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Sunday, October 02, 2011


I bought Scrivener shortly after getting my iMac computer. For those who've never heard of Scrivener, it's software for writers. Along with the word processing, it has features to help organize the work and research. It used to only be available for Mac, but now there's a Windows version being made. It was in beta testing the last time I checked, but it's expected to be released soon. The program isn't only for fiction novelists. It also has templates for short stories, nonfiction, screenplays, research papers and so on.

Anyway, I'd heard a lot of awesome things about Scrivener, but I didn't find the program to be intuitive. At least not the way my brain works. Every now and then I'd open it, look at, mess around a little, and close it again. When the beta Windows version came out, I gave it another try. I could see the potential, but I just couldn't figure it out on my own and I'm not big on reading instructions. I did watch the video tutorials, but it wasn't enough.

Then I heard about a Scrivener class, and despite my killer schedule, I signed up for it. It was awesome! If you want to use Scrivener and are having trouble figuring out how to wrap your arms around it like me, I highly recommend checking it out. To find out when it will be taught again, visit Gwen Hernandez's website. She's the instructor. Course material was posted every weekday and it was broken down into small enough pieces that nothing felt overwhelming. It was also presented clearly and concisely with screenshots to aid comprehension. I highly recommend the class.

There were some features that really sold me on Scrivener as a writing tool. There's counters available. More than one. It has one that allows you to set word count, due date, days of the week when you'll be writing, and then it keeps a running tally of how many words you need to write each day to make the deadline. How cool is that? So I can tell Scrivener I want to write 100,000 words by June 1 and I won't write on Mondays and it gives me goals.

The second counter is just as awesome and I think it's really going to help me on my daily word/page count goals. You set how many pages/words you want to write, and as you go along, it lets you know your progress. When I was working on a fight scene for Enemy Embrace I set it for 2,500 words. The visual line at the bottom starts red, goes to orange, lighter orange, yellow, pale green and then darker green as you progress. It worked as motivation for me to keep going because that red/orange color is kind of, well, mocking. :-)

Another Scrivener feature that I'm excited about is the ability to import a web page. This is great for me on the research front. The page is static so if it updates, I won't see that, but for 99% of my research that isn't a problem. One of my biggest frustrations is when I'm writing at work during lunch, need to reference information and can't because I do not have access to the net. This way if I need to reference something, all I'll need to do is jump down to the Research folder and everything will be there.

It has a corkboard feature with index cards on it, allowing those writers who like those cards to have that. I still have horrible flashbacks to when I was in junior high, but maybe I'll get over that. Some day. But on those index cards is color coding. I set mine up like we did in class with Point of View (POV) characters because that's helpful. Too much heroine POV? I can tell in a glance because it can be setup to actually color code the scenes names in the file tree.

For my Blood Feud world, I setup the color coding to keep track of what the hero and heroine are--Demon? Vampire? Vampire hunter? It's a quick, visual way for me to keep track of a world that's quickly becoming filled with stories.

And previous versions? Instead of doing a "save as" before making major revisions, Scrivener allows me to take a snapshot. One click instead of the cumbersome process I use in my word processing software. I can go back to a previous version, too, if I decide the original was better.

There are many, many other features. Some of them I might not use, but that's okay--I don't have to use everything, just the parts that work for me.

I've moved my active, to be written projects over, but not everything I want to be there is there. There are just a few too many extra files that I don't really need, it would be nice to have them there going forward. Once the transition is complete and I'm starting new projects in Scrivener rather than importing them over, I think that's when I'll really know just how awesome this program is. It's already pretty dang cool.