Why Scrivener?

I mentioned in my first post that I was using Scrivener to write my novels. It really is an excellent piece of software, and I must give it at least some of the credit for allowing me to complete my first novel.

I’m a technical writer, and I’ve been using Word for nearly 20 years. We have a love/hate relationship – I love to hate it. There’s very little I can’t make Word do – after all these years I’m no stranger to its horrors, and on a day-to-day basis it hardly ever makes me want to tear out what little remains of my hair, because I know what pitfalls to avoid.

When I started writing fiction, I used a pencil in an old school jotter. I had a brief flirtation with a manual typewriter before I switched to LocoScript on my Amstrad PCW8256. It was basic, but it got the job done. When I wrote short stories and essays and dissertations, I used to print out my outline on cheap paper and blu-tac it to the wall beside my monitor so I could refer to it easily.

Even after 20 years of “progress”, Word hasn’t progressed beyond that level of help for serious writing. The layout options have improved enormously, and you can import all sorts of fancy diagrams, but if all you want to do is bash out thousands of words of prose, Word leaves you on your own.

Scrivener, on the other hand, gives you an electronic version of that cheap bit of paper blu-tac’d to the wall, and note cards, and a constant visual reminder of your structure, and scribbled notes in the margins, and your research material, and a whole host of other things, all in one place, all within easy reach. I’m sure I use only a handful of the available features, but even such simple things like checking a character’s name are made so easy. When you’re preparing second and third drafts, you can tag each scene as you go, making sure that you’ve covered everything. You can create a snapshot of a scene before you embark on a rewrite in case it all goes horribly wrong. When I had to prepare a synopsis of my novel so that I could send it to an agent, the little synopses I’d typed into the boxes for each chapter (“In which Giovanni…”) were invaluable.

And for peace of mind, you can’t beat an automatic backup that creates a zip file of your project whenever you finish a session. I’ve got mine set to create the backup in my Google Drive folder.

I’m now 15,000 words into book 2, The Chimney Rabbit and the Underground Mice, and there was never any question that I’d use anything other than Scrivener.


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