Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Writing Program Review: Scrivener

As a rule, I don't like writing programs. I find most of the stuff out there for writers to be a waste of time. Why bother with a writing program that can color code my notes when I could just write the book?

But Justine Larbalestier recommends Scrivener--very highly. As does Holly Black.

The Good:
  • Organization of notes and files, including pictures. If I want to describe a statue in my story, I've got the picture of it right there, one simple click away, and can go to it without minimizing or closing my writing.
  • Corkboard-style organization of chapters. I wrote brief synopses of each chapter on the "notecard" that is attached to it. Those notecards are automatically placed on a virtual corkboard in the order of the chapter--so I can see how the story is flowing, much like a story board, but with notes directly applied to each chapter in a logical way.
  • Easy to access notes. In the sidebar beside each chapter, I can write notes about the chapter, or I can write notes about the entire manuscript. Then, as I revise, I can check up on "fixing that scene with Ashleigh in the lunchroom" or I can make sure I "keep up with Audrey Hepburn theme and acting motivation."
  • Easy to use labels that mark a chapter as "done", "first draft", "needs work", etc. Now I know where to go to which chapter and can jump to that chapter easily.

The Bad:
  • I would really like to be able to have the folders auto-renumber to the chapters. I combined Chapters 1 and 2--which meant in my manuscript, the chapters went from 1 to 3. It would have been awesome if Scrivener automatically renumbered the chapters, but instead I have to go through and renumber them myself. There's a reason why this feature isn't there, but it's still a detracting factor for me.
  • Outdated manuscript formatting. Many agents say they no longer like Courior font (as it was used for typesetting in the past, but no longer), but that's the default font for the ms. format here. You can change it, but it's a pain. Also, the way the chapter breaks work is a little old fashioned. So I'm not using the manuscript format that comes with the program, but instead am using my own format.
In all, I think this program is worth it, and am seriously considering purchasing it after break (I'm in the month free trial now). However, it would have been easier to use if I had started writing with it, instead of putting it in after writing. I suspect the entire program will be much more beneficial if I use it with my new WIP, although the revision notes are helpful.

1 comment:

Christina Farley said...

This is really interesting. I've always wanted a great writing program that would help me organize everything. I'll be very interested in how it workds for you. I like that idea of a corkboard to organize stuff.

I just got Writing the Breakout Novel and Workbook for Christmas. I started reading it today so I'll let you know what I think.

I hope you had a great Christmas! We did. Just got back from Australia on Christmas Eve. Fun times but it's always nice coming back home!

Merry Christmas!