The Gadgets of Writing: Scrivener Part 1

January 7, 2015

Who out there got a ton of gadgets for Christmas?  Perhaps a Fitbit?  A new Kindle?  A tablet?

As a writer, I spend a lot of time working with various gadgets that make my job easier, so this month on the blog, we will focus on the tools of the writer.

And what better place to start than with Scrivener?

This will not be a deep dive of the program.  I want to look at Scrivener in the way that I use it to organize my works in progress and take advantage of the tools inside the program to write more efficiently.

Here’s a fact: When working on a book, I only spend 30% of the time actually writing.

I’m what is called a plotter.  I know everything that is going to happen in a book from beginning to end before I ever put a word down.  I also know all of my settings, my characters, and have worked through all of my characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts.  So by the time I go to write, the tough work is done.

But how do I manage all that pre-writing work?

And that’s where Scrivener comes into play.

I use the amazing organizing features of Scrivener to layout my work.  Here’s a shot of a typical Scrivener screen for me:


I’ve put boxes around a couple of things here that I will be talking about in the three blog posts that I’ll be doing on Scrivener this month.

First, let’s go to the left sidebar where you can see the organization of a project in Scrivener.  In this sidebar, I’ve highlighted the following items:

  • Characters: Scrivener has pre-built templates for storing character sketches.
  • Places: The same goes for settings.
  • Research: There’s a folder for any external research, and next week, I’ll show you how easy it is to save actual webpages directly in Scrivener so you always have them to refer to.
  • Writing: Finally, the writing aspect.  The use of folders allows me to break a manuscript down into chapters and then scenes, so when I’m writing, I’m not seeing a 90,000 word dump.  I’m seeing a tiny 2,000 word scene, and that’s not as scary, is it?

Now let’s go to the right sidebar and the toolbar at the top:

Layout: I could spend an entire month talking about the toolbars in the top of this program, but for this post, I’m going to focus on the layout feature specifically.  Why?  Because sometimes, you will look at a work so long, you almost become blind to it.  And that’s when you need to change the layout and see what is actually happening.  This function allows you to take your scenes and transition them to look at them as if they were cards on a cork board for example.

Search: Invaluable.  Seriously.  Put in the word/phrase you’re looking for, choose your search demographics by clicking on the arrow to the right of your search words, and viola!  You’ve found that exact phrase in your 90,000 word manuscript.  This is absolutely needed when editing.  Why?  Because sometimes at the end of a text, I realize I’ve used both internet and Internet.  Talk about annoying, right?

Notes: In all of the windows of Scrivener, the right sidebar gives you a notes section.  I love these.  Why?  Because inevitably, I’ll write a scene, and think crap, I forgot to make sure he mentioned that the dead body was in the basement.  But when I write a rough draft, it’s a rough draft.  If I’m at the end of the scene and I remember that, it goes into the notes field for the second round.  I do not take the time then to go back and find where that information needs to go, because it will just waste time.  And I don’t have time to waste!

I’m going to stop there today, because it’s a lot to take in.

I also want to mention two resources to check out if you’re on the fence about getting Scrivener or already downloaded Scrivener and using it makes you want to throw your computer out your second story window directly in front of a garbage truck.

Online courses: Gwen Hernandez – There is a fee for these courses, so consider that when exploring.

Literature and Latte – These are the guys who made Scrivener, and they do a fabulous job with training videos.  Check them out.

Next week, I’m going to cover character and place sketches as well as utilizing the research folder.

Then in the third week, I’m going to cover the actual writing part!  What did I say at the top of this post?  30% is actually writing.  (Did you think I made that up?  I did actually, but in terms of number of blog posts dedicated to each section, it works out, which is cool.)

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