In a recent post I shared some of my favourite writing tools. One of these was the writing content generation tool, Scrivener. It’s name is taken for a word for scribe, notary or clerk but it’s the modern take on this role and supercharged. This fabulous piece of kit only used to be available to Mac users but for the past couple of years – could be longer – a Windows version is available. It’s a very powerful tool and in no way, matter or form can I claim to be an expert. In fact, every time I use it (which is every day) I learn something new. And like many things that I possess which are technologically advanced, I use only a small part of it. But what I do use makes a difference. I don’t know about you, but I do like to be organised. If you saw my desk right now, you may think otherwise. But I do try. These are the four areas that tidy up my messy brain, leaving me more time for the actual process of writing.
- A virtual Filing Cabinet. It’s taken me a long time to progress from paper to screen and I still write and edit in long hand but I am trying hard to do my bit and save trees. And despite the stereotypical image of an ex-pat living in luxury abroad I live in a very small, old Italian house which has more space for animals than it does for humans. As you can see in the picture, I do keep a small shelf space for files but pre-Scrivener there used to be a full wall lined with them. Now I can keep notes, images, links to websites, drafts, re-writes… anything linked to one particular project.
- Creating an Editorial Map. Using the outliner columns (one of three ‘views’ in Scrivener) I can create and print an Editorial Map. I can choose the data I want to show in the map – for instance I have added columns for a one liner, short synopsis, setting, time and word count. I can also allocate POV scenes with a different colour for each colour.
- Easy to move Index Cards. The outline view (my Editorial Map) can be seen as a cork board. Remember those things? I still have one above my desk. I used to write out my scenes on 5×8 index
cards, but they got messy very quickly and without a big enough cork board, I soon ran out of space and patience. With drag and drop the ‘index cards’ on Scrivener can be moved about easily as well as edited easily. As you can see, I can still see all the information contained in the Editorial Map, just in a different fashion and the POV character is highlighted with the coloured corner.
- Developing Characters and Setting. For me,
developing the character and setting is as important as pinning down the plot. Scrivener has the ability to collect all the information about characters which is easily referred to within a particular project. As you can see from this screen shot, I have one liners about the characters goals, motivations and so on as well as a photo I’ve found off the Internet. I’m quite a visual writer, I like to see what I’m writing in pictures. So I allocate real images to characters and settings, so when I need to drop in some detail I can do so easily and consistently. If I do need to change a particular physical characteristic or add one, I can easily do so in the project notes beneath the image.
As well as the organisational benefits of producing a manuscript, Scrivener also offers these valuable options
- Distraction free writing through the full screen option
- Compilation of manuscripts in all manner of formats
- Create or upload templates for story structure
- Ability to track project and set targets for word count
I now use Scrivener to plan my blogs in advance for each week making notes as I go along, plan my short story entries to competitions on a monthly basis and I’m thinking of using it for my ‘morning journal’ entries where I free write using prompts.
And it does so much more but like all bits of necessary kit in my modern life (my washing machine and my oven) I find the settings that work best for me and stick to them.
Next week: I shall be sharing what’s on my bedside reading table