Writing Through Life: Scrivener (like Bartleby, only different)

31 Jan

Scrivener

In December, I wrote about a great web app that can help writers beat procrastination and get writing. There’s another program I use to help keep the chaos in some kind of contained space as I write — especially while working on long, intricate, or complicated projects. Scrivener is a word processing program that, until very recently, was only available for mac users. I discovered it in November, after getting a netbook that didn’t come bundled with Microsoft Word. As I was tooling around looking for open source alternatives, I ran across the new Windows version of Scrivener (still in beta, available for free). Scrivener, I believe, is a game changer for writers.

There’s an assumption that novelists and other big-project writers should start at the beginning of whatever it is they’re writing and write, straight and steady, to the end. Not everyone thinks and works this way, though. When I write, I’ve got to make a big, old mess. I start in the middle or off to one side, and I jump around. If you write like this, it can be tough to keep all the scraps and thoughts in a place where you can find them. It’s clunky to copy and paste chapters or sections or to try to wrangle all the pieces into some folder somewhere, with ten different Word files. And when you want to see all the pieces at once, it can be hard to get a look at what you’ve got. Scrivener works with that kind of craziness, rather than against it.

S0 Scrivener is to word processing what gmail (especially gmail’s invention of “conversations”) was to email. Rather than giving you a document that can be filled in, linear-like, Scrivener gives you a “project.” The project can have sections, bits, bobbles, and pieces that you can move around at will, see on a corkboard as little index cards, and work on in or out of order. In short, Scrivener gives writers a way to work outside the box of beginning, middle, and end — and start anywhere.

I know. I sound like a commercial here. I really don’t know any of the awesome people who created this software (if I did, I’d send flowers).

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3 Responses to “Writing Through Life: Scrivener (like Bartleby, only different)”

  1. Augusta Scattergood February 7, 2011 at 10:26 pm #

    Perfectly put! I started using Scrivener on a middle-grade historical novel that had so many odd pieces, newsclips, books, notes on the back of recipe cards, it was making me crazy. Scrivener to the rescue. I, too, love this software.

  2. Nora B. Peevy February 11, 2011 at 12:11 am #

    Huh — Maybe, I should look into this. I have Dragon Speak though, and have not used that since I got it. My method of organization is still notes on paper or just thoughts in my head. Usually, if I put any notes in the computer I leave them there unread! Good thing I still manage to crank out stories!

    -Nora

    • kapope February 11, 2011 at 8:36 am #

      Nora, I’ve always been curious about Dragon Speak Naturally — although I have a hunch it wouldn’t work well for me (I’m not much of a talker). Thanks for reading, by the way!

      Augusta, It’s true, isn’t it? Having a place to put all those scraps of information lets me enjoy the mess of the creative process.

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