I have been using computers so long I remember punch cards! Now, I realize that I am dating myself by admitting this, even though it was in high school, but I still cringe at the horror of tripping while carrying those annoying cards and having to pick them all up, only to realize that I had not numbered each one. I certainly learned my lesson that day! Fast forward to last fall when I began writing my first book. I chose to use a word processor as the tool of my new craft, as I had been using one for years for writing my game notes. My challenge soon became that I had so many different documents that related to the story; character notes, city details, chapter outlines and a rough storyline. Some days I did not want to write because I knew a portion of my time would be taken up in tabbing in and out of documents to ensure my dates, names and locations were consistent.
Around this time is when I started looking for a different solution. I came across another writer in the UK, Joanna Penn, who had a great website with plenty of information for new writers. Through researching her site, I discovered Scrivener. From this little nudge, I spent many hours researching the program, then downloaded the free trial, and finally, as a gift from my wife for my birthday in the New Year, I started using this extremely powerful program!
I would say that incorporating Scrivener into my writing toolkit has had the biggest impact on my ability to stay organized and complete a project. Before, I used to write by the seat of my pants (I have learned that 'pantsing' is the term used to describe this style). I would write the story, and let it wander where it wanted to. The problem was that every time I started a story, it would peter out; I did not know where it was going, so I could not write about it. Once I started using Scrivener, I found the corkboard, and it was like the whole world was at my fingertips. I was able to outline each chapter in a simple sentence to plot out the book and stick it on the virtual corkboard. I then went back and added more detail to flesh out the major plot points. I could now see my story at a glance, and rearrange it if I needed to. Finally, knowing what was going to happen in each chapter, I could sit back and just write, which was what I wanted to do all along. I am happy to now be a plotter instead of a pantser!
There are many other great features too, such as goal setting, full-screen environment, autosaving, and even the ability to import research documents into your project, so you don’t have to try and remember where you saved them on your hard drive. I would have to say the other feature that I like almost as much as the corkboard is the ability to export (compile) the project to epub or mobi. This feature has been invaluable, ensuring my ebook worked on all devices and looked good too, giving me more control over my finished product.
I highly recommend downloading the free trial and seeing if Scrivener is as helpful to you as it has been to me.
Paul Bennett is a self-published author of Epic Fantasy books.