Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Discovering Scrivener

I wasn't blogging or freelancing much over the summer, but I was working on my novels -- revising the first one in the series I'm working on, which I finished during NaNoWriMo last November, and starting the next book.

Before the August session of Camp NaNoWriMo started, while I was still working on revisions to the first novel, I decided to try Scrivener, a word processing software for writers that is supposed to be far superior to Word when it comes to outlining, keeping track of research, and other tasks that Word isn't really set up for.  Since I'd won NaNo in November, I had a coupon code for 50 percent off, which meant that it only cost me $20.

I'm sure I have yet to experience all of the features Scrivener has to offer, but so far I LOVE IT.  Every scene is a separate "documents," essentially, but you can drag and drop in order to reorganize and reorder.  Creating folders for chapters and documents for individual scenes also makes it very easy to do a rough outline.  If you like more detailed outlines, the folders and documents also allow you to include a synopsis and notes (none of which is counted in the word count).

Scrivener also allows you to keep track of all your research in the same file: You can import web pages and documents such as PDFs, and also create documents to type up your notes.  I imported a Word document full of notes into my novel, for example, and also imported a few web pages.  You can also keep virtual note cards with character and setting information.

Since you have so much in this one file, the split screen feature is very helpful.  I like to keep research on the top and whatever scene I am currently working on at the bottom.

Another nice feature: snapshots.  This allows you to take a snapshot of a document before you start making changes to it, so that you can quickly and easily go back to the way it was if you decide you don't like the changes.

And after I nearly lost a whole lot of data when my hard drive died earlier this summer, I am really pleased with Scrivener's auto save and auto backup features.  You don't have to ever hit save, for starters -- it saves your changes automatically every time you pause in your typing.  And you can set up the software to automatically back up every time you close the file.  I have Dropbox installed on my computer, so it backs up into the Dropbox folder, which then automatically syncs to my online account.  I'll never, ever have to worry about losing my work again!

When summer ended, and I went back to freelancing part-time, I decided to try the software out for client work, too.  I had a few articles to write that were fairly long and detailed, and required some research, and I found that Scrivener worked just as well for those as it does for novels.  I set it up so that the different sections of the novels were separate documents (just like the scenes in the novel), and imported all of the web pages I used for research.

I'm sure I'm missing a whole bunch of great features in this little review, so please, if you use this software, feel free to add anything I'm missing in the comments.  Perhaps I'll even learn a new feature that I wasn't aware of before!  Also, if you're interested in trying out the software, in the past NaNoWriMo participants have gotten 20 percent off just for being registered for NaNo, so it might be worth signing up this year, if only for the coupon code.

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