel I had to rethink the way I wrote and organised my notes and research.
When I started writing novels I used to just write and continue until the work was done. However, half way through I'd lose track of where I was heading with the work. I'd get sidetracked and then confused as I realised the work wasn't coming together.
To remedy this I decided to plan my novel by doing a short outline and build this outline like Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method of writing. This was terrific until I'd become lost once again and have to find a thread I needed to develop way back in chapter two or when I was at the end of the work I needed to look back in the middle of the work to find where the action took place. The frustration was overwhelming!
I prayed for patience! Wrong move, now God brings me situations to be patient with in my work every day. This is good for me, I need to learn patience! In the end I arranged my manuscript on the floor and with a marking pen went through and wrote the major turning points on the top of the pages. I prayed, 'Lord, this is more than I can handle, please give me discipline to get the work organised from the beginning of the project or give me a tool to keep me organised.'
God is good! He answered my prayer and I thank Him every time I sit down to write. The tool he gave me was Scrivener, a program that was once only designed for Mac users. However, in the last couple of months Scrivener has come out in PC form and it has been the best $37 I've ever spent.
Scrivener has the ability to save your research including links to the web pages you used for your research. This would have been invaluable when I wrote African Hearts. I had two binders of reasearch for that novel.
With Scrivener, the binder down the left hand side has a short description of each scene of your draft so that you can find the scene you want to add to or refer back to to find what the character was doing then. Character profiles and settings are easily referred to by clicking the profile on the binder to check you are consistent with the eye and hair colour etc. Also the order of the scenes can be shuffled and re-shuffled to any order you want.
If you're the kind of person who likes to arrange your ideas more visually, there's a cork board feature, too. Another great feature is the ability to complete a short synopsis of each scene and make notes for follow up in a later scene. There's a general data area that enables you to state whether it's a scene or sequel and what draft number it is. You can change these status headings to whatever you like as well. There's also the ability to easily retrieve work you've deleted, eg., if you write a scene in one character's point of view and decide it might be stronger written in another's point of view, the first draft can be saved to be retrieved later if you change your mind.
At the end of the project the work is compiled to make a full document in Microsoft Word so that the final editing can be done to the work as a whole. I've imported my latest project into Scrivener and am merrily working away, so I haven't gotten to the compilation stage.
Already I can see my productivity has increased and my creativity flows more freely because I'm not wondering where in the manuscript Dusty had that argument with Alex. Instead I'm focussed on the interaction and motivation of my characters.
Download time for the program was only a few minutes and it took me an afternoon to learn the basics of this program. As I become more familiar with the program I'm finding more useful tips to make my writing life easier. It's been worth the investment of time and money.
So if you've been like me, lost in the organisation of your mansucript take a look at Scrivener and see if it will help you manage your work and take the tyranny of organisation out of your day.


  1. I might have to look in to Scriviner. I've heard of it before but not much more than that. I've been using a free application called yWriter (written by an Aussie) which is pretty good. It sounds as though Scriviner can do more than yWriter though.

  2. Hi Laura, I just downloaded the trial version last week to see how it is. Loved it straight away and am beginning to set up the outline of my next novel in it. Just need to buy the licence now! :)

  3. Collin, I've looked at yWriter,too, and it was a toss up of which one to use. I liked the ability to put more info in the binder with Scrivener. Apart from that I'm sure I would have been happy with yWriter. Thanks for your feedback.

  4. Hi Amanda, I'm glad you like this program, too. It has changed my writing life. Before you buy the licence you might like to have a look at yWriter. I think it's a good product, too.

  5. Hi Laura,
    I've never used anything like Scrivener or yWriter, although I've heard about them. My head and a big, floppy notebook with random scenes have always been my only tools. You make me consider downloading it for one of my Christmas presents. As I'm about a quarter into my new project, can you tell us whether you think it'd still be worth looking at. Would Scrivener benefit at any stage as well as just the beginning?

  6. Hi Everyone,
    I bought the Windows version as soon as it was released and am so grateful for someone mentioning it around that time. And yes, Paula, it is very helpful for existing manuscripts. You can import what you have already written and then keep working with it. That was my main reason for buying it: changing finished academic projects into different formats and writing styles. I love it! Thanks for the post, Laura.

  7. Hi Paula,
    Yes, Paula, I've brought my next project in after the first draft. There's a facility that allows you to import the full document and then break the document into scenes. Then you can continue to write as usual.
    yWriter is Australian and free! Scrivener is from the UK and I paid $37 for my program.
    I can't talk enough about how it has organised my writing. Good luck with it!

  8. Thanks for your feedback, Margaret. I posted this today hoping I can help another author on their journey. Your confirmation of this program will encourage others. Blessings.

  9. I've tried both Scrivener and yWriter, but neither could really do what I wanted. I want to keep track of plot threads as they wind their ways through the story, be able to indicate where a particular character attibute is to be brought out, link foreshadowing to outcome, etc. This requires extensive cross-references between scenes, character profiles, and more.

    At the moment, I'm using hyperlinks within Word to connect the dots, and a diagram of the scene map (with links) maintained in a (free) drawing program. I would like to have something better.

  10. Hi Laura,

    We've had lengthy discussions on this. I would love to be able to use it, but I'm not a huge planner. I think it would be really useful for keeping a track of research though - so perhaps in the future it would be a great investment. xo

  11. Thanks for your comment, Peter. My biggest challenge, too, is to keep track of plot threads. I use the Document Notes in each scene for the threads and highlight in the same colour to keep track of them. Still looking for a better way of doing this, however it's working okay for now.

  12. Hi Rose, Don't mess with your process if it's working. It's only we who are less organised and need to take charge of the frustration that need these tools. xo

  13. Nice post! thanks for sharing... Blessings and happy holidays...shalom soraya

  14. Laura, thanks for your informative post :) I use a number of excel spreadsheets plus document map in Word plus a notebook to keep track of my story. I also purchased Randy's snowflake software which I'll try and use for my next book. Document Map in Word is a really handy feature to use to get a visual overview of your story outline. And I highlight text in different colours. Scrivener sounds less complicated than my system :)

  15. Laura, I so appreciate this post. I asked the question about Scrivener in October. AT this point it was still in testing phase and when I tried to import my work every quotation mark came in as some symbol. The only way I could change it was one at a time. Needless to say I gave up! You have encouraged me to try again. Thanks. :)

  16. It's nice to know things like this are out there and exist! News to me. Thanks.

  17. Hi Jo,

    Did you download the program for Microsoft? Scrivener first came out for Apple-Macs and was released this year for the PC. Good luck with it.