26 September, 2012

The road to Scrivener conversion

I've been converted. I have seen the light and accepted the wisdom of a more intelligent being. I've adopted Scrivener.

 Up until two week ago I was a dedicated Word user. I adopted it the day it came out and upgraded faithfully, adopting new features and learning new shortcuts and toolbars as they came along. NO MORE!

I'd heard other writers talking about Scrivener and, on a whim, downloaded the trial version. I played around it, got hopelessly lost and, except for the corkboard, didn't see what all the fuss was about. I now admit the error of my ways. 

 I've been taking Gwen Hernandez's online course for Windows users (she also offers Scrivener for Mac). Talk about revelations. This software does everything but write the novel for you. 

Two-thirds of the way through the course, I've alread imported my WIP from Word, divided into chapters and scenes and discovered major flaws — in my mystery, not the software. I have a timeline problem that wasn't apparent until I brought up all the scenes in the corkboard view. Graphically it slapped me in the face with the fact that some Monday scenes took place before Sunday ones, etc. 

 You see, Scrivener's corkboard has powerful customization tools. Each "item" (chapter/scene/etc) has its own index card which can be color-coded, watermarked (status stamped), keyword coded and titled. And that's before you type in the synopsis for the text it represents! You can slice and dice these tools anyway you want. Here's one of my index cards: 

The title " " is my shorthand synopsis; the stamp is the dateline; and keyword colours down the side let me know what elements of the mystery are part of this scene. For example, I'm using purple to indicate the wine storyline and gold for the murder.  I have other colours for backstory, the romance storyline, etc. . 

In addition, I use the synopsis text to track goal/conflict/resolution for each scene since this is the aspect of writing I have the most trouble with. 

There are way too many features in Scrivener to list here, and I have another week of classes to discover many more, but I love the fact that I can keep all my research, character sketches and extra/deleted text all together in the same "binder" but not in the manuscript itself. And if you're a Margie Lawson follower, color-highlighting text is a snap. 

Now that I've finished gushing, I suggest you pop over to the Scrivener site http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php and download the software for a test drive. Then come back and let me know what you think. What's your favourite feature?

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