(Earlier in this series: Evernote)
Scrivener 2 is an absolutely essential app for anyone serious about writing their novel. Don’t try something so potentially complicated with Word or Pages: the desk will soon bear indentations from your forehead. Take it from me and use Scrivener instead; it’s made a huge difference in not only writing efficiency but my very approach to organizing and indexing longer works.
What makes Scrivener great is it recognizes that instead of chapters a novel* (or project in Scrivener parlance) is composed of scenes, often very short. Each scene becomes a stand-alone document with its own meta-data; these are organized in the Binder on the window’s left side, a traditional tree-type view of the project’s contents.
In the window’s center two such documents can be viewed at the same time using split-screen, which saves immeasurable time toggling between separate windows on the desktop.
On the right is the Inspector, which allows for viewing a document’s meta-data as well as comments or the version control feature called Snapshots. Forget saving past drafts of a document separately and then having to root through my file directory to find the one I want – Scrivener keeps them all right at my fingertips. This is a huge peace-of-mind factor for someone who’s always changing text only to decide it was better before.
At the moment my favorite feature is Scrivener Links, which allows me to insert into any document a hyperlink to any other in the same project. Clicking on the linked text opens the second document; I’ve set it to open in a pop-up window to best utilize laptop screen real estate, just one of the program’s many customizable options. I’m indexing this draft of my novel as I go along and the linking feature is both saving me a lot of time and helping ensure consistency.
Another great option is the Corkboard view, which enables me to shuffle scenes like I would with index cards on a real board. Corkboard was what initially sold me on Scrivener, and for that matter a number of others for whom I’ve demonstrated it. My experience is that when I show Scrivener to a potential user the usual response is “I need to get that,” and most of them do. When I check back months or even years later they’re still using it, too.
While Scrivener comes for both Mac and PC (reportedly remaining less well-developed on the latter), it’s not yet available for tablets. My quibbles with it are minor at best: table-formatting capabilities are frustrating primitive, and using it to best effect requires much real estate. (Though those prone to distraction are able to blank out the rest of the desktop with the Full Screen Composition mode anyway.)
I’ve barely touched here on Scrivener’s depth of functionality; the app is made to be customized, which warms a creative’s heart to no end. Give the 30-day free trial a go and see if you don’t end up buying it. With its rich array of features, it’s a steal at $45.
*Scrivener is equally useful for writing a screenplay or dissertation, or so many of my fellow toilers at my favorite coffeehouse report.