Scrivener: Best Writing Tool in the Author Utility Belt

Today we’re going to talk about a writing tool that changed the way I write (and maybe even my life):

SCRIVENER (!!!) Keep in mind when I talk about Scrivener, I’m only referring to how I use it to produce my novels. There are lots of other options – Non-Fiction, Scriptwriting, Poetry and Lyrics – but I am unfamiliar with those steps. I’m in no way an affiliate, either – strictly a fiction indie author who highly recommends this program to interested writers.

Now, for today’s lesson, I’m using screenshots I took of my second book, Witch Hearts, as well as a shot of the upcoming second Donovan Circus book. (No spoilers.) Keep in mind in mind these are notes for your own reference, so you can put in whatever information you want; readers aren’t going to see this show up in your published books.

Let’s start with my favorite part about the program: it gives me the ability to rearrange my chapters and scenes in seconds. Screen shot 2013-07-06 at 10.57.54 PM

The drag and drop is perfect for writers like me. I don’t write my chapters in order; in fact, I typically have the first and last few scenes done before anything else and then I have to connect the dots in the middle to figure out how they got from Point A to Point Z. When I wrote Gifted, I used Word, which is admittedly fine for anyone to write a book. Not a problem at all – but it’s a little inconvenient when I’m looking for a particular chapter or I’ve copied and pasted a scene in the wrong spot.

My next favorite thing in Scrivener: Creating Characters 

I love using the character sketches to keep track of my character quirks and personalities. Once again, Word is fine and I put pen to paper for many of my circus characters. Using the charts for Witch Hearts, however, I discovered the main points of who the character is and what makes them tick.

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I also love that you can add in photos for your own inspiration while you write. Creating the character behind the face is always fun for writers and Scrivener notes a few qualities that might get you jumpstarted. They cover the basics of course (name, relationship to protagonist, occupation, physical appearance), but you can also list background, external and internal conflicts, and of course you can add whatever else the character needs. (You can also write out settings sketches.)

The composition mode is also a win in my book – I tend to get easily distracted when writing. I have to cut myself off from the wifi when I settle in for a session or I’ll play on Facebook for 45 minutes. So when I can hit that button and make it go to a one-column, in your face document, my focus is better. Plus I still have a toolbar that pops up at the bottom to give me options on the best view. I’ll also add that there’s a fantastic feature to Show Project Targets that shows my word count and can also show word goals, if you make them (for example, I’m shooting for at least 80K words in the next circus book; by seeing my goals met or my halfway point, it gives me a better idea of how scenes fit together or if I can add on that conversation I deleted and can edit later).

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When it came time to put my first book together, I totally forgot about the standard stuff, like the dedication and copyright pages. Luckily, Scrivener has these ready to add which made the second round so much easier to compile. I also love the easy Search Document feature, plus how simple it was to upload the book cover for the ebook version. (And it’s just as simple working with paperback formatting, too.)

And then of course there’s the compile feature – here’s where the bang for your buck lies – you can control your page set up (margins, page sizes, etc.) as well as save your file as a .mobi (Kindle) or .epub (Sony/iPhone/Nook) file. So.much.time saved. You can also save as a PDF.

FYI, there’s also a terrific article at The Creative Penn for three top reasons Scrivener is your new friend. She’s got a great point about using Project Binders with your research and photos, but as I haven’t used that feature, you should let her explain it.

You can download a copy of Scrivener for Mac over at Literature & Latte. The program is also available for PCs and if you’re feeling hesitant about spending $40 on it, you can try out the free trial version. I’m pretty sure you get the idea, but I can’t recommend this program enough if you’re looking for a new tool. Word is fine, but I feel more organized, more in control, and more comfortable with Scrivener than I ever have with any other writing program. If you give it a try, I hope you do too!