Last year, I started using Scrivener as my primary writing software. I wrote this blog before the new version of Scrivener came out. I have the new version and it's great. Most of what I said here is still applicable.
Scrivener is a robust, powerful software program designed specifically for writers. Sounds great, right? Even better? It's cheap. Only $40.00. You can download a test copy or buy it direct from the website.
Here are some things I like about Scrivener.
1. The main window includes (from left to right) a working outline, a writing area, and labeling tools all in one view.
The outline is on the left. You can change the titles of sections, move things, and expand or collapse the outline all while you have your manuscript open in the main window. I create a file for each scene because that provides more flexibility when reorganizing. Here's a closer look. (The outline is really just notes to myself about the scene. They wouldn't make much sense to anyone else. They do make sense to me, though, I swear.)
The labeling tools are on the right. You enter a short synopsis of what's in this file--very useful when you want to scan what you've already done. For people like me with day jobs, catching up on the previous day's writing can be a battle and the synopsis is a great help. I use the labels to indicate the POV in the scene, the keywords to call out some important elements like the theme or secondary characters, and the whole set of tools to make my orderly soul feel happy.
2. The Corkboard is Awesome! You can also view your Scrivener files in the Corkboard. It's exactly what it sounds like. I use this view mainly when I'm working with my research and backstory notes. I also have some character inspiration photos. I don't really do casting, but I like to have a photo that gives me some element of the character. I create notecards for everything from factual research, to theme, to his and hers thoughts on family. It's tons of fun and a very creative way to think. (It's also easier to keep cards organized when they're in the computer. I don't have an office so my notecards always end up scattered between my nightstand, my backpack, and who knows where.)
3. Easy export to Word. I deliver my manuscripts as Word files and the export to Word is simple. I can answer questions about the process if anyone wants to know, but it's not hard. I've figured out how to format the exported file with the correct fonts and formatting including the header with page numbers!
4. Project Stats keep me on track. The Project Statistics are wonderful. You can see your progress toward an overall word count and keep track of the current session. You can also tell Scrivener which files to include in the stats so, if you're like me and you make lots of drafts of the same scene, you can only include the "correct" version. That means your word count doesn't get padded with lots of extra, but you can still keep all your drafts in the same folder and outline view in case you want to refer to one or include a different version.
In another stats view, you can see your overused words--what a great editing help! (Not that I ever overuse words...)
5. I can use the Outline view when I want "just the facts." I have a very linear brain and sometimes I just need to organize. In the outline view, I can use the synopsis and the labels I've set up to keep my manuscript in line. I don't always need to "think" this way, but the outline view is simple to use and powerful when I need it.
6. I have always wanted to write "out of order," but I was never able to do that comfortably in Word. Scrivener makes it work for me. If I've written three solid chapters but then have an idea for a scene that will come later in the book, I can write it, but because I have the outline always open on the left, I can keep my sense of the story progression. The scenes feel anchored even if I haven't written the steps between them.
7. It's easier to recycle scraps. When I write in Word and I cut a section out, I have to put it in another file. It's hard to remember what I've cut and saved. In Scrivener, everything stays in the outline on the left side. I can easily pick out bits and pieces to put back into the manuscript. This program seems to be excellent with "scrappy" thinking.
8. Scrivener saves automatically all the time. I don't need to explain why that's a blessing, do I?
So that's it. A quick overview of Scrivener and some of the things I like about it. If you have any questions or want to know more about the program, the floor is yours!
P.S. Scrivener comes with great video tutorials. Really easy to follow and understand. The Help and online forums are also good.