Note: it was taking me forever to finish this post, so I decided to break it into several parts. I will link them all together when complete.
As I get a bit–ahem–older, I find myself less tolerant of time-wasters. And I find myself classifying more things as time-wasters. I have realized that my current system of writing is inefficient. Here are the features that I need (or at least, want badly) in a writing program.
- Drafting – A place to draft my manuscript, manuscript segments, queries, submissions and discards. Currently, I use Microsoft Word.
- Organizing – A robust way to browse the structure of a manuscript. In MSWord, I use the Navigation Pane combined with Word Styles for plotting. I am also aware that this method is my workaround for a feature that I would like to have.
- Worldbuilding – A convenient way to build and hyperlink worldbuilding gazetteer pages. I currently use TiddlyWiki and Tiddly Desktop.
- Research – Browser bookmarks for keeping track of research sources, the vast majority of which is online, and which can change or disappear.
I decided to try Scrivener. I would look at it from the standpoint of a business analyst (which is what I do for a living) as well as a writer. The above features are the features that a product would need to have that might lure me away from my current Microsoft Word / TiddlyWiki solution.
We call these MVP features, or Minimum Viable Product features.
I downloaded the free version and after viewing part of the tutorial–I determined that the first two feature were in place. I could use the binder for all text–manuscript, discards, and queries. The Novel With Parts template also provided character and place templates, and I can easily add more.
And more importantly, I could link them all together, for my worldbuilding gazetteer.
It was enough to make me purchase the program. I’ve been working with it for about a year now, and I have been drafting this review for almost as long!
Next, I started writing a new novel. I already had several versions of opening chapters, all of which I discarded (because I thought of a new angle), and a fairly robust worldbuilding gazetteer. The interface had all the features that I wanted, and just when I was wishing for a way for the main toolbar to be more flexible, I found an option to make it so. There is a cool way for you to make the entire interface go away except your text, and your current position stays in the middle of the screen, instead of being added to the bottom. I didn’t even know I needed that. Sweet.
The font formatting seems rudimentary, but I strongly suspect that is because I am using the Novel With Parts template, which uses the Courier font by default. After a bit of digging in the documentation, I was able to figure out how to replace Courier with the more eye-friendly Bookman Old Style font.
None of it matters for the final draft, because once you compile the final document, it follows a different format. I have not yet attempted a compile.
As you could see from the main window screenshot above, the Document With Parts includes … a lot of parts. Here’s the sidebar, which you use to navigate those parts.
The first section is devoted to the manuscript, and the section below has whatever supporting material you need. The template came with the Characters, Places, Front Matter, Research, Template Sheets and Trash. I added Concepts.
I also replaced all the templates with my own creations. I have a template I have been using for years to visualize a character.
Once you create a template, it is just a right-click away from anywhere in the sidebar, and you can link your documents together with “Scrivener Links.”
As you can tell, I am pretty pleased with Scrivener. I also should mention that there is a major upgrade planned to be released to Windows later this year. It is already available for Macs.
I plan to write additional posts to cover worldbuilding, research and screenwriting. Stay tuned!