It’s true. The only tools you need are pen and paper. Or stick and sand. But modern writers are fortunate to have software options that not only make their jobs easier, but more fun as well. If you aren’t familiar with Scrivener writing software, be prepared to be blown away by it’s power and purpose. Golden Heart finalist Gwen Hernandez is here today to give us the low-down on this powerful writers’ tool.
As a writer, you’re probably intimately familiar with some sort of word processing software, but while programs like Microsoft Word are great for formatting a finished manuscript or writing a business letter, they may not be the best software for crafting a story.
Enter writing software.
There are several programs out there for writers, and there’s a good reason for it. Traditional word processors force you to write linearly, or cobble together multiple documents if you don’t. Whether you’re a planner, a plotter, or something in between, good writing software can free you to write in the way that works best for you, from idea inception to manuscript submission.
My personal choice is Scrivener for Mac (the Windows version is in beta and coming soon).
Each writing project is organized as a collection of files, all accessible in one place. In addition to your scenes or chapters, your project can contain character sketches, outlines, photos, research documents, web pages, your synopsis, your pitch or cover copy, deleted scenes, and notes. I even track my daily word count in a file within the project.
Scrivener lets you organize and view your manuscript and supporting documents in the Editor, the Corkboard (for index cards), or the Outliner. You can choose to write in chunks as small as scenes and as large as the entire manuscript. You can view and edit those chunks individually, in groups (like Chapters), or as one entire work.
To get you started, Scrivener provides project templates for all sorts of writing projects including short or long stories, screenplays, academic works, and even poetry. Or you can start from scratch. Once you have your project set up the way you like it, you can save your own template for future works.
Need to write distraction free? There’s a Full Screen mode with customizable background colors and pictures to set just the right tone. Quick-reference windows let you access the scene synopsis (index card), photo, keywords, and other information without leaving Full Screen mode.
Amazed yet? Well, we’ve just scratched the surface of what Scrivener can do. Here are some of my favorite features:
Apply a color-coded label to each scene. This feature is fully customizable and lets you choose the labels. I often change it to POV and assign character names, but you could choose Setting, Species, Scene Purpose, Day of the Week, Revision Status, and so on.
Set project and document targets. You can set up word count goals for the project as a whole, and for each individual document.
Autosave projects. Scrivener is set to automatically save your project every two seconds (which can be modified). It’s seamless and unnoticeable, but you’ll be glad if your power cuts out or your laptop battery dies.
Automatic project backup. Don’t lose your work if your hard drive conks out! You can set up Scrivener to automatically backup your project to an online service like Dropbox, or another drive of your choice.
Export files for submission or to EPUB. When you’re ready to get your manuscript out there, Scrivener gives you a legion of options for the final format, including RTF, DOC, EPUB, Kindle, PDF, HTML, and more. You can also choose to just export what you need for a submission or contest entry. I use the EPUB option to read my manuscript on my Nook. Great for critique partners and beta readers too!
Snapshots for version management. In Scrivener, you can take a snapshot of a document before you edit it, to retain the original version. You can compare versions or roll back to an older version with the click of a button.
Annotations. Need to look up the right medical term for that surgery scene, or maybe the proper name of a woman’s undergarment in 1821 England? Don’t stop writing! Make a note of it with inline annotations. You can search for them later, and choose to include or exclude them when you export the manuscript.
And there’s still so much more.
Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be. One of Scrivener’s great strengths is that it’s easy to get started with the basics and only use the additional features as needed or desired.
Thanks to the generous British gents at Literature & Latte, the creators of Scrivener, I have FREE copies of Scrivener 2.0 for Mac to give away to three lucky readers who leave a comment before tonight at 9 pm. Just make sure to tell me that you want to be entered to win, and leave your email address.
If you don’t win, don’t fret. I also have a coupon code good for 20% off through the end of August.*
I’ll check in throughout the day to answer questions, so fire away!
*In order to receive the discount, go to http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php, press on the ‘Buy Now $45*’ link, click the ‘Buy’ button associated with Scrivener 2.0 for Mac OS X (Regular Licence). Type ROMANCEUNI into the coupon code field. You will then be able to proceed through the registration process and receive a serial number for Scrivener 2 with a 20% discount on the license rate. After installing (or if you’ve been using the free trial), go to Scrivener > Registration… and input your user name and serial number to get Scrivener properly registered and ready to go.
RU Crew, if you currently use Scrivener, what’s your best tip? For those new to the software, what burning questions do you have for Gwen?
Be sure to stop by Wednesday when Tracey Devlyn will recap some fab tidbits from RWA National in New York.
Gwen Hernandez is a former programmer, manufacturing engineer, and business school instructor. In 2009, she started writing about Scrivener to share its lesser-known features with her writing friends, and the Scrivener page on her website is now a popular resource for writers everywhere.
In May, her first Scrivener online course received excellent reviews. She’ll be teaching it again starting August 1st. Click here for more information.
A 2011 Golden Heart® finalist in Romantic Suspense, Gwen is a member of the Romance Writers of America, Washington Romance Writers (DC), Southern Magic, and the Kiss of Death online chapter where she serves as Secretary. For 2011, she is also the Chair of the RWA PRO Education committee.
She lives in northern Virginia with her Air Force husband, two heroes in training, and a golden retriever. Find her online at www.gwenhernandez.com.
- Weekly Lecture Schedule for July 18 – July 22, 2011
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- Using Scrivener to Save the Cat by Pat Haggerty
- Screams and Broken Trampolines with Tonya Kappes
- Weekly Lecture Schedule for September 12-16, 2011