A few years ago, I ended a 15-year marriage to Microsoft Word and hooked up with a younger, sexier writing program: Scrivener. My graduate thesis took the shine off my romance with Word, but it was my foray into fiction that finally killed the relationship.
That’s because Scrivener understands my needs in a way that other word processors never have. Here are just a few reasons why I threw over the old standby for a newer model.
Scrivener remembers your spot. Every time you open a project in Scrivener, it takes you right to where you left off. Maybe not such a big deal when writing the first draft, but when you’re in the midst of revisions, it’s a lifesaver.
Your structure is easy to see. Scrivener lets you write in chunks—such as scenes or chapters—called documents. The Binder, where you view all of the documents in your project, gives you an at-a-glance overview of your entire manuscript and thus the structure of your work.
Change your mind about the order of scenes or chapters? It’s a cinch to move them around and play with a different story flow.
Saving epiphanies is easy. Got an idea for a future scene, but you’re not ready for it yet? Just create a new document, write out your idea, then ignore it until you figure out where it goes. You can also add notes right into the text you’re working on. When you can’t think of the perfect line of dialogue, or you need to do some additional research, simply insert an annotation or comment and get back to writing.
Color-coding. In Scrivener, you can color code your documents by whatever piece of data you want to track. For example, in the drafting phase I tag my fiction scenes by point-of-view (POV) character, using blue for the hero and pink for the heroine (original, right?). Instantly, I can see the POV of a scene and check my overall balance.
In the revision phase—and for nonfiction—I use the Label field to keep track of the status of each section (e.g. Not Started, WIP, To Editor, Author Review, Complete).
Auto-save protects your hard work. If you’ve ever faced the Blue Screen of Death, or lost power after writing 3,000 words without saving, you can appreciate that Scrivener saves your project every time there’s more than two seconds of inactivity. So while you’re pondering your next sentence, Scrivener’s committing your words to memory.
Scrivener is like Hermione Granger’s bottomless handbag. You can import research documents, web pages/links, and photos right into your project, so even when you take your laptop on the road, you have everything you need. You can also import any writing you already started in another program.
Plus, you can keep outlines, notes on ideas for changes and future scenes, and character and setting information all within the project. No more scouring your hard drive or that pile of sticky notes on your desk for a crucial piece of information.
Working without distractions. Scrivener’s full screen composition mode blocks out all distractions, making it easier to focus on your writing. Change the background color or image to suit your mood.
And there’s so much more! I could wax poetic about my fabulous writing partner all day. The ability to set word count goals and track your progress. The Corkboard where you can view each document as an index card (perfect for storyboarders). Advanced searches that help you find anything, anywhere in your project.
Exporting to e-books is a snap. Scrivener is your one-stop publishing program. When your masterpiece is done, you can compile (export) it to an EPUB or MOBI (Amazon) file for easy self-publishing, or for perusing on your e-reader. You can also export to DOC, RTF, TXT, PDF, direct-to-printer, and other formats.
That’s just a small list of what makes Scrivener—available for Mac and Windows—too hot to resist. So, if you’re tired of your stodgy, inflexible word processor, hook up with a program that puts your needs as a writer first.
There’s no commitment with Scrivener’s free trial, but you just might find your happy ever after.
Hit me with your questions. One commenter will win free enrollment in one of my upcoming Scrivener online courses, or an electronic copy of my romantic suspense, Blind Fury (winner’s choice).
Gwen Hernandez is the author of Scrivener For Dummies, Productivity Tools for Writers, and Blind Fury. She also teaches popular online Scrivener courses for Mac and Windows. The former Army/Navy brat is currently living in a hotel room while in the midst of relocating from the D.C. area to Boston with her Air Force husband, two teenage boys, and a lazy golden retriever. Learn more about her books or classes and get free Scrivener tips at gwenhernandez.com.