For a long time, MS Word has been my default writing program. I’ve tried other things over the years, but always fell back on Word for its undeniable functional power. As a program into which a lot of words can be poured, nothing ever really came close to it. Then, last week, I stumbled across Scrivener in the Mac App Store. I was looking to refresh my writing approach somehow, though I wasn’t entirely sure what I meant by that, so took a look at some of the (amazing) reviews, and thought I’d give it a whirl.
And dear god, what a thing of beauty it is – so many intuitive features created by writers, for writers. The templates for different writing forms – novels, short stories, plays – are simple and glorious. The way it lets you compose the synopsis as you go, work on the novel in scenes, and jump about as you please within your work is more useful than I can properly express. When you just want to thump on the keyboard, the customisable full screen option lets you get everything out of the way, and just write. That full screen mode is, for me, what makes such a feature heavy (and it is – I’m only messing around in the basics right now) writing program work. Where it would otherwise be a cluttered and distracting writing space, the flick of a switch takes you right down to basics, and makes all those tools vanish. It lets you be both a purist, and very well equipped indeed.
Has it changed how I work? Instantly. By subdividing my work into scenes within chapters, and chapters within the novel, finding something you’ve already done is a question of a couple of clicks. Gone are the days of endlessly scrolling through a document to remind myself of details I don’t want to contradict. It even changes the way you think about what you’re writing, and how it relates to the other disparate parts of a book. At the end though, a couple of clicks and Scrivener will glue all those little chunks together and export it as whatever format you wish, so you’re not even making work for yourself later down the road.
As I say, I’ve only started playing, but I’m very impressed. Everyone’s different, of course, but I’m a hard sell when it comes to this sort of thing. If you’re a writer, have a look at some reviews (though, until I had it open on my laptop, I struggled to picture what a lot of them were trying to express about how useful all this is), then maybe take a chance on Scrivener. I can’t recommend it strongly enough. While it may or may not change your writing life, I think it will probably refresh it a great deal.