Tools of the Trade: Scrivener
If you’re around the NaNoWriMo community enough, you’ll know about Scrivener. It’s a writing program that many WriMos swear by. Plus the creators at Literature and Latte give a discount to anyone that participates in NaNo or Camp NaNo. And if you win, you get 50% off the software.
What makes Scrivener so special? Well for me, it’s the way you can organize your novel. Right off the bat, the software gives you pre-formatted options for all sorts of projects including novels (with or without parts), screenplays, and nonfiction. You can also just start with a blank project.
If you do start with a template, you get everything you need to write your novel and polish it up to send to editors.
The way that Scrivener handles organization is what usually draws people in. You can divide your novel/story/screenplay however you like. By default, the novel template breaks things down by chapters and scenes. But you can change it to what works best for you. As you can see in my example, each scene is titled and in a folder for a chapter. The symbols next to them can be customized from a list of premade icons, or you can upload your own (I haven’t tried that yet).
There are other ways to organize your files. My favorite is the cork board because it’s a cork board! Each scene marked on the side is a card that can be moved around like stickies on a wall. The cards can be adjusted to different sizes so you can fit all the info you need.
Another way to look at things is the outliner.
It gives you an overview of each scene. You can include different columns of information. My example has the synopsis, draft status, and word count. You can move things around just like with the cork board to organize your novel.
A really helpful tool is the Inspector. It gives you an overview of each scene. The synopsis and scene title go on top (although you can change that to be a photo). You can also add labels to your scenes. These are set up to be “scene,” “chapter,” and other basic labels. Those can be changed. I like to divide mine by POV or plot points. The status can be changed. By default, you have “to do,” “first draft,” “second draft,” etc. There’s space to leave notes which comes in handy when it’s time to do revisions. There’s also an option to create tags for easy searching.
Also helpful are the statistics the software gathers. They give you an overview of your entire project and the approximate page count if you were to publish based on typical word counts per page.
For NaNo, one of the most helpful tools is “project targets.” It lets you set the number of words you want for the entire project and for each session. It’ll let you know if you hit your goal for the day, and it’s fun to watch the little bar turn green the closer you get to your goal.
Scrivener is great because it covers all of the basics you need to organize your works. It’s available for both Windows and Mac, although the Mac version offers more features (I have the Windows version). It’s definitely to go-to writing software for most of my writing friends and what I use most often for organizing and writing novels.
There’s a free thirty day trial which is worth checking out, although if you wait until NaNo, they usually give you a little extra time to explore it, and you also get those awesome discounts.