So, I was reading TL Conway’s blog today and she was describing the kind of organized disorder of her inspiration notebook. It sounded to me like she kind of thinks/plans like I do – in no particular order. She’s got a method for keeping herself organized and finding ideas later, but I have really struggled to do the same thing. I just can’t stick to a system and I’ve got these random notes all over the place and I just couldn’t stand it anymore! My natural disorganization was making my writing life untenable, especially since my current project required a lot of research on a lot of topics.
So, I tried Scrivener. And I fell in love. By the way, you can download a 30 day free trial so there’s no risk.
I should mention at this point that I haven’t actually gone through the tutorials for this program yet. I might have glanced at the set-up instructions when I started, but after that I just started clicking on stuff. I found it really intuitive and the way the sections work just makes sense for how I work – your milage may vary.
There are four main sections in the left-hand navigation bar: manuscript, characters, places, research. There’s also a template and trash section, but those aren’t really “working” areas for me. You can add both folders and individual documents into each of these sections using either the drop-down menus or handy buttons at the bottom. If you click on the main tab for each section, you get a “cork board” that shows a little card for each folder/document. You can move these around, color code them, put stamps on them (I just learned about this part) and probably other stuff, too. Here’s a screen shot of the Manuscript section of my current project:
As you can see, the cards correspond to the Binder window. Each card defaults to the first sentence of the linked document, but that can be changed easily. Then you can add a synopsis of each document for quick reference. You can see the “First Draft” stamp that I randomly added to my “slush” card for effect. My “Other Materials” card has other written stuff that isn’t part of the manuscript. I’ve used a card for each chapter, but you could do it scene by scene, too. And I saw a suggestion a few days ago to make a stamp for “action”, “exposition”, etc and label each card to help check for pacing. I love that these cards can be moved around, I can make notes about revisions or which chapters are done or whatever and I can see that easily when I check the cork board. I’m a visual kind of person and the labeling options appeal to my disorganization and tendency to forget things.
Then there’s the “Characters” and “Places” sections of the binder, which are set up the same as the “Manuscript” section. There is a basic character template in the program and I used it to make sketches for each character. It includes name, appearance, occupation, role in story, etc and the template can be adjusted and customized however you want. I think there is also a “places” template, but I didn’t use it.
I particularly like that I can add pictures to the “Places” folders – I really struggled to write places effectively in my first novel and I’m having far less trouble now. You an actually have more than one thing open at once so I can have the picture open while I write the scene with the place!
But my favotite part, the part that’s saving my sanity, it the “Research” section. Again, you can fill it with either documents or folders, so I can organize to my heart’s content. And you can import pictures or full websites! And you can have any of these open at the same time as the manuscript:
Ah… So good. So exactly how I think and work. Now, there’s lots of other cool stuff like formatting the manuscript for various e-pub platforms, but I haven’t gotten that far yet. I have also used it for non-fiction projects and find it just as wonderful. One big caveat, though – it’s only available in beta version for Windows. Whoops. There are some other great screen shots on the Literature and Latte website, and you can see more info on Scrivener’s features and download the free trial. I hope that was helpful and good luck!