Why You Should Invest in Writing Software by Sarena Straus
I’ve recently become a convert from plain old Word, or in my case, Pages, to a fan of writing software.
I use Scrivener and I’m very happy with it. I know there are other products on the market, but overall, I wanted to share of summary of why you should consider using writing software to compose your next book based on my experience with Scrivener.
Good writing software, like Scrivener, has more options than you will ever begin to use. I’ve barely just scratched the surface of what it can do, but already, it’s been an incredible help in organizing my work and maintaining consistency throughout my novel.
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My forthcoming YA novel, Assimilation, involves several characters from different times, and Scrivener helped me keep track of where and when my characters were from. There are easily accessible character and places templates where I could jot down notes on my characters as I developed them. I am also able to drop research in folders on Scrivener. Say, for example, I was writing a section on one of my characters from ancient Egypt, I was not only able to store research in folders and access it while writing, but I could split the screen so that I was viewing my research and novel simultaneously. This was also a great feature when quoting.
Scrivener also has features that allow you to create scene or chapter summaries. You can then view these summaries in outline form or as index cards on a corkboard. Scrivener will even generate an auto-synopsis for you, placing the first several lines of text in a section on an index card.
Scrivener is not ideal for what I first used it for, i.e. back-fitting a completed first draft of my adult crime novel, The Collector, into the software. Loading the novel into Scrivener and breaking it up into part was not terribly difficult, but it took some time. It was worth the effort because it was so useful for my second draft, but I made lots of mistakes along the way, such as loading into the wrong novel format and even loading in the wrong version of the novel. It took a good amount of time to clean up, but I think it will pay off.
I am now using Scrivener to start to sketch out book 2 of Assimilation and to start drafting out an as yet untitled work of adult fiction. Because I’m working on completing a re-write, I don’t want to focus too much on these other projects, but Scrivener allows me to jot down ideas or even pieces of the novels as they come to mind and because of the software functionality, I can refer back to those notes or re-organize book segments with a lot more ease than I could using standard word processing software.
Another great feature of Scrivener is the ability to take snapshots of text. I can write a scene or paragraph one way, take a snapshot, write it another way and if you don’t like what I’ve written second, I can easily go back to the original without having to save multiple files. I can do this many times and each snapshot is saved and easy to revert to.
A few other pointers for writing software beginners. First, do the tutorial at least once through and maybe twice. Scrivener, for example, is not intuitive and it’s difficult to figure out by just playing around. Scrivener has a ton of features and while you may not use all or even most of them, you should have a sense of what Scrivener can do. I viewed the tutorial, used the software and then proceeded to forget a lot of things the software could have done for me to make my writing more fluid. I went through the tutorial again before beginning my second novel and I still can’t remember half of what this software is capable of, but already, it’s giving me a lot more time to write as I have to spend a lot less time organizing and re-organizing.
Scrivener is available from Literature & Latte at the very affordable and very well spent $35-40 range. You can also download a free trial and try before you buy. I used Scrivener on my Mac but it is now available in Word.