When I began writing my first manuscript, I opened a Word document and started typing. Scenes grew into a couple of chapters, but I never made it very far. There were a lot of problems with my initial process (unfocused idea, overly simplistic plot, no clear direction), but a major stumbling block lay not in the writing itself but in the platform I was using. Writing a story in Microsoft Word is a linear process. You start at the beginning of the document and write through to the end. Some amazing writers do just that, so Word is ideal writing software for them. But not me. I write by scenes, and Word doesn’t offer an easy way to divide text into manageable scenes or to easily switch their order, never mind keep up with all the versions of those scenes that I write in the course of my revision process.
I knew the software was a problem, but I didn’t know what to do about it. After all, word processing had already made writing so much better than the days when authors wrote everything out by hand or, eventually, by typewriter. When I wanted to cut and paste, I did not reach for scissors and glue. My elders insisted I should be grateful. But, still, it wasn’t working.
Not until the life-altering day when I downloaded a free trial of the writing software Scrivener. It was a revelation.
I sketched out scene ideas and shuffled them into order on a virtual corkboard. Then with a couple of clicks, those scene ideas transformed into an outline. I read my manuscript scene by scene, or as chapters, or complete from beginning to end. If I had a great idea for a scene in the third act, I easily typed out the idea and dropped the scene into the sequence where it belonged. If I changed my mind later, I moved it to a new spot, or shunted it into the “deleted scenes” folder. I wrote a new version of that scene, changing key elements, but still saved the original with that scene’s file to reference or revert to later.
All my research fit easily into the research folder saved within my single Scrivener project, with easy import of websites and images. Scrivener provided character- and setting-development templates, totally customizable, or I could come up with whatever templates of my own I wanted to use. If I wanted to share my manuscript, I exported it to a variety of file types, including multiple e-book formats, which made it supereasy to send to friends for feedback.
I spent some time working through the provided tutorial just to discover everything Scrivener can do and gladly paid the $45 dollars when my free trial ended. My writing took off at a spectacularly nonlinear and productive pace, and I finally finished that first manuscript and began sketching scenes for the next.
But along the way, a strange thing happened. Scrivener changed my writing life in amazing ways. So of course I ran straight to my writers’ group to share the good news, certain that everyone would jump on board once they heard about this most wondrous of inventions. But they didn’t. It’s been years now, and I’m the only WriteOwl who uses Scrivener. Why, dear friends and esteemed fellow writers? Why, oh, why?
I’m opening the floor for explanations. The writer whose life has been changed by a computer program wants to understand you. Is your writing process so different from my own? How do you write? What works for you?